I got an Instant Pot over a year ago, but, between you and me, I still only use it for two things: pressure-cooking dried beans and polenta. That said, I use it for those two things a lot! My husband and I are big polenta people—we love it with braised pork shoulder, roasted vegetables, glazed tempeh, pan-fried meatballs, you name it. What we don’t love is standing over the stove, stirring a pot every 10 minutes, for 40 minutes, and still ending up with chalky-burnt bits. And sure, you can try the double-boiler method or boiling-water shortcut method (both Genius-certified). But the most hands-off approach, by far, comes by way of the Instant Pot. Just throw the polenta, water, and salt in the pot, beep-beep-boop a few buttons, and ta-da. A hunk of butter at the end and you’re good to go. (Or, if the rest of dinner isn’t ready just yet, no big deal—the Keep Warm feature has you covered. Bless!)
Now, you could stop at just salt and butter, and often I do. But if you’re feeling fancy, you could zhuzh it up a bit. Think cheese, ground spices, fresh herbs. My favorite is a cacio e pepe–inspired combo of pecorino and lots of black pepper. Also great: Parmesan and thyme (maybe even some lemon zest? Who knows?). Or blue cheese and cayenne. Or gouda and sage. All of which to say, have fun with it. I’ve included measurement guidelines for the bonuses below, but I hope you don’t worry about them too much. The beauty of Instant Pot polenta is you don’t have to worry about anything. —Emma Laperruque
(173 grams) coarse polenta
4 1/2 cups
cups (1,023 grams) water
1/2 to 1 cups
grated or crumbled cheese (such as sharp cheddar, Parmesan, pecorino, Gouda, blue), for stirring in and sprinkling on top
freshly ground black pepper, for stirring in and sprinkling on top, or another ground spice to taste
Fresh herbs (such as minced chives, thyme leaves, finely chopped sage, or roughly chopped parsley), for stirring in and/or sprinkling on top
Combine the polenta, water, and salt in the Instant Pot and whisk. Secure the lid and adjust the pressure release to Sealing. Pressure cook on High for 15 minutes. Let the pressure release naturally for about 10 minutes, then carefully move the pressure release to Venting (I like to cover it with a towel to prevent steam from blasting the nearest wall).
Whisk the polenta to smooth out, then add the butter and whisk again until incorporated. At this point, you can stir in any cheese or spices, and adjust the salt to taste. You can also close the lid and use the Keep Warm feature until you’re ready to serve.
When you are ready to serve, ladle into bowls or onto plates, then sprinkle with any additional cheese, spices, or herbs.
Emma is the food editor at Food52. Before this, she worked a lot of odd jobs, all at the same time. Think: stir-frying noodles "on the fly," baking dozens of pastries at 3 a.m., reviewing restaurants, and writing articles about everything from how to use leftover mashed potatoes to the history of pies in North Carolina. Now she lives in New Jersey with her husband and their cat, Butter. Stay tuned every Tuesday for Emma's cooking column, Big Little Recipes, all about big flavor and little ingredient lists. And see what she's up to on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.