Four delicious and healthy plant-based vegetarian recipes for creamy polenta including rosemary sauteed mushroom polenta, garlicky green polenta, crispy roasted beets and carrots with everything spice polenta, and classic simple basil pesto polenta.
After discovering my new favorite method for quick and creamy polenta (thank you instant pot) I have been on a major polenta kick. Polenta has become my go-to easy lunch or dinner, my “curl up on the sofa with a bowl and spoon, preferably while wearing sweatpants and watching reality tv” and my “holy schnickies my nutrition board exam is in 5 weeks and I may lose my mind with studying so I better just eat some polenta and greens to make everything ok”, kind of meal.
When I am super lazy, a pat of butter, sprinkle of parmesan, and a generous pinch of salt and pepper does the trick.
When I have about 10 minutes more I will whip up one of these four options.
Tips for Delicious Polenta Toppings
- Polenta is a fairly neutral base so make sure your topping has flavor! I love fresh herbs, lots of garlic, and always a generous amount of salt and pepper
- Mushrooms, greens, and/or any vegetable sauteed or roasted with a ton of flavor works well
- Think of adding textural contrast, I love adding something crispy or crunchy on top to balance the creaminess of the polenta
- I have been making my polenta in the instant pot, it is a no-stir recipe that is pretty foolproof. You can find that creamy polenta in the instant pot recipe here, the recipes below are just for the toppings.
My Four Favorite Healthy Vegetarian Polenta Toppings
All recipes begin with creamy polenta – this is my favorite recipe – the recipe cards only include instructions for the polenta toppings.
Sauteed mushrooms with Rosemary
Earthy mushrooms, woody rosemary, creamy rich polenta. Stop the madness, welcome to delicious town.
Sautéed Rosemary Mushrooms with Creamy Polenta
- In a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat add olive oil and mushrooms. Do not move or touch mushrooms for 4 minutes.
- Add whole rosemary sprigs, salt, and pepper, move mushrooms around the pan, saute for an additional 4 minutes or until mushrooms are browned and softened.
- Serve on top of polenta with chopped fresh rosemary as garnish
Garlicky greens with creamy polenta
Any kind of dark leafy green will do here. Pictured is a mix of baby swiss chard, spinach, and kale.
Garlicky Greens with Creamy Polenta
- 1 lb. swiss chard, kale, spinach or collard greens any dark leafy green, make sure it has been stripped from stem and cut into small pieces
- 4 cloves garlic, sliced
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- salt and pepper
- In a large skilled over medium heat add olive oil and garlic, saute until garlic is soft but not brown.
- Add greens and 1 tbsp water. Stir well to combine. Cover pan for several minutes until greens have completely wilted. Time will vary based on type of green you use; i.e. spinach will wilt in about 2 minutes whereas collard greens may take 5.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste
- Serve on top of creamy polenta.
Crispy Roasted Beets and Carrots with Everything Spice
I adore roasted beets, the earthy sweetness is the perfect compliment to creamy polenta. Add carrots to the mix for more variety and a sprinkle of everything spice on top and oh my good graciousness, this baby is a real winner!
Crispy roasted beets and carrots with everything spice on top of creamy polenta
- 3 medium red beets, peeled and chopped into 1″ cubes
- 3 medium carrots, peeled and chopped into 4 pieces (similar size to how large you chop your beets)
- 1 tbsp coconut oil, melted
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- 1 tbsp everything spice
- Preheat oven to 375°
- Peel and dice beets and carrots. Melt coconut oil. Toss beets and carrots with coconut oil, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Spread out into a single layer on a large cookie sheet.
- Roast for 35-45 minutes or until tender. Toss 1-2 times during cooking. If carrots cook faster than beets remove them from the oven and set aside.
- Remove from oven and serve with creamy polenta topped with everything spice.
- I use Trader Joe's “Everything But the Bagel Sesame Seasoning” You can also make your own using this recipe
Basil Pesto Creamy Polenta
I highly recommend making your own pesto, it takes a few minutes and is truly superior to store bought. In a pinch though, store bought is totally acceptable.
Perfect Every Time Basil Pesto Creamy Polenta
- 2 cups fresh basil leaves
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 1 clove garlic
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 1/4 cup pecorino romano cheese
- 1/2 tsp (each) salt and pepper
- Place pine nuts, and garlic in the bowl of a food processor fit with a steel blade. Process for 20 seconds until well chopped.
- Add basil, a pinch of salt and pepper. With the processor running slowly add the olive oil through the feed tube. Process until all ingredients are well incorporated. (If it is too thick add more olive oil or even a small dash of veggie stock)
- Turn off the processor, add cheese and pulse to combine.
- If you don't use right away store with plastic wrap or a thin film of olive oil on top. If air reaches the pesto it will turn brown. You can also store in ice cube trays but be sure to put a bit of oil or plastic wrap on top.