Difference Between Polenta and Cornmeal

It is often confusing among people that Polenta and Cornmeal are used in place of one another, even though they are separate food ingredients or items. Hence, their differences are required to highlight.

It is very surprising for many people, but Cornmeal is used to make Polenta, whereas straight-up Polenta is a Northern Italian dish. They are separately used to make different food dishes across the world, which makes them an eloquent ingredient for taste and flavor.

The differences are meant to recognize their importance and places to use and how they came down the history line to influence both local and global dishes. They are very minor ingredients that can impact majorly what you are cooking.

Polenta vs Cornmeal

The main difference between Polenta and Cornmeal is that Polenta is a traditional Northern Italian dish that is made out of various types of grains, whereas Cornmeal is made out of grounded corn kernels but can be made out of yellow blue, white corn kernels as well. However, Polenta nowadays is commonly used or made out of medium or yellow corn kernels that are coarsely grounded, unlike the process of making Cornmeal. Their differences are often mistaken and are suggested to be used interchangeably in place of another.

Polenta and Cornmeal

Polenta is a Northern Italian dish and is not an ingredient, but Cornmeal is one. In traditional days, Polenta was made out of various grains, but as food developed through the years of taste and preferences, Polenta is now mostly made out of medium coarsely-grounded yellow corn kernels to bring out its essence and flavor. It is coarsely grounded because finely grounded corn kernels have a high chance of making the Polenta pasty. A pasty polenta can compromise the texture, consistency, and, importantly, the flavor of the dish.

Cornmeal, unlike Polenta, is made out of finely grounded yellow corn kernels, but it also includes coarsely grounded or medium corn kernels as well. In the traditional way, Cornmeal was made out of corn kernels that were stone-grounded, and they were liked by the people due to their high rich in nutrients but eventually had to leave because they had a high risk of germ and hull. However, there are modern grinding methods or methods, including the use of steel. This idea helps in removing the hull and germs and even extends the shelf-life of Cornmeal.

Comparison Table Between Polenta and Cornmeal

Parameters of Comparison PolentaCornmeal 
Composition Polenta has a composition of coarsely-grounded corn kernels. Cornmeal has a composition of fine, grounded different corn kernels. 
Origin The origin of polenta is mainly based in Italy. The origin of cornmeal is absurd. It is an ingredient. 
Preparation Polenta is usually prepared by cooking it for 40 mins by constantly stirring it. In the traditional process, Cornmeal is prepared through corn kernels by stone-grinding them. 
Corn Kernal Polenta is made of yellow corn kernels. Cornmeal is made of blue, white, or even corn kernel. 
Taste Polenta adds no extra texture or taste and is simply a meal. Cornmeal is known to have added texture and sweetness as taste in the meal. 

What is Polenta?

The origin of the dish or meal polenta is from a Northern Italian dish and is not considered as an ingredient. It is also a fact that Cornmeal is used to make Polenta, and the Polenta made out of Cornmeal is now considered as a main form of Polenta. It is surprisingly well-known across the world and in various types of dishes. In traditional days, Polenta was made out of various grains, but as food developed through the years of taste and preferences, Polenta is now mostly made out of medium coarsely-grounded yellow corn kernels to bring out its essence and flavor.

The reason why Polenta is coarsely grounded is that if it is finely grounded corn kernels, then it might have a high chance of making the Polenta pasty in texture which can compromise the texture consistency. It doesn’t end here as it can also compromise the flavor of the Polenta by making it pasty in nature. As said earlier, the various grains that the Polenta was made of included chickpea flour, chestnut flour, and buckwheat meal. However, it requires constant stirring until the mixture thickens like porridge. A thickened porridge polenta is tastier to eat and enjoy than the pasty natured Polenta, which is smooth in texture and taste.

Moreover, the Polenta, after stirring for 40 minutes, can be served by cutting it into equal pieces due to its thickened texture. Some people, however, cut the polenta cooking time by using pre-processed Polenta that is often sold as instant Polenta or quick-cooking Polenta. But other chefs often state that the pre-processed Polenta that comes in packages compromises the flavor and taste to a major extent. So, Polenta is made out of commonly used yellow corn kernels and is made out of only coarsely-ground corn kernels.

What is Cornmeal? 

Even though Cornmeal is made out of corn kernels like Polenta, there lies a thin difference as an ingredient. It is an ingredient and not a dish like Polenta. Cornmeal is made from finely ground yellow corn kernels, but it also includes coarsely grounded or medium corn kernels as well. In the traditional way, Cornmeal was made out of corn kernels that were stone-grounded, and they were liked by the people due to their high rich in nutrients but eventually had to leave because they had a high risk of germ and hull. Cornmeal is used to add texture and enhance the flavor of dishes.

The Cornmeal that is used in different dishes could be a fine, medium, or coarse type, which is also used in cornbread and stews. The list goes on as it is also used in meat, muffins, and many more baked products due to its flavor-enhancing and texture properties that can make a big difference in the taste you desire for. However, there are modern grinding methods or methods, including the use of steel. This fact helps in removing the hull and germs and even extends the shelf-life of Cornmeal. Even though Cornmeal came in the time of changing the traditional way of making it, it was still perishable due to its fat content present in it.

Moreover, the Cornmeal is often packaged in tins, and unless mentioned in the label, it is assumed that the commercial Cornmeal is a medium-ground type which helps in picking them accordingly for food and different dishes. Their enhancement and flavor differ, which is why it is important to know the differences in different Cornmeal when made out of various types of corn kernels. But, the fine Cornmeal has some texture in it, and hence, the stone-ground Cornmeal is indicated in the label but is not usually preferred as it can have germs and hull even though it is more nutritious.

Main Differences Between Polenta and Cornmeal

  1. Polenta is made out of only coarsely-ground corn kernels, whereas Cornmeal can be made out of finely, medium, and coarsely-grounded corn kernels.
  2. Polenta is made out of commonly used yellow corn kernels, whereas Cornmeal is made out of blue, white, and also yellow corn kernels.
  3. Polenta is considered a dish that mostly originates from Northern Italy and is not an ingredient. On the other hand, Cornmeal is an ingredient that is also used for Polenta.
  4. The Polenta was traditionally made out of various grains like chickpeas and chestnut flour, whereas Cornmeal was traditionally made out of stone-ground corn kernels.
  5. Polenta is considered as a dish or simply a meal for people, whereas Cornmeal is used as an ingredient that adds texture, flavor, and sweetness to the dish it is used in.

Conclusion

Every country around the globe often uses the same ingredients to make dishes, but they undergo various processes of development to bring out the best texture, consistency, and flavor. Polenta and Cornmeal are the very common dish and ingredients, respectively, that are mistaken as a substitute for the other, but their differences are required to be used for different food items.

They are mistaken as they are both made out of efficient corn kernels, but their process and type of corn kernels and grain are different. It is also important to remember and recognize that Polenta is made out of coarsely-grounded corn kernels, whereas Cornmeal can be made out of finely, medium, and coarsely-grounded yellow corn kernels, which draw the line between them.

References

  1. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13197-018-3177-z
  2. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1750-3841.2006.00235.x
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