Polenta is a wonder. A mix of cornmeal, liquid, some butter and Parmesan cheese. You can add more or less of whatever you want, mixing flavors to match your meal. Polenta can also either be served creamy or crispy, for dinner or breakfast.

It’s a side you might not make every day, but you just might want to start making it every week.

mixing parmesan into sous vide polenta

Not sure if I love polenta so much because I grew up eating Cream of Wheat or from my trips to Italy. This northern Italian staple actually dates to Roman times, when it was made from whatever starch was available, from farro and millet to chestnut or chickpea flour. Corn (maize) has been the polenta grain of choice since the 1500s, when it arrived from North America.

Quite easy to make. Perfected with a little practice. Traditionally, a lot of stirring. Doesn’t “hold” well in a pot. And the pot you make it in can take a lot of scrubbing to clean. Well, it’s time to ditch the pot.

Why Sous Vide Works

That’s where sous vide technique comes in. Cooks in a bag, and voilà! It can sit there indefinitely until you are ready for it. No stirring is required. Once you make it sous vide (if you have the equipment), there’s no reason to go back to the fussy traditional method.

How to Make Sous Vide Polenta

First, you don’t have to buy “polenta” at the store, as any cornmeal will do. Regular cornmeal will have a consistent texture, whereas “stone-ground” will have a slightly varied grain size, giving a more varied feel. The meal should be coarse for polenta.

Second, do not buy the “instant” polenta, as it doesn’t have optimal taste or texture; it’s often way too finely ground or partially cooked and gooey. And since we’re making this sous vide, it’s already easy enough.

Next, you need to decide what kind of liquid to use. Purists use water, which lets the flavor shine through. Milk makes a creamier polenta. Stock, like chicken or veggie, adds flavor. For this recipe, I use a combo of water and milk: creamy, but not too heavy. Feel free to try variations and see what you like best. You may even vary by the type of dish you’re serving it with.

The seasonings you use will also vary depending on your meal or mood. Fresh herbs and Parmesan cheese are great for dinner. A lighter dose is better for breakfast.

Once you’ve decided on your ingredients, it’s easy:

  1. Combine the cornmeal, liquid, butter and salt in a bag.
  2. Gently squish everything around with your hands to make sure it is mixed well.
  3. Then it’s into the 185° F / 85° C sous vide bath for two hours, leaving you free to make your main dish and other sides (or just enjoy some wine and a friendly conversation).

Serve It Up

The polenta will come out of the bag beautifully creamy, and you’re ready to mix in the Parmesan cheese and herbs before serving warm, as it will firm up slightly as it cools.

One trick is to warm your serving bowl by giving the bottom a quick dip in the hot water bath; or you can keep the polenta in the bag and in the warm water bath at 140° F/ 60° C until ready to finish and serve.

To Make Crispy Polenta

Creamy polenta is a treat, but crispy polenta is a delight, too. And great for breakfast. You can choose whether to add the Parmesan and/or herbs, and then pour the cooked polenta into a loaf pan or spread on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Cool slightly then place in the refrigerator overnight to cool completely. Use a cookie cutter or a knife to make slabs of polenta. Brown both sides in a hot skillet with a little butter or olive oil.

Serve It With…

sous vide polenta in bowl overhead 2

Sous Vide Polenta

Take the hassle out of this terrifically variable side, and introduce yourself to the wonderful flavors of polenta the easy way.
5 from 2 votes
Print Pin Save Rate
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Italian
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours 5 minutes
Servings: 4


  • 1 cup coarse cornmeal (polenta)
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 tsp. Diamond kosher salt (or to taste)
  • 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh herbs such as thyme, rosemary, chives (optional)


  • Preheat bath to 185° F / 85° C.
  • Combine the cornmeal, water, milk, salt and butter in a large Ziplock bag.
  • Hand squeeze to mix ingredients (especially the butter).
  • Place in the water bath and use the water displacement method to remove the air and seal the bag. Cook for 2 hours.
  • Remove bag from the water bath and transfer to a warmed serving bowl. Mix in the Parmesan cheese and fresh herbs. Taste for seasoning and serve warm.


  • Any combination of water, milk and chicken/veggie stock can be used, depending on taste and creaminess desired. Or just one of them.
  • Milk adds richness. Stock adds flavor. Water allows the polenta flavor to shine.
  • You can vacuum seal, but using a Ziplock allows you to reseal the bag for keeping the polenta warm. If it cools, it will harden a bit.
  • Make crispy polenta (either with or without the Parmesan and herbs) by pouring into a loaf pan or spreading out on a parchment-lined sheet pan, and refrigerating overnight before slicing and browning in the oven or a skillet.
  • Polenta can also be “held in the bag” in the sous vide bath at 140° until serving to maintain the texture.
  • When serving, warm the bottom of the serving bowl in the water bath for around 30 seconds so it doesn’t cool the polenta down.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


  1. Huh. I’m not quite sure what happened but my polenta had a big chunk in the middle that was a log. I tried to break it up the best I could but I ended up with some smooth and chunky polenta.

    1. Hi Ryan! Sorry to hear that. Did you happen to mix it up in the bag with your hands before adding it to the water bath? Thinking that some in the middle just never got mixed with the liquid so it didn’t have a chance to get hydrated and cooked.

      1. Maybe not well enough! I may try again.

        It also didn’t set well for polenta cakes. It oozed apart after I tipped it out or the container. Hahahaha

    2. Mine also had two big chunks in the middle surrounded by liquid and I did mix well before placing in the water bath. I ended up kind of chunking it up and getting my stick blender out and and blending it together so it was smooth. I live in high altitude? Not sure what else could have gone wrong?

      1. Hey Jeri. I am thinking it might need more liquid. I have made it a lot of times and it came out as expected, but now I am wanting to test with another cup of liquid to the ratio.
        From my knowledge, altitude should not affect sous vide cooking because a temp is a temp at sea level or high elevations.

  2. 5 stars
    Thank you for sharing this. It was perfect. Easy and delicious. I added a half cup of white American cheese and it Made it even better. I am going to add smoked Gouda next time.

  3. 5 stars
    I LOVE polenta, but I always forget about it on the stove and ruin it. This recipe came out great and I love the flavors. It’s fool-proof polenta, for sure! Can’t wait to make this all the time.