The Sweet Side of Polenta, Dessert!

Polenta is mostly served savory as a side dish or first course. However, it has a sweet side, too, and if you can pour and stir, you can easily make this dessert.

Polenta holds its shape well and may be sliced, grilled, or set in molds. With the addition of sugar and spices, this makes it an excellent vehicle for a type of bar dessert. What is even better, for those who may have gluten allergies, this dessert is gluten-free. As another plus, polenta is very economical to make.

If you live in the southern US, you might think of polenta as “grits.” Both grits and polenta are made from ground corn, but the main difference is that polenta is made from yellow corn, a bit sweeter, and grits are usually made from white corn, or hominy. This also begs the question of what is the difference between cornmeal and polenta? Nothing except for how finely ground they are – usually polenta is a bit coarser, so it holds its shape better.

In this post I’m offering a base recipe with whipped cream or yogurt and berries as garnishes. However, feel free to use the sweetened polenta as a springboard for any toppings or mix-ins that you prefer, such as diced apples, raisins, dried cranberries, cherries, etc.

Also see my recipe for savory Polenta.

Arliano Update (Aggiornamento Arliano):

What a couple of weeks! Murphy’s Law kicked in hard. The kitchen was installed, which should have been a joyous event. Instead, the stovetop, which will go on top of the kitchen island, was mounted centered on the island instead of ergonomically at the edge where a normal person would cook. Everyone including the installers was baffled and there was no argument that it needed to be replaced. The same goes for one of the backsplashes that arrived cracked. For one of the upper cabinets we choose clear glass, as is stated in the contract. It arrived frosted. I planned to use this as a “China cabinet” displaying some of my Deruta, Italy ceramics. When we called to ask for a replacement door with clear glass, we were told that was in fact their version of “clear” as opposed to “smokey,” their other option.

My Italian is far from perfect, but I certainly know the difference between “clear” and “opaque or frosted” so their response left me rolling my eyes so high that I gave myself a headache. We will now have to search for an independent wood worker who can dismantle the cabinet door and swap out the glass. We have no idea how long it will take for the new kitchen island stovetop and backsplash. I admit it — these are clearly “first world” problems and I’m grateful for our lives and that we have a place to live. But… after 17 months of living surrounded by stacks of boxes and bins, and 7 months and counting of jack hammers and other assorted renovation sounds 8 hours a day, we’re ready to get back to normal. At least our cabbages are growing nicely! The sprinkling of ashes are helping to keep the critters away.


Did you enjoy reading or making the recipe from this post? If so, please consider giving it a “like” or a comment. It would be nice to know you are out there and that my posts connect with you.

The Sweet Side of Polenta, Dessert


* 1 cup polenta (cornmeal is ok to use, too)
* 2 cups whole milk
* 2 cups water
* 1 cup granulated sugar, divided
* 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
* 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon or cardamom
* Pinch of kosher or sea salt
* Optional: 2 small apples peeled, cored, and diced – or – 1/2 cup raisins
* 1 cup heavy cream for whipping, or Greek Yogurt
* Berries for garnish


  1. Line an 8-inch X 8-inch (20 cm X 20 cm) pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil with enough overhang to lift out the polenta once it has cooled
  2. Melt butter in a large pot along with the cinnamon or cardamom and salt. Simmer for 1 minute
  3. Add the milk and water to the pot and bring it to a soft boil over medium heat. TIP: If you want to speed up the process, you can pre-heat the milk and water in a pot or microwave oven
  4. In a slow and steady stream, add the polenta while whisking the hot liquid and continue to whisk until all the polenta is incorporated and there are no lumps
  5. Add 3/4 cup of the sugar and continue to whisk until the polenta has thickened and can sit up and hold its shape on a spoon. If you want to add the optional diced apples or raisins or other mix-ins, add them at the same time as the sugar. My polenta usually takes about 10 minutes to thicken, but yours may vary depending on the brand and how fine or coarse is the grain
  6. Pour the polenta into the prepared pan and even it out with an offset or rubber spatula. Let it cool to room temperature then cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for several hours
  7. Before serving, bring the polenta back to room temperature, remove it from the pan and slice it into serving-sized squares
  8. If making whipped cream (or using Greek yogurt), add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar to the cream/yogurt and use electric beaters (or a whisk if you are a masochist), and beat until the cream is firm. Put a dollop of cream or yogurt on each serving along with the berries

Author: gregnelsoncooks

Visit weekly for original and adapted recipes as well as cooking tips to make your kitchen life easier — and more delicious! I’ll include simple, straight forward instructions along with recipes that are truly worth your time making. And, recipes that elevate the familiar and introduce you to the new and unexpected.

5 thoughts

  1. Hi Greg—I am a friend of your sisters. I enjoy your recipes and the information about them you share. I’ve learned a lot from you! Sorry about your kitchen fiasco. I’m sure it will be beautiful when it is finally all completed. Looking forward to making both the sweet and savory versions of your polenta recipes!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a good idea! I have a close friend with Celiac’s, and I’m always looking for dessert options for her. And also trying to find ways to use apples from my trees, so I’ll be trying this tonight.

    Liked by 1 person

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