Creamy Vegan Polenta with Mushrooms, Tomatoes, and Spinach

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published about 2 hours ago

polenta in bowl with veg on top

Credit: Photo: Christopher Testani; Food Styling; Jesse Szewczyk

When I first transitioned to a plant-centered diet, I was convinced I’d have to cut out polenta, which is typically made with lots of butter (and cheese). Luckily, I was quickly proven wrong when I discovered this coconut-milk-plus-miso technique. Turns out, when you add coconut milk to the polenta cooking liquid and whisk in miso at the end, you get an ultra-creamy, slightly “cheesy” polenta.

Paired with a saucy mixture of balsamic-laced mushrooms, burst cherry tomatoes, and spinach, this creamy vegan polenta dish is the perfect weeknight dinner. It calls for fewer than 10 ingredients and is ready in just 45 minutes. Here’s how to do it.

Credit: Photo: Christopher Testani; Food Styling; Jesse Szewczyk

How to Make Creamy Vegan Polenta

For the polenta, add a can of light coconut milk and some water to a pot and bring to a boil. Once the liquid boils, reduce the heat to low and gradually stream in the cornmeal while whisking constantly. Cover the pot tightly and simmer gently until the polenta is thick and creamy, and no longer tastes gritty, about 40 minutes. While the polenta cooks, you can make the mushroom mixture, which is a simple combo of mushrooms, garlic, cherry tomatoes, and spinach.

When the polenta is done, whisk in a couple of tablespoons of miso paste for a hit of umami. Season with salt and pepper, divide among bowls, and top with the mushroom mixture.

3 Tips for Making the Creamiest Polenta

These three tips will prevent the polenta from sticking to the pot.

  1. Whisk often. Whisk the polenta every few minutes, giving particular attention to the bottom of the pan, to prevent it from getting lumpy or sticking to the bottom.
  2. Use a nonstick pot, if possible. While not necessary, cooking the polenta in a nonstick pot will prevent it from from sticking.
  3. Cook it low and slow. Polenta takes a while to cook through, and you might be tempted to increase the heat to speed it along. Resist that urge, though. The only way to get creamy polenta that’s cooked all the way through and not scorched on the bottom is to take it slow.

Credit: Photo: Christopher Testani; Food Styling; Jesse Szewczyk

When you add coconut milk to the cooking liquid and whisk in miso at the end, you get an ultra-creamy, slightly “cheesy” polenta.

Ingredients

For the polenta:

  • 1 (about 13-ounce) can

    light unsweetened coconut milk

  • 2 1/2 cups

    water, plus more as needed

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    kosher salt, plus more as needed

  • 1 cup

    polenta or coarse or medium grind yellow cornmeal (not quick-cooking)

  • 2 tablespoons

    white miso paste

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed

For the vegetables:

  • 12 ounces

    cremini mushrooms

  • 1 pint

    grape or cherry tomatoes (about 2 cups)

  • 3 cloves

    garlic

  • 2 tablespoons

    olive oil

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    kosher salt, plus more as needed

  • Freshly ground black pepper

  • 2 teaspoons

    balsamic vinegar, plus more as needed

  • 5 ounces

    baby spinach (about 5 packed cups)

  • Chopped fresh parsley or basil leaves, for serving (optional)

Instructions

  1. Place 1 (about 13-ounce) can light coconut milk, 2 1/2 cups water, and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt in a medium pot or large high-sided saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.

  2. Uncover and reduce the heat to low. While continually whisking, gradually stream in 1 cup polenta or yellow cornmeal and whisk until smooth. Cover and simmer gently until a thick porridge forms, whisking every 2 to 4 minutes to keep it from sticking to the bottom, until the polenta no longer tastes gritty or chalky, 35 to 40 minutes total. If it starts to get too thick, add a bit more water. Meanwhile, cook the vegetables.

  3. Trim and quarter 12 ounces cremini mushrooms. Halve 10 ounces cherry tomatoes. Mince 3 garlic cloves. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, 6 to 8 minutes.

  4. Reduce the heat to low. Add the tomatoes, 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, and a few grinds of black pepper. Cook until the tomatoes release their juices and are totally collapsed, stirring occasionally, 6 to 8 minutes.

  5. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar. Add 5 ounces baby spinach a handful at a time, stirring each handful to wilt before adding the next. Remove the pan from the heat. Taste and season with more balsamic vinegar, kosher salt, and black pepper as needed. Cover to keep warm.

  6. When the polenta is ready, add 2 tablespoons white miso paste and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Whisk until the miso is incorporated. Remove from the heat and taste and season with more kosher salt and black pepper as needed.

  7. Divide the polenta among bowls and top with the mushroom mixture. Sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley or basil leaves if desired.

Recipe Notes

Tomatoes: 2 large vine-ripened tomatoes cut into chunks can be used in place of the cherry tomatoes.

Make ahead: The polenta should be eaten immediately, since it sets as it cools. The mushroom topping can be made entirely in advance and reheated as needed.

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

Alexandra Shytsman

Contributor

Alexandra Shytsman is a recipe developer, food writer, photographer, and creator of The New Baguette, a plant-based recipe site. Her mission is to inspire people to cook more healthy, plant-centered meals at home.

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