Tart Cherry Polenta Fritters (Instant Pot or Stovetop)

This is a delicious side dish for any meal and a cornbread alternative if you just don’t have time to whip up a baked bread. I love preparing this with Ayla, because it invites her to cook with her hands and the results are fun! We like to make this for breakfast with maple syrup poured over top, or savory with over-easy eggs and avocado. It’s also delicious for dinner with stew served over top. Ayla likes to eat them plain, especially when her ice cream cone-shaped cookie cutter is a success! You can stir in other additions with the cherries, such as minced rosemary and maple sugar, or make this dish savory with grated parmigiano cheese and sautéed mushrooms.



  1. To prepare the polenta in an Instant Pot, add in the cornmeal, salt, and water and whisk together. Press the sauté function and bring the polenta mixture to a boil while whisking. Then close the Instant Pot and select Pressure Cook. Set to high pressure for 7 minutes and let the polenta naturally release for 10 minutes. Then automatically release and open the lid.
  2. To prepare the polenta on the stovetop, add the water and salt to a medium-size heavy pot and bring to a boil. Slowly pour in the polenta while whisking vigorously to keep it from clumping. Continue stirring for 2-3 minutes as the mixture thickens. Turn the heat to low and continue cooking for about 45 minutes, covered, stirring every 10 minutes or so to prevent the polenta from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
  3. When the polenta is cooked, stir the cherries into the polenta.
  4. Then, line an 8 inch square baking sheet with parchment paper and pour the polenta onto the parchment paper. Use a spatula to smooth the polenta flat and then refrigerate in the pan, uncovered, for at least 30 minutes. The polenta should be firm to the touch.
  5. Remove the polenta from the refrigerator and transfer the polenta to a cutting board or sheet pan.
  6. Using cookie cutters, make shapes with the polenta – this is where your little assistant is needed!
  7. Once you have your polenta “cookies,” heat the olive oil over medium high in a cast iron skillet or large frying pan. When the oil is hot, add the shapes, leaving space so you can wiggle in a spatula to flip the polenta.
  8. Fry for about three minutes on each side, until bright yellow and crispy. Transfer to a plate and keep warm with foil over top or in an oven warmer. Fry the remaining shapes. Serve warm.
  9. Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to three days.


This is a gluten-free dish!