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Having a plate of polenta is a treat, especially when it’s used to cook hearty soups and other comfort dishes. However, it’s not uncommon that a nearby store runs out of stock all of a sudden, leaving you polenta-less and sad. If you have ever found yourself in this situation, you probably wondered what are the best polenta substitutes that can still deliver a flavorful and satisfying experience?
Fortunately, there are many possible substitutes for polenta, such as couscous, semolina, and cornflour. In some cases, polenta and its substitutes are even used as substitutes for bread and meat. The texture, taste, and consistency may not be a hundred percent spot-on for some people, but it will do for a tasty substitute for any polenta recipe.
What Is Polenta?
To make things simple, polenta is a type of coarsely ground cornmeal. This is typically created by combining four parts of water with one part of ground cornmeal. Depending on the dish where you will use it, you may need to increase or decrease the water. Decreasing the water will make the final dish thicker. The opposite can be achieved if you increase the water-to-polenta ratio.
Polenta is typically used as a base for dishes such as mushroom ragouts and saucy meat. Depending on the type of polenta that you will make, you may cook this base longer or shorter. The general rule of thumb is to cook the polenta for a slightly longer time if you want to achieve a thicker consistency.
Why Look for Substitutes?
Looking for polenta substitutes is important if you want to make polenta, but you don’t have the supplies on hand. This becomes increasingly important if you need to make it on short notice. Aside from this, looking for a polenta substitute is important if you have medical conditions that prohibit you from consuming gluten-rich foods. This is also the case if you are on a strict diet.
How to Make Polenta
Aside from cornmeal and water, you will need butter, cheese, and salt to make the base more flavorful but not overpowering. You will need one teaspoon of salt, three tablespoons of butter, and ½ cup of cheese. If you want more for garnish, you may add more cheese later on.
Boil the water and salt in and slowly incorporate the cornmeal. Constantly whisk the mixture until you get rid of all the lumps. This should take you about five minutes to complete.
Reduce the level of heat and let it simmer while constantly mixing it. Gently mix this to avoid agitating it. At the same time, you have to do this to avoid lumps. This should also help prevent the mixture from sticking to the saucepan. Do this for about half an hour.
Turn off the heat and slowly add the butter until it melts. After that, you may then add the cheese and slowly incorporate it until it melts. This should take you about five to ten minutes to complete. You may place it on the serving dish. Garnish with more cheese if desired. You are then ready to serve this or use it on your main recipe.
Polenta Substitute: Couscous
Couscous may look like a bowl of grains. The reality is that its pasta. Because it’s mostly made up of carbohydrates, it may be used as a substitute for polenta. Its thick consistency when boiled for long periods of time can make the texture as smooth as polenta. As for the taste, they don’t have much difference aside from the fact that couscous doesn’t have that distinct cornmeal flavor that polenta can provide. Just like in polenta, you need to simmer couscous for longer periods if you want to have a thicker consistency. Do the opposite if you want a thinner final product.
Polenta Substitute: Semolina
Semolina comes in various coarseness, which makes it one of the best polenta substitutes. If you want to go for a smooth base, but you only have coarse semolina, you may opt to simmer it for longer than 30 minutes to achieve your desired results. The semolina variety can also make a difference. Because there are various semolina varieties in the market, you may have to test them one by one to see what will suit your preferences. This is as far as a polenta substitute is concerned. You may also have to experiment with the water ratio to see what will work best for your desired recipe.
Polenta Substitute: Corn Flour
While they may seem highly similar when it comes to origin and how they are made, cornmeal in polenta and cornflour are different. However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t use this as a polenta substitute. While it can’t be your go-to substitute for polenta alone, you may use this as a base for recipes that may need polenta as a secret ingredient. Some of these include mashed potatoes, pancakes, muffins, and hearty soups.
Looking for the Best Healthy Polenta Substitutes?
There are polenta substitutes that you can have if you want to have polenta, but you don’t have any. Some of these include corn flour, semolina, and couscous. The method of making them may be somewhat similar, but you need to manage your expectations when going for substitutes. For the record, the texture, taste, and consistency will not be exactly the same as the polenta, but that will be the closest that they can get as of now.