Save time and effort by making Instant Pot polenta! This from-scratch version requires no ahead-of-time soaking, no stirring, and achieves a reliably creamy texture every time. It's the ultimate hands-off side dish.
I've been dancing around the traditional preparation of polenta for some time now. Creamy, dreamy, and delicious, classic stovetop polenta can take over an hour to cook or call for additional prep work, like overnight soaking.
Near the other end of the spectrum would be creamy polenta from a tube. While not as fast as instant polenta, it's extra convenient and gets the job done within minutes.
Instant Pot polenta is a great middle ground. Standard dry polenta transforms into a thick and creamy side dish or recipe base with barely any active prep or cook time. With no stirring or minding to do on the stovetop, you can use all that free time to prepare the rest of the meal that much more efficiently.
The bones of this recipe come from the "multi-cooker" instructions on the Bob's Red Mill polenta packaging. I add a little more liquid (and am glad I do, as I wouldn't want it thicker) and then finish it with butter, cheese, and cracked black pepper à la pastina.
Why You'll Love This Recipe
- It's a time-saver. Even taking into account the time required for the Instant Pot to come up to and down from pressure, this recipe can be on the table quicker than traditional versions.
- It's hands-off. From-scratch polenta often calls for frequent stirring. Making polenta in the Instant Pot only calls for two stirs: once before and after cooking.
- It makes for easy cleaning. If you're worried that the polenta around the edges and bottom of the pot will burn and be difficult to clean, don't be. One easy tip makes it so none of the polenta sticks.
- Polenta: Look to use a coarsely-ground variety which results in a heartier texture. The packaging doesn't necessarily need to say polenta, rather yellow cornmeal with a coarse grind will do the trick, too. This is plain dry polenta, not a quick- or instant-cooking variety.
- Water: Some or all of the water can be replaced with chicken or vegetable broth. If doing this, reduce or omit the added salt, rather salting to taste before serving.
- Salt: I find 1 ¼ teaspoons of kosher salt (I use Morton's) to be the sweet spot for Instant Pot polenta, keeping in mind the hard Italian cheese added at the end will provide additional saltiness. That said, more salt can always be added to taste prior to serving, along with cracked black pepper.
- Parmesan: Either freshly-shredded Parmesan or my long-time BFF Pecorino Romano are great options here to provide extra flavor. Add this after the polenta is cooked.
- Butter: Two tablespoons are melted into the polenta just prior to serving for a stepped-up creaminess.
- Spray inner cooking pot. This makes clean-up a breeze! You can also brush a light layer of olive oil on the bottom and sides of the pot for this purpose.
- Add water, polenta, and salt. Whisk to combine.
- Pressure cook. Instant Pot polenta just needs 10 minutes of high pressure cooking.
- Stir in butter and cheese. Let the pressure release naturally for 15 minutes, release any remaining pressure, then stir in the butter and cheese until melted. Serve right away.
Recipe Tips and Tricks
- Serve right away. Prepared polenta will quickly start solidifying as it cools.
- Reheat with extra liquid. Add leftover portions to a small saucepan and heat over low heat. Add drizzles of milk or broth while stirring to help restore some of the just-prepared creaminess.
- An idea for leftovers. Spread leftover cooked polenta thinly in a dish, then refrigerate until thoroughly chilled and firm. Slice or cut out shapes and enjoy pan-fried polenta the next day.
Creamy, hot polenta works best as a base for the protein and sauce of your choice, and its mild flavor makes it a versatile option for a variety of flavors. Here are some of my favorites:
- Italian sausage links (go for Italian sausage and peppers or air fryer sausage to bypass the stovetop entirely) or Italian sausage meatballs. Cover in your favorite marinara or Sunday sauce and top with more cheese and fresh basil.
- Shrimp fra diavolo
- Braised short ribs
- Sautéed hearty greens and vegetables, such as Lacinato kale or Swiss chard, escarole, broccoli rabe, roasted broccolini, etc.
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!
Instant Pot Polenta
- 4 cups water
- 1 cup coarsely-ground polenta or yellow cornmeal
- 1 ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- ½ cup finely-shredded Pecorino Romano or Parmesan
- Cracked black pepper to taste
- Spray the bottom and sides of the inside of the Instant Pot cooking pot with cooking spray, or brush with a very thin layer of olive oil.
- Pour water into the pot, then add the polenta and salt. Whisk to combine evenly.
- Place the lid on the Instant Pot, then close and lock it into place. Make sure the steam release handle is set to "Sealing". Press the Manual button (or Pressure Cook on some newer models) and adjust the cook time to 10 minutes of high pressure cooking.
- Once the cook time has finished, let the pressure release naturally for 15 minutes before carefully releasing all remaining pressure, if the float valve isn't already down. Once it's safe to do so, remove the lid and give everything a big stir.
- Stir in the butter and Pecorino/Parmesan until melted fully. Taste for salt and add cracked black pepper to taste. Serve immediately.
- Chicken or vegetable broth can be used in place of the water. Reduce the salt accordingly.
- Refrigerate leftover polenta in an air-tight container for up to 3-4 days.
- It's normal for prepared polenta to firm up considerably once cooled. Add leftover portions to a saucepan set over low heat and drizzle in milk or broth while stirring to help it become creamy again.
- Inactive time listed is an estimate for the Instant Pot to come up to and down from pressure.
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