Basic polenta is made with water and cornmeal. Since these ingredients are naturally gluten-free, a basic polenta should also be gluten-free as well. Typically, water is brought a boil, cornmeal is added, and then the mixture is stirred and simmered until the desired consistency is reached. Sometimes butter or other ingredients are added.
While the main ingredients of polenta are naturally gluten-free, it is a food item that is sometimes at risk for cross-contact. Gluten-containing ingredients can also be added to enhance the final dish.
It’s also important to note that polenta’s key ingredient, cornmeal, is also often at risk for cross-contact in the growing, production, processing, and packaging stages, especially if the company that produces the cornmeal also produces gluten-containing grains. From there, the cornmeal is brought to the kitchen and slowly simmered over heat, sometimes for many hours.
Traditionally, the only other ingredient in the polenta process is water, but modern cooking practices include other flavors and ingredients for taste, consistency and appearance. While these additional ingredients don’t usually contain gluten, it’s always important to ask as many questions as you can of restaurants, friends and family, or whoever prepared the meal.
Polenta is also sometimes fried and topped with other foods to create a range of dishes, so look out for cross-contact with fryers, skillets/pans and recipes with added broths/ingredients.
For store-bought varieties, choose brands with the gluten-free label, and call to ask questions about the production process if you have any questions.