pantry polenta cakes with carrot, cheese and crispy onions

Polenta cakes with crispy onion ringWE WERE SCHEDULED to be gardening, but even my trusty helper Susan and I were not in the mood, thanks to 30’s and sleet. Let’s cook while we wait, we said—but what do I have to work with? Friday’s pantry lunch: crispy polenta cakes that incorporated on-hand onions, carrots, garlic and bleu cheese. Delicious, easy, yet special enough for company (not just two chilled gardeners happily avoiding their chores).

savory polenta cakes with crispy onions

(The polenta can be made and formed well ahead, then finished in the sauté pan at mealtime.)


  • 6 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups cornmeal
  • 1 large carrot (or more), grated
  • bleu cheese crumbles, about ½ cup (more or less to taste)
  • pepper
  • grated garlic to taste (start with 2 cloves)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (plus additional amount to sauté the onions)
  • onions, cut into slender rings, for topping
  • flour, enough to toss and coat the raw onion rings


  • Bring the salted water to a boil.
  • Add cornmeal, stirring until thickened.
  • Add the grated carrot, garlic, cheese and the olive oil; combine well.
  • Pour the mixture into ramekins or into a square or rectangular baking dish,to about a 1-inch thickness, and smooth the top of the mixture. We had slightly more than would fit in a 9-by-9-inch Pyrex pan, so we made a couple of ramekins, too.
  • Allow to set thoroughly (we refrigerated it to speed the process).
  • Meantime, slice onions into thin rings, tossing in enough flour to coat lightly.
  • Saute flour-dredged onions to brown well; drain on paper towels.
  • Turn out the “cakes” from the ramekins, or cut the polenta block into squares (or triangles).
  • Fry the cakes in a small amount of olive oil until the top and bottom are nicely crisp (below). A well-seasoned cast-iron pan or a nonstick skillet means less oil.
  • Garnish when serving with the crispy onions.

polenta cake crisping in frypan

  • Some cooks prefer butter to olive oil in the polenta, or a mix.
  • The cakes could also be lightly oiled and then grilled, or put under the broiler.
  • Add fresh chopped herbs such as a little parsley or thyme.
  • Use parmesan or another hard grating cheese, or goat cheese, instead of the bleu.
  • Garnish finished cakes with parmesan before serving (yes, it’s delicious even with bleu cheese already inside).
  • Grate an extra carrot to garnish the finished cakes.
  • Serve on a bed of greens.


  1. Gabriele says:

    margaret, do you add the cheese with the carrots and garlic? Just double checking. This sounds delicious. Thanks for another great recipe.

  2. Lin says:

    I have just started reading your spring chapter and am so sad that you are still so cold up there. Spring will come, I’m sure, even way up north. I think I shall try the polenta tonight and clean out my fridge.

  3. EileenJ says:

    I adore polenta. We get fine yellow organic grits from a local food coop and serve them, cooked porridge style, with eggs for breakfast. Leftovers are spread flat and refrigerated, to be fried later and topped with almost anything: leftover tomato sauce, or sauteed bitter greens (garlic, red pepper flakes, coarse black pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice).

    I can’t wait to try this recipe.

  4. Patti in Seattle says:

    The above recipe doesn’t mention when to add to bleu cheese but I assume you put it in with the grated carrots since it ends up inside the polenta. Sounds yummy. I’m not a polenta person but the cheese addition makes me want to make it right now. Thanks for sharing a low cost, fast meal idea.

    1. margaret says:

      Hi, Patti, Crystal, Gabriele, Joanne and Irene. I am so silly. Yes, add the cheese with the oil and carrots. I need a deputy editor over here to keep an eye on my typing! :)

      I love polenta, too. Eileen. Your versions sound delicious!

  5. Irene Sokol says:

    Recipe calls for crumbled blue cheese but the directions don’t mention the cheese. Do we mix the blue cheese in with the polenta mixture or sprinkle on top? I’m assuming you mix in along with carrots garlic and oil.

  6. Beverly, zone 6 eastern PA says:

    I just happen to have a large sack of cornmeal staring me down. What a timely recipe! I’ll be using Greek Feta crumbles instead of the bleu cheese, but I have everything else on hand. A good meatless meal…. Thanks!

  7. Jenny Milstein says:

    These sound and look delicious; you can guarantee I’m going to try them and share the recipe with friends. Family arriving from England so they will be eating them also.

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