Polenta And Corn Semolina: Delicious, Gluten-Free, Easily Digestible

Polenta is made from cornmeal and offers a delicious alternative to pasta, potatoes, and rice. Maize semolina can also be used for many other recipes, e.g. B. for pudding, cake, and bread or as a filling for peppers, pumpkin, and zucchini. Maize semolina is also gluten-free and can also be used as an egg substitute with another ingredient.

Note: The following article is about corn grits. If you are interested in using cornmeal e.g. For example, how to make corn tortillas and how to enhance them with nixtamalization, you can find the relevant information in our article on corn: the special grain.

Polenta is cooked corn grits

Polenta is boiled cornmeal that is then baked or fried, depending on the recipe. The required corn semolina is produced as follows (by the manufacturer, i.e. not in the household, since conventional grain mills are usually not designed for corn):

Production of corn grits

To make grits, the dry grains of yellow corn is cleaned and ground. The grinder is set coarser than for grinding cornmeal. Nevertheless, some flour is always produced during grinding. This is sieved out (and sold as corn flour) so that only the coarse particles, the corn semolina, remain.

But even with corn semolina, there are different qualities. It can be ground coarsely or medium finely. If the latter is the case, this results in a soft polenta, if you take the coarse semolina, then a firm polenta is produced. For the production of rather fine corn semolina, only the yellow glassy part of the corn kernel is ground. For coarse corn semolina, the germ is often ground as well.

There is also a minute polenta or instant polenta on the market. To do this, the semolina is pre-cooked with hot steam, then dried and packaged. With this semolina, the polenta (e.g. in the case of Rapunzel’s minute polenta) is ready after about 2 minutes of cooking time plus 5 minutes of soaking time.

Ready polenta on the market

You can now even buy ready-made polenta. All you have to do is take it out of the pack, then slice it and fry it. Of course, this also contains acidity regulators, emulsifiers, spices, antioxidants, etc., although the list of additives is limited, so a ready-made polenta can definitely be on the table. However, since the self-cooked minute polenta only takes a little more time, we would always prefer this.

How many corn grits do you need a per portion of polenta?

50 g of maize semolina is required per portion of polenta if the polenta is a side dish, e.g. B. to vegetables or mushrooms.

How much water do you need for polenta and cornmeal pudding?

Since polenta should be firm, you usually only use 2.5 times the amount of water, i.e. 250 ml of water per 100 g of corn semolina. If you want to cook semolina pudding, take more liquid. For our corn pudding linked below, we used 400 ml of liquid for 35 g of corn semolina, but 250 ml of it was in the form of coconut milk, the rest is water.

Preparation of polenta (basic recipe)

To prepare polenta with regular corn semolina (not pre-cooked), proceed as follows (2 portions):

  • 250 ml of water or vegetable stock is required for 100 g of cornmeal.
  • Boil water or vegetable broth.
  • Stir the corn semolina into the boiling water/boiling vegetable broth.
  • Simmer over low heat for about 5 to 10 minutes while stirring.
  • If necessary, add some liquid.
  • Take the pot off the stove and let it steep for 5 minutes.
  • Allow to cool and process further as desired, e.g. B. as in our recipe polenta slices with chanterelles and spinach

Preparation of polenta from pre-cooked corn grits

  • Proceed as follows to prepare polenta from pre-cooked corn semolina (minute polenta):
  • 250 ml of water or vegetable stock is required for 100 g of cornmeal.
  • Boil water or vegetable broth.
  • Stir the corn semolina into the boiling water/boiling vegetable broth.
  • Simmer over low heat for about 2 minutes while stirring.
  • If necessary, add some liquid.
  • Take the pot off the stove and let it steep for 5 minutes.
  • Allow to cool and process as desired

Uses of grits and polenta

Actually, you can already eat cooked corn semolina as a delicious side dish after swelling. Traditionally, however, the polenta mash is spread on a board or baking sheet or in a casserole dish and cut into slices after it has cooled, which can then be baked, fried in fat, or grilled. Polenta tastes particularly good with vegetables in tomato sauce.

It is sometimes advised to use cow’s milk in the preparation, which is said to increase the calcium content of the meal. If you need an extra portion of calcium, you can simply use calcium-fortified oat milk or soy milk.

In home-style cooking, polenta is also served with bacon or baked with cheese – all recipes that are difficult to digest. The polenta is much better tolerated simply as an accompaniment to fine vegetables and a slice of tofu. Mushrooms with tomato sauce also go wonderfully with polenta. Yes, basically everything that tastes delicious with rice or mashed potatoes can be combined with polenta.

Corn semolina for baking bread, cakes, and pizza

Alternatively, the polenta can be easily spread onto a baking sheet and topped like a pizza, as we did with our very delicious Spinach and Mushroom Poleta Pizza.

Corn semolina (the packaging often just says polenta) can also be used for baking, e.g. B. for cake or bread recipes. You simply replace part of the flour with the cornmeal, which makes the pastry moister. Corn semolina also goes very well with gluten-free bread recipes. In our gluten-free cornbread, for example, we have combined corn semolina with buckwheat and rice flour.

Corn semolina for making semolina pudding

Sweet dishes can also be made from corn semolina, such as our delicious corn pudding with caramelized bananas.

Originally, polenta was made from spelled, barley and co.

Originally, polenta was cooked from local cereals (spelled, millet, barley, or wheat) or from chickpea flour. Northern Italy is said to be the home of polenta. It was not until the middle of the 17th century that corn semolina began to be used. But no sooner had the first corn polenta been cooked than it spread like wildfire, especially in southern Europe, and was soon enjoyed from Spain to Russia as an inexpensive dish.

Nutritional values ​​of polenta

For a portion of polenta, you need about 80 g of cornmeal (uncooked). This serving contains the following nutrients at 276 kcal:

  • 7g protein
  • 0.9 grams of fat
  • 59 grams of carbohydrates
  • 4 grams of dietary fiber

How does maize grits/polenta affect blood sugar levels?

Polenta is rich in complex carbohydrates, which means that they are digested slowly and not as quickly as, for example, white bread, white flour pasta, and sweets. The blood sugar level, therefore, does not rise as quickly, but rather slowly, which helps to regulate it and also helps to avoid cravings.

The glycemic load of grits and polenta

The glycemic load of the polenta is therefore only about 20 and is in the medium range. Pasta, rice, and couscous, on the other hand, are significantly higher. The glycemic load indicates with its values ​​how strongly a food affects the blood sugar level, which is therefore absolutely acceptable with polenta and this side dish can therefore also be eaten by people with blood sugar problems or type 1 diabetes.

The biological value of corn protein

The biological value of corn protein is around 50 to 60, which doesn’t sound very high. In combination with legumes, however, this value rises to over 100 – e.g. B. Polenta with white beans in tomato sauce.

Apart from that, we would like to point out that the matter of biological value is completely overrated and is not decisive in relation to the quality of food, as has long been known.

Polenta fills you up and is easy to digest

Polenta fills you up well without making you feel uncomfortably full afterward. Unless, of course, you fry them with plenty of fat, which – depending on your constitution – can make them less digestible.

Polenta and corn semolina: gluten-free and low-fat

Polenta is a gluten-free side dish, while most other carbohydrate sources, such as B. Couscous, spelled or wheat semolina, oatmeal, bulgur, and pearl barley always contain gluten. Polenta is therefore very suitable for celiac disease and gluten sensitivity.

Polenta is a low-fat side dish. Although most grains are low in fat, polenta is one of the lowest-fat grain products, containing 1.1g of fat per 100g. Of course, only those who do not cook the polenta with milk, fry it in fat and serve it with cheese benefit from this low-fat content. On the other hand, the preparation in vegetable broth and its use as an unfried side dish is easier to tolerate.

Vitamins and minerals from polenta and corn grits

Polenta contains vitamin B1 and vitamin B5 in relevant quantities (130 µg/100 g and 550 µg/100 g), which corresponds to around 10 percent of the respective daily requirement. The other B vitamins are also included (apart from vitamin B12), but in smaller amounts in relation to the daily requirement.

In addition, 100 g of polenta provides about half of the daily vitamin K requirement, namely 40 µg.

Minerals are contained in rather small amounts, e.g. B. per 100 g of polenta 20 mg of magnesium, and around 1 mg of iron, which is not relevant since you will hardly eat more than 100 g of polenta.

Egg substitute made from corn semolina

Maize semolina is also suitable as an egg substitute for spaetzle, gnocchi, patties, and many other recipes. Here you will find the recipe for our egg substitute made from corn semolina.

You should pay attention to this when buying corn semolina

Buying polenta is not a problem, as you can get the grits in almost every supermarket. In the organic trade, you will usually find a “normal” variant, which is simply called “polenta corn semolina”, as well as an instant variant, which is called “minute polenta corn semolina” and is pre-cooked, e.g. B. from the manufacturers Davert or Rapunzel.

If you are now interested in the wholesomeness of the polenta, it becomes more difficult. The Davert company wrote to us that the two types of polenta are not whole-grain products. The husk is removed before the corn is ground, otherwise, it would remain very hard after cooking.

Alnatura explained it similarly. It would be when their polenta shell and germ were removed. Alnatura polenta is not pre-cooked. So it’s not an instant variant.

Rapunzel’s polenta seems to be more wholesome. Rapunzel wrote to us that for both types of polenta (polenta corn semolina and minute polenta corn semolina) at least part of the germ is also ground. The shell is also ground.

With polenta from the supermarket, it became apparent that the respective chains did not really know whether their products were wholesome or not. As always, we recommend products from manufacturers who can answer their customers’ questions and respond to corresponding emails quickly.

If you are concerned that the maize semolina for polenta might be made from genetically modified maize, you could see this on the packaging, as this must be labeled in any case in the EU. However, since conventional maize cultivation is very pesticide-intensive anyway, we always recommend buying organic maize semolina.

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Written by Micah Stanley

Hi, I'm Micah. I am a creative Expert Freelance Dietitian Nutritionist with years of experience in counseling, recipe creation, nutrition, and content writing, product development.

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