Elevate your side-dish game and make a cheesy Butternut Squash Polenta Casserole. It's an easy side dish to add to your holiday meal. It covers the stuffing (think cornbread) and vegetables all in one creamy dish. And it's gluten-free!
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Thanksgiving Side Dishes
There are many easy ways to make healthy switches when preparing your Thanksgiving meal.
Instead of turkey stuffing, make a gluten-free quinoa turkey stuffing.
You can also replace turkey stuffing or dressing with this butternut squash polenta. It's tasty enough to be the main side dish, or add more veggies and sides to the table with it.
Once you taste this, you won't believe how creamy, cheesy, and delicious it turns out. And the great part is you can make it up the day before and bake it along with the turkey.
There are a bunch of ways to save even more time when you make it. Buy frozen mashed butternut squash and a roll of pre-made polenta to make this recipe a snap to pull together.
Why You'll Love This Baked Polenta Recipe
This baked polenta recipe is super-simple, especially if you use pre-cooked polenta.
Plus, it tastes incredible, thanks to all the melted cheesy goodness in it.
Butternut squash and cheese are the perfect pairing - you have to try it in other recipes like butternut squash mac and cheese and chicken lasagna too.
This baked polenta recipe has a slightly smoky accent, thanks to the smoked gouda.
It's thick and creamy thanks to the addition of butternut squash to the polenta.
- Butternut Squash - use packaged frozen cubed or mashed squash or cook from scratch
- Pine Nuts - adds a nice crunch to this creamy casserole
- Olive Oil
- Sage - Fresh or Dried can be used
- Pre-cooked Polenta Roll - makes this recipe a snap. You can also cook up polenta from scratch.
- Smoked Gouda - adds a cheesy, slightly smoky flavor
- Parmesan cheese - adds a crispy topping
- Salt & pepper - enhances the flavor of all the ingredients
- Milk (optional) - for a creamier casserole add ½-1 cup of milk with the precooked polenta roll.
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
- Olive Oil - I recommend using light olive oil for a neutral flavor.
- Polenta - If you prefer, you can make polenta instead of using the pre-cooked roll. Just get polenta corn grits (coarsely ground cornmeal) and prepare it according to the package instructions. This will result in a creamier casserole.
- Smoked Gouda - If you don't care for smoked cheese or flavor, use regular gouda.
- Parmesan cheese - You can use Pecorino Romano instead.
- I recommend shredding the cheeses instead of buying pre-shredded ones. Pre-shredded cheese has an anti-caking agent that will cause the dish not to be as creamy.
How to Make Butternut Squash Polenta
- Toast pine nuts in a medium skillet for 4-5 minutes.
- Place olive oil, onions, and sage in a skillet.
- Saute for 15 minutes or until browned and translucent.
- Cook squash according to package directions. Place in a large bowl with butter and mash coarsely.
- Add onions, grated cheeses, polenta, and pine nuts to the squash.
- Stir then season with salt and pepper. I use about 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Note: for a casserole add ½-1 cup of milk.
- Place cheesy polenta squash mixture into the prepared casserole dish. At this point, you can place it in the refrigerator for several hours to firm up (not necessary when using precooked polenta). Remove when ready to bake and brush the top with butter.
- Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.
- Bake for 1 hour at 375 degrees or until the top of the casserole is browned and crisp.
How to Store, Freeze, and Reheat
Cover the butternut polenta leftovers with paper towels then wrap them with plastic wrap. Store them in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
To Freeze: Let the polenta cool completely. Wrap slices in aluminum foil and place them in a plastic freezer bag. Freeze for up to 3 months. You do not need to thaw it before reheating it.
To Reheat: Bake the polenta at 350°F for about 15 minutes for refrigerated and 20 minutes for frozen.
More Thanksgiving Recipes
- Air Fryer Turkey Breast is so easy to make and perfect for smaller families.
- Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese is a creamy, cheesy side dish full of veggie power!
- Honey Roasted Turkey Breast is a great addition to the larger turkey for those that prefer white meat.
- Buttermilk Cornbread from Rich and Delish is baked in a cast iron skillet for crispy edges and moist crumb.
- Yellow Squash Casserole is an easy, cheesy side for the holiday table.
Find the best Thanksgiving recipes here on 2CM!
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Baked Butternut Squash Polenta
- 20 oz frozen cubed or mashed butternut squash or use 1 medium butternut squash, cubed & cooked (see notes for cooking instructions)
- 3 Tablespoons butter, divided
- 3 Tablespoons pine nuts
- 1 Tablespoon light olive oil
- ½ large onion, chopped
- 1 ½ teaspoons chopped fresh sage or ½ teaspoon dried sage
- 18 oz pkg pre-cooked polenta roll or 2 cups cooked
- 4 oz Smoked Gouda
- ½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated, divided
- Salt & pepper to taste
- ½-1 cup milk (optional) (the addition of milk with the precooked polenta roll will make the casserole creamier.)
- Cook butternut squash as directed on package. Place cooked butternut squash in a bowl and add 1 tablespoon butter. Mash coarsely.
- In a medium skillet, toast pine nuts until they become fragrant and start to brown, about 4-5 minutes. Remove from pan and chop coarsely.
- To the skillet, add olive oil and heat. Add onions and sage, cover, and cook until onions are browned and translucent, about 15 minutes, stirring often. If onions start to stick and dry out, add a little water.
- Prepare large casserole dish by spraying with nonstick spray.
- In a large bowl, combine squash, pine nuts, onions, polenta, Gouda and ¼ cup of Parmesan cheese. Salt & pepper to taste. Note: Add milk here, if desired, for a creamier casserole.
- Pour into prepared casserole dish and pat down, spreading to edges. At this point you can place into the refrigerator to firm up. (I found if I cooked polenta from scratch this needed to be done, with the precooked polenta it wasn't necessary)
- When you are ready to cook, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Remove polenta-squash casserole from refrigerator.
- Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter and brush across the top of the casserole. Sprinkle with remaining Parmesan cheese and bake for 1 hour.
- Top will be crisp and lightly browned. Let sit for 20 minutes to make cutting easier.
This post has been updated with new photos and more useful information. It was first published on November 4, 2015.