These vegan baked polenta fries get cheesy flavors from nutritional yeast and brightness from your favorite fresh herbs. Dipped in savory homemade marinara sauce, they won’t last long!
How to make polenta
The key to making crispy oven-baked polenta fries is starting with polenta that’s nice and thick. Usually, you’d cook polenta with plenty of liquid. Classic polenta recipes often call for adding more liquid while you cook, as the grains absorb it. For these polenta fries, however, you don’t need to keep adding liquid. That’s what makes these polenta fries so easy. They’re largely hands-off. You do, however, need to stir every so often as you cook, as the polenta on the bottom could burn if left untouched for too long.
The goal is to achieve a thick polenta. After cooking for about 30 minutes, the grains will be soft and tender. Then you’ll pour it all into a parchment lined baking dish to set up before slicing fries.
Once your polenta is in the baking dish, it at least 2 hours to solidify. You can leave it in the fridge up to overnight however. That’s why this dish is a great make-ahead option for a dinner party. You can take care of all the hands-on cooking the day before, pop it into the fridge, and bake them up the next day.
How to Season Your Polenta Fries Perfectly
Polenta has such a delicous corn flavor on its own. However, to spice up these crispy polenta fries, we added a few more flavor enhancers. First, you’ll stir in vegan butter. This gives the delicious buttery taste to your fries. Vegan butter also helps your fries stay nice and creamy on the inside when they get crispy on the outside.
We also pumped up our polenta with nutritional yeast. It provides that umami-rich cheesy flavor everyone loves. Some might ask, “polenta fries or cheese sticks?” And you’ll have the joy of shocking them with the news that, yep, they’re vegan!
We added more flavor depth to these crispy beauties with garlic and fresh oregano. Either garlic powder or fresh minced garlic will work well in this polenta. And if you’re out of fresh oregano, feel free to try another fresh herb, or the dried stuff. The great thing about these homemade vegan polenta fries is that you can really play with whatever flavorings you like. Polenta makes such a great blank canvas!
How to get Really Crispy Polenta Fries
After your polenta rests for at least two hours in the baking dish, it’s time to slice and bake. Since your polenta is so thick, it should slice very easily into fry shapes. Then just transfer them to a baking sheet. The final step before baking is to brush each fry with a layer of olive oil. This will help the vegan fries get really nice and crispy, while staying creamy and soft on the inside.
How to make easy marinara sauce perfect for dipping
The final step to this delicious appetizer or side dish is, of course, a dip. Rich, dense marinara sauce is the perfect match to these baked vegan polenta fries. The acidity of tomato with the creamy polenta fries is a delightful surprise.
This homemade marinara sauce really couldn’t be easier. Everything comes together in one pot, and you’re likely to already have the ingredients on hand. If you don’t have fresh tomatoes, feel free to used canned whole or chopped tomatoes. If you do choose to go that route, we love the San Marzano brand. They’re high quality and really enhance the flavor of this marinara sauce.
We recommend really letting your marinara dipping sauce simmer for a while. The longer it simmers, the more it will reduce and the more concentrated the flavors will be. If you happen to have any leftover after serving your polenta fries, it makes a delicious dip or sauce on all kinds of other recipes. You could add it to this roasted eggplant pasta with caramelized onions. Serve it alongside super crispy oven fries or sweet potato fries. Or it would be bomb alongside these vegan mozzarella sticks from Sweet Simple Vegan. YUM!
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These vegan polenta fries get cheesy flavors from nutritional yeast and brightness fresh herbs. Dipped in savory homemade marinara sauce, they won’t last long!
For the polenta fries:
- 2 cups veggie broth
- 1 1/2 cups plant-based milk (we used almond)
- 1 1/2 cups polenta
- 3 tbsp vegan butter
- 1 tsp garlic powder or 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 1/4 cup minced fresh oregano, packed (or 2 tsp dried)
- 1 tsp salt
- Black pepper
- Olive oil for brushing
For the marinara dipping sauce:
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/4 cup chopped onion, about a quarter onion
- 4 medium tomatoes, chopped
- 1/4 cup fresh basil, minced
- 4 springs fresh oregano, minced
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4–1/2 tsp red pepper flakes, depending on desired spice level
- 1 tablespoon + 1 tsp tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- To make the polenta fries, bring broth and milk to a boil and whisk in polenta. Continue to cook, stirring, until smooth, about 30 minutes. Add butter, nutritional yeast, garlic or garlic powder, oregano, salt and pepper.
- Line a 13-inch baking dish with parchment paper, pour polenta in and press into the pan until smooth. Cover with plastic or reusable wrap. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to overnight.
- Remove polenta from the baking dish and slice into fries about 1/4 inch thick.
- Preheat the oven to 450 F.
- To make the marinara dipping sauce, heat oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened.
- Add tomatoes, basil, oregano, salt, red pepper flakes and tomato paste, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until sauce reduces significantly, up to an hour. Stir in vinegar.
- Use an immersion blender or regular blender to purée into a smooth dipping sauce.
- Add fries to a parchment-lined baking sheet, leaving space between each fry. Brush the fries with olive oil and bake 10 min. Remove from oven, flip the fries and brush the other side. Return to oven and bake for 15-20 minutes longer, until golden brown.
Keywords: vegan polenta fries