Simple Fermented Cornmeal or Polenta

Four ways of serving fermented cornmeal - grits, polenta, cornbread and porridge

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Here’s how to prepare fermented cornmeal or polenta. The recipe is the same regardless of what type of ground corn you are using. Fermented cornmeal can be used to make cornbread, grits, or Italian polenta. See the sections above for more details.


Units Scale


  • 1 cup cornmeal (coarse, medium, or fine)
  • 2 cups of filtered water
  • 2 Tbsp lactic culture (see notes)


  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tsp salt, to taste


  1. Mix the cornmeal with the water and culture in a large glass measuring cup or bowl.
  2. Cover the container with a tea towel and leave it to ferment for 12-24 hours on the kitchen counter.
  3. When you are ready to cook the cornmeal, scrape the soaked cornmeal and any additional fermenting liquid into a saucepan.
  4. Add in the additional water, bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir frequently, until the cornmeal is soft and the liquid is gone.


  • Cornmeal breaks down best with a lactic culture. Use yogurt, buttermilk, kefir, or whey. For a vegan option, use vegan yogurt or fermented vegetable brine.
  • Feel free to change the liquid to suit your recipe. See the section above for turning this recipe into a firm polenta or soft, creamy grits.