Polenta is a classic dish native to Italy and Switzerland. It is made from coarse, boiled cornmeal and can be consumed as a hot cereal or solidified and fried or grilled in slices. Polenta typically accompanies meat and vegetables, but it is a versatile addition to many dishes.
Although it has yet to gain the popularity of other Italian delicacies, polenta is widely available and can be purchased online or at your supermarket.
You can find polenta in the international foods aisle at the grocery store, specifically among dried pasta, risotto, and other Italian foods. Polenta may be boxed or bagged and is often available as a dry powder in these sections.
Because of its similarities to cornmeal and maize flour, instant polenta may also be shelved with other dry grains and cereals, such as oats and grits.
Cooking polenta can be a tricky, time-consuming endeavor; the powder must be boiled and constantly churned to yield the appropriate thickness and texture.
To make things easier, prepared or tubed polenta is a popular option and is generally in the refrigerated section with prepared health foods and vegan alternatives, like tofu and tempeh.
At a glance, tubed polenta may resemble cookie dough or sausage because it often arrives on grocery store shelves in plastic-wrapped rolls. The polenta inside has been formed into a loaf. Off the shelf, it’s ready to be sliced, baked, fried, or eaten as is. You should refrigerate unused polenta but never allow it to freeze.
You may also be interested in: Where to find tofu in the grocery store?
What does polenta look like in the supermarket?
Polenta is a type of porridge made of cornmeal, so you can expect to find it in the dry goods section of the grocery store. It comes in a box and seems so similar to grits that you should first look for it next to the boxed rice.
Some manufacturers sell precooked polenta, so it needs refrigeration. You can find these in a tube-shaped wrap in the refrigerated produce section. They look like a tube of breakfast sausage but contain cooked polenta for easy recipe preparations.
The price of polenta varies according to the brand. A 24-ounce bag might cost $4 for the best brands. If you’re willing to buy cornmeal and make polenta yourself, you can save money. A 24-ounce bag of cornmeal costs about $2.
The main difference between cornmeal and polenta is the coarseness of the grounds. Cornmeal is very fine for baking needs, but polenta is more coarse. If you buy a bag of coarse-ground cornmeal, you can use it as polenta in recipes and pay less in the long run.
Buying a tube of precooked polenta will typically cost about $5 per tube at most big-name stores. However, you can find it a bit cheaper at Trader Joe’s.
There are many different brands of polenta you can find at the grocery store. Some of the best brands are:
- Delallo Instant Polenta: Get it here
- Bob’s Red Mill Organic Corn Grits/Polenta: Get it here
- Colavita Instant Polenta: Get it here
- San Gennaro Traditional Italian Polenta
- Aurora Natural Polenta
If you’re looking for precooked polenta, keep an eye out for brands such as:
- Ancient Harvest Traditional Italian Polenta: Get it here
- San Gennaro Foods Polenta: Get it here
- Trader Joe’s Organic Polenta
- Delallo Pre-cooked Polenta Tube
Where can i buy polenta near me?
Polenta is available for purchase at any major grocery store chain, such as Walmart or Harris Teeter. These stores have a large enough customer base to accommodate food items that are obscure or have a lower demand.
Specialty grocery stores, such as Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s, often stock polenta regularly. Trader Joe’s carries its own brand of tubed organic polenta that is available both through online sellers and in the store’s refrigerated aisle.
Novelty international shops, such as World Market, frequently stock polenta in an assortment of gourmet flavors. However, these options are more likely to be instant or dry polenta. This is due to the lack of refrigeration in such stores.
How to buy polenta online
Because polenta is a relatively obscure dish outside of parts of Europe, your best bet for locating an array of choices for purchase will be online shopping.
Amazon has a wide selection of polenta options and brands, but it will not arrive in a refrigerated loaf. Most online options are dry polenta that still needs preparation. Yet Amazon also has several options for those who prefer tubed polenta or who wish to order in larger shipments.
Unsure how to season your polenta to create an authentic Italian meal? World Market sells an instant porcini mushroom polenta that you can find on their website. The seasonings are mixed with the polenta meal, allowing amateur chefs an easier cooking experience.
Artisan shops may also carry what you’re looking for. Many smaller stores offer instant polenta flavors, such as mushroom, truffle, and cheese. The latter may be a more palatable choice for picky eaters or lovers of cheese grits, as the two foods have similar textures.
Another option for the no-nonsense shopper is to order from Walmart or another major grocery chain that offers online ordering and in-store pickup.
This may be incredibly convenient if you are ordering a refrigerated polenta roll and are concerned about the quality of the food deteriorating during shipment.
Depending on the grind of the polenta, it can last anywhere from two months to two years.
Keep in mind that you need to store both dry and precooked polenta properly to get the best-tasting meals from this ingredient. If you don’t store it right, it can lose its flavor or spoil quickly.
The proper storage for polenta depends on the type and grind. Stone-ground polenta contains some oils from the corn germ, so it spoils easily without refrigeration. Storing stone-ground dry polenta in an air-tight container in the fridge keeps it fresh for about two months.
Fine-ground polenta doesn’t have oil in it, so you can store it in a cool, dry place for up to two years. Make sure you’re keeping it in an air-tight container so it won’t spoil.
Instant polenta only keeps in a cool, dry pantry for about two months. Once you cook it, keep it in the fridge but try to eat it within two days.
Yes, you should keep both uncooked and cooked polenta in the refrigerator. If they’re in an air-tight container, this is the best cool, dry place to keep them fresh the longest.
Uncooked polenta will keep in the fridge for up to two years. You should eat cooked polenta within two days, but it will stay fresh in the refrigerator until then.
What can i get instead of polenta?
If you can’t find polenta for whatever reason, you can substitute it with cornmeal. Remember that cornmeal is more finely ground than polenta; this will yield a creamier, porridge-like meal and may be more difficult to solidify into a cake.
Grits usually use white corn rather than yellow, but they are coarser than cornmeal and will have a texture similar to polenta when prepared.
Maybe you’re interested in a recipe that requires slices of tubed polenta to be fried or baked instead. In that case, you could consider slices of cornbread as an alternative.
The preparation times for this substitute will be significantly lower than using sliced polenta because the cornbread will already be baked and will burn easily if left to cook again for too long.
The texture will be less gelatinous than polenta, but many of the ingredients will remain the same, and you will still retain the consistency of cornmeal in your dish.
If pre-packaged cornbread is unavailable at your local grocery store, boxes of cornbread mix should be available in the baking aisle among biscuit and cake mixes. Brands like Jiffy sell the dry mix, and you would only need to add an egg and some milk before baking it into a loaf by yourself. After baking and cooling, it would be ready to slice and prepare as a polenta alternative.
Like polenta, it can be prepared and served in various ways. It is also similar to tubed polenta because its moist, sponge-like texture means similar cooking times and modes of preparation.
Despite its relative obscurity in the US and UK, polenta is a classic dish that is hearty, delicious, and historically significant to the lower classes of Italy and Switzerland because it is simple and inexpensive. Today people of all economic classes consume polenta and regard it as a culturally rich treat.
Polenta is also a smarter alternative to pasta for those who enjoy Italian cuisine but have Celiac Disease or a gluten intolerance because it is naturally gluten-free.