Highlighting the Difference Between Polenta, Grits, and Cornmeal

Difference Between Polenta, Grits, and Cornmeal
Corn can be made and eaten in a number of ways. They are all similar, but have different names. Take a closer look at the polenta vs. grits vs. cornmeal analysis done here to see how they are different, yet similar in many aspects.
NutriNeat Staff
Last Updated: May 5, 2018
a-MAIZE-ing Facts!
■ Corn is the third-most grown crop in the world after wheat and rice.
■ There are even number of rows on each ear of a corn.
Corn is the largest and most important crop grown in the United States. The products derived from corn are polenta, grits, and cornmeal, and the difference between them can be really confusing to some people. They look similar, but have different uses.
The differences between the three are slim in comparison to each other. It might be difficult for you to judge if you're buying it for the first time. The difference not only lies geographically, but also the texture and corn that they are made from.
Cornmeal
Corn meal
Cornmeal is basically dried corn that is grounded. It can be ground depending on the needs―fine, medium, or coarse. It has many varieties depending on the type of cornmeal used―white, yellow, and blue.
(Yes, blue!) Blue cornmeal is sweeter and tender than others. Cornmeal is widely used in baking. It also used for deep-frying. It imparts exceptional texture and flavor to the dish. It is the main ingredient needed for making cornbread, which is also a very popular dish in southern parts of the United States.

Both polenta and grits fall under cornmeal depending upon the texture, which is coarse flour ground from corn.
Polenta
Polenta
Polenta is an Italian dish that is very similar to grits. It is called Polente or Poleinte in France. It is a 'cornmeal mush', which is a term for dishes made from cornmeal and water primarily, and can be eaten like a porridge. It is made from flint corn that contains hard starch at the center. This hard starch provides distinguishable granular texture even after it is cooked.
You can purchase both dry and cooked polenta. You will find them in tubes or packages at a grocery store. You can also cook it with milk, butter, cheese, or stock to add flavor to the dish. The creamier polenta is cooked and served as a porridge or pudding.
Grits
Grits
Grits is also a type of cornmeal mush, which is widely consumed in southern parts of the United States. It is commonly had during breakfast or served as a side dish along with other meals. Grits is made from a corn called dent corn. It is called so because of the indentation formed when the corn dries up. It contains soft starch unlike polenta. It is smooth and creamy. Grits can be regular or hominy. You can find ground or instant grits in the grocery store.
Stone-ground grits are ones that retain all its nutrients and germs, and take longer time for cooking. Instant grits, as the name suggests, is used for instant and quick cooking. They are processed further and cooked partially before drying. Although the cooking time is less, it reduces the nutrition value.
Comparison
Polenta Grits Cornmeal
ORIGIN
Italy, France Southern United States United States
ABOUT
Polenta is 'cornmeal mush' made from dried 'flint' corn that is ground coarsely. Grits is also 'cornmeal mush' made from dried 'dent' corn. Cornmeal is dried corn that is ground.
APPEARANCE
Similar to grits, coarsely ground, grainy texture Coarser than cornmeal Coarser than flour, grainy texture yet powdery
VARIETIES
Can be purchased dry or pre-cooked. Stone-ground or instant. White, yellow, and blue corn.
USES
Uncooked polenta can be cooked in butter or cheese and served hot with vegetables, herbs, or cheese as a breakfast or side dish. Pre-cooked polenta can be grilled, cooked, fried, or sautéed. Grits is served as side dish along with other meals. Best served with bacon, shrimp, or crab seasoned with some cheese. Cornmeal is widely used in baking for coating the surfaces of breads and pizza crusts so that it does not stick, and also to add crunch and flavor.
CALORIES (1 cup)
182 109 370
CHOLESTEROL (1 cup)
0 0 0
PROTEINS (1 cup)
1 gm 13.73 gm 7 gm
TOTAL CARBOHYDRATES (1 cup)
9.03 gm 124.18 gm 79 gm
SODIUM (1 cup)
21 mg 1.56 mg 7 mg
POTASSIUM (1 cup)
0 213 mg 142 mg
Nutrition Value of Corn
■ Corn does not contain cholesterol.

■ One medium ear of corn (90 g) contains 80 calories.

■ It is rich in Vitamin A, Vitamin C, potassium, and fiber.

■ It is high in natural sugar/starch.
All the three are great choices for your breakfast. Bake, grill, fry, or boil, you can cook them the way you want. Eat healthy, stay healthy!