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Mexican Baked Polenta with Salsa Beans & Sautéed Veggies

Mexican Baked Polenta with Salsa Beans & Sautéed Veggies Recipe

Mexican Baked Polenta with Salsa Beans and Sautéed Veggies
Many years ago, I had a really bad takeout habit, which was not helped by the fact that we lived next to Chipotle and a local sandwich shop, and down the street from Panera. Whenever I was tired and didn’t feel like cooking, my husband would stop at one of those places on the way home and pick up dinner. Those impromptu takeout dinners really started to add up! Meal planning has helped us almost kick the habit, and having some key pantry staples on hand sealed the deal.

Sometimes even when you have a meal plan, dinner falls through—you cut into the peppers you’re planning on stuffing for dinner and half of them are moldy inside, or you planned for a dinner that requires a lot of prep and you’re just not feeling it. That’s when those pantry staples come in handy. This Mexican Polenta recipe uses two of my favorite pantry staples: a tube of polenta and a can of black beans.

You can usually find prepared polenta near the pasta or pasta sauce at the grocery store. It’s a log of pre-made polenta that you can slice and use in all kinds of easy meatless dinners. Polenta fries are one of my favorite ways to use them, but I regularly use them to make polenta bakes too—I cut the polenta into circles and layer them with marinara sauce, sautéed mushrooms, zucchini, or roasted broccoli, and shredded cheese. Polenta can be thrown on the grill, added to salads, pan-fried in a little oil, and it works in a variety of cuisines, not just Italian. And when even that feels like too much work, sometimes I’ll just sauté a bunch of vegetables and pile them on top of polenta slices.

Sautéed Veggies
Then there’s the black beans! Whenever my favorite brands of beans are on sale, I stock up on black beans and garbanzo beans because I use them so often and they make the perfect starting point for a variety of quick dinners. I topped the baked polenta in this recipe with black beans simmered in salsa—salsa beans! Salsa beans work on nachos, they work on baked sweet potatoes, and they even work as a taco, burrito, or quesadilla filling. Seriously, salsa beans will change your life. They’re nothing fancy, but they’re one of those ideas that will keep you from ordering takeout because salsa beans take way less time and effort than schlepping to Panera and waiting for your food to be ready.

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Mexican Baked Polenta with Salsa Beans & Sautéed Veggies

Mexican Baked Polenta with Salsa Beans & Sautéed Veggies Recipe

Crispy baked polenta rounds topped with sautéed veggies and black beans. Inspired by Vegetarian Times’ Mexican Polenta.

  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 (24-ounce) tube polenta, cut into 16 slices (I used Sun-Dried Tomato)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • Pinch of cayenne
  • 1 medium zucchini, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 (15-oz.) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup jarred salsa
  • 4 ounces queso fresco, crumbled
  • Chopped cilantro, lime wedges, and additional salsa for serving

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 450ºF.
  2. Use an oil mister filled with a high smoke point cooking oil (like grapeseed or olive oil—light, not extra-virgin) to coat a large baking sheet. Place the polenta slices on the sheet and spray the tops with additional oil. Bake for about 30 minutes, flipping halfway through cooking time, until the polenta is crispy and golden brown on the edges.
  3. While the polenta is baking, start the sautéed veggies. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until softened and starting to brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic, cumin, chili powder, oregano, and cayenne; cook for about 30 seconds, until fragrant. Add the zucchini and red pepper to the skillet and cook, stirring often, about 3 minutes more, until slightly softened. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Combine the beans and salsa in a small saucepan over medium heat and cook until warmed through, about 5 minutes.
  5. Divide the polenta slices onto 4 plates, then top each with salsa beans, veggies, and queso fresco. Serve with chopped cilantro, lime wedges, and additional salsa.

Notes

If you don’t have an oil mister, you can brush the baking sheet and polenta with oil or use cooking spray. Shredded jack cheese can be substituted for the queso fresco if you have it on hand.

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34 Comments

  • Reply
    Emma
    May 5, 2014 at 8:30 am

    I’ve been looking for polenta in a tube for years with no luck 🙁 It would be a useful thing to have on hand. I’ve taken to making my own polenta slices and freezing them so I can just pull a couple out and load them with toppings for a speedy meal like this one.
    Exactly the kind of food I like! Happy Cinco de Mayo!

    • Reply
      Rachel
      May 5, 2014 at 2:19 pm

      Trader Joes sell it

    • Reply
      Kiersten Frase
      May 6, 2014 at 8:56 pm

      Maybe it’s an American thing! Well, your solution of making it and freezing it works too. 🙂

  • Reply
    JulieD
    May 5, 2014 at 8:30 am

    I love polenta fries too…and this looks amazing…love the medley of flavors and perfect for today! I can’t wait to make this when I get back home!!

    • Reply
      Kiersten Frase
      May 6, 2014 at 8:53 pm

      I didn’t even realize I had it scheduled for Cinco de Mayo until Friday–ha!

  • Reply
    Abby @ The Frosted Vegan
    May 5, 2014 at 8:59 am

    I just picked up polenta in a tube for the first time (I know!) so I’m excited to try this!

  • Reply
    Allison @ Clean Wellness
    May 5, 2014 at 9:14 am

    This looks perfect for tonight’s dinner! I’ve been scratching my brain figuring out what to make. I need to look for polenta in a tube! It looks revelatory!

    • Reply
      Kiersten Frase
      May 6, 2014 at 8:52 pm

      Usually polenta in a tube is on the highest or lowest shelf in the pasta aisle. At least at the stores I shop at, it is. I guess it doesn’t get much love. 🙂

  • Reply
    Julia Mueller
    May 5, 2014 at 10:18 am

    It has been far too long since I’ve make baked polenta! This meal looks so satisfying – sauteed veggies with salsa on top of grains is a meal I could eat every day of my life. I’ve been needing good ideas for zucchini and your veggie saute definitely fits the bill 😀

    P.S. LOVE the meatless meal plan archive!! I shall never be hungry again 😉

    • Reply
      Kiersten Frase
      May 6, 2014 at 8:51 pm

      I’m SO excited about the archive! Probably more than any reasonable person would be. 🙂

  • Reply
    Courtney @ The Fig Tree
    May 5, 2014 at 10:39 am

    Took me years to try polenta and now it’s my fav. I love polenta fries as well. It’s funny – I always use polenta in Italian type dishes, but love what you did with adding Mexican flavours and black beans. Cannot wait to try this 🙂

    • Reply
      Kiersten Frase
      May 6, 2014 at 8:50 pm

      Yeah, I think it took me a long time to try polenta too! It wasn’t a food I grew up eating, so I had no clue what it was. 🙂

  • Reply
    dishing up the dirt
    May 5, 2014 at 12:26 pm

    I buy a tube of pre-cooked polenta every time I’m at the store. We eat roasted polenta rounds almost every day for lunch. Topped with avocado, sun-dried tomatoes, and olives. Love this version!

    • Reply
      Kiersten Frase
      May 6, 2014 at 8:47 pm

      That is such a good idea for a lunch! I totally get into ruts with my lunches, so maybe I’ll start doing that too. 🙂

  • Reply
    Laura (Tutti Dolci)
    May 5, 2014 at 7:00 pm

    I love polenta, what a great idea to top it with Mexican flavors!

  • Reply
    Lily (A Rhubarb Rhapsody)
    May 6, 2014 at 7:42 am

    Yum! I could live off polenta, this looks like a very satisfying way to put it to good use!

  • Reply
    Cassidy Stockton
    May 6, 2014 at 12:27 pm

    Love it! This is one of our favorite ways to enjoy polenta at home- we call it Mexi Polenta. I love your version with the zucchini and red pepper! Thank you!

    • Reply
      Kiersten Frase
      May 6, 2014 at 8:43 pm

      I’m glad I’m not alone in my Mexican Polenta love! 🙂

  • Reply
    Jennie @themessybakerblog
    May 6, 2014 at 2:22 pm

    I love your new meatless meal plans! It makes life so much easier. Thanks for doing all of the work for us. This quick meal sounds amazing. Quick is the only way I cook during the week. Yum!

    • Reply
      Kiersten Frase
      May 6, 2014 at 8:42 pm

      Yeah, usually the last thing I feel like doing at the end of the day is cooking a complicated dinner!

  • Reply
    All Natural Katie
    May 6, 2014 at 7:37 pm

    Made this recipe tonight! Delicious! I used turnips and snow peas because that is what I had on hand. I like that this recipe is versatile and can be adapted to what I have on hand.

  • Reply
    Katie (The Muffin Myth)
    May 8, 2014 at 1:07 am

    Ahhh, I miss those polenta tubes! You can find all kinds of food in tubes here (rice pudding, soup, jam, cream cheese, caviar… the Swedes love their innovative packaging) but I’ve not seen polenta. I also like to make a big batch and freeze the extras (for polenta fries!). I’ll have to give this a go soon. I love the quick and easy idea of it!

    • Reply
      Kiersten Frase
      May 9, 2014 at 1:43 pm

      PUDDING IN TUBES! Oh wow. I would never leave the house.

  • Reply
    Joanne
    May 9, 2014 at 7:24 am

    You know, I used to use those polenta tubes all the time, but haven’t bought one in AGES. I think it’s time for a revival, especially now that salsa beans have entered my life. Game-changers.

    • Reply
      Kiersten Frase
      May 9, 2014 at 1:39 pm

      They are a game-changer! I kind of wish I had discovered them when I was in grad school. I would have eaten a lot less Rice-A-Roni.

  • Reply
    Michelle
    June 9, 2014 at 6:41 am

    I’ve never had polenta, but always think it looks so good when I see recipes like this! I am living over in Asia right now, so those little tubes of polenta are not available to me 🙂 Any idea how to make polenta from cornmeal? I imagine it’s not much more than cornmeal and water? Or is it already cooked when it’s in one of those little rolls??

    • Reply
      Kiersten Frase
      June 9, 2014 at 3:56 pm

      We’re actually posting a tutorial next week on how to make those polenta logs yourself! 🙂 You do have to cook the cornmeal with the water to get it nice and thick.

  • Reply
    Debbie T.
    July 15, 2014 at 11:41 am

    I made this for dinner last night. It was delicious. I really haven’t done much with polenta before and now I don’t know why. I made my own polenta, it didn’t take very long and I had extra to save for later. My carnivorous husband loved this as well. Thanks for the great dinner idea. I am always looking for new things to try.

    • Reply
      Kiersten Frase
      July 21, 2014 at 4:12 pm

      Thanks for your comment – I’m glad you enjoyed the recipe!

  • Reply
    Jen
    May 15, 2015 at 8:48 pm

    I’m making this right now. Yes, polenta in a tube is at Trader Joe’s or as I discovered after a fair amount of searching, hiding on the bottom shelf in the natural foods section of Kroger. I love the salsa beans too. I made your black bean and sweet potato tacos the other week and made the salsa beans for those and they were awesome. I will comment again after eating this but I’m sure it’ll be great. Love this blog.

  • Reply
    Jessica
    November 11, 2015 at 10:16 pm

    Made this tonight! it was a hit even with the carnivore boyfriend. I used celery, zucc, and spinach as the veggies tho because it was all I had on hand. Still amazing!! Oh and toped it with feta, avocado and fresh tomato with a spash of lime juice. Yum! Hearty, healthy, and delicious.

  • Reply
    Mary Ann
    December 29, 2016 at 9:27 pm

    Our stores stock the pre-made polenta (also sold as corn meal mush, depending on brand) in the same refrigerated section as they keep the eggs and cheeses, or in the same section as the fresh vegetables and pre-cut, pre-packaged salads. So, if you can’t find it in the pasta aisle, look EVERYWHERE, because different stores stock them in different places.

    I love polenta, and just recently found a really good recipe/directions for making my own, so I can finally control how much salt it has in it – some of the store polenta has way too much salt for me! I can also choose which shapes to mold it in that way, too, so it works better for different recipes. I’m about to try it as a pizza crust this week, in fact, and am planning to try to make taco salad bowls with it, too. It’s just such a versatile food, and can even be a sweet dessert, if cinnamon sugar is added to it, or honey, or … well, just use your imagination!

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