These little polenta cakes pack a big flavor punch! Perhaps my favorite part is that they’re crispy on the outside and chewy in the middle. They’re also seasoned from the very first step, so you can eat them plain or dip them in a sauce and they’ll be delicious either way!
I decided to develop this recipe because we have recently become obsessed with making polenta fries. Not only are they delicious, but they have an incredible texture and they’re a completely affordable side dish so you can make them all the time. All you really need is cornmeal and you can kind of make up the rest as you go.
You could even eat polenta cakes for breakfast with eggs or used as toast with a savory topping. Cut them into wedges and they could be gluten-free toast soldiers for dipping in soft-boiled eggs!
Polenta cakes keep for at least 5 days in the refrigerator (potentially longer, but we always eat them within about 5 days) and reheat well in the microwave (though they won’t retain their crispy exterior) or in the oven. Plus, you can serve them with all kinds of dips and sauces. I brought polenta cakes as a side dish to my family’s Easter celebration and served them with roasted tomato jam. They were a hit with the other gluten-free family members, as well as those who simply wanted to give them a try!
My favorite way to eat polenta cakes is with a drizzle of sriracha because I LOVE spice. So when developing this recipe, I decided to flavor them from the inside out and bake some sriracha and spices right in! The spiciness in the recipe isn’t very harsh. It’s actually fairly mild, but if you can’t handle spice, you can always just leave it out of the recipe!
How to Make Sriracha Polenta Cakes
To start, boil 4 cups water or vegetable stock in a saucepan. If using water or unsalted stock, add 1 tsp. salt to the liquid. Get everything else ready by the stove because the first few steps go very quickly. (This is one recipe where your mise en place is very important!) Meanwhile, prepare a casserole dish with cooking spray. Mix your spices together with the nutritional yeast in a small bowl. Set aside.
When the liquid is boiling, reduce to a simmer and slowly pour in 2 cups of polenta (medium ground cornmeal) and continuously whisk to avoid lumps. Pay close attention to the heat because if that polenta starts to boil and pop it can shoot out of the pan and on to your skin … I know from experience and it burns!
After about 1 minute of whisking, add in your spices, vegan butter and 1 tablespoon Sriracha. Continue whisking 2-4 additional minutes or until it’s too thick to stir any more. If needed, switch to a rubber spatula to make sure you incorporate everything.
Remove from heat and quickly pour the cooked polenta into the prepared baking dish. Spread out the polenta with a rubber spatula so it has a uniform top. Allow it to cool for at least an hour. After I took the shot below, I smoothed out the surface even more. Work quickly! This stuff seizes up fast.
Once it has cooled, you can flip the pan over onto your hand to easily remove the block of polenta. Place it on a cutting board and cut into your desired size and shape with a large butcher knife. I like to do it in squares, but you could cut them into wedges for awesome thick-cut polenta fries, too. My casserole dish is about 10×7, which is not a very common size, and it makes a thick slab of polenta when cooled. I cut them into squares and then use a smaller knife to cut each square in half so they’re thinner. If you use a larger size, such as 13×9, you probably won’t need to cut the polenta squares in half before cooking.
Next, you can pan fry them in some coconut oil over medium-high heat, for about 3 minutes each side or bake them on a cookie sheet at 400 degrees F for 20 minutes and then flip them over and do the other side for 15-20 minutes as well.
Sriracha Polenta Cakes (Gluten Free, Vegan)
- 4 cups vegetable stock or broth*
- 2 cups uncooked polenta**
- 1 tsp. sea salt (if using water or unsalted broth)
- 1-2 tbsp. vegan butter substitute***
- 1 tsp. garlic powder
- ½ tsp. onion powder
- 1-2 tbsp. nutritional yeast (optional)
- 1 tbsp. sriracha
- Ground black pepper, to taste
- Grease a casserole dish or pan with cooking spray. Set aside.
- Bring 4 cups of vegetable broth or water to a boil in a medium saucepan. If using water or unsalted broth, add 1 tsp. sea salt.
- Meanwhile, combine garlic powder, onion powder and nutritional yeast in a small bowl. Set aside.
- When the liquid is boiling, reduce to a simmer, and slowly pour in polenta, whisking constantly. Add your spices and Sriracha. Continue whisking for 3-5 minutes until the polenta starts to pull away from the sides of the pan. Remove from heat.
- Stir in vegan butter. Season with black pepper, to taste. Stir until combined.
- Immediately pour the mixture into your prepared dish. Set aside to cool until hardened, at least one hour. You can put it in the fridge on a hot pad to help it cool quickly.
- Remove polenta block from pan and onto a cutting board. Cut into 3 rows by 5 rows. After cutting into 15 squares, I cut each square in half to create 30 thinner polenta cakes.
- To pan fry: Heat skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil (coconut, grapeseed and sunflower oil all work well). When the pan is hot, work in batches to sear both sides of your polenta squares, about 3 minutes per side. When golden brown on each side, remove to a plate lined with paper towels.
- To bake: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spray baking sheet with cooking spray. Place polenta squares on prepared baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes or until the bottom side is golden brown. Remove from oven, flip squares, and return to the oven for another 20 minutes.
- Let cool slightly, but serve warm with roasted tomato jam, extra sriracha, or your own tasty sauce!
**AKA medium ground cornmeal. We buy it in bulk at the co-op!
***Regular butter would also work.
Check out my other recipes for more appetizers and side dishes!