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 now 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 25 side dishes and entrees 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 to be used as a base for pies, canapes, and tarts.
Some recipe variations ask for a finely ground version of yellow cornmeal, which 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 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.
It’s also an excellent substitute for pasta.
You can also substitute it for rice, which 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.
Are you looking for the perfect party recipe?
Then these savory red wine braised short ribs are perfect for you!
They’re easy to make, and you can make them ahead of time and in larger quantities.
Serve them with, or on top of polenta to seal the deal!
Ingredients include: beef short ribs, olive oil, onions, red wine, and tomato paste.
15. Osso Buco
Want to cook up something that will leave your friends wondering why you haven’t put up your Michelin-star restaurant yet, then this recipe for Osso Buco is for you!
Not only is it easy to make, but it looks good and tastes divine!
Ingredients include: beef shanks, olive oil, tomatoes, onions, and red wine.
If you’re looking for something fancy enough for hosting, yet simple enough that you’d still manage to whip this up on a weekday night, then look no further!
It’s a flavor-rich, 1-pot wonder meal that you and your friends will surely love!
Served with rice, polenta, or any staple of your choice, it’s meal-prep perfection!
Ingredients include: coconut oil, yellow onion, chicken, mushrooms, and apple-cider vinegar.
Beef stew is easily one of my favorite dishes!
My dad used to make this all the time while I was growing up, and his recipe only differed from the one here in that he also used to thicken the broth with meat sauce too.
Nonetheless, I’ve had to cook this dish many times before exactly as in this recipe, and it always turned out delicious!
Ingredients include: beef, carrots, potatoes, tomato paste, and onions.
A member of the one-pan-wonder group, this dish features all the rich, deep flavors you find in French onion soup in an easy skillet meal!
And it only requires basic ingredients too, so you likely already have what you need to make it in your pantry.
Ingredients include: chicken, garlic, red wine, gruyere cheese, and seasoning.
Cioppino (pronounced chuh-pee-noh) is an Italian seafood stew known for its rustic but spicy flavor.
One thing that makes it stand out from other recipes is that you can use any seafood to make it, with some recipes calling for 5-6 different kinds.
We won’t be doing that here though, but the dish does require certain kinds of seafood to be in it.
Make one, use your own seafood, and let us know how that went!
Ingredients include: mussels, white fish, shrimp, tomato paste, and wine.
If you’re still looking for that spicy, rustic flavor from Cioppino at #19, but are missing some of the requirements, you’re in luck!
Shrimp Fra Diavolo is Cioppino’s close cousin and uses only shrimps instead!
It skimps on none of the flavors, though, and can be every bit as tasty and spicy!
Ingredients include: shrimp, garlic, tomatoes, spaghetti, and red pepper flakes.
Cooking something ‘sous vide’ takes time but is very, very much worth it!
It literally means ‘vacuum sealing and immersion in hot water’; and is a cooking method that will produce restaurant-quality results consistently.
It has a singular drawback of very long (though very hands-off) cook times, but if you’re looking to -really- impress someone, this is the way to go!
Ingredients include: rib-eye roast, kosher salt, peppercorns, shallots, and red wine.
Let’s face it, everyone loves chicken, but the same old fried chicken every other day can be boring.
This easy chicken recipe is an excellent option to turn that around!
That’s because the white wine sauce is simply divine.
And it will be something your neighbors will be begging you to come over for!
Ingredients include: chicken, butter, olive oil, shallots, and dry white wine.
23. Pork Piccata
Piccata and polenta complement each other well!
Piccata is an Italian dish of juicy pork tenderloin in a lemon and buttery caper sauce.
It can be made with other meats as well.
It caramelizes quickly in the oven and is typically ready in about 35 minutes.
Ingredients include: pork, lemon, broth, capers, and balsamic vinegar.
I never knew pork chops could be cooked in an instant pot till recently.
They still become the delicious pork chops that we know and love, in 10 minutes of cook time!
Wow, now I know what I’ll be having after getting home from work after doing overtime!
Ingredients include: pork chops, broth, parsley, olive oil, and seasoning.
And here’s another adherent of the theme we’ve been following since #14: maximum flavor, minimum effort.
And that’s certainly true in this case, as it will literally take just about half an hour from the time you turn on the stove till you sit down to eat!
Ingredients include: olive oil, Italian sausage, tomatoes, pappardelle, and seasoning.
The bottom line
Polenta can be partnered with any savory side dish, as you can see from this list.
You can also serve 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 into 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.
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!
More About Polenta
- 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
- Red Wine Braised Short Ribs
- Osso Buco
- Creamy Mushroom Chicken
- Instant Pot Beef Stew
- French Onion Chicken
- Shrimp Fra Diavolo
- Sous Vide Boneless Ribeye Roast
- Chicken With White Wine Sauce
- Pork Piccata
- Instant Pot Pork Chops
- Italian Pork & Fennel Ragu
- Find your favorite recipe from our What To Serve With Polenta list.
- Gather all the ingredients needed.
- Start cooking and make us proud!