Polenta stuffing may be considered a side dish, but it's sure to be the star of your Thanksgiving dinner. Made with polenta, spinach, mushrooms, and plenty of fresh herbs, it's guaranteed to please both omnivores and vegans alike. You may want to double the recipe, because it will disappear quickly! This recipe is vegan and gluten-free.
Polenta Stuffing with Spinach and Mushrooms
I love stuffing. Remember that old commercial for boxed stuffing mix that urged us to make it, rather than potatoes, as a side dish for dinner? I'm down with that idea. Well, for homemade stuffing rather than that boxed stuff.
I could eat stuffing any time of year, but waiting until autumn hits makes it seem like an extra special dish. I could eat it any time of day, too, and I have been known to have leftover stuffing for breakfast. (Don't judge!) Loaded with mushrooms and greens, this Spinach-Mushroom Polenta Stuffing would actually be a perfect meal with which to start the day!
I have friends who love to make their stuffing on the sweet side, with cranberries and chestnuts, but I love savory stuffing with lots of mushrooms and greens. Sometimes I “cheat” and use prepackaged stuffing mix from the store, but I often take the time to prepare everything myself, since I tend to only make it on special occasions.
I started making stuffing with polenta instead of bread cubes several years ago, using a recipe from Nava Atlas’s amazing book Vegan Holiday Kitchen. Over the years I’ve altered the recipe, making it my own. It always makes an appearance on my Thanksgiving menu.
What is Polenta?
Polenta is a dish that’s made from ground corn. Historically, it used to be made with other grains, like farro, millet, and chickpeas. It’s often served as a soft porridge, but if you chill or allow it to sit, it will firm up, which is what I’ve done in this recipe.
Polenta and cornmeal are similar, but they do have differences. The grind can vary, and apparently the corn used to make polenta is different from from that of cornmeal. A medium or coarse grind of cornmeal may work in this recipe, but I haven’t tried it. I suggest sticking to packaged polenta.
Polenta is often found in same aisle of the grocery store as the rice and quinoa. Sometimes it’s in the baking area with the flours. Bob’s Red Mill packages their as “Corn Grits, also known as Polenta.”
You can also find premade polenta in tubes in pretty much any grocery store.
How to Make Polenta Stuffing
This recipe may look time consuming, but it really isn’t, because most of it is hands-off time. I like to make the polenta the day before.
- Make the polenta by bringing the vegetable stock to a boil over medium-high heat. You slowly add the polenta in a steady stream, whisking as you go to prevent any clumps. You then whisk in the salt.
- When the polenta begins to bubble, you reduce the heat and continue to whisk to prevent clumps. Cook your polenta for about 10 minutes, until it’s thick and pulls away from the pot.
- You pour the polenta into a lightly oiled 9- x 12-inch baking dish, using a rubber spatula to even out the mixture.
- Allow your polenta to cool and place it in the refrigerator for 2 hours or overnight. It'll be ready when it's firm.
- Now you line a roasting pan with parchment paper and preheat your oven to 400°F.
- Cut your polenta into 1-inch cubes. Spread them evenly on the roasting pan, making sure they don’t overlap. Bake them for 20-30 minutes. Flip the cubes halfway through. They're done when they've browned and the edges are crispy.
- While the polenta is baking, you cook the shallots, mushroom, and celery in a large pan with the oil. You cook, stirring frequently, until they have softened, for about 5 to 10 minutes.
- Now you add the spinach and fresh herbs to the pan continue cooking until the spinach has wilted, about 2 more minutes.
- Finally, you combine the polenta and vegetables in a casserole dish, adding a little salt and pepper. You carefully fold ¼ cup vegetable stock into the mixture. If it seems too dry, add another ¼ cup of stock.
- Cook your stuffing for 30-40 minutes, until it’s lightly browned and heated throughout.
How to Customize Your Stuffing
You can easily make this recipe your own!
- If you’re really pressed for time, you can a tube of premade tubes of polenta, rather than make your own.
- Instead of spinach, you can use baby kale or arugula.
- If you don't like mushrooms, you can leave them out.
- You can add vegan sausage if you want a meaty dish.
- If you prefer your stuffing on the sweet side, you can add dried cranberries and chestnuts.
Spinach-Mushroom Polenta Stuffing
For the Polenta
- 4 cups vegetable stock
- 1 cup polenta
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
For the Stuffing
- 1 teaspoon neutral-flavored vegetable oil
- 2 medium-sized shallots diced
- 10 ounces button or crimini mushrooms sliced
- 2 celery stalks chopped
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 8 ounces baby spinach chopped
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
- 2 tablespoons fresh thyme
- ¼ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ - ½ cup vegetable stock
- Bring the vegetable stock to a boil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.
- Slowly add the polenta in a steady stream, whisking as you go to prevent any clumps. Whisk in the salt. When the polenta begins to bubble, reduce the heat to medium-low, and continue to whisk to prevent clumps. Cook for 10-20 minutes, until the mixture is thick and pulls away from the pot.
- Lightly oil a 9”x12” baking or casserole dish. Pour the polenta into the dish, using a rubber spatula to even out the mixture.
- Allow the polenta to cool and then place in the refrigerator for 2 hours or overnight.
- Line a roasting pan with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 400°.
- Remove the polenta from the pan and cut into 1-inch cubes. Spread the cubes evenly on the roasting pan, making sure the pieces don’t overlap, and bake for 20-30 minutes, flipping halfway through, until the cubes are slightly brown and crispy.
- While the polenta is baking, heat the oil in a large pan over medium high heat, and add the shallots, mushroom, and celery along with a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are fragrant and slightly browned.
- Add the spinach and fresh herbs, and cook until the spinach has wilted, about 2 or 3 more minutes.
- Combine the polenta and vegetables in a casserole dish, adding the rest of the salt and the black pepper. Carefully fold ¼ cup vegetable stock into the mixture. If it seems too dry, add another ¼ cup of stock.
- Cook for 30-40 minutes, until lightly browned and heated throughout.
Originally posted November 16, 2016. Updated November 7, 2021.
More Thanksgiving Recipes You Might Enjoy Include:
- Stuffed Portobellos
- Thanksgiving Rice from Back to the Cutting Board by Christina Pirello
- Super Easy Cranberry Sauce
- Creamed Kale
- Hasselback Potatoes