This vegan creamy polenta recipe with roasted mushrooms is delicious. Roasted oyster mushrooms are an incredibly flavorful topping for this polenta. If you have never roasted oyster mushrooms, you need to try this for an easy dinner!
Polenta is one of my favorite comfort foods, and so I came up with this creamy recipe. The polenta is on the thicker side, as you can probably tell from the photos, yet it is still creamy. I love mushrooms and thyme, so, naturally, I added them to this recipe.
What is polenta?
Polenta is known as grits or coarse cornmeal. The cornmeal is usually yellow for polenta, but it can be white or blue, depending on the variety of corn.
Polenta is a staple dish of northern Italian cuisine. It is made with coarsely ground or medium ground yellow corn, which gives it texture. Although some people call polenta grits, the difference is that corn grits are found in American Southern cuisine, and are made with finely-ground white corn. To learn more about the differences between the two, read this article.
Is it grits or polenta? What do you call it? On my package of cornmeal, it says both!
What kind of polenta should I use?
The cornmeal used for polenta can range from fine to coarsely ground. I prefer medium-coarse ground polenta. You can find this type of corn meal in the baking section of the grocery store or in the natural foods section. The version I buy has been partially de-germinated for a lighter texture and shortened cooking time, and has been ground to a medium grind consistency.
You can use medium grind cornmeal, but the cooking time will be longer, about 20 minutes or so. The result will be slightly heavier and not as creamy, but it will have a great flavor.
Sometimes I can only find coarse cornmeal (stone-ground). This is a whole grain and contains the corn germ and bran, a source of fiber. In this case, since I prefer a finer grind, so I pulverize the cornmeal in the food processor for a few seconds before cooking it to give it a finer texture, similar to that of a medium-coarse grind. It's up to you!
Is polenta vegan?
Yes, it is entirely plant-based and vegan. Polenta is made from ground corn and water.
Is polenta gluten-free?
Cornmeal is naturally gluten-free since it does not contain wheat or gluten. If cross-contamination is a concern, buy certified gluten-free cornmeal to ensure that it's completely free of gluten.
How to make creamy vegan polenta
Polenta is usually cooked with water. However, I like to add soy or cashew milk for creaminess. Be sure to use unflavored and unsweetened plant milk. I also like to add some vegetable broth for added flavor if I have it handy. If you want to use all water for the liquid, it will still be delicious. I add extra virgin olive oil and vegan butter for extra richness and flavor.
How much liquid to use
Look for cornmeal labeled polenta, and make sure to buy yellow cornmeal medium ground. Refer to your package cooking times when cooking your polenta. Depending on how fine or coarse the polenta is ground, the cooking time will vary. The amount of water will vary depending on how creamy or firm you want your polenta. Usually, for 1 cup of polenta, I use 4 cups of liquid for creamy polenta. For a firmer polenta, I would use 3 cups of liquid for 1 cup of polenta.
Be sure to use a saucepan with high sides since the polenta can easily splatter once it gets hot. Watch out for flying polenta! Put the lid on the saucepan if this happens, and reduce the heat slightly. While the polenta is cooking, I sometimes I get a few small lumps in it. I just keep stirring and it takes care of it.
This dish is so flavorful and the nutritional yeast gives it a slightly cheesy flavor. If you like to top it with cheese, there is delicious vegan parmesan available at the store. A brand I really like for vegan Parmesan is Violife. It's also easy to make your own. However, I recommend giving this a try without it. You won't miss it!
If you enjoy roasted garlic, it's fabulous in this recipe as well, but it adds another half hour to make this dish.
I like to serve polenta with a salad and a glass of red wine to round out this fantastic meal. Of course, this is entirely optional and I will leave it to your discretion!
How to store leftover polenta
Store any leftover polenta immediately in containers. Once it has cooled, cover it and place it in the fridge. It will get thicker and harden as it cools. The leftovers will not be as creamy, but they will still be delicious. Keep leftovers in the fridge for up to 5 days.
If you tried this vegan polenta with roasted mushrooms or any other recipes on my blog, please be sure to leave me a comment below to let me know, I love hearing from you.
Vegan Polenta Recipe
- 8 oz oyster mushrooms brush lightly to clean them, and remove from base, slice into bite-size pieces
- 1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil divided, or rosemary-infused olive oil
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt divided
- 1 cup organic polenta medium to medium-coarse grind
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme optional, or 1 teaspoon fresh thyme if desired
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- 1 cup organic soy milk or cashew milk, plain and unsweetened
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon plant-based butter
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 1/2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 5 sprigs fresh thyme
- Preheat oven to 425F.
- Grease a baking sheet. Prepare oyster mushrooms. Toss with 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil. Then toss with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Place the mushrooms on a greased baking sheet. Roast for 20 minutes. Halfway through the cooking time, flip and rotate them so they cook evenly. This is easier to do with a metal spatula. Do not allow them to get crispy.
- Approximately 10 minutes after putting the mushrooms in the oven, start the polenta. Mix the organic polenta, dried thyme if using (not fresh), water, vegetable broth, soy milk, 1 teaspoon sea salt, pepper, butter, 1/2 tablespoon olive oil, and nutritional yeast in a saucepan with high sides. Let it come to a boil.
- Stir frequently at the beginning with a wooden spoon and make sure no polenta is not sticking to the bottom. Simmer and stir occasionally. Cover the pot if the polenta starts sputtering. Polenta is ready when it starts to pull away from the sides of the pan, in approximately 10 to 30 minutes, depending on the polenta you have. If using fresh thyme, stir it in immediately before serving. For the polenta I use, it usually takes 10 minutes.
- Take the mushrooms out of the oven before they get crispy, drizzle red wine vinegar on them and toss them in the pan.
- Serve polenta in bowls and top with roasted mushrooms and a sprig of thyme for each bowl.
- When roasting the mushrooms, have some distance between each mushroom. Do not crowd them. Give them some space.
- If you don't want creamy polenta, leave out the soy milk.
- If you enjoy roasted garlic, it's fabulous in this recipe as a topping, but it adds another half hour to making this dish.