Making creamy polenta from a tube is a major time shortcut to have in your back pocket! But don't just follow the packaging instructions as it'll likely end up bland. This easy recipe uses pre-cooked tubed polenta and a handful of kitchen staples for a more flavorful side dish that will save you 30 minutes of cook time (or more).
Prepared tubed polenta is the easiest way to make solid polenta recipes like breaded pan-fried polenta slices, but did you know it's simple to make creamy polenta from it, too?
A perfect accompaniment to garlicky sauteed shrimp, other meats, and stews, this shortcut way of making creamy polenta from a tube takes no time at all.
While the base is different, I like to give tubed polenta the pastina treatment when preparing it creamy: chicken broth, milk, butter, cracked black pepper, and lots of Pecorino.
Reasons to Love This Recipe
- It's a time shortcut. Making creamy polenta from a tube will save you 25-30 minutes (at least!) of cook time when compared to making polenta from scratch.
- While the tubed polenta packaging may have an instruction on making it creamy, it's fairly bland as written. This recipe features additional kitchen staple ingredients for a big bump up in flavor.
- Creamy polenta is a really versatile and easy base for a variety of meats, such as shrimp and other seafood, chicken, and beef, as well as roasted vegetables, fried eggs, and more. I've started serving my shrimp fra diavolo over it versus grits.
What is Tubed Polenta?
Tubed polenta is pre-cooked polenta, which has then been shaped and allowed to harden. It has a firm texture and is versatile, as it holds its shape well for slicing into rounds or strips (for polenta fries), or for becoming creamy with the addition of liquid.
Because it's already been cooked, using prepared polenta is a big time shortcut to making creamy polenta when compared to starting from scratch with cornmeal and boiling water. Standard polenta recipes call for 30-45 minutes of cook time, while tubed polenta will need between 5-10 minutes.
- Tubed polenta: This is a shelf-stable product and can usually be found among the pastas in the dry pasta aisle. Unopened it can be stored for several months (or longer).
- Chicken broth: While water can work, broth has a richer taste that's welcome here as polenta isn't exactly a flavor powerhouse. If not using broth, add salt as needed.
- Milk: This adds to the creaminess. I usually use 2%, but whole milk would work great.
- Butter: Two tablespoons melt in for an extra luxurious vibe.
- Parmesan: Sharp and salty, freshly-shredded Parmesan totally elevates this simple side dish. I also use Pecorino Romano and love that variation, too.
- Chop up the tube of polenta into half-inch cubes. If the tube is a bit moist from the packaged liquid, pat it dry so you have a better grip when slicing.
- Heat the polenta in a medium saucepan with the chicken broth. Once the broth is bubbling, use a potato masher to mash up the polenta as best you can.
- Once smooth, add the milk, butter, and black pepper. Stir this in until combined.
- Add the Parmesan or Pecorino and stir while it melts. Add more black pepper if you like and then serve.
Recipe Tips and Tricks
- Salt is omitted from the recipe card as I find this creamy polenta has enough between the chicken broth and Parmesan. That said, after all of the ingredients have been added, take a taste and see if you'd like to add some before serving.
- If you don't have a potato masher, you can use a fork or a hand mixer to mash up the polenta.
- To reheat creamy polenta, add it to a saucepan with a little drizzle of milk to reheat over low heat until warmed throughout and creamy.
In addition to making it creamy, tubed polenta holds its shape well, so it's an excellent option for slicing into rounds for pan-fried polenta (with air fryer instruction, too) or into strips for polenta fries.
Yes, tubed polenta is pre-cooked, which eliminates a good deal of time from preparing it for recipes. For instance, some fried polenta recipes require preparing a pot of polenta from scratch, then shaping and refrigerating it to harden before slicing and frying. Polenta in a tube saves hours and skips right to the slicing and frying stage.
While all of the tubed polenta brands I've dealt with are listed as shelf-stable and are mostly found in the dry pasta aisle, I have seen certain stores stock it in the refrigerated produce cases near the tofu and vegetarian meat alternatives.
If you’ve enjoyed this recipe, I’d love for you to leave a star rating in the recipe card and/or a comment review below!
Creamy Polenta from a Tube
- 1 18-ounce (510g) tube of polenta
- 6 ounces (¾ cup) reduced-sodium chicken broth
- 4 ounces (½ cup) milk
- 2 Tablespoons (28g) unsalted butter
- Cracked black pepper to taste
- 1 ounce (½ cup, 27g) grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan
- Slice polenta into cubes roughly ½-inch wide.
- Add the cubed polenta to a medium saucepan set over medium-low heat. Pour in the chicken broth and cover. Once the broth is bubbling around the edges of the pan, remove the lid and mash the polenta cubes using a potato masher until it's as smooth as it can be.
- Pour in the milk and add the butter and black pepper. Stir to combine evenly.
- Add the grated Pecorino and stir it into the polenta. Continue to heat and stir until the butter and cheese are fully melted and combined. Adjust seasonings and serve.
- Tubed polenta is pre-cooked (prepared) and can usually be found in the dry pasta aisle. Even though it's shelf-stable, it can also sometimes be found in the refrigerated produce cases with the tofu.
- If you don't have a potato masher, you can use fork(s) or a hand mixer.
- To reheat leftover polenta, heat it in a saucepan with a drizzle of milk over low heat and stir until warm and creamy again.
Nutritional information is provided as an estimate. As it can vary due to many factors (brands used, quantities, etc.), we cannot guarantee its accuracy.Food Safety and Nutrition Disclaimer