Creamy Oven-Baked Polenta Recipe
This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.
This creamy, oven-baked polenta recipe is a game-changer. It’s a hands-off process: there’s no stirring or careful monitoring at the stovetop here. This recipe takes 5 minutes to prep, and 60 minutes later it’s done.
Shortly before Thanksgiving, I helped out with a little dinner at the Vischer Ferry General Store. We made salad with orange-shallot vinaigrette, peasant bread, sherry vinegar chicken and polenta, which I had forgotten how much I love. We roasted the polenta in the oven using Paula Wolfert’s recipe, which I had heard about over the years, but, for whatever reason, namely Mark Bittman’s Polenta Without Fear, had never made.
Friends, roasting polenta in the oven is a game changer — it frees up your cooktop and, more important, YOU. While the polenta bubbles away in the oven, you can sauté greens or poach eggs or steam broccoli or
take a bath give the kids a bath, etc. No need to worry if the polenta is sticking to the pot, running out of liquid—in the oven it cooks slowly and evenly.
How to Make Oven-Roasted Polenta
This is how you make it: whisk together polenta, water, and milk with a pad of butter and a pinch of salt; throw the pot in the oven; remove it about an hour later. It’s the easiest thing in the world, and this time of year, I could eat it with everything: slow-cooker beans, braised short ribs, sherry chicken, roasted mushrooms, or as here with caramelized cabbage and a poached egg on top.
Oven-roasted polenta with slow cooker beans:Print
Creamy Oven-Baked Polenta Recipe
- Total Time: 55 minutes
- Yield: Serves 6 to 8
Adapted from this Fine Cooking recipe by Paula Wolfert.
Oven-baking polenta is game changing: just throw it in the oven, give it a stir 40 minutes later, bake it for 20 minutes more. For years, I’ve made Mark Bittman’s Polenta without Fear, which is also simple, but I prefer the hands-off nature of the oven-baked version.
(See notes below the recipe for making Instant Pot polenta.)
I love the combination of polenta with a poached egg and a drizzle of truffle oil. A side of sautéed greens makes the meal feel more complete. Here I’ve served the polenta with another Paula Wolfert/Fine Cooking recipe for caramelized cabbage, which takes longer than quickly sautéing greens, but which is a good one to know should you find yourself overloaded with cabbage, as I found myself a few weeks ago.
Polenta is also delicious with this sherry vinegar chicken, braised short ribs, and most recently I spooned these slow-cooker beans over it, which was also delicious.
Re water: If you use 5 cups of water, it will take longer for the polenta to thicken up, but in the end, it will be ultra creamy and delicious. Four cups still yields a creamy polenta, and it will allow the polenta to thicken more quickly. You can use all water if you don’t want to use any milk.
- butter for greasing
- 1 cup medium-coarse or coarse cornmeal, preferably stone-ground
- 4 to 5 cups water, see notes
- 1 cup milk
- 1 tablespoon butter or olive oil
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
- eggs for poaching
- splash vinegar
- shaved parmesan, for serving, optional
- sea salt, pepper, truffle oil for serving, optional
- sautéed greens alongside, optional
- Heat the oven to 350°F. Grease a large ovenproof skillet or Dutch oven. Pour in the cornmeal, water, milk, butter, and salt, and stir with a fork or whisk until blended. The mixture will not look emulsified.
- Bake uncovered for 40 minutes. Stir the polenta, taste, add salt if needed, and bake for another 10 to 20 minutes or longer—until it reaches the desired consistency you like. Remove from the oven, stir, and serve immediately or cover and keep warm until you are ready to serve.
- To poach eggs: bring a shallow saucepan filled with water to a boil. Crack eggs into individual ramekins or small bowls. Add a splash of vinegar to the water. Lower the heat so that the water is barely simmering—it should barely be moving. Slowly lower each ramekin to the water and pour out each egg. Set a timer for 4 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to lift egg out to test for doneness—the whites should be completely set; the yolk should feel soft to touch. This will take practice—after you make one or two, you will know by touch if the egg is done to your liking. I typically poach eggs for 4 to 5 minutes, but the length of time changes depending on how many eggs I am cooking at one time. Note, too, that you may have to adjust the heat level to keep the water at a bare simmer. When the eggs are done, transfer them to a paper towel-lined plate to drain briefly.
- To serve: Spoon polenta into bowls. Top with shavings of parmesan, if desired, and top each mound of polenta with a poached egg. Season with a pinch of sea salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle with truffle oil, if desired. Serve with greens on the side, if desired.
For Instant Pot Polenta:
- 1 cup polenta
- 4.5 cups water
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 3/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano (1.5 ounces)
- Combine the polenta, water, and salt in the Instant Pot. Cook on high pressure for 10 minutes; let release naturally for 10 minutes. Uncover and stir — a flat-bottomed whisk is great for this. Add the 4 tablespoons butter, pepper to taste, and 3/4 cup (1.5 oz) parmesan.
- This is adapted from Sarah Copeland’s Instant Family Meals … hoping to do a blog post on it soon.
- Prep Time: 5 minutes
- Cook Time: 50 minutes
- Category: Side Dish
- Method: Oven
- Cuisine: Italian
Keywords: oven, roasted, polenta, baked, easy
This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.
75 Comments on “Creamy Oven-Baked Polenta Recipe”
Thank you so much for this Alexandra! I’ve been meaning to try (but fearing) making polenta in the pressure cooker. Almost did it last night and then chickened out and made pasta instead. This seems like a much gentler hack that isn’t going to scorch the hell out of anything. Would you try it in a buttered casserole dish? Is this a silly idea? I feel lazy about dragging my Dutch oven out sometimes. It’s heavy! 🙂
Also can’t wait to try that cabbage.
This Tamar Adler recipe for arborio rice and lettuce soup has been my go-to lately when I don’t feel much like cooking and when I have a lot of outer leaves of a big lettuce after using all the sweet little inner leaves up in a salad, which seems to happen fairly often (the lettuce overload). It sounds so plain but these few ingredients together taste really amazing. Better with homemade stock, natch. Any of the essays in her book, an Everlasting Meal, where this recipe is from, might also inspire a cook with the blahs.
Hi Lucy! So sorry for the delay here. I hear you re the Dutch oven … it is heavy! A buttered casserole would work just fine.
Thank you so, so, so much for sending along this Tamar Adler recipe. I adore her and her writing and her style. I am 100% going to make this immediately. Thank you thank you. Happy Holidays to you xo
No worries Alexandra! Your timing was perfect because we made the polenta last night. 🙂
The buttered casserole worked great. Best polenta I’ve ever produced for sure. And now I’m thinking about what else I could have baking in the oven at the same time/for part of the time. (Brownies!?)
I’ve never done this with milk, but I bake polenta all the time using a 4 (water) to 1 (polenta) ratio. I got the idea from Russ Parsons. He says he got the idea from back of the bag (or box) of Golden Pheasant polenta. Wherever it’s from, you’re so right – it is a gamechanger!
I’ve been meaning to try with just water — I’m sure it’s still creamy and delicious. Next time 🙂 Thanks for writing!
I have now tried the +milk version and can tell you that it is definitely a bit creamier and, well, milkier than the all water version. But the all water version is still great and, if you don’t have milk, will work very well. I forgot to grease the pot first though (I don’t grease it with the water version) and I can also tell you that you do *not* want to forget that step. Well cooked milk protein is a serious pain to scrub off (whoops) but the polenta was totally worth it. Thanks for sharing the recipe!!!!
Do you have a trick for storing (or perhaps I should say reheating) polenta for the next day? This oven method makes it easy to make a larger batch but I find it is hard to “revive” afterwards (unless you want it firm and fried – also, of course, delightful but different)
Hi Rosanne! So happy to hear this. I know, greasing the pan is key 🙂
Re, reheating, it’s tough! The way I have the most success is to do it slowly in a covered pan with a little more water or milk. If you try to heat it too quickly, it just becomes a lumpy mess, but if you heat it slowly, stirring it here and there, it eventually dissolves/melts/melds back into a creamy mass. Hope that helps! And yes, frying the squares is a delicious option, too 🙂
You are a goddess. How how how do you always read my mind? To say I’m tired of cooking and exhausted right now is an understatement. I’m in the midst of baking/cooking for Miles 3rd birthday party (tomorrow). It’s our first opportunity to have people over to celebrate his birthday and I’m excited (and nervous). And also TIRED. Plus next up is holiday cookie baking. Oy. I need and require these kinds of dinners. I normally lean on sweet potato quesadillas (which I always mean to post) for fast dinners. – Maybe you should have a new Pinterest board or category on your site: What to Cook When You Don’t Want to Cook. – You’re saving me. I’ll be making this soon. And I love my veggies with these meals. It makes the baby kick too. 🙂 – Lots of hugs to you guys.
Oh Dana! I wish I could cook for you! You should be RESTING!! I think you’re on to something regarding the pinterest board … I’m on it. Thinking of you and that baby in your belly kicking away … so sweet xoxo
definitely a game changer, being able to let the polenta cook itself in the oven! thank you for that information alone, but also for this wonderful recipe, love the poached eggs with this
Thank you Sabrina! xo
OMG, this is so good. One of the best things I’ve had in a while. The polenta is super creamy. I used 5 cups of water with one cup of cashew milk in place of cow’s milk. It took forever to thicken, however, and I had to finish it up on the stove after over an hour in the oven. Next time I’ll probably use only 4 cups. Also, the caramelized cabbage is crazy good. I included the poached eggs as well. This will make a great breakfast tomorrow morning with the leftovers. 🙂
Hi Ginger! So happy to hear you liked this. Great to know that cashew milk will work in place of cow’s milk. And yes, cutting back the liquid should help speed up the process … nice work taking it to the stovetop to speed it up.
I love that caramelized cabbage, too. We get so much cabbage in our CSA, so I’m always looking for new recipes. Thanks for writing!
Love the idea of baking polenta! I have not felt like cooking for awhile ( a long while actually). So not like me. But, this I can get on board with! Can’t wait to try it. Thank you for sharing, Ali. Hope you are doing well!
Trish, so great to hear from you!! Hope you are well, too. Hope you like this polenta … I can’t get enough of it.
This looks delicious! I just happen to have half a head of cabbage, too.
Hi Berta! I hope you like it. Maybe the polenta can be made in the instant pot?
I just made the polenta and slow-cooker beans and both are delicious! Question, do you think I could reduce the amount of oil in the bean recipe to 1/8 cup instead of 1/4? Thanks so much.
Yay! So happy to hear this. Yes, absolutely, give it a go. You can always add more oil at the end.
Approximately how many servings of polenta does this yield?
SO sorry for the delay here!! I would say 3 to 4 servings.
Well I made it and it was terrific and so easy! Served with some roasted veggies and Italian sausage. Leftovers got an egg in the morning. Thank you for the idea, I had never heard of using the oven for polenta but it will be my go to in the future.
So happy to hear this, Stacey!! Veggies + sausage sounds amazing.
Thank you for this, Alexandra. I’ve been looking for a way to cook polenta in the oven for a while. I’ll give this a shot!
This was the best polenta ever! I used a baking dish and it turned out just fabulous! Beats standing by the stove stirring for 30 to 40 minutes! Thank you Alexandra, I love your website. I also made a chocolate cake of yours today, excited for dinner later!
So happy to hear this Johanna! And thank you for the kind words 🙂 🙂 🙂
Oh my word!!!!!!!!!!!!! Delicious! This is absolutely fabulous!!!
How long did you cook in IP?
Hi! I meant to add this to the notes, this is what I did:
1 cup polenta
4.5 cups water
1 teaspoon kosher salt
High pressure 10 minutes; let release naturally for 10 minutes. Uncover stir. Add 4 tablespoons butter, pepper to taste, and 3/4 cup (1.5 oz) parmesan. It’s from Sarah Copeland’s Instant Family Meals … hoping to do a blog post on it soon.
Thank you so much! Will try this week!
I purchased Bobs Red Mill medium grind cornmeal for this recipie. Will this work for the polenta?
OH MY! I have wanted to like polenta for years, but have NEVER been successful…giving this a last ditch effort on a cold, rainy night…this IS what I’ve been looking for! Smooth, flavorful, delightful with a tray of roasted veg…This will be made again! Thank you
YAY!! So nice to hear this, Ann. I love this polenta so much, too. Thanks for writing!
Just made this and am going to have your slow cooker Gigante beans for dinner with it tonight! Used coconut butter instead of butter and it is giving off the most amazing aroma. Can’t wait for tonight!
Oh yay! So nice to hear this, Elyse. Thanks for writing 🙂
I can’t wait to try. Definitely high on the comfort food list. Question, Could you use 4 cups water and only 1/2 c milk or half and half so it doesn’t take quite as long to thicken but still have a nice mouth feel ? Or 3 cups water and 1 cup milk?
Hi Johanna! Worth a shot. If it doesn’t taste creamy enough in the time you are hoping to cook it in, you’ll just have to add a little more liquid and cook it longer. I’m not sure the cooking time can be shortened as I’ve never tried the method you are suggesting.
The original recipe was from the package of golden pheasant polenta .It goes back to the1930’s. I always make it in the oven . It gives the cornmeal a toasty flavor.
So interesting, Frances! Thanks for sharing 🙂 🙂 🙂
Goodness, this is tasty!!! So easy. I used 4 cups water plus 1 cup of buttermilk because it’s what I had. I don’t think I will make polenta now any other way!
Thanks so much, Alexandra!
Yay! Hina, so nice to hear this 🙂 🙂 🙂 You know how I love buttermilk … will try that next time. Thanks for writing! xo
Oh Ali, I burst out laughing when I saw this recipe. Such perfect timing! With a made ahead braised chicken recipe melding overnight in the fridge, I was nervously reaching for my bag of Bob’s polenta. Judy Rodgers recipe has been my go-to, but this was so, so much easier and delicious. I will definitely revert to Judy’s double boiler approach for re-heating leftovers. Wish me luck.
So great to hear this, Leslie! I find it so easy as well. Someone just emailed me the double boiler method recipe … didn’t realize it was Judy Rodgers’s! Love her. Thanks for writing!
So easy and delicious. We had it with roasted mushrooms ala Lukas Volger (his book Start Simple was key to our COVID cooking). Thanks for another great recipe. I love your site!
Oh yay! So nice to hear this, Cathy 🙂 🙂 🙂 Love Lukas and his books. Thanks for writing!
I used this recipe to make grits on this cold night. They were creamy and delicious. At the end, I threw a handful of grated cheddar and jack into the pot and stirred. I will never go back to making them any other way. What a labor saver! Thank you.
That sounds amazing, Lily! Is there anything better than cheesy grits on a cold night?
I’ve been doing risotto in the oven, so I was intrigued to try polenta this way. All I can say is that this is brilliant! Just throw in the oven and concentrate on other things. In my case, it was some chicken marsala. So creamy!!
Will be doing it this way from now on.
Oh yay! So nice to hear this, Darcy 🙂 🙂 🙂 I have been meaning to try risotto in the oven, and I have been meaning to make chicken marsala for my children, who I know would love it… it used to be my favorite as a child!
My daughter’s boyfriend who’s visiting from Norway is vegetarian. This polenta offers so many yummy options! Your slow cooked chickpeas look amazing too.
My daughter can’t eat corn. Do you know of a faux polenta recipe using wheat — maybe cream of wheat or another grain cereal? I’ve looked online but my keywords aren’t pulling up anything.
Hi Anthea! Polenta is very similar in texture to cream of wheat, so I think that is a great option. Another thing I’ve been dying to dry is oven-baked risotto… I don’t have a recipe I can point you to, but from what I hear it’s very similar to this polenta recipe in that you don’t have to stand at the stovetop: simply combine the ingredients; then pop it in the oven. I have been meaning to try and if I find a recipe soon I will be sure to report back.
Thanks Ali! Baked risotto sounds amazing too & would be great with your slow cooked chickpeas. I’ll look around online for a baked risotto recipe 🙏
Perfect! I’m going to look for a recipe, too 🙂
Ali, I made this last night and it was delicious! You are right. It is a game changer! It couldn’t be made any quicker or easier yet the results are fabulous! It was so creamy. Besides being hands off, I think what I liked most was the minimal ingredients which let the corn taste shine.
Thanks for sharing this recipe. I will never make polenta any other way.
Btw, the pizza scissors (you recommended in a gift guide) are great! They have nice sharp blades and are fun to use. They cut a Detroit style pizza I made with ease.
So nice to hear this, Trish 🙂 🙂 🙂 I think you are right about the corn flavor. I get so focused on the method/texture here, but you are so right about the simplicity of the ingredients allowing the corn flavor to shine. Thanks for writing. And yay for pizza scissors!
Oops, I forgot to rate. Definitely 5 stars!
Thanks so much Trish 💕💕💕💕
I must have done something wrong. My polenta is still mostly liquid, and it’s been in the oven for an hour. I used 4 cups of water and 1 cup of milk. Any ideas where I went astray? Thanks!
Interesting … did it ever thicken up? Are you able to share what brand of cornmeal you used?
Before making this recipe I had always been meh on polenta. It had always struck me as boring and flavorless with questionable texture. After making this recipe I have totally changed my mind. This recipe is AMAZING. It’s so easy and so delicious. I’ve made this 3 times in 3 weeks. It works for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I’ve had no trouble heating up leftovers in the microwave, it comes out delish.
So nice to hear this, Jen! I love it all times of day as well. Great tip on the microwave, too. Thanks for writing!