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Creamy Butternut Squash Polenta

5 stars based on 3 votes

I first tried this wonderful side dish at my dear friend Dana Kaminsky’s house for a holiday dinner. She served it with Onion-Braised Brisket and roasted vegetables, among other things, and it was truly a meal to remember. I’ve since made it many times and can attest that it’s delicious with any sauce-laden winter roast or stew, and also with my easy New Orleans Style BBQ Shrimp recipe.


The recipe is easier than it seems because it uses frozen puréed squash, an ingredient that I never even knew existed. You should be able to find it in the freezer section at any major grocery store but if not, it’s fine to make your own. For the polenta, you can use either instant polenta or finely ground yellow cornmeal (the Quaker brand labeled “Yellow Cornmeal” is widely available in the baking aisle of most supermarkets). For the milk, be sure to use either 2% or whole — your polenta will be much smoother (no lumps!) and creamier.

Begin by melting a few tablespoons of butter in a pot.


Add some finely chopped onions and cook over low heat until soft and translucent.


Add the milk and butternut squash purée and bring to a boil.


Reduce the heat and add the polenta in a slow steady stream, whisking all the while. Adding the polenta gradually prevents lumps.


Cook over low heat, stirring frequently, for about five minutes or until the polenta is thickened. To finish the dish, stir in more butter and Parmesan cheese.


The polenta will be pourable at this point, but sets up a bit as it sits. I think it’s best to serve it immediately but you can always cover it and reheat it later; just keep in mind that it won’t be quite as smooth (not a big deal) and you’ll probably need to add some water to thin it out. Enjoy!



Butternut Squash Polenta

Servings: 4-6 (as a side dish)
Total Time: 20 Minutes


  • 1 cup very finely chopped yellow onion, from one small onion
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 (12-oz) package frozen butternut squash purée (sometimes called winter squash), about 1-1/2 cups; thawed
  • 4-1/2 cups 2% or whole milk (do not use 1% or skim) or 1 cup heavy cream plus 3-1/2 cups water
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 3/4 cup instant polenta or fine yellow cornmeal
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano (optional)


  1. Melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in a medium sauce pan over medium-low heat. Add the onion and sauté, stirring frequently, until soft and translucent, about 8 minutes. Do not brown.
  2. Add the squash, milk, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and slowly add the cornmeal in a thin stream while whisking continuously. (I find it easiest to lightly tap the measuring cup of polenta against the pot so that it sprinkles in.) Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring frequently with a whisk, for about 5 minutes or until polenta is smooth and thickened.
  3. Remove from the heat and stir in cheese and remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Serve immediately or place a piece of plastic wrap directly over the polenta (to prevent a film from forming) and reheat later.
  4. Note: If you prepare the polenta ahead of time, you will probably need to add some water or milk to thin it out to the desired consistency when you reheat it.

Reviews & Comments

  • 5 stars

    We love this recipe, even though for two of us we enjoyed leftovers for a few days. I have made “mush,” which is probably the pioneer-in-covered-wagon version of polenta, for MANY years and was always told to heat 3/4 of the total liquid to boiling, then quickly stir the cornmeal into the 1/4 remaining unheated liquid and pour it into the simmering liquid while whisking. No lumps! My hands are shaky, and that is much easier for me than trying to tap the dry cornmeal directly into the hot liquid. It worked for me in this recipe, too. Yum!

    - Judy on September 29, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Wonderful flavor! Hubby liked it and he doesn’t even care for butternut squash. I think the fresh grated cheese does a great job of balancing the flavor out.

    - Peggy on May 4, 2016 Reply
  • Can i use a fresh butternut squash instead of frozen squash to make the”butternut squash polenta” and if so how do i go about preparing the squash for the recipe .

    - Fanny on November 23, 2015 Reply
    • Hi Fanny, Sure, you’ll just have to cook it and purée it.

      - Jenn on November 23, 2015 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Just want to tell you how much we LOVE this dish. It’s just the hubby and I and this makes so much but we look forward to the leftovers.

    - Aimee on June 13, 2015 Reply
  • I have Bob’s Red Mill corn grits that don’t seem to be instant, at least it doesn’t say it anywhere on the package. What would I do differently?

    - Erin on December 14, 2013 Reply
    • Hi Erin, It’s hard to say because there are so many different types of cornmeal, and the different grinds have different cooking times. Coarser cornmeal will need to cook longer. I would just follow the cooking instructions on the package. Hope that helps!

      - Jenn on December 15, 2013 Reply

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