Butternut Squash Polenta ♥

Butternut Squash Polenta ♥ AVeggieVenture.com, a special side dish with butternut squash or other vegetables. Weight Watchers Friendly. Great for Meal Prep. Gluten Free. Vegetarian. Lovely for Thanksgiving.
What happens when you combine butternut squash and polenta? Pure deliciousness, that's what, to say nothing of gorgeous color. This easy polenta is a revelation! And it's flexible, too. First, let's not forget that polenta is a kissin' cousin to cornmeal and grits, Second, the official recipe calls for roasted butternut squash plus a big measure of butter and cheese. Ha, no wonder it's good, right? But it's also wonderful with raw grated carrot and just a touch of butter and cheese. And sweet potato. And I'm betting on caramelized onion and even fresh spinach.

Fresh & Seasonal, Perfect for Cold-Weather Meals including Thanksgiving. Great for Meal Prep. Weeknight Easy, Weekend Special. Scales from Small Plates to Large Platters. Weight Watchers Friendly. Vegetarian. Naturally Gluten Free.

What a Brilliant Combination, Roasted Butternut Squash & Creamy Polenta

I maybe loved this dish back in 2006. But total honesty here, I didn't make it again for almost fourteen years. Does this ever happen to you, too??? Arrgh! But then we loved mixing polenta and a vegetable so much, I made it again within a week. And then still again within another week. It's that good, that flexible, that delicious. And the recipe has earned a 3x5 card, the recipes that get made most often.

Rich vs Less Rich: Delicious Either Way

The recipe was originally published with A Veggie Venture's first deep-dive into Thanksgiving vegetable recipes and so I was feeling generous with butter, cheese and other rich ingredients. But boy, the calories add up. Maybe that's okay for a celebration meal but for everyday polenta, fewer calories are in order, that means cutting back the butter and Parmesan. Good news, the "less rich" version of this polenta is completely delicious.

What Is Polenta?

The differences between polenta, cornmeal, grits and even masa can be confounding. The one thing that's certain, each one starts with corn. After that, differences emerge depending on how the corn is treated and how finely it's ground. The good news is that in my experience, it's easy to substitute one for the other.

POLENTA is an Italian dish that's made from boiled cornmeal. Polenta is usually the most finely ground cornmeal.
CORNMEAL is field corn that's been dried and ground and thus qualifies as a "vegetable" especially if the more healthful full-kernel stone-ground cornmeal is used, either in a coarse or a fine grind. That said, some recipes really need the finer texture of a degerminated yellow cornmeal so I keep both on hand.
GRITS are a southern specialty and are usually the most coarsely ground.

How to Serve Butternut Squash Polenta

For me, polenta is an "undie" – that means it belongs under another food, say pot roast or meatloaf or sautéed greens, maybe a poached egg.

Butternut Squash Polenta ♥ AVeggieVenture.com, a special side dish with butternut squash or other vegetables. Weight Watchers Friendly. Great for Meal Prep. Gluten Free. Vegetarian. Lovely for Thanksgiving.

Just updated. First published way back in 2006!


Hands-on time: 20 minutes
Time to table: 30 minutes
Makes about 3 cups

2 cups water
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup (80g) polenta or finely ground cornmeal or finely ground grits
1 – 4 tablespoons butter (see ALANNA's TIPS)
2 – 8 ounces (225g) Parmesan, grated with ribbon microplane (for larger pieces), some reserved
1 pound (454g) roasted butternut squash
Salt & pepper

Bring the water to a boil in a medium-size non-stick saucepan on MEDIUM heat. Stir in the salt. Slowly stir in the cornmeal with a whisk (a whisk works much better than a wooden spoon, say), just a tablespoon at a time to avoid lumps; if lumps do form, press them against the side of the pan with the back of a spoon to break up. Reduce the heat to MEDIUM LOW, cover and set the timer for 5 minutes. When timer goes off, check to see if the polenta is cooking at a slow simmer, adjust heat accordingly and whisk gently for a minute (it's tempting to just give it a quick stir, whisking is better). Repeat every 5 minutes, adjusting temperature and whisking. Depending on the polenta/cornmeal/grits, the mixture might cook in about 10 minutes but some times takes 20 minutes or so. Just keep tasting, the polenta should be soft but you can still feel the individual grains. Once it thickens, uncover and stir for 2 - 3 minutes.

Stir in the butter and Parmesan (reserve some Parmesan if following Option #2, below) and stir until melted and glossy. Stir in the cooked squash and combine well. Taste and adjust the seasonings.

OPTION #1 (AS IS) Stop here and serve as is, a sort of soft, soupy polenta.

OPTION #2 (BAKE) If you like, transfer to a greased baking dish. (If you're cooking ahead, stop here and refrigerate. Return to room temperature.) Top with the reserved Parmesan. Bake at 350F/180C for 60 minutes.

TWO OR THREE DAYS BEFORE Roast the squash.
DAY BEFORE Cook the polenta, then refrigerate.
DAY OF If reheating, reheat on the stove; you may want to add a little milk or water to thin it out to your desired consistency. If baking, return to room temperature before baking.

LEFTOVERS To reheat leftovers, just warm in a saucepan or in the microwave.

CARROT POLENTA! Up the water to 3 cups and simmer 1 pound grated carrot for about 5 minutes with just water and salt, the carrot should be tender but not falling apart. Then slowly whisk in the polenta and carry on as written. This yields a texture that's really nice and the color is still beautiful!

OTHER VARIATIONS Sweet potato would work well here. So, I think would Slow Cooker Caramelized Onions. Broccoli or asparagus or fresh spinach? Maybe! The trick is to turn out a pretty green color, not a muddy, unappealing; I think I'd add the spinach at the very end with a splash of lemon juice.

HOW MUCH BUTTER & PARMESAN? The inspiring recipe called for 4 tablespoons butter (that's half a stick) and a half pound of Parmesan. Wonderful? Of course! And super rich, the calories really add up fast. So now I make the Polenta with 75% less of each, just 1 tablespoon butter and 2 ounces of Parmesan. All that richness? and especially the calories? Not missed in the least.

HOW TO ROAST THE SQUASH Start with a large butternut squash, more than 2 pounds (900g). It's extra easy to roast a whole butternut squash, that's what I'd recommend here, no cutting, no questions.
NO BUTTERNUT SQUASH? Most winter squashes would work here, including acorn squash, kabocha squash, pumpkin, even spaghetti squash. Just be sure to buy enough to yield a full pound of edible cooked squash, that excludes the skins, the internal seeds, even the big, heavy stem.
WHERE TO BUY POLENTA Look for polenta, cornmeal or grits in the baking aisle. I especially like the Bob's Red Mill product, there's often an entire section, even an endcap, with other Bob's products.

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Butternut Squash: Such a Favorite at Thanksgiving

~ Savory Bread Pudding with Butternut Squash, Chard & Cheddar ~
~ Butternut Squash Lasagna with Butternut Bechamel & Roasted Butternut Squash ~
~ Butternut Squash Polenta ~
~ Slow Cooker Butternut Squash with Ginger & Dried Fruit ~
~ more Butternut Squash recipes for Thanksgiving ~

~ Roasted Butternut Squash & Apple ~
~ Squash Puff ~
~ Slow Cooker Sweet Potato (or Pumpkin or Butternut Squash) Grits ~
~ more winter squash recipes ~
from Kitchen Parade, my food column

Seasonal Eating: Thanksgiving Preparation Across the Years

Shredded Brussels Sprouts Acorn Squash Roasted Face Down Acorn Squash with Mustard & Honey Steak & Tomatoes Secrets of a Long Life Creamy Carrot Purée Creamy Cauliflower Gratin Maple Ginger Sweet Potatoes Butternut Squash Polenta Beet Salad with Lemon & Olives Honey Pumpkin Pie (< this week's favorite! sweetened with honey not processed sugar) Thanksgiving Cake Slooow Country Green Beans Spinach Casserole Boozy Baked Celery Brussels Sprouts with Maple & Walnut Vinaigrette How to Cut, Peel & Cube a Butternut Squash and Keep All Ten Fingers Farro Risotto with Butternut Squash Vegetarian Entrées for Thanksgiving Thanksgiving Vegetable Recipes Silky Smooth Corn Pudding Pioneer Woman's Broccoli Wild Rice Casserole Slow Cooker Garlic Smashed Potatoes Sweet Potato-Chocolate Swirl Pie Seasonal Soups & Salads – November

Here at A Veggie Venture, vegetables are the real stars of the Thanksgiving table. So watch for new Thanksgiving recipes all November long, new additions to the collection of My Very Best Thanksgiving Vegetable Recipes. Whether it's 2006's famous World's Best Green Bean Casserole or 2007's favorite Cauliflower Cream or 2008's Creamy Brussels Sprouts Gratin or a brand-new recipe which catches your fancy, this year move Thanksgiving vegetables to your center stage.

© Copyright Kitchen Parade
2006, 2007 & 2020

Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.


  1. My granddaughter went to our local farm a few weeks ago and picked out a dozen different winter squash (I think she was looking for pink ones -- her favorite color!). Of course they outlived their usefulness as toys rather quickly, so I've ended up with the entire collection. Now I know what to do with them. Thanks for the recipe.

  2. What a great idea...I've been dying to try to make some polenta!

  3. Lydia ~ Purple potatoes, pink squash, why not?!

    Jeff ~ Twas easy!

  4. Alanna, I've done a winter squash risotto but never a winter squash polenta. I'm going to try this. Great blog!

  5. This sounds wonderful.
    Great concept. Can't wait to try it.

  6. Alanna, Did you use Bob's Red Mill corn meal? I love all their products too.

  7. Yummy. I never would have thought of this.

  8. Sher ~ Great tip. I was feeling lazy enough that getting out the double boiler seemed harder than stirring every 5 minutes. Oh dear!

    Carla ~ I've yet to make my own risotto! Some day soon!

    Faith ~ It's a keeper!

    Glenna ~ Probably, I buy Bob's Red Mill products all the time. But I transferred everything to plastic bags a few months ago and didn't keep the label so am not sure.

    Peabody ~ It's inspired, no doubt!

    Thanks all, for the encouragement!

    - AK


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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe, whether a current recipe or a long-ago favorite. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. ~ Alanna