These things are dangerous.
Crispy breadcrumbs and cornmeal on the outside… creamy polenta on the inside, loaded up with herbs, and even stuffed with vegan cheese if you’d like.
So tasty. Want proof? Please refer to this very scientific diagram:
Well, there you have it. Facts are facts. And you can’t argue with science.
I was inspired to make these yummy little appetizers after remembering how much I LOVE polenta when I made this recent recipe. Also, the Crispy Risotto Bites I posted a few months back were such a hit, that I figured vegans are desperate for more fried balls. Hey you- get your mind out of the gutter!
Anywho, they’re easy enough to make ahead for a large group- you can make the polenta, shape them, and wait to fry them right before serving. Or, if you really want to make them ahead, you can go so far as to fry them- and then keep them refrigerated until you’re ready to serve. Pop them in a hot oven to heat them through and they should be good to go.
If you’re familiar with polenta, then you know that when it’s warm it has a very silky, creamy texture (as shown in the diagram above). These bites will not be dense like a chick’n nugget. I’m not sure what other food to compare it to… so you’ll have to try them and see for yourself!
Crispy Polenta Bites
Cooked polenta (recipe below)
Heat tolerant oil for frying (I used about 2/3 cup of canola)
1 cup breadcrumbs (gluten-free if needed)
1/3 cup cornmeal
2 teaspoons Italian seasonings (or a blend of what you have available- it’s all good!)
1 teaspoon nutritional yeast
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2/3 cup of dairy-free, unflavored milk (I used almond)
1 tablespoon ground chia seed (or ground flaxseed, or as last resort- cornstarch)
Fillings (shredded vegan cheese, marinara sauce, or cooked veggies)
Sauces for serving (marinara sauce, etc.)
Whisk the milk and chia seed (or flax or cornstarch) in a small bowl until frothy. Set aside.
Combine the breadcrumbs, cornmeal, and seasonings in a separate bowl. Set aside.
After the polenta is cool enough to handle, use clean, moist hands to shape it (see below for details). Keep wetting your fingers so that the polenta doesn’t stick to you (also this will make it easier to shape it). Don’t be afraid to “mush” the polenta into the shape you want. Mush it, mush it real good.
Coat each bite in the milk mixture and roll them in the crumb topping until covered.
Fill a frying pan with an inch or so of heat-tolerant oil (like canola) and heat it over medium.
Throw a bread crumb or two into the oil to see when it’s ready (it should sizzle).
Drop the bites into the oil, but do not overcrowd. I did about 6 at a time.
Carefully turn the bites over as they start to turn golden-brown, so that each side is cooked. Total cooking time should be about 5-7 minutes per bite.
Remove them and lay them on paper towels or a clean paper bag to drain excess oil.
Continue in shifts until all bites are fried.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Serve with marinara or your favorite dipping sauce.
For filled bites:
Shape the polenta into small discs about two inches wide and a half inch thick.
Put your filling in the center of the discs.
Mold the disc into a ball shape around the filling.
For nothing in the center:
Shape the polenta into bite-sized balls.
Note: If you’re serving them right away, keep the cooked bites warm in a preheated oven (at about 200 degrees) while making the other batches.
1 cup coarse grain polenta (or yellow corn meal)
4 cups vegetable broth
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon nutritional yeast
1/2 teaspoon parsley flakes, Italian seasoning, or seasoning of your choice
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
In a sauce pan, heat the vegetable broth over medium-high heat until it comes to a boil.
*Slowly* add the polenta, while whisking or stirring constantly (to avoid clumping).
Turn the heat down to low and keep stirring while the polenta begins to thicken.
Once it’s started to thicken, add the seasonings, oil, and garlic and stir until combined.
Cover with a lid and let it cook for about 30 minutes, stirring it well every so often.
Remove from heat and spread onto a baking pan.
Let it cool while you prep the batter ingredients.