Creamy corn polenta makes a nice canvas for savory foods and sides. Here’s our tidy list of what to serve with polenta (polenta sides).
Polenta is a cornmeal dish that’s also considered a staple food.
It originates from Italy but is popular all over the world.
It can be eaten in a lot of ways and usually with an accompaniment because of its plain flavor.
To show you how versatile and delicious polenta can be, here are 13 side dishes you can try when you’re thinking about what to serve with polenta.
Before we jump into the actual recipes, if it’s your first time trying out polenta, let me share a couple of tips and facts about it too.
Polenta can be made using white cornmeal, but it’s usually cooked using coarse yellow cornmeal.
There are a few different varieties of polenta for you to choose from.
These include white polenta, finely ground polenta, coarsely ground polenta, instant polenta, and pre-cooked polenta, which is the one that comes in tubes.
Polenta can be served in porridge form, but it can be cooled down into a firm block or sheet so it can be used as a base for pies, canapes, and tarts.
Some recipe variations ask for a finely ground version of yellow cornmeal, and this is when a creamier polenta is required for the dish.
As for the flavor, people describe it as a corn-flavored porridge unless cooked with flavored liquids.
Polenta is traditionally cooked with salted water, although some people like to pump up the flavor a bit by using broth or milk.
You need to have patience with polenta since it requires stirring every 10 minutes or so as it cooks.
The cooking time for polenta is around 45 minutes unless you buy the handy chubs of polenta at the store.
Polenta is so versatile.
You can even use it in place of mashed potatoes when cooking shepherd’s pie and in place of puff pastry when making chicken pot pie – just add cheese for additional cohesiveness.
Polenta is also a great substitute for pasta.
You can also substitute it for rice, and it can be served for breakfast as a replacement for oatmeal.
There are also quick options you can try when in a rush, such as quick-cooking polenta and tube polenta.
As you can see, polenta is truly adaptable, and to show you just how versatile polenta can be, here is a list of side dishes that go really well with this Italian staple.
#8 is a must-try on a rainy or cold wintery day.
If you’re excited to find out what goes well with this dish, let’s get to it then!
Want a flavorful side dish that gives the illusion that you’re eating thin noodles?
This dish made with ribbons of zucchini is infused with the flavor of garlic plus the tang of lemon.
For added color and texture, cherry tomatoes, chopped basil, and pine nuts can be added to this recipe.
Looking for more corn recipes?
If you’re looking for some crunch to complement the creaminess of your bowl of polenta, this dish is sure to hit the spot!
Make sure to use fresh, whole green beans with this recipe, along with toasted almond slivers.
To get a different flavor, instead of extra virgin olive oil, consider using sesame oil when sauteing the garlic and the beans.
You should try this herby take on mashed potatoes when you’re planning on cooking a bowl of soft polenta.
The flavors that are layered in this dish include garlic, onion, and rosemary.
Soft on the inside and crispy on the outside, these twice-cooked potatoes (boiled then baked) give you contrasting textures that go great with your polenta.
If you want to add some punch to the flavor, sprinkle a bit of cayenne powder over the grated parmesan and parsley on these spuds.
This is one of the few polenta sides that follows a three-step process for prepping.
The sprinkling of Parmigiano-Reggiano on top gives it the saltiness it needs, while a squeeze of lemon gives it a zesty freshness.
Serve warm together with soft, creamy polenta for a hearty, filling meal.
Combining the spiciness of chorizo and the sweetness of the sweet potato, this side dish comes with a wealth of flavor that goes great with polenta.
Slivers of avocado on top give it a creamy texture, and the addition of mushrooms provides the mixture with a complementary earthiness.
Spices that give this side dish more depth include cumin, garlic, and chili powder.
If you like to keep the flavor relatively mild, simply omit the addition of chili powder.
One word that aptly describes this side dish is earthy.
Flavorful yet simple, this six-ingredient side dish can be made with any type of mushroom you want.
Combine a variety of mushrooms to get different levels of earthiness and textures with this dish.
Some mushrooms you can add to your asparagus include cremini, button, baby Bella, and shiitake.
Another potato side dish that you can turn to when you’re thinking about what to serve with polenta is this casserole of cheesy potatoes.
A mandolin is a good tool to use to get the thinly sliced potatoes needed for this recipe.
For a chunkier and meatier version of this dish, you can add slices of ham, some sliced mushrooms, and green peas to the layers.
Experiment with different kinds of grated cheese, like pecorino or Manchego, to get varying flavors in this dish!
Freshness and bright colors make this dish a must-try when you have polenta.
The combination of yellow squash and zucchini chunks, toasted in a skillet with minced garlic, and tossed with yellow and red cherry tomatoes, is both a feast for the eyes and palate.
Grated parmesan replaces the salt in this recipe, and lemon juice plus basil and parsley amp up the freshness factor of this side dish.
This can be both a side dish and a meal in itself!
Cauliflower florets mixed with a cheesy sauce can be eaten on their own and are sometimes served as a substitute for mac and cheese.
If you’re not a fan of cheddar cheese, you can substitute it with milder cheeses, like Emmental, mozzarella, or even mild cheddar.
You can even try a combination of cheeses for your sauce to give it a robust flavor!
Savory, cheesy, and fully customizable stuffed bell peppers are also great when paired with polenta.
Choose any kind of meat for the stuffing – ground chicken, Italian sausage, ground beef – take your pick!
Don’t want meat in your bell peppers?
Replace any meat with mushrooms or other vegetables.
You can also substitute the rice in this recipe with orzo or quinoa.
Everything tastes better with bacon!
And this side dish is no exception.
Combine caramelized yellow onions, baby Bella mushrooms, and thick-cut bacon for that perfect accompaniment to a bowl of soft, mushy polenta.
You can also use this recipe as a topping for toasted polenta squares or rounds.
Here’s another recipe that you’re sure to love because everybody loves bacon!
This time, you combine slices of bacon with ranch dressing and Brussel sprouts in a tasty casserole.
A sprinkling of paprika for smokiness, some garlic for added flavor, and more ranch (because why not) completes this dish!
Want your sprouts on the spicy side?
Add some cayenne or chili powder to the mix, and you have the kick you’re looking for!
What do you get when you combine an eggplant, an onion, a couple of zucchinis, and baby potatoes?
You get this tasty hodge-podge of roasted vegetables that is a great partner to any kind of polenta!
Chop up a few vegetables, add in some spices, sprinkle with olive oil, and pop in the oven for 30 minutes, and voila!
To give the balsamic glaze added sweetness, some honey is added to the dressing.
Try this recipe out today and enjoy a sweet and sour side dish with your cornmeal mush.
The bottom line
Polenta can be partnered with any savory side dish, as you can see from this list.
You can also partner it with recipes that have beef, pork, chicken, vegetables, and cheeses.
Use these recipes with pre-made polenta tubes cut into discs for a quick bite or make a meal out of it with bowls of polenta.
Whether you choose to plate it in a soft, mushy form or dry it out to create a solid base that can be cut up in handy pieces, it goes well with whatever side dish you come up with!
This versatility allows you to enjoy polenta in more ways than one.
So, what are you waiting for?
If it’s comfort food you want, then it’s comfort food you will get with this selection of side dishes that can be paired with your favorite kind of polenta!
We have lists of side dishes for almost everything!
Check out these side dishes for what to serve with; salmon, quiche, stir fry, pork roast, pasta, enchiladas, pulled pork, fish, chicken noodle soup, fajitas, burgers, meatball subs, ham, brisket, and MUCH more!
- Sautéed Zucchini Ribbons With Lemon & Garlic
- Sauteed Green Beans With Garlic & Almonds
- Parmesan Herbed Potatoes
- Garlicky Roasted Broccoli With Parmigiano-Reggiano
- Chorizo Sweet Potato Skillet
- Roasted Asparagus & Mushrooms
- Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes
- Summer Zucchini Salad
- Cheesy Cauliflower
- Stuffed Bell Peppers
- Caramelized Mushrooms & Onions With Bacon
- Brussel Sprouts With Bacon
- Balsamic Glazed Roasted Vegetables
- Find your favorite recipe from our What To Serve With Polenta list.
- Gather all the ingredients needed.
- Start cooking and make us proud!