Vegan Cooking Tips

Polenta Possibilities

SOME PEOPLE WOULD SAY THAT POLENTA IS SNAZZY cornmeal mush. It's true that polenta starts out like most hot cereals, with a dried grain whisked into hot water. White or yellow cornmeal is combined with water and salt. Then, it is slowly stirred into boiling water, and the mixture is allowed to steam until firm.

However, using prepared polenta can open up a whole new world of fast meal possibilities!


Prepared polenta looks like a thick yellow tube and usually is made with cornmeal, water, salt, and some acid, such as ascorbic acid (vitamin C), to preserve freshness. We have found prepared polenta at Bristol Farms, Costco, Safeway, Sam's Club, Smart and Final, Trader Joe's, and several other markets. Look for it in the dry or refrigerated pasta sections.

Polenta has a neutral taste. If you want a savory polenta, you can stir in ground white pepper or red pepper flakes. A sweet polenta is achieved with a dash of vegan sweetener mixed with the finished product.

If you'd like a soft polenta, you can place several slices into a pot with a small amount of water or soymilk. Gently heat and stir until you've got a polenta 'mush.' Polenta served as soon as it has been prepared has a soft texture. If allowed to chill, polenta becomes firm enough to slice and fry, grill, or bake.


Polenta can serve as a good base for savory cuisine. To oven-fry polenta, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with vegetable oil, place slices of polenta on the sheet, spray the polenta with vegetable oil, and bake until the polenta's exterior is crispy.

If you're having a barbecue, you can grill polenta with garlic, shallots, and oregano, or you can grill the polenta alone and then top it with red pepper flakes, shredded fresh basil, and shredded vegan cheese. Also, polenta combines nicely with grilled or smoked mushrooms. For example, you can grill marinated portobello caps and polenta slices to create a layered entree.

Additionally, you can grill polenta slices with wild mushroom sauce and then garnish with sliced olives.

Think about using oven-fried or grilled polenta as an alternate to pasta. You can simply slice your prepared polenta, or you can get fancy by slicing the polenta and then using cookie cutters to make shapes.

Furthermore, you can try baking prepared polenta. Place the sliced polenta on a baking sheet, top with chopped leftover cooked kale and/or beans, and bake until hot. Or create a polenta 'hash' by cutting baked polenta slices into quarters; gently tossing the pieces with chopped tomatoes, cooked beans, and chilies; and baking until warm.


A morning polenta possibility can be a simple bowl of soft polenta, served with syrup or fruit preserves. Another breakfast idea is polenta as an alternative to hash browns. When you have time, oven-fry or grill polenta and serve with fruit compote, fruit preserves, or sliced bananas on the side.

Did you know that polenta is a traditional ingredient for regional Italian desserts? When wheat flour was scarce, cakes, cookies, and steamed puddings were created using polenta's unique texture.

Indian pudding is New England's take on traditional Italian cornmeal pudding. Make your own by heating prepared polenta with a small amount of almond or vanilla soymilk, stirring until the mixture is mushy, sweetening it with molasses, and then seasoning with cinnamon, powdered ginger, and nutmeg.

You can also create a dessert by slicing polenta, placing it on a baking sheet, topping it with a drizzle of maple syrup, and topping the syrup with fruit preserves. Bake until hot and serve.

Using prepared polenta can open up a whole new world of fast meal possibilities!