A generous bowlful of creamy vegan polenta is second to none when you’re craving to a cozy hot breakfast on a chilly morning. Imagine if risotto was made with cornmeal to create a buttery, cheesy, savory custard, and you’d start to get the idea. Southern-Style Polenta and Greens from PlantPure Comfort Food by Kim Campbell combines American and Italian tradition for the best of both worlds.
The real beauty of this mushroom polenta is its versatility. Once you learn the simple tricks to cook it perfectly every time, there’s no end to the flavorful possibilities. Consider this an introduction to your new love.
The incredibly comforting, savory flavors speak for themselves, but that’s just one reason why you’ll want to keep this recipe in your regular rotation.
Polenta is a porridge made from finely ground yellow cornmeal which is typically prepared as a savory dish but can also be sweet. It hails from northern Italy where it’s often topped with more substantial protein and vegetables to complete the meal.
If served hot, straight off the stove, it has a creamy, custard-like consistency, whereas if it’s allowed to cool, it will set and be firm enough to slice. Leftovers are fantastic pan-fried, deep fried, baked, or grilled.
Grits are essentially the southern answer to the same query, creating a boil corn pudding as an affordable, savory staple. The difference is that grits are typically made using white dent corn (or hominy) whereas polenta is made from finely ground yellow sweet corn. They taste and look subtly different, but in a pinch, can be swapped interchangeably at a 1:1 ratio.
You’ll be hooked after making your first pot of polenta. It’s so easy, quick, and satisfying, you’ll wonder how you lived without to begin with!
Step 1: Bring the water to a rapid boil in a medium pot over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-high and slowly sprinkle in the polenta and dry seasonings a little bit at a time, whisking continuously. It’s critical to go slow and keep stirring to prevent lump from forming.
Step 2: Further reduce the heat to low and switch over to a wide spatula. Continue stirring the polenta for a few more minutes to avoid any clumps.
Step 3: Cover and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Be sure to scrape the bottom and sides of the pan with your spatula to prevent it from sticking and burning.
If the polenta is too thick by the end of the cooking time, add a bit more water until it reaches your desired consistency.
Step 4: Meanwhile, add the onion and mushrooms to a skillet over medium heat and sauté until mushrooms release most of their moisture. If sticking occurs, add a small splash of water to deglaze the pan.
Step 5: Add the garlic, tamari, vinegar, beans, and spinach and cook for 1–2 minutes or until the spinach is thoroughly wilted.
Step 6: Serve the polenta topped with the spinach and mushroom mixture.
Traditionally, polenta is frequently enriched with butter, cream, and/or cheese to make it particularly decadent. While the dry staple itself is always plant-based, assume that any prepared versions contain dairy products unless explicitly labeled otherwise.
Yes, polenta is gluten-free! It contains no wheat ingredients, but some manufacturers process it on shared equipment, which means that cross-contamination can be an issue. If you have a severe allergy or intolerance, look for packages that are specifically certified gluten-free.
Absolutely! Polenta is a veritable superfood, full of vital complex carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. It’s a smart alternative to other starches such as white pasta, rice, or potatoes.
Kim Campbell puts classic, family-friendly favorites back on the table with more nutritious and delicious recipes than ever. As the Director of Culinary Education and Development at PlantPure, her whole foods, plant-based approach combines her love for cooking, background teaching in elementary and middle schools, and formal education in Nutrition and Child Development. She’s also the author of the PlantPure Nation and the PlantPure Kitchen cookbooks, with over 250 original recipes to her name.
Thank you to our recipe tester Jessica Sabbagh!
This vegan polenta recipe is excerpted from PlantPure Comfort Food. Copyright © 2022 by Kim Campbell. Reprinted with permission from BenBella Books. Article written with support from Hannah Kaminsky and edited by Rachel Lessenden. Photos by Amanda McGillicuddy for World of Vegan, all rights reserved.