Pumpkin Polenta

Over the years I’ve been asked quite frequently about the difference between polenta and grits. But they are the same thing – essentially, cornmeal. Polenta is the Italian name for the dish, and grits are well known in the states as a Southern staple. They are both a savory porridge of sorts, made with ground corn. The only thing that is different is the grind of the cornmeal. There are finer grinds and coarser ones.

The reason I love polenta (and grits) is that I can do wonderful things with it depending on my mood and the season. For example, with fall approaching, I’ve begun stocking up on one of my favorite canned ingredient – pumpkin puree. I add pumpkin to soups, stews, pastas, meat loaves, risottos, and today, polenta. Pumpkin not only complements the cornmeal flavor, but it creates a beautiful orange color as well. It just screams autumn!

When you go to cook your cornmeal as polenta, you need to read the package directions. Because polenta comes in various grinds, the cooking times vary. Just as with purchased pasta, read the directions. Also keep in mind that cornmeal nearly triples in volume when it cooks, so unless you’re cooking for an army, don’t be tempted to use more than 1 cup of polenta, which is perfect for 4-5 servings. Here’s what I did.

This post is also at The Not So Creative Cook today. Jhuls is the author of this blog, and she actually is very creative! She was kind enough to ask me for a guest post, and I chose this dish because of fall approaching, although not fast enough for me. She used the Pumpkin Polenta for Fiesta Friday, which is a weekly post created by Angie over at The Novice Gardener.

Pumpkin Polenta

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups chicken broth
1/2 can pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup medium-grind cornmeal

In a large pot, heat the butter and oil over medium-heat until the butter just browns. Add the onion and stir, lower the heat to medium low. Sauté the onion for about 3-4 minutes.


Add the garlic and cook for just about 30 seconds, then stir in the broth, pumpkin, and salt.

Turn up the heat and bring the mixture to a boil. Using a whisk, slowly pour in the cornmeal. Lower the heat and simmer the polenta, whisking occasionally, until all of the liquid is incorporated.


If it gets too thick, add a little more liquid. This process should only take about 8-10 minutes unless you’re using a coarser cornmeal.

Serve with grated cheese, if desired, such as Parmesan, or, in my case, Monterey Jack!

If you want your polenta a little more decadent, substitute some heavy cream or even goat’s milk for some of the broth.

Just think of the ways you can make polenta! Add pesto, sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms, both fresh and dried, ancho chile paste, achiote oil – you name it!

note: Just like oatmeal, polenta will keep thickening with time. If you need to refrigerate any leftover polenta, make it really soupy before you store it. Only then will you have a chance of not discovering a cornmeal frisbee in your frig the next day!

By Published On: October 10th, 201442 Comments on Pumpkin Polenta

About the Author: Chef Mimi

As a self-taught home cook, with many years in the culinary profession, I am passionate about all things food-related. Especially eating!


  1. thesinglegourmetandtraveller October 9, 2014 at 8:12 AM - Reply

    What a lovely twist on polenta! And the note – making the leftovers soupy before storage – is very helpful advice.

  2. A Famished Foodie October 10, 2014 at 9:37 AM - Reply

    Okay…I know I said we were food soulmates before, but we have to break up now: I am a lover of polenta, but have not taken to any sort of pumpkin thing besides pumpkin seeds.

    • chef mimi October 10, 2014 at 9:46 AM - Reply

      Aawwww, so sorry. Don’t you even like pumpkin pie?!!

      • A Famished Foodie October 10, 2014 at 9:49 AM

        Only if I can drown it in whipped cream, so I’m not quite sure that counts, haha. I’ve always been more of a pecan girl as far as holiday pies go.

      • chef mimi October 10, 2014 at 9:52 AM


  3. lapadia October 10, 2014 at 2:07 PM - Reply

    I love polenta and this is delicious, seasonal twist, thanks for sharing your idea!

  4. ladyredspecs October 10, 2014 at 5:05 PM - Reply

    We love polenta here too, adding pumpkin to it is a great idea, but it will have to be fresh pumpkin, the only place to find it canned here involves a trek to the importer USA foods. Ah the polenta frisbee. I intentionally make thick polenta and chill it in a slab tin. It’s delicious cut into bars, lightly oiled then baked until golden crunchy on the outside.

    • chef mimi October 10, 2014 at 6:39 PM - Reply

      You’re right about the frisbee! I love polenta both ways. Such good stuff!

  5. Jody and Ken October 10, 2014 at 8:18 PM - Reply

    Lovely idea, Mimi, just the thing for the leftover roasted squash. Ken

  6. foxress October 10, 2014 at 11:18 PM - Reply

    I saw your recipe this morning and made it tonight, served with grilled pork chops and lemon garlic Brussels sprouts. It is easy and delicious! My daughter and her friend called it ‘amazing’. Her friend asked for the recipe, so I’m passing it on and looking forward to more of your brilliant pumpkin recipes. Thanks, Mimi. This is a great one!

    • chef mimi October 11, 2014 at 7:57 AM - Reply

      hmmm that sounds like a perfect meal! Thanks!

  7. lapetitepaniere October 11, 2014 at 2:48 AM - Reply

    Love this dish :)

  8. Chitra Jagadish October 11, 2014 at 3:18 AM - Reply

    Lovely idea… looks yummmm…

  9. dedy oktavianus pardede October 11, 2014 at 9:09 AM - Reply

    i just made one and it totally damn delicious!!!
    i also add my homemade chinese sausage on it….

  10. Nancy Brazil (@MsPullThatCork) October 11, 2014 at 6:28 PM - Reply

    Looks delicious. What a good idea to add pumpkin to polenta. I think it would make a great side for roast pork.

  11. ChgoJohn October 11, 2014 at 9:37 PM - Reply

    This really does sound delicious. I would have bought a pumpkin at the farmers market this morning had I seen your recipe sooner.

    • chef mimi October 12, 2014 at 10:03 AM - Reply

      I really love canned pumpkin, but of course it has to be good quality. Whole foods sells one that comes in an aseptic carton, as well as sweet potato. It’s quite useful.

      • ChgoJohn October 12, 2014 at 10:05 AM

        Thanks for the tip. I’ll be sure to check both out.

  12. Conor Bofin October 12, 2014 at 5:24 AM - Reply

    Great use of polenta, Mimi. It can be hard to manage and one can end up with rubber! Love this one.

  13. Choc Chip Uru October 12, 2014 at 5:47 AM - Reply

    Polenta is underrated in Australia, it is such a great versatile ingredient!

    Choc Chip Uru

    • chef mimi October 12, 2014 at 10:02 AM - Reply

      Oh that’s too bad! Maybe you can change that!

  14. DellaCucinaPovera October 12, 2014 at 12:14 PM - Reply

    I had no idea how to make this at home… I have all this stuff in my cupboards! Thanks, Mimi :)

  15. sallybr October 12, 2014 at 6:31 PM - Reply

    I rarely cook polenta at home, your post made me try to think back, and I believe since I married Phil maybe I made polenta once! that is once in almost 15 years! I bet your version would please me more than the regular one

    • chef mimi October 13, 2014 at 8:26 AM - Reply

      To me, it’s as fun and versatile as risotto except that it has a corn taste, obviously!

  16. Three Well Beings October 13, 2014 at 12:52 AM - Reply

    All I can say is “oh my goodness!” Fantastic recipe, Mimi. So tasty and very appealing!

  17. dianeskitchentable October 14, 2014 at 7:25 PM - Reply

    What a great idea for polenta. I never was a polenta fan but my husband loves it and I’ve actually come to really enjoy it now. I’m cracking up though because of your comments about how it can triple in volume and I think that’s why I had problems eating polenta. I’d eat maybe just a little too much then have something to drink and I can tell you that tossing down liquids on top of polenta will definitely increase the volume even in your belly.

  18. thehungrymum October 16, 2014 at 3:43 AM - Reply

    oooh, has never occurred to me to do pumpkin + polenta in a dish together. You’re v clever – looks delish.

  19. Peter - The Roaming GastroGnome October 17, 2014 at 9:03 AM - Reply

    That looks delicious! Bring on fall!

  20. spicegirlfla October 19, 2014 at 6:59 PM - Reply

    I’m like you, adding pumpkin to just about everything during October and November. So this really caught my attention as I’ve not yet thought to add it to polenta. Great idea!

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