Slow Cooker Polenta is super simple, takes just minutes of hands-on time, and is absolutely delicious. It makes a satisfying vegetarian main dish or hearty and comforting side. The method is fail-safe and perfect for entertaining.
Polenta is one of those dishes that is so easy, but you can elevate it to something extraordinary with just a few added ingredients.
This easy recipe is mostly hands-off! Add the ingredients to your slow cooker and let it work its magic.
I like to stir occasionally to avoid clumping on the sides, but you can make this no-stir polenta if you want.
Then, serve with your favorite toppings.
Some great options are air fryer mushrooms, sautéed greens, pine nuts, and oven-roasted tomatoes.
Crockpot polenta is my go-to weeknight vegetarian dinner, and the rest of the family loves it as a side for steak.
Give it a try, and I think you will agree that this is one of the best easy side dish recipes you can find.
Ingredients for Making Polenta in the Slow Cooker
- Polenta: You want to use coarse ground polenta for slow-cooked polenta, not quick cooking. I like Bob's Red Mill brand.
- Vegetable Broth: You can use any type of broth you like, but I prefer to make my own.
- Water: You want to use enough water to achieve the texture you love. I find a 1:4 ratio of polenta to liquid is perfect for the slow cooker. If you need to adjust the amount of water, you can always do this during the cooking process.
- Salt: Sea salt is my preferred type of salt, but you can use whatever you have on hand.
- Garlic Powder: You could also use fresh garlic, but I find the powder more convenient.
- Butter: You can use salted or unsalted butter. Just make sure you account for that when seasoning.
- Parmesan: Use a good-quality parmesan, not the type in a can. This will have a significant impact on the final dish.
Tips & Tricks
- For smooth polenta, stir occasionally: It's important to stir the polenta occasionally. Otherwise, it will stick to the sides of the slow cooker and become clumpy. I like to set a timer for every hour or so as a reminder. If you aren’t available to stir, the recipe will still work. Just expect a little clumping on the sides of your slow cooker.
- Add toppings: This is where you can get creative. Some great toppings for slow cooker creamy polenta are quick-pickled onions, sauteed greens, mushrooms, and roasted red peppers. Use what you have on hand, and have fun with it.
My go-to way to serve crock pot polenta is the base for a bowl with veggies. Sauteed greens, oven-roasted tomatoes, and pine nuts make for a delicious and nourishing meal.
Other great accompaniments to polenta are:
- Steak - Try Blackstone Steak, Ninja Foodi Grill Steak, or Pan Seared Ribeye
- Chicken - Air Fryer BBQ Chicken, Ninja Foodi Grill Chicken, Blackstone Chicken
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Difference Between Polenta and Grits?
The main difference between polenta and grits is the type of grain used.
Polenta is made from yellow corn, while grits are made from ground hominy, which is white. Hominy is a type of corn treated with an alkali solution, giving it a distinct flavor.
The texture is also different. Polenta has a coarser grind than grits and is slightly chewier.
Can I Use Cornmeal Instead of Polenta?
Cornmeal can be used in place of polenta, but the texture will differ. Cornmeal is more finely ground so that it will be a bit smoother. It will also cook more quickly.
Keep this in mind when making substitutions for this polenta slow cooker recipe.
What About Quick-Cooking Polenta?
Quick-cooking polenta can be used in this recipe, but you will need to adjust the liquid ratio. Quick-cooking polenta is more finely ground and will absorb liquid more quickly. I would recommend using a 1:3 ratio of quick-cooking polenta to liquid.
What Should the Consistency Be?
The consistency of polenta is really up to you. I prefer mine on the thick side, but some people like it thinner. The ratio of liquid to polenta that you use will determine the final consistency. If you want it thinner, add more liquid. For a thicker polenta, use less.
One thing to remember is that your polenta will become thick quickly as it cools.
Tools Needed to Make Slow Cooker Creamy Polenta
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- Slow Cooker - Crockpot or Instant Pot Dutch Oven
Polenta can be stored in the fridge for up to a week. I like to store it in an airtight container.
To reheat, add a little water or broth to the pot and heat over medium heat until warm.
You can also reheat it in the microwave, but be sure to add a little liquid first, or it will be dry.
If you want to get creative, you can even fry leftover polenta in a little olive oil for a crispy treat.
How to Make Crockpot Polenta
First, start by whisking together the polenta, broth, water, salt, and garlic powder in your slow cooker. Slow cook the polenta on low for 4 to 6 hours.
Next, stir in the butter and parmesan until melted. Give it a final taste and add more seasoning as desired.
If the polenta gets too thick, whisk in a little more water. (Or, for a more decadent dish, you can add a little half and half.)
To serve, ladle into bowls and top with your favorite toppings.
I like to keep it simple with sautéed greens and roasted tomatoes. But sausage, ground beef, and fried eggs would also be delicious.
Slow Cooker Polenta
- 1 ½ cups polenta
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- 4 cups water
- 1 ½ teaspoons sea salt
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ cup butter
- 4 ounces shredded parmesan
- Stir the polenta, vegetable broth, water, salt, and garlic powder in your slow cooker.
- Cook over low heat for 4 to 6 hours.
- Stir in the butter and parmesan and cover until the butter and cheese melts.
- Stir again.
- Taste and adjust the seasonings as desired.
- Whisk in a little extra water if the polenta gets too thick as it sits.