Crispy Polenta Bites

Crispy Polenta Bites (vegan + gluten free)Warning: All readers currently on a New-Year’s-resolution-fueled health kick… avert your eyes.

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:

The anatomy of a crispy polenta bite

Well, there you have it. Facts are facts. And you can’t argue with science.

Crispy Polenta Bites (vegan + gluten free)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!

Crispy Polenta Bites (vegan + gluten free)

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 (vegan + gluten free)


Crispy Polenta Bites


    Creamy Polenta
  • 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
  • Polenta Bites
  • Cooked polenta (recipe included)
  • 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)
  • Optional
  • Fillings (shredded vegan cheese, marinara sauce, or cooked veggies)
  • Sauces for serving (marinara sauce, etc.)


    For the creamy polenta
  1. In a sauce pan, heat the vegetable broth over medium-high heat until it comes to a boil.
  2. 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.
  3. Cover with a lid and let it cook for about 30 minutes, stirring it well every so often.
  4. Remove from heat and spread onto a baking pan. Let it cool while you prep the batter ingredients.
  5. For the bites
  6. Whisk the milk and chia seed (or flax or cornstarch) in a small bowl until frothy. Set aside.
  7. Combine the breadcrumbs, cornmeal, and seasonings in a separate bowl. Set aside.
  8. 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.
  9. Coat each bite in the milk mixture and roll them in the crumb topping until covered.
  10. 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).
  11. 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.
  12. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Serve with marinara or your favorite dipping sauce.
  13. For filled bites
  14. Shape the polenta into small discs about two inches wide and a half inch thick.
  15. Put your filling in the center of the discs.
  16. Mold the disc into a ball shape around the filling.
  17. For nothing in the center
  18. 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. Kate says

    Those look sooooo damn good. Also, as a scientist, I concur with your oh-so-scientific diagram.

  2. Chandler says

    I am sitting in front of my computer right now eating these, because I could not wait to reply and share how amazing these are. I made a simple batch, and I have a little marinara with them, but they don’t need a darn thing. The taste is perfect, and the consistency – the crunchy+creamy combination – is fantastic. I think it’s important to start with a vegetable bouillon or broth that you love. Also, I used coconut oil plus a little olive oil for the frying, which means I had to pre-shape them and then be ready to dunk, crumb and fry quickly to control the temperature. It all went smoothly and is definitely on the menu for my next get-together. Thank you!

    • says

      Hi Chandler,

      I am so happy you enjoyed the recipe. Thank you so much for letting me know!

      Keep in touch,


    • says

      Hi Jessica,

      I haven’t tried it this way, but it should work. You might need to dampen your hands with a little warm water to be able to shape the polenta more easily. Let me know how it turns out!


      • Jessica says

        I used store-bought polenta, and they were pretty tasty! I just sliced it into discs instead of forming into little balls and fried them about 3 minutes per side. They turned out really crispy on the outside. I’m sure they are better with the homemade polenta!

        • says

          Good to know! I hope you get to try it with homemade polenta sometime. It definitely takes more time, but is probably worth it. Stay in touch, Jessica! :)

    • says

      Hi Nancy,

      No, it isn’t necessary- but it does add a savory flavor. You can replace it with other seasonings instead, though.


  3. lani says

    Is there possibly an alternative oven frying method you or someone else might know? These look amazing, but the deep frying doesn’t. Thanks

    • says

      Hi Lani,

      I haven’t tried making them another way, but baking them should work. Just heat the oven to a pretty hot temp (like 475ish), and bake them until the outsides get crispy. I’d also suggest using a baking spray to coat them in a little oil before going in the oven, to help them crisp up.

      Let me know how it turns out! :-)


      • lindsey says

        Tried this tonight. Couldn’t really get the breading to crisp even after 20min at 475. Made some extras without any breading and they crisped up great. Prefer these to the breaded ones if baking.

    • says

      Hi Stak,

      I’m really not sure… they’re probably not terrible, but I personally don’t enjoy cold polenta. They will be a lot more firm — definitely not creamy in the middle like when they’re warm.

      Thanks for checking out my site. Let me know if you end up making them :-)

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