Creamy Polenta with Spicy Red Beans and Chipotle Cashew Cream

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Polenta is some amazing stuff. Every time I eat it I tell myself I need to eat it more often. It’s so freaking good, but I suppose the simplicity of it is what allows me to forget that sometimes.

I first discovered polenta when I was a culinarily curious twelve or so year old. I used to watch The Frugal Gourmet on TV. I saw this episode on polenta that got me all curious. It looked pretty simple…whisk together some cornmeal and water, cook, mold, and voila, a big yellow brick of polenta was born, all ready to be topped with some freshly made marinara. It looked so cool. What did it taste like? I had to know. The thing is, I don’t ever remember recipes being provided on that show. Am I wrong? Did anyone else watch? Maybe you had to buy the guy’s cookbook to get them? I’m not sure. In any event, I wanted some polenta right away, so I marched on over to the kitchen, found what I thought I needed and went about mimicking The Frugal Gourmet‘s procedure. What I ended up with was more like a soggy loaf of corn slop. I’m sure I went about it all wrong, but I decided then and there that polenta wasn’t for me.

Imagine my surprise when ten or fifteen years later I started seeing premade rolls of polenta in stores. I’d never found out what the stuff tasted like, so of course I had to go ahead and buy some. Bought it, sliced it, pan fried it and was amazed. Was something that easy really that good? There was nothing to it. Cornmeal, salt and water. Seriously?!

In any event, polenta and I have once again become friends. I’ve branched out from buying premade rolls and now buy it dried so I can mix it up myself. There are even instructions on the package! Take that no recipe providing Frugal Gourmet!

For this recipe I went with creamy polenta. Instead of molding the polenta into a sliceable form, this recipe makes more of a porridge. The red beans and chipotle cream compliment it nicely. Think of it like a mixture you might wrap in a corn tortilla, only your tortilla is a smooth and creamy cereal.

This recipe looks way more complicated than it is. Don’t get scared just because it includes three parts. Each one is incredibly simple and once you’ve completed the cashew soaking process this recipe actually takes less than a half hour to come together.

I hope you guys are as in love with polenta as I am. I kinda got polenta on the brain after making this, so I anticipate sharing a few more polenta-based recipes in the coming weeks.


Creamy Polenta with Spicy Red Beans and Chipotle Cashew Cream
Serves: 4
Chipotle Cashew Cream
  • ½ cup raw cashews, soaked in water 4-8 hours
  • ¼ cup water
  • ½ tbsp. lemon juice
  • ½ tsp. chipotle chili powder
  • dash salt
Spicy Red Beans
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1¾ cups or 1 can of red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 medium tomato, seeded and diced
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • ½ tsp. ground coriander
  • a few dashes chipotle chili powder (get it as spicy as you like)
  • ½ cup vegetable broth
Creamy Polenta
  • 3 cups water
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 cup polenta
  • 2 tbsp. fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • ½ tbsp. nutritional yeast flakes
  • up to ½ cup unflavored, unsweetened almond or soy milk
Make the Cashew Cream
  1. Place cashews and water in high power blender or food processor and blend until smooth.
  2. Add in lemon juice, salt and chipotle powder, and blend again until completely mixed.
Make the Beans
  1. Heat olive oil in medium skillet over medium heat. Add onion and sautee until soft, about five minutes.
  2. Add garlic and sautee another minute.
  3. Add beans, tomato, spices and vegetable broth.
  4. Bring to a simmer and cook until tomatoes are tender and most of broth has evaporated, about ten minutes.
Make the Polenta
  1. Place water and salt in medium saucepan.
  2. Bring to a boil and add polenta.
  3. Lower heat and simmer, stirring frequently, for about five minutes.
  4. Stir in cilantro, nutritional yeast, and as much milk as needed to get a creamy consistency.
  5. Allow to sit for about two minutes before serving.
  1. Divide polenta into bowls.
  2. Top with bean mixture, then with chipotle cashew cream and fresh cilantro.


  1. says

    This was delicious and it’s so quick and easy! I didn’t make the cashew cream, and even though I will maybe try it next time, I must say that I didn’t really miss anything – the spicy beans and the polenta complement each other so well! A few dashes of tabasco, perfect! :) I used a bit of parmesan which I had left over for the polenta and unfortunately I had forgotten to buy coriander leaves, which I’m sure add a nice kick to it. Next time!

    • says

      Awesome! Yes, this recipe is deceptively simple. The cashew cream is a nice touch, but the polenta itself is so creamy that you could totally just sub some tobasco or other hot sauce. I’m so glad to hear you enjoyed this! Thanks so much for sharing your results!!!

  2. Martin says

    Wow! This recipe totally made my entire week! Thank you so much for bringing polenta and cashew cream into my life – this stuff is pure awesomeness!

    • says

      I’m so glad this recipe introduced you to polenta and cashew cream – two of my favorite ingredients! And I’m so happy to hear you enjoyed it! Thank you so much for commenting to let me know :)

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