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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I like polenta better than grits, though I do like them both. Polenta seems to me to have more flavor. I like to eat both of them with maple syrup. When I cook polenta for a breakfast food, I like to cook it with half milk and half water, so it gets beautifully creamy. Then when I have any leftover, I let it solidify in the refrigerator and later slice it and fry it in butter. Delicious!


This looks like a comforting breakfast for a blustery winter's day. The polenta is so sunny and cheerful.


Oh wow, amazing photo. I like the idea of bk polenta... I might experiment with the concept.


i love it! there's been a spate of posts around the interweb about using non-oat grains as a breakfast base that i'm just loving. i really like the idea of the fruits and nuts, but i'm especially drawn to the poached egg - it would be awesome to fry up some polenta and top the crispy squares with the creamy egg...yum. i'm hosting brunch sunday and have been thinking about something to make beside my old standard. i think i found it. thanks! -- michelle @ Us vs. Food


Scrumptious idea. I've had savoury polenta at breakfast but never sweet! I get into breakfast rituals which I love, but sometimes they turn into breakfast ruts. Right now I have been back on the banana-muesli train for a while, might be time for a change! Weekday mornings will require instant polenta but I agree, as with oatmeal, the longer it takes to cook, the better. I'm making your hazelnut and chard ravioli salad this evening... loved it last time.


There is a big difference between Hominy Grits and Polenta, or ground corn meal. Grits are treated with a strong alkali solution which softens the grain and removes the hull prior to drying and grinding. This treatment also enhances the nitritional value, making it an important staple for many cultures. In untreated corn the niacin in the grain is not available which can lead to pelagra, a niacin deficency disease. This is also the same treatment for the corn used in masa harina, used in making tortillas. So unless corn is your staple grain, you probably don't have to worry about the difference. Both are wonderful additions to you diet.


Zingerman's in Ann Arbor used to (I was in college there years ago, but they probably still do) serve a breakfast polenta with honey, pine nuts, and raisins. At home, I use an Italian (sorry, not local!) chestnut honey and I first sautee the raisins in a little butter to plump and caramelize. YUM!


This looks amazing. I am always so impressed by how beautiful everything looks and once I test it out, how wonderful it tastes. You have definitely inspired me to eat more locally and wholesomely. I have always wondered though, what do you always have on-hand in your pantry. I would love you to do a post with a pantry list or your favorite pantry secrets. Keep the great recipes coming.


Cheese (a bit of crumbled gorgonzola or grated asiago)! Mascarpone! Crisped, crumbled pancetta! (Can you tell I'm a savory breakfast person?)


How coincidental! This morning a friend made a rice porridge...rice, corn, oats, wheat...not much difference. But we decided to 'congee' it up by adding grated fresh ginger and each individual added what they wanted....some wanted maple syrup, others wanted fish sauce, cilantro, and a peanut sauce with scallions! All very yummy and just a riff on the porridge idea! Thanks, Heidi, for sharing.


I serve this for breakfast at my B&B, topped with a poached egg, dollops of mascarpone and bits of crisped prosciutto, and it's very popular. I like your idea of offering a variety of toppings and your rosewater-plum compote sounds especially divine!

Pat Howard

Yum! This is way up my alley! I love the ritual of breakfast, but dislike the overly sweet, sugar filled items typically found on the breakfast table. I might opt for a topping of egg, sun-dried tomato, spinach, and a little parsley.


I actually prefer grits to polenta, but does anyone know whether there any difference in the nutritional value/wholeness of polenta grains as opposed to hominy grits? It seems like over the past few years polenta has surpassed grits in popularity. Just wondering if there's a reason why or if it's simply a taste issue...


I know that cooking steel-cut oats overnight in a crock pot on low works really well -- I wonder if stone-ground, coarse polenta could be prepared that way too. In fact, grits can be made that way, all day on low in a crock pot, so I bet coarse polenta would be fine too. I've been lurking without commenting for a long time -- so let me say thank you, Heidi, for an inspiring mix of vegetarian food. Always inventive and delicious!


Now that's interesting! I would never think to make a porridge-like version of polenta... Btw, in Dalmatia, we eat it with a fish stew, with yoghurt or with tomato sauce (great combo). Do try the tomato versions!


I may be mistaken, but I think polenta is the Italian form of what Southerners call grits - and it has long been a favorite breakfast item (if I have the willpower to wait the allotted time). This, then, opens it up to all sorts of interpretations, from adding sharp cheddar cheese, topping with shrimp/bacon/green onions, swirling in maple syrup (kid friendly)... and then slicing and toasting (or broiling) the leftovers to make a tasty side for a lunch salad or dinner (think of it alongside a stew or ragout). To gild the lily, try making the grits with 1 part milk (some add cream) to make them creamier...


Intriguing... a upscale Cali twist to what any good southerner knows as grits. Primary difference being the use of yellow corn instead of white. Often time grits are served with sweet toppings as well, maple syrup or brown sugar and of course the obligatory pat (or 2) of butter.

Shadia Oshodi

mark bittman does a wonderful polenta topped with olive-oil fried eggs--we have it for dinner during the winter. my daughter has been eating it since age two--it is THAT good:) so try heidi's polenta with eggs. yum.


I've made polenta with my Italian friends for a lazy dinner. With different types of savory additions - like lamb stew or gorgonzola and wine-steeped figs. I never thought about using it at a breakfast, but will definitely try that in March, before it gets too warm for polenta. Thank you for the idea, Heidi! Maggie


Polenta is indeed gluten free.. and it looks yummy!! I'm a GF-er.. but just found out that I also have an allergy to corn!! Oh well!

Karen Gordon

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