Creamy Butternut Squash Polenta

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This creamy butternut squash polenta makes a comforting side dish to any sauce-laden roast or stew.

Creamy Butternut Squash Polenta

I first tried this butternut squash polenta at my dear friend Dana Kaminsky’s house over the Jewish holidays. She served it with a tender brisket and roasted Brussels sprouts, among other things, and it was such a comforting, memorable meal. I’ve since made it many times and can attest that it’s delicious with any a sauce-laden roast or stew.

What You’ll Need To Make Butternut Squash Polenta

how to make butternut squash polenta

The recipe calls for 12 ounces of puréed butternut squash. You can often find it ready to use in the freezer section of the supermarket. However, sometimes grocery stores only carry cubed frozen squash (as pictured above). In that case, simply thaw the squash and give it a whirl in a food processor or blender. (Mashing it with a fork won’t work, as it tends to be a bit stringy.)

For the milk, use whole or 2% rather than skim — your polenta will be much smoother and creamier.

How To Make Butternut Squash Polenta

how to make butternut squash

Begin by melting a few tablespoons of butter in a saucepan and adding some finely chopped onions. Cook over low heat until soft and translucent.

how to make butternut squash

Add the milk, butternut squash purée, salt, and pepper.

how to make butternut squash

Bring to a boil.

how to make butternut squash

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

how to make butternut squash

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.

how to make butternut squash

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!

Creamy Butternut Squash Polenta

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Creamy Butternut Squash Polenta

This creamy butternut squash polenta makes a comforting side dish to any sauce-laden roast or stew.

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

Ingredients

  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 cup very finely chopped yellow onion, from one small onion
  • 4½ cups whole milk
  • 1 (12-oz) package frozen butternut squash or winter squash purée (about 1½ cups), thawed (see note)
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ¾ cup instant polenta or fine yellow cornmeal
  • ¼ cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano
  • Finely chopped fresh herbs, for serving (optional)

Instructions

  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 topped with a bit of butter, more cheese, and herbs (if using). If serving later, place a piece of plastic wrap directly over the polenta to prevent a film from forming and reheat on the stovetop when ready to serve. (You will need to whisk well and add some water or milk to thin it out to the desired consistency when you reheat it.)
  4. Note: If you can't find puréed squash, purée it in a food processor or blender. (Mashing it with a fork doesn't work well, as butternut squash is a bit stringy.)

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Comments

  • Hi Jen, firstly, thank you for your recipes. My friends now think I am a great cook, but really I just use a rotation of your recipes haha
    Quick question – can I replace the canned pumpkin puree from Libby’s instead? I might not have time to make a butternut squash puree; was hoping that the canned version can be a shortcut~ thank you!

    • — Pat on October 25, 2021
    • Reply
    • So glad you like the recipes! Yes, I think pumpkin puree should work here. Please LMK how it turns out if you try it!

      • — Jenn on October 27, 2021
      • Reply
  • Exceptional! A big hit with my guests along short ribs And roasted veggies. I used boiled and puréed butternut squash and substituted chicken stock for milk. I did add close to a cup of grated parm at the end. My guests, both Italian polenta loving good cooks asked for the recipe! This will be on my table often! Thank you!

    • — Tracey Chiappe on December 13, 2020
    • Reply
  • So delicious and easy! I’m not even a big butternut squash fan. My little family LOVES this recipe. I cant wait to share with my entire family!!!

  • Has anyone tried making this with chicken stock instead of milk or at least part stock/part milk? Thanks in advance!

    • I’m going to add an answer to my own question. 🙂 Yes, you can make this with chicken stock and it’s delicious! I made a double batch for a dinner party – back when we were allowed to sit at a table with others – and it was incredible. Thanks for the great recipe!

  • So delicious! Followed the recipe and it got raves at a family meal! Is it possible to double this? Thank you

  • Hi Jenn,
    First off, your recipes are so spot on and guaranteed to be perfect! Thank you for making me a great cook!!! I was wondering if I could substitute grits for polenta?

    • — diana hubbard-replyuk
    • Reply
    • So glad you like the recipes, Diana! And I haven’t made these with grits, but think they should work. Hope you enjoy! 🙂

  • So goood!!!! Thank you Jenny!!

    • — Julie from Ottawa, Canada
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn,

    Would corn masa work in this recipe?

    I love your recipes! They are delicious and perfectly written!

    • I don’t think so, Amanda — I’m sorry!

      • We had this next to one in a tube from grocery store. This won hands down. Thanks! I used organic corn meal.

        • — Sheri on August 24, 2020
        • Reply
  • This is really good and very easy to make. We have been eating it for 3 days as a side dish. As always…thanks Jenn for your wonderful recipes.

  • Jen, I would also like to make your Andouille sausage gumbo, do you think I could use chicken andouille sausage, or would the other be better. Thanks.

    • Either would be delicious 🙂

      • What herbs do you use

        • Hi Maria, I like this with thyme and/or sage. 🙂

        • Hi Jenn, Was going through my bookmarks to make this incredible polenta (again) tonight & wanted to let you know just how happy I am to have found you! It’s perfect for “meatless nights” as a main dish. Creamy & comforting. I sub shallots for onion if on hand. From Butternut Squash Polenta to Salmon cakes to your Tres Leches Cake, your recipes are so easy & mistake proof if followed, varied (something for everyone) & most of all delicious! I have made quite a few, too long to list here, lol! Thanks!

          • So glad you like the recipes — thanks for taking the time to let me know! ❤️

            • — Jenn
  • Hi Jenn,

    I want to make this for Christmas dinner with your Red Wine Braised Shortribs. I know I can make the ribs a few days ahead, how far ahead can I make the polenta and how should I heat it back up?

    Happy holidays to you and your family!

    Mary

    • Hi Mary, You can make it a day or two ahead and reheat on the stovetop; just keep in mind that you’ll need to add a little milk or water to thin it out to a creamy consistency. 🙂

  • Easy to make and absolutely delicious!! The only down side was that I could not stop eating this!! Makes for excellent leftovers.

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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 .

    • Hi Fanny, Sure, you’ll just have to cook it and purée it.

  • 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.

  • 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?

    • 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, this looks like another wonderful recipe of yours. Is that a 3 quart saucepan you made the polenta in?

        • Yep – hope you enjoy if you make it!

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