Breakfast Polenta Recipe

This breakfast polenta recipe is creamy, comforting and receptive to many add-in flavors and textures. For this version I served small bowls of fluffy yellow polenta topped with toasted almonds, jewel-colored dried fruits, and a drizzle of cream and honey.

Breakfast Polenta

This breakfast polenta just edged out the do-it-youself waffle bar as my favorite crowd-pleasing brunch component. I love the idea of making a big pot, keeping it warm over a low burner (or crockpot!), and offering up a range of toppings, sweet and savory, for friends to choose from. It is creamy and comforting, and receptive to many add-in flavors and textures. For this version I served small bowls of fluffy yellow polenta topped with toasted almonds, jewel-colored dried fruits, and a drizzle of cream and honey.

Considerations: While you can certainly get away with using an instant polenta (and in turn much shorter cooking times), treat yourself to real deal, stone-ground, coarse polenta this time around. Keep in mind that each polenta has its own personality, required cooking time, and quirks (based on factors like the size of the grind, how long its been around, etc). The reward for a bit of patience is a loose, creamy, beautifully textured final polenta eagerly awaiting a dollop, swirl, or sprinkling of your favorite ingredients. Again, its great for a mixed-crowd brunch because the polenta itself in this case is dairy-free, vegan, vegetarian, I think it can qualify as gluten-free if you buy the polenta from the right source (maybe the GFers can help me out here)....I'm going to add a list of brunch-friendly toppings below here:

Breakfast Polenta Bar, topping ideas:

- toasted almonds, walnuts, or hazelnuts
- all manner of berries
- a drizzle of this blueberry maple syrup
- Rosewater Plum Compote
- poached eggs
- chopped herbs
- cream or even better, an infused cream
- chopped dates or dried fruit
- re-hydrated, chopped sun-dried tomatoes

Add any other ideas in the comments and I can eventually add those ideas to the list as well. Also, be sure to check back on Thursday, I have the next favorite cookbooks list going up and its a great one!

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Breakfast Polenta Recipe

You can use any sort of dried fruit you like. I picked up a little bag of dried friar plums, and bright yellow pears at the market and used them this time around. Chopped dates are tasty as well. I used Bob's Red Mill Polenta, they also sell polenta with the nutritious germ still intact labeled as coarse stoneground cornmeal - slightly different beast. The later being the more "whole" option.

4 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup coarse polenta (not quick cooking)

1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted
1/2 cup dried fruit, chopped

Bring the water to a boil. Stir in the salt and polenta. Stir and stir and stir. Reduce the heat (you might want to wear an apron as the polenta has a tendency to spurt and spit). Simmer for at least 30-35 minutes, if the polenta gets too thick and starts to dry out along the way, just stir in more water 1/4 cup at a time. You can cook the polenta for much longer if you like (again, great for a brunch scenario), just keep stirring in
splashes of water as needed. In the end I like my breakfast polenta to be on the loose side, thick enough to coat a spoon, but loose enough that it has trouble holding shape. Serve warm in bowls topped with almonds, dried fruit, a drizzle of honey and cream (or other toppings).

Serves about 4

If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!

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Comment on polenta: I'm an old dude and its amazing to see what has happened to polenta over the last 50 years. Polenta was a last resort. Add, what you had to it to keep from going hungry. It was like rice to Italians in times of hunger, especially in post war Italy. Having been born in the U.S. I wasn't as subject to the same conditions as my Dad, but we ate a lot of polenta too! I remember polenta at less than two dollars for a five pound bag. We as a family served it when I was a kid with a dried codfish stew, as dumplings with a red meat sauce. as lunch by letting it get hard , tucking a piece of cheese into a cut in a slice of it and roasting it. It was also great as a cold left over spooned into a homemade chicken stock soup. Now, wow !!! Polenta sounds like a cure all. I think it's great that something as simple as corn meal has attained the culinery status that it has, but please don't forget It's completely humble and obscure past.

R Ghilarducci

When I was growing up(born in 1940),I was the son of parents who had grown up in "The Great Depression" I was surprised not to hear corn meal(polenta)not mentioned as a dinner item. In my neighborhood most had fish on Fridays. We had potroast w/carrots, gravy, and cornmeal mush(polenta) for dinner(every Friday)


When I was growing up(born in 1940),I was the son of parents who had grown up in "The Great Depression" I was surprised not to hear corn meal(polenta)not mentioned as a dinner item. In my neighborhood most had fish on Fridays. We had potroast w/carrots, gravy, and cornmeal mush(polenta) for dinner(every Friday)


What a swell idea! I think I'd like it topped with stewed apples and cheddar, or even a little warm apple butter. Oops! I'm drooling onto my computer again.


Christine commented earlier that she suspected that polenta made in the slow cooker would come out well, and I can certainly attest to the fact that yes, it does come out very well! You can start the polenta when you go to bed and when you wake up, it will be perfect. "Not your mother's slow cooker cookbook" has an excellent recipe for slow cooker polenta.


yum ... i never thought of having polenta for breakfast until i stumbled into the new blue bottle cafe in downtown sf the other day. they were serving bowls of creamy polenta with gruyere cheese and slivers of prosciutto (or pancetta...i can't remember which). now i know how to make my own! thanks heidi!


Mmm. This looks delicious, and perfect for cold weather! Incidentally, I made your chickpea hot pot this past weekend (with some substitutions - pearled barley instead of bulgur), and it was delicious. Thanks!


I really like your new picture...and thank you for all the really wonderful recipes. It inspires me to choose more natural foods and to be even more fearless in the kitchen.


It's been a long time since I made polenta. Thanks for giving me the inspiration!

Jen O

I had to stop reading this post halfway through to make myself a bowl of polenta topped with a poached egg, truffle cheese and Hawaiian salt. What a great breakfast! Thanks


Looks delicious!!! :)


Oh, what a beautiful photo! I've never made nor eaten polenta before. I don't think we had it in Russia, so it's a little scary to make something I don't know anything about. It does look fantastic, though.


Wow, reading through these comments is indeed an education in global porridge consumption. I have eaten plenty of polenta and grits and oatmeal for breakfast, and I love them all. There definitely seems to be a mini-breakfast polenta trend starting in the food blog community-I just posted about breakfast polenta a couple weeks ago:


I have used left over quinoa the same way. Nice slightly nutty flavour.


I love polenta and eat it quite often. I love it with scallops, but when I eat it for breakfast I use jam and sour cream. It is delicious and gluten free!


When I was small, my mother used to make cornmeal mush for breakfast. I found out as an adult that this is really polenta. She would serve it hot like porridge and if there were leftovers, she would refrigerate in a loaf, slice it and fry it the next day. I always loved it.


Great comments everyone. I feel like I've been around the world in five minutes by reading everyone's incarnations of ground corn. A question . . . I love the hands-free option of the crock pot but don't want to make lots (since there's just two of us and one of us isn't so adventurous). And I just bought a small rice cooker. So here's the question: Does anyone think I can use the rice cooker to do the hard work for me rather than the stove top? Or am I going to be disappointed or worse have a lot of burned polenta?


Thank you, Cris. Someone needed to say that.


i love polenta and while i've had it for breakfast i never thought of polenta as a brunch option. that sounds like a great idea!


It is interesting to read how this is eaten in different places. My Bosnian in-laws eat it like a mush with milk, sour cream dollops, and grated smoked cheese. They call it palenta. My dad from Nebraska calls it scrapple. He cooks the mush with chicken broth, parsley, and crumbled bacon. Then pours it into a loaf pan, chills, slices, frys, and tops with maple syrup. I am now inclined to try it with some of the sweet stuff mentioned. Thanks for the inspiration.


For all of you who keep saying polenta is a fancy name for grits...please stop. The american (and yes, I am american) need to make everything about them is really obnoxious. Polenta was eaten in Italy, before we were a country. (see below). The same manner of cooking corn can be seen in many cultures and countries across the planet. In the Southern US the variation they cook is called grits. Everyone has their own variations, but please don't tell people that what they are eating is really what you call it, not what they call it. "Polenta is made with either coarsely, or finely ground dried yellow or white cornmeal (ground maize), depending on the region and the texture desired. As it is known today, polenta derives from earlier forms of grain mush (known as puls or pulmentum in Latin or more commonly as gruel or porridge) commonly eaten in Roman times and after. Early forms of polenta were made with such starches as the grain farro and chestnut flour, both of which are still used in small quantity today. When boiled, polenta has smooth creamy textures, caused by the presence of starch molecules dissolved into the water."


a good friend of mine had a very Southern menu at her Chattanooga, TN wedding and one of the items was savory grits bar. I loved the idea - much more interesting than the mashed potato bar you see at many weddings - and this is a great spin on it! oh, and they were served in martini glasses :)


Now Heidi... come on! This is GRITS!!! Not polenta... that's just a fancy word for what they really are... GRITS (which can be made from hominy OR regular dried corn) It's a great idea though! A grits bar!


Heidi, you always make me hungry. Can I please come over for breakfast? Thanks for mentioning the possibility of some cornmeals having gluten. Yes, it's possible. It's the cross-contamination from gluten products in the same factory that we have to worry about. (Karina already pointed out the Bob's Red Mill problem, which is a real shame!) However, there are some great cornmeals out there. I love Moretti from Italy, where they really know how to make polenta. This company has been making polenta-ready cornmeal for nearly 100 years, and as is true throughout Italy, they only focus on one product. it's gorgeous. Also, i just spoke to the good folks at Anson Mills, who make delicious heirloom varieties of corn and other products. Even though they do make wheat flour, they make it in a separate room. The fact that the man at customer service knew so much about gluten-free? Fantastic. So those are both great options, for anyone interested in polenta. But Heidi, when are you going to come up to Seattle and share polenta with me?


I meant to add in my original post that I cook polenta in my slow cooker - the process is longer but there is less active work. Pour the polenta, water and salt into the slow cooker in the evening, cover and let it cook on low overnight. In the morning, stir in a bit of butter and perhaps some Parmesan, and breakfast is ready!

Pat Howard

Wow, that's a great way of doing a healthy breakfast. More than any other meal, breakfast is something people always ask me about. Marketers do such a good job of pushing processed, sugar-filled breakfasts for people on the go. This is something you could eat all week if you made a lot of polenta on Monday and reheated with new toppings every morning.


I really like the idea of such a versatile breakfast, sound like loads of fun. Heidi, have you ever heard of Sri Lankan Egg Hoppers and String Hoppers? They were my very first reason for going to Sri Lanka. They are had for breakfast and the 'batter' needs fermenting overnight. The egg hopper is a very fine pancake only cooked on one side...with an egg cracked into the top. String hoppers is a nest of, really and both are usually served with a creamy-coconut based curry. And a pot of tea. I couldnt help trying an egg hopper with Marmite.


Sweet polenta - yeeeeeks!


I love polenta. In my region (Friuli-Italy) is the basic food. Even my boyfriend here in Rome has discovered the pleasure of polenta. But I've think about polenta in the breakfast. Absolutely to try


Ok so Polenta and Grits and Hominy and Mush are all things I hear on TV or read in books, but thanx to the Net, I can now relate it to what we have here down in South Africa... and other parts of Africa too. We call it "mielie pap" mielie being dutch for maize and pap for porridge. It's mostly made from white maize here though, but I guess the taste is the same. We grow up on it... my grandfather had "pap" every day of his life my mom tells me... We have it with "braai's" or bbq's slathered with a tomato relish as a side dish... or baked into a tart with the same tomato relish and some cheese on top (u can spice it up as u like with bacon and spices... sort of like lasagne) or sweet with milk and butter and sugar for breakfast. But mostly its just a side dish, like rice or pasta. You can make "mieliemeelkoekies" or corn meal biscuits. Or bake it into a bread. We don't fry it... never even thought of doing it but I sure will try it one day! One would think that with it being such a major part of the local diet that everybody would know how to make it, but alas... I have NO clue as they seem to not think it is important to put the instructions on the packet... for crying out loud! Here even men know how to make "pap" but I have to ask my mother every time I try... I have seen polenta in the shops though... next to the pasta's and I often wondered what that was used for... Thank you Heidi for exposing me to new things and giving me new ideas to liven up our standard "mielie pap" in ways I've never even considered! I will try the maple syrup and the nuts idea... with maybe a pinch of cardamom or cinnamon? YUMMY...



YOYO Cooking


YOYO Cooking

Interestingly enough, this recipe is very similar to the mealie-meal porridge that I grew up on. Here in Zimbabwe (where maize meal is the staple) this porridge is normally eaten with peanut butter, stirred in just after adding the mealie meal to the simmering salted water.


I have yet to try polenta!! Shame on me!! Maybe I can start with this brekkie dish, I do need to eat healthier


Looks like something I could try:) btw, I too posted Cranberry-Walnut eggless breakfast scones on my blog today:)


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