Who doesn’t enjoy a heartwarming bowl of creamy polenta or crunchy polenta chips with herbs, spices, and cheese? But making polenta can get tricky as you often end up with big amounts of leftover polenta.
Can you freeze polenta? You can freeze polenta, and this is the best method to store this cooked cornmeal dish. Polenta freezes well in smaller pieces, which can later be fried, grilled, or baked. Polenta will keep well in the freezer for up to 3 months.
And during those three months, you will have a great breakfast, lunch, and dinner options almost ready in your freezer.
If you have ever considered freezing polenta, this article will be your guide to doing it. If you are on the fence whether freezing polenta is a good idea or not, read to find out how to ease the tension of making quick meals by freezing leftover polenta.
Can You Freeze Polenta?
Polenta expands once you cook it, so sometimes you can cook more polenta than you need. And you end up with so much leftover polenta that you won’t be able to finish even if you ate it for every dinner for the upcoming week.
Luckily, you can freeze polenta. The texture and taste of polenta in most cases stay unaffected by the freezing process. Thus, this is a great way of extending the shelf life of this ground cornmeal dish. You can also make some ahead of time to have it at hand at all times.
How to Freeze Polenta? – Step by Step
If you are not planning to eat your leftover polenta within 2-3 days, store it in the refrigerator.
But if you want to preserve it for another occasion, it is best to put the cornmeal directly into the freezer. The fresher polenta is before storing it in the freezer the better it will taste once you decide to eat it.
One thing to keep in mind is that you should wait for polenta to cool down before you transfer it into the freezer.
Here are the step-by-step instructions on how to freeze polenta:
- Take a shallow baking sheet and line it with either a layer of food wrap or some parchment paper.
- Pour the polenta that is still hot or warm into the pan. Use a spatula to get all of it out of the pan.
- Spread the polenta evenly on the baking sheet so that it has the same thickness all across the sheet. Smooth out the top using the spatula.
- Clean some space in your refrigerator and place the baking sheet with polenta in the fridge for 30 minutes or as long as needed to completely cool it off.
- Polenta solidifies when it cools down. Take it out of the fridge and turn it out on the kitchen counter or cutting board. This will be easy to do due to the plastic paper used to line the baking sheet.
- Cut the polenta into even pieces. You can cut it out into squares, triangles, or circles. Cutting them evenly will make your job easier when you decide to thaw multiple pieces of polenta. Uneven polenta pieces won’t take the same time to defrost.
- Wrap each piece of polenta in food wrap. Make the plastic wrap as tight as possible to maintain the shape of the pieces.
- Wrap polenta pieces in food wrap with a layer of aluminum foil to make sure they are safe from freezer burn and won’t absorb any odors.
- Place the pieces wrapped in foil in a plastic bag to have them neatly stored in the freezer. Remove as much air as you can from the bag.
- Label the bag with the date.
You can freeze polenta in a bulk. You can use a plastic container to shape one big piece of polenta. Similar to the freezing instructions above, it should also be wrapped with a layer of plastic wrap and aluminum foil.
Nonetheless, it is recommended to freeze polenta in smaller portions to bring texture changes to the minimum.
Tip: For better results, freeze polenta quickly. The lower the temperature in your freezer is the quicker will polenta freeze. This means that fewer crystals will form, making it possible to preserve the original texture and taste of the food as much as possible.
How Does Freezing Affect Polenta?
Generally speaking, polenta freezes well. However, the texture of polenta can be affected after freezing if it has been made with milk or heavy cream.
As you may know, milk and cream separate and become grainy after being frozen and defrosted. If you do have leftover polenta made with heavy cream or milk, freeze it in smaller portions to bring the texture changes to the minimum.
Dairy products in polenta will make things complicated when you decide to defrost and cook your cornmeal.
Freezing Polenta Ahead of Time
Polenta takes around 45 minutes to cook and you have to stir it constantly to achieve the perfect consistency of the porridge. But what if you love having polenta for dinner but don’t have the time to spend on cooking it?
You can, of course, go with instant polenta, which takes only a few minutes to cook. However, not everyone likes the taste and texture of quick-cooking polenta. If you are after true Italy-inspired dinners, you may not like instant polenta.
A great solution to this problem is cooking a big batch of polenta and storing it in the freezer in smaller portions. This way you will have the greater part of your dinner ready and won’t have to stand at the oven for 45 minutes after a hard day’s work.
When making a big batch of polenta in advance with the intention of freezing it, make plain polenta without any flavoring, butter, or cream. Simply cook the polenta in the required amount of water or stock, let it cool, and freeze.
Having unflavored polenta makes it possible to use it paired with any other ingredient you are in the mood for that day.
How Long Does Polenta Last in the Freezer?
Cooked polenta will keep for around 3 days in the fridge. But it can dry out quickly if you don’t cover it with a towel and a layer of plastic wrap.
Polenta stored in the freezer has a much longer shelf-life. It will keep well for up to 3 months in the freezer. However, it is recommended to use frozen polenta within the first few weeks as the quality of food deteriorates while it sits in the fridge.
How to Defrost Polenta
The best way to defrost any frozen food is to transfer it from the freezer into the fridge to avoid drastic changes in temperature.
If you want to have pan-fried polenta for dinner, put as many portions as you need in the fridge in the morning or a few hours in advance, but don’t forget to remove the foil and plastic paper from polenta so you don’t trap the moisture it releases inside.
To remove as much moisture as you can from defrosted polenta gently press a paper towel onto the sides of the polenta piece.
If you are short in time, you can defrost polenta at room temperature. However, keep an eye on it to not miss the moment when polenta has defrosted but is still cold. This is when you should blot it with a paper towel and cook.
How to Use Defrosted Polenta
Having frozen polenta in the freezer means that you can have a quick fried or baked cornmeal for your breakfast, lunch, or dinner. You can also grill defrosted polenta.
Here is what you can do with defrosted polenta.
- Make fried or grilled polenta cakes for breakfast with a side of fried bacon.
- Bake polenta and serve with some salsa, beans, and crumbled cheese for lunch.
- Make pan-fried polenta with mushrooms and cheese for dinner.
How to Reheat Polenta?
If you want to reheat polenta so that it regains its creamy texture, you have to put in some effort.
Reheating polenta to make it creamy again should be done either on the stovetop on low heat or in the microwave. Adding some liquid, such as water, milk, or stock, as well as butter will help to make polenta creamy again.
Can You Freeze Polenta Chips?
Yes, you can freeze polenta chips to have a quick and fresh snack when needed.
Freeze unbaked polenta chips by putting them on a tray lined with parchment paper and store it in the freezer until firm. This may take 3 to 4 hours.
Once the chips are frozen and don’t stick to one another, put them in a sealable plastic bag. Remove the excess air and make sure the bag is tightly closed. If it isn’t, use cling wrap to secure it.
Polenta chips will last for over 4 weeks in the freezer.
Reheat them by baking in a preheated oven for 25 minutes until the chips get all golden and crispy.
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