Mushroom Polenta
Mushroom Polenta

Sauté earthy mushrooms, fresh herbs, and a drizzle of red wine vinegar, then serve over a bowl of cheesy polenta for a quick vegetarian weeknight meal.

In this recipe

  • How to choose the best mushrooms
  • Storage and cleaning of mushrooms
  • How to cook the mushrooms
  • What is polenta?
  • Swaps and substitutions that work
  • How I serve mushroom polenta
  • Plan ahead: ideas!
  • How to store leftovers

When I’m in the mood for a rich and comforting meal but don’t want to spend all day braising a tough piece of meat, I make this Meatless Mushroom Polenta.

Thanks to the quick-cooking instant polenta, it’s quick to prepare – no need to stand over the stove for 30 minutes stirring. Most brands of instant polenta cook in less than 5 minutes and they’re still so rich and creamy.

How to choose the best mushrooms

This recipe calls for white button and cremini mushrooms. White mushrooms have a mild flavor and are suitable for most recipes. Cremini mushrooms are darker, firmer, and have a strong, earthy flavor. Both are the same species, but the difference in color comes with age – creminis are more mature.

At the grocery store, look for whole mushrooms that are plump and smooth but not dried out or wet and slimy. If you want to learn more about mushrooms, this is a good read!

Pre-cut mushrooms may seem more convenient, but they tend to get dried out and cut unevenly. This means they can cook unevenly. I like to buy whole mushrooms. Instead of slicing the mushrooms, I like to quarter or halve them (if they’re large). After cooking, they keep their shape better.

Storage and cleaning of mushrooms

Pop the mushrooms, which come in a plastic-wrapped container, in the fridge until ready to use. If you’re not going to use them all at once, it’s best to store them in a small paper bag in the fridge to absorb any moisture that might make them slimy. They will keep for a few days or up to a week depending on how fresh they were when you bought them.

Remove visible dirt with a dry paper towel or brush away with a pastry brush. Cut off the tough underside of the stems.

There are some questions about whether you can wash mushrooms with water. I did it and I accept it. It’s easier, especially if the mushrooms are particularly dirty. I say the chef’s choice! The result will be the same. Just make sure to dry them well with a clean kitchen towel if you wash them with water.

Cooking the mushrooms

This recipe requires cooking the mushrooms in a hot pan with water. At first glance, it may seem counterintuitive. Do the mushrooms turn brown? How do they get crispy? Won’t they be mushy? All great questions.

I heard about this technique from America’s Test Kitchen and Alton Brown – I was confident they had done the hard work to figure it out. The mushrooms are steamed in water, which robs them of their natural moisture and causes them to shrink. Don’t worry. That’s okay! The water will eventually evaporate. Then you can add just a little oil to help brown the mushrooms.

The benefit of this method is that the mushrooms will brown nicely without absorbing too much oil and becoming greasy.

What is polenta?

An Italian staple, polenta is a hearty corn porridge made from stone-ground dried corn. Cooking can take up to 30 minutes and requires constant stirring to soften the grains and prevent clumping.

Luckily for those pressed for time, instant polenta cooks up in under 5 minutes. Check package directions for exact timing.

The taste of polenta is relatively neutral. The addition of fats like butter and cheese makes it silkier and tastier. Chopped parsley brings freshness. Be sure to season it well with salt, especially if you’re using a low-sodium vegetable broth.

Swaps and substitutions that work

Here are some ways to customize this dish to suit your pantry, time frame, or taste:

  • Do you have extra time available? Make regular polenta, which is more textured and has a more pronounced corn flavor.
  • Any type of mushroom would work here — clean and halve shiitake, or cut portobellos into bite-sized pieces. Specialty stores and farmers markets might have oyster mushrooms or enoki that could be fun and tasty.
  • If you have dried porcini mushrooms, soak them in hot water for about 20 minutes. Strain the semolina and reserve the broth to add to the polenta or sauce for the mushrooms.
  • Instead of polenta, the mushrooms can be served over cooked pasta or another grain like farro.

How I serve mushroom polenta

Serve mushroom polenta with a simple salad of bitter or mixed leafy greens with your favorite vinaigrette. I like to add whole parsley leaves to salads and use fresh lemon juice instead of vinegar.

Plan ahead: ideas!

I don’t recommend making the polenta ahead of time (more than ten minutes before serving), but the mushrooms can be made a day ahead and reheated before serving. There’s a reason leftover polenta is often fried—it’s hard to get it nice and creamy again after spending a night in the fridge. It becomes a solid mass.

Cut it into 1/2 inch slices. Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Fry the slices in the pan until crisp and browned, about five minutes per side. It’s really the only way to revive it.

How to store leftovers

Store the mushroom sauce in an airtight container separate from the polenta if you have leftovers. The mushrooms can be reheated in the microwave or in a small saucepan on the stovetop until warmed through. To store the polenta, place cling film directly on the surface to prevent a skin from forming.

For the love of mushrooms

  • Instant Pot Mushroom Risotto
  • Mushroom toast with fried egg
  • mushroom cake
  • mushroom sugo
  • Crispy Cheese and Mushroom Quesadillas

Mushroom polenta

preparation time
20 minutes

cooking time
30 minutes

total time
50 minutes

4 servings

This recipe calls for 4 cups of vegetable stock to cook 1 cup of instant polenta. Read the package directions to confirm this is the correct ratio for your brand of instant polenta.


  • 1/4 Cup water

  • 1 1/2 lb Mushrooms (mixed cremini and white button)

  • 3 tablespoon olive oildivided

  • 1 1/2 teaspoon kosher saltshared, plus more to taste

  • 1/8 teaspoon fresh ground black pepperplus more to taste

  • 5 cloves garlicthinly sliced

  • 1 Middle yellow onionthinly sliced

  • 2 teaspoon fresh oregano leaveschopped

  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaveschopped

  • prize crushed red pepper flakesplus more to taste

  • 4 1/2 cups vegetable brothdivided

  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste

  • 2 teaspoon red wine vinegar

  • 2 tablespoon unsalted butterdivided

  • 1 Cup immediate polenta

  • 1/4 Cup grated parmesan cheeseplus more to serve

  • 1/4 Cup chopped fresh Italian parsley Leaves and tender stems, divided


  1. Prepare mushrooms:

    Gently wipe the mushroom caps clean with a dry paper towel. Cut the stems off and quarter the mushrooms if they are large and halve if they are small. The cut pieces should be about the same size.

  2. Cooking mushrooms:

    Heat a large skillet over high heat until hot. It may take about 1 minute. Carefully add the 1/4 cup water and the mushrooms. Cook, stirring, until all the water has evaporated, about 12 minutes. The mushrooms will release more water but will become smooth and shiny. The timing depends on how much moisture the mushrooms have – they’re done when the pan is dry.

    Add 1 tablespoon of oil and stir. Allow the mushrooms to brown undisturbed for about a minute, then stir again. Reduce the heat if the mushrooms are browning too quickly.

    Continue cooking the mushrooms for 4 to 5 minutes until browned all over and crispy-tender. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon salt and black pepper. Transfer the mushrooms to a medium-sized bowl.

  3. Make the sauce:

    Heat the same large skillet you used for the mushrooms over medium-high heat. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, garlic, onion, oregano, thyme, and crushed red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring, until onions are soft and limp, about 10 minutes.

    Add a dash of oil if the veggies look too dry. Reduce the heat if the garlic is browning too quickly. Add the tomato paste and use the back of a wooden spoon to sweep it into the pan to cook out some of the raw flavor, about 30 seconds. The paste might stick to your spoon, but just keep tossing it around in the pan.

    Stir in 1/2 cup vegetable broth. Return the mushrooms to the pan and stir briefly to reheat. Turn off heat and stir in vinegar and 1 tablespoon butter. Taste and season with more salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste. Set it aside while you cook the polenta.

  4. Prepare polenta:

    In a medium saucepan over high heat, bring 4 cups vegetable stock and 1 teaspoon salt to a boil. Slowly add the polenta while stirring. Turn the heat down to maintain a gentle simmer.

    Once all of the polenta has been added, switch to a wooden spoon and cook, stirring, until the polenta is thick and bubbly, about 3 minutes. It will detach from the sides of the pot.

    taste it It should be creamy, not grainy.

  5. Season polenta:

    Stir in the Parmesan, 2 tablespoons parsley, and the remaining 1 tablespoon butter. Turn off the heater.

  6. Surcharge:

    Divide the polenta among shallow serving bowls. Scatter the mushrooms on top. Sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons parsley and more Parmesan.

nutritional information (per serving)
300 calories
21g Fat
22g carbohydrates
8g protein
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Hello everybody, Even if you're limited on time and money, I believe you can prepare wonderful food with everyday products. All you have to do is cook cleverly and creatively!