Cooking polentaIn the world of professional cooking being able to make a good polenta is just as important as mastering the art of risotto. The careful watching of the pan. The constant stirring. Adding the fat and the liquid at just the right time. Turning out the polenta. Setting it. Then there’s the second stage, after the maize concoction has cooled, when it is cut into squares or rounds and seared. Served with some sort of rich stew, polenta offers the diner food of substance, food that will “stick” to your ribs.


What is Polenta

Polenta is coarsely ground, dried corn reconstituted in liquid and cooked to perfection. Lots of different flavors can be added into polenta. Here in the Southwest, we like to add roasted chilies and onions. While working for the Big Hotel I was privileged to make many batches of polenta. We added cream, butter, and asaigo cheese, in the tradition of the Spanish.

I adapted this recipe for the vegan diet by using full fat coconut milk and a quality margarine like Earth Balance. I stay true to my Southwestern roots and bring in jalapenos and red chili powder for that “kick.” I also have jalapeno powder that would work just as well.

Make these cakes not just for dinner, but for lunch or even breakfast. They can be served as an alternative to the biscuit.

Creamy Coconut Polenta Cakes
Serves 8
Polenta cooked the vegan way, with full fat coconut milk and southwestern seasonings. Serve for dinner or lunch.
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Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
45 min
Total Time
1 hr 15 min
Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
45 min
Total Time
1 hr 15 min
  1. 1 cup polenta (Bob’s Red Mill is just fine!)
  2. 4 cups vegetable broth
  3. 1 cup coconut milk
  4. 2 tbsp vegan margarine
  5. 2 tbsp lime juice, fresh
  6. 1 cup yellow onion, small dice
  7. 1 tbsp garlic, minced
  8. ¼ cup red pepper, roasted and diced
  9. 1 tsp red chili powder or 1/2 tsp jalapeno powder
  10. Daiya Pepperjack “cheese”
  11. 3 tbsp cilantro, finely chopped
  12. 2 tsp sea salt, or to taste
  1. Bring 4 cups of vegetable stock and the lime juice to a boil.
  2. Slowly add in the polenta. Use a whisk to keep the polenta from lumping together. Keep the temperature at medium high and whisk until the polenta absorbs the water. This is going to take an absurd amount of time (15 minutes).
  3. Keep whisking and add in the margarine.
  4. Keep whisking and add in the coconut milk.
  5. Lower the temperature to medium and stir in the onion, garlic, and roasted red pepper. Keep whisking.
  6. Finally, when the polenta is getting a bit stiff yet tastes creamy and dreamy, add the chili powder, salt and cilantro, and take it off the fire.
  7. Stir in the cheese at the very end. It will melt all on its own.
  8. Pour into a greased sheet pan and refrigerate overnight.
  9. Remove from refrigerator and “turn” the polenta out of the pan. Once you do this, cut the polenta into either circles or squares. This is a great opportunity to use funny shaped cookie cutters and make dinner fun for the family!
  10. Heat up a flat griddle and add a little oil. Sear the polenta cakes so that they color on both sides.
  1. You have the option of serving the polenta right out of the pot, without the added step of making cakes. Creamy Polenta will go well with BBQ Seitan, Red Chili Tofu, or Portabello Mushroom Steaks. It is fabulous just by itself too!
Kitchen Shaman
polenta in a pan Searing polenta cakes