5 Substitutes for Polenta For Your Next Recipe


Polenta is a popular Italian name for cornmeal made of yellow maize used to make creamy and hearty porridge flavored with butter and cheese.

This dish is a common protein-rich accompaniment to several savory mains, traditionally meats, sauces, or mushrooms.

Polenta is also used as a base for rich and hearty stews. It is an excellent source of protein and fiber.

However, authentic Italian polenta may not be easy to find or might be heavy on the pocket.

5 Substitutes for Polenta to use in your Next Recipe

The best substitute for Polenta are – Semolina, Broken Barley, Mashed Potato, Rice, and Grits. They are discussed in detail here –


Semolina is made of the durum wheat plant, making the flour that makes many kinds of pasta. The consistency of cooked semolina is also like that of polenta.

Not just that, semolina is also packed with nutrients like protein, fiber, and B vitamins like thiamine and folate.

Semolina is also an excellent replacement for polenta in desserts, calling for it.

In comparison, semolina is not as naturally flavorful as polenta but can replace it as a better canvas for more complexly flavored sauces, meats, and vegetables.

However, it lacks the bright yellow color of cornmeal. It is also not a celiac-friendly alternative since durum wheat is exceptionally gluten-rich.


Semolina is a healthy and readily available replacement for polenta, although it contains gluten.

Broken Barley

Studies have suggested that whole grains like barley have led to a 17% lowering of fatality risk due to ailments like diabetes and cancer. Barley is a powerhouse of nutrients and fiber.

It has more protein in comparison.

Additionally, barley can help control appetite by regulating blood sugar, making you feel fuller for a longer duration.

Barley has a mild earthy flavor profile and goes well with braised dishes.

Barley may take longer to cook than polenta but gives a very similar, though slightly grainier, wholesome, and hearty result.

However, it does contain high quantities of gluten and therefore is not a celiac-friendly alternative to polenta.


Barley is a nutrient-packed replacement for polenta; however, it has some textural differences and contains gluten.

Mashed Potato

Mashed potatoes are a fine gluten-free carbohydrate-rich accompaniment that is an alternative to polenta.

Potatoes have a very simplistic flavor profile that carries complex umami flavors, particularly those of heavily seasoned mains.

They are cheaper and more accessible in comparison as well.

Mashed potatoes are also rich in fats and starch. Research from the American Journal of Potato Research concludes that potatoes are rich in antioxidants such as flavonoids, carotenoids, and phenolic acids.

These antioxidants neutralize free radicals that increase the risk of several chronic illnesses like diabetes and heart disease.

However, as opposed to polenta, potatoes are not protein or fiber-rich. Cooking time and method also vary greatly. The texture and consistency of mashed potatoes are also very different from that of polenta.


Mashed potatoes are an affordable, easy-access alternative for polenta. They are not as nutrient-rich as polenta but may help accompany flavorful main dishes very well.


Rice is an easy-access and affordable substitute for polenta.

Arborio, a kind of short Italian rice with a high starch content, is particularly useful to replace polenta since it can provide an almost identical creamy carbohydrate-rich base for stews and risotto.

Also, rice is an outstanding source of niacin and folates.

However, rice has a high glycaemic index and is rich in carbohydrates, which may deregulate blood sugar levels. Therefore, rice must be consumed along with other nutrient-rich foods.

This ingredient is also a celiac-friendly alternative. Rice has a very mild flavor and works well with most savory mains. On the other hand, rice lacks the rich yellow color of polenta.


Rice may be used as a substitute for polenta. Starchier variants of rice should be used to accompany braised dishes and heavily seasoned sauces.


Grits are essentially the same thing as polenta, the only significant difference being the type of corn they are made of.

Grits are also great for blood health; WebMD suggests that a serving of grits may provide 10% of the daily recommended intake of iron.

While both grits and polenta are forms of ground cornmeal, polenta is made from yellow maize, whereas grits are made from white maize.

They have identical nutritional profiles and cook times.

Polenta has a flakier and more chewy texture as opposed to grits. But the difference in texture is neither noticeable nor does it make a difference as an accompaniment to heavily flavored meats or sauces.


Grits are a version of cornmeal made of white maize that can be used interchangeably with polenta.


Are polenta and cornmeal the same thing?

Essentially, yes. Polenta is an Italian name or version of cornmeal. It is made by milling corn grains to different levels of fineness. In most recipes, sweet or savory, yellow cornmeal is interchangeable with polenta.

Can I replace polenta with refined flour?

Polenta cannot be replaced with refined flour when making porridge. However, for batters and some baked recipes, you may use a proportionately lesser quantity of refined flour.

Can I replace polenta with corn starch/flour?

No. Corn starch, sometimes known as corn flour, is made of the starchy part of the corn kernel and is in a pure white and fine powder form. Polenta or cornmeal, on the other hand, is made from finely ground dried corn kernels.
Corn starch is a common thickening agent used in stews, sauces, and soups and is also used to make light batters and dredges.

How is polenta different from grits?

Polenta is the name of an Italian dish made of yellow cornmeal, usually made into a thick and hearty, savory porridge flavored with butter and cheese. Grits are also made of cornmeal, except the grain used here is white maize or hominy and not yellow maize.

Bottom Line

Polenta is a nutritious grain-based porridge originating from Italy.

However, it may not be available everywhere.

Fortunately, it has many replacements, and hopefully, you can find one on this list that meets your flavor and nutritional requirements.

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About Amanda Jones

Amanda is a person with an eye for detail. She has been cooking since her childhood and loves to bake too. Recently, she's made the decision to pursue baking full-time and quit her 9 to 5 job. In the meantime, she still enjoys cooking and baking for friends and family, especially when it comes time for special occasions like birthdays or holidays!