Instant Pot Polenta is a no-fuss method for creating a creamy cheesy side dish. Make this cheesy polenta recipe for dinner tonight!
Flavor of Polenta
Polenta is made from stone-ground cornmeal but it’s cooked slowly so that it ends up rich and creamy.
It can be enjoyed as a savory or sweet dish. Polenta tastes like a rich corn porridge, but there’s a natural sweetness from the cornmeal as well.
While it’s widely popular across Mexico, South America and the Caribbean, polentas’ roots are found in Italy, where they also call it Italian grits.
Best Ways to Use It
Italian cooks like to make creamy polenta with heavy cream and lots of cheese whisked in. It makes for a wonderful side dish, or cut into polenta rounds, it’s a delicious appetizer or breakfast treat.
It’s also common to see it in dishes like polenta bolognese, where hearty meat sauces are ladled over the top.
For those who don’t like making polenta from scratch, fully cooked polenta in a tube is available at most larger grocery stores. There are plenty of ways to use it from a tube, in both cold and warm preparations.
I love to make it from scratch, and while I enjoy the traditional cheesy method, often times I make a batch and pour it into a buttered dish to set up in the refrigerator overnight. The next morning, I pan fry it and serve it with a drizzle of maple syrup or honey.
Cheesy Instant Pot Polenta
Because it is cooked slowly, typically one would spend lots of time stirring and keeping an eye on the stove top cooking polenta. The good news is, thanks to the Instant Pot, you can make a version with minimal effort on your part.
There’s no stirring involved, and honestly, the recipe is nearly fail-proof! There are just a couple of important things to keep in mind.
Video: Making Instant Pot polenta
Watch the video in the recipe card at the bottom of this post to see my tips for making the creamiest polenta, whether it’s made in a pressure cooker or on the stovetop!
Tips for making creamy polenta
Water to Cornmeal Ratio
The correct ratio for making pressure polenta is 4-to-1. This means you need four cups of cooking liquid for one cup of cornmeal.
Use the Porridge Setting
Many people like to skip the preset options and use the manual setting when they make Instant Pot recipes. In most cases, it works perfectly fine but it doesn’t work well with Instant Pot polenta, oatmeal and slower cooking dishes like pudding.
The problem is, the low setting isn’t hot enough and the manual high setting is too hot for foods like those. Unfortunately, the dish ends up clumpy, with a pasty consistency.
Worse yet, there are times when it just burns completely to the bottom of the pot. Then you have to deal with the hassle of the dreaded Instant Pot burn message.
To create perfectly creamy polenta in the Instant Pot, use the porridge setting, following the manufacturer’s instructions for your make and model of pressure cooker.
Perform a NATURAL pressure release.
When the Instant Pot polenta finishes cooking, it’s very important that you allow the pressure in the pot to release naturally.
If you don’t do this, when you open the vent to release the pressure, the contents inside the pot will be forced upwards and may clog the steam release valve.
For this cheesy polenta recipe, I use fresh herbs and two types of cheese. Fresh parsley and basil add a ton of flavor, but oregano would be fantastic too.
You can certainly leave the cheese out if you want, or use different cheeses. Just be sure that they’re grated finely so that they melt well.
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Cheesy Instant Pot Polenta + Video
- 1 cup polenta
- 4 cups chicken stock (See Note 1)
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1/2 cup heavy cream or milk
- 1 cup Parmesan cheese grated
- 1 cup Romano cheese grated
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves loosely packed, chopped
- 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves loosely packed, chopped
- ground black pepper to taste
- Add the polenta to the Instant Pot and pour the chicken stock over. Add the salt and whisk to break up and lumps. Cover and cook on Porridge setting – High Pressure, Normal with a total of 20 minutes.
- When done, allow a Natural Release (See Note 2) Release vent value and open lid. Whisk to stir and add the butter and cream. Whisk to incorporate. Add the cheeses and herbs, whisk again until smooth.
- Serve with fresh cracked black pepper.
- Feel free to use vegetable stock or water.
- Natural Release: per manufacturer’s instruction, this is when the cooker is allowed to cool down naturally until the float valve drops down. This may take 10-15 minutes after cooking is finished. After using the “Porridge” setting do not put steam release in venting position otherwise porridge will splatter through steam release. Use Natural Release.
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
I am sorry you got that message. I do have a video in the post. Did you by chance watch it? Maybe that would help? I hope you give it another try!
I made this last night and thought it was delicious! We are big fans of polenta so I am happy to have such a great Instant Pot recipe for it. I have never used the porridge setting and wondered how it was different from manual. Because of the comments about burn notices I made pot-in-pot with a stainless steel steamer pan.
Excellent! Thanks for the tip here Laurie!
On my polenta it says – Cooks in 1 minute. Do I have still to cook it in instant pot for 20 minutes or as it says on the polenta package – 1 minute?
Helen, you must have an instant polenta, which I have never used. I would follow the package directions. It seems to be quicker than getting out your Instant Pot!
I couldn’t cook this without the burn notice using the porridge setting….ugh
Bummer! I have no idea why that happens to some. It has NEVER happened to me. Maybe inquire with IP?
Kevin, I made this polenta today. Turned out awesome. I actually doubled the recipe, with a bit less than double the cream.
Excellent! Thanks for coming back to let me know Nancy. I need to make a batch myself, thanks for reminding me of this. 🙂
I have to come clean, I have two Instant Pots, both six quart and use them almost everyday. I had a tremendously great meal at the Harris Ranch in Coalinga, CA yesterday. It was a lamb shank with an incredible sauce and that was served on a bed of cheesy polenta. I make lamb shanks in the instant Pot and they are great. The polenta will be a wonderful addition, thanks for the recipe!
I just love polenta, the savory the better, too. The idea of a lamb shank has me salivating right now. Thanks Marvin! 😉
Excellent recipe exactly as written. Fresh rosemary and thyme would be great substitutes for the basil.
Thanks Michael, appreciate that comment. It works every time for me too. 😉
Thanks for the recipe. Despite following the grain-to-liquid proportion precisely at 1:4, I too got the “burn message” three times during the warm-up process (just before full pressure was achieved) and, after scraping the bottom of the pot with a wooden spatula and increasing the liquid a bit each time, ended up finishing the polenta in the Instant Pot the old-fashioned way by keeping it on “Saute” with lid off and stirring it pretty constantly. Not the process I was expecting but the result was acceptable. So why was this happening? Some thoughts: I was using a medium-grind corn meal… Read more »
Peter! Apologies for the late reply. Sorry I missed this one. Needless to say I decided to make this one again for testing purposes after reading your inquiry so I will have a cheesy batch for dinner tonight all ready. No burn message, no scorched bottom of pan. I thought I might have written cornmeal in the recipe and had to double check! A lot of people tend to use cornmeal in lieu of polenta, but there is a difference. Here is a great article on Cornmeal, Grits and Polenta – Similarities and Differences in ground corn products. Personally I… Read more »
My husband is Italian and I was very excited to see this recipe. Unfortunately when I tried it, I got the dreaded “burn” message. Any idea why?
Not quite sure what you mean by the “I got the dreaded “burn” message.” Lorraine. Could you explain?
Hi I don’t see a reply to the “dreaded” burn warning. I have tried this twice and always get this warning, the first time I panicked after 30 min and decompressed and opened and stirred, then started again….Again the “dreaded” burn warning but this time it only lasted about 5 min and then continued to cook. I understand from the researching that when you see that message the pot is cooling down and will try again when it thinks its OK? The second attempt I set it on saute and heated it to boiling which thickened it up a bit… Read more »
I did indeed reply to your previous message Penny, although I am not familiar with the “dreaded burn message” you mentioned. I’ve never had that appear on my Instant Pot.
Are you using the same measurements/amounts as in the recipe? Did you cover and cook on the Porridge setting – High Pressure, Normal with a total of 20 minutes? I make this often and have never had n issue. Is your venting value clean and no obstruction possible causing a misread? I just am not sure and would be frustrated myself!
I tried this last night but it was very soupy after the full 20 minutes at porridge setting. I set it all up again and cooked another 10 minutes on porridge and it was still soupy. I tried to thicken it by cooking it without the lid on the saute setting, whisking often, but it spat too much so I had to put the lid on it. I finally decided it was thick enough then and called it good, even though it never got to the really thick stage. It did set up when it cooled, but I was serving… Read more »
Alicia you had me a little concerned I might have a typo in the instructions regarding portions so I made it again (thanks, now I have dinner partially done!) and it came out fine. Not quite sure what happened with your making it. You had the following settings for “Porridge”- High Pressure, Normal with a total of 20 minutes correct? With 1 cup polenta to 4 cups liquid (water or broth)? Please let me know!
I think I know what the problem might be. I used coarse ground cornmeal and it turned out soupy.
Kevin, what type and/or brand of cornmeal do you use?
I wish we were neighbors so I could see what’s going on. 🙂 I thought I might have written cornmeal in the recipe and had to double check!
A lot of people tend to use cornmeal in lieu of polenta, but there is a difference. Here is a great article on Cornmeal, Grits and Polenta – Similarities and Differences in ground corn products. Personally I buy and use Golden Pheasant that I pick up at a local market. Keep me posted Melissa!
I must admit I haven’t used polenta which needs up to an hour to cook for years. Instant one is an amazing thing! Combined with cheese and herbs, it makes a divine weekend meal.
I love it for the fact you can have it creamy and quickly! I could eat a bowl of it now, with lots of cheese on top! 🙂
This looks like polenta perfection! I don’t have an instant pot, but this recipe has me wanting one…
They are so versatile and left me with more counter space, too! 🙂