Basic vegan polenta (with endless variations)

Course Building block, Freezer-friendly, Side
Servings 4 as a side


  • 1 cup medium corn meal labelled "polenta" or not - see notes for suggested variations
  • 4 cups water or vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast flakes
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • fresh ground pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon vegan butter or olive oil optional
  • 1 teaspoon salt optional - but more important if you used water instead of broth


  • In a medium pot, bring the 4 cups of broth or water to a boil.
  • Slowly pour in the polenta, stirring at the same time to prevent clumps.
  • Turn the heat down to low so the bottom doesn't burn, and keep stirring every 2 to 3 minutes, scraping the bottom of the pot every time.
  • You should achieve doneness in about 30 minutes. Taste to check whether the result is as smooth as you like it. If it's still gritty under the teeth, you can cook for a little longer, adding more water. It should not be completely runny, but still fall off a spoon.
  • Add the nutritional yeast, garlic, fresh pepper, and vegan butter or olive oil (if desired). Stir well. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding a little salt if required.
  • Add more ingredients if you wish (see notes for variations).
  • You can enjoy your polenta immediately. Or you can spread the polenta onto a sheet of parchment paper or silicone baking mat, about 1/2 inch thick, and let it cool off, then cut into squares that you can then grill in the pan (now or later). Or you can pour the hot polenta into a small loaf pan, let it cool and solidify, and then refrigerate or freeze... with the prospect of slicing and grilling later. Endless options!



  • Replace 1/4 of the corn meal with quinoa for a multigrain polenta. Or roughly ground buckwheat.
  • Like it creamy? Stir in 1/4 cup of your favorite plant-based milk at the end.
  • Polenta can carry many other ingredients in its smooth wake: roasted red peppers, chopped greens (Swiss chard, kale, spinach...) or herbs (parsley, basil...), sundried tomatoes, sliced olives, and tangy feta-style tofu, and more! I personally prefer small pieces (1/4 inch or smaller), but nothing horrible will happen if you experiment with bigger pieces.

What to eat with polenta?

Whether served, mash-like, when fresh, or as grilled slices from the cast-iron pan, you can top your polenta with just about anything. I prefer to stick with Italian flavors myself but do share the results of your experiments! Here are some of my favorites:
  • Vegan bolognese-style sauce
  • Sautéed mushrooms
  • Roasted vegetables and a few toasted almonds
  • Lukewarm herbed cannellini beans and a dollop of pesto
  • Vegan sausage (think Rome's response to "bangers and mash")
  • Simple marinara sauce
It's also comforting all by itself. Enjoy!