Creamy Vegan Polenta with Wild Mushroom and Tomato Ragu

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This Vegan Creamy Polenta is buttery, silky cold-weather comfort food that will warm your soul. Paired with a rich, umami-packed ragu made of wild mushrooms and cherry tomatoes.
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cook Time: 45 mins
Total Time: 55 mins
4.3 from 3 votes

I am pretty sure I started off a recent blog post by talking about the cold weather, but yesterday was FRIGID . The temperature hovered between 5°F and 12°F, and with the wind factored in, the “real feel” temperature was well into the below 0° temps.

I can’t remember experiencing cold like this in NYC in the 6+ years I’ve lived here (my legs went numb after a 5-minute walk), so naturally, my body was craving warming comfort food. And when I say craving, I mean that in the biological sense of the word, like when a hunter gatherer who has just spent days trekking through the snow is craving a warm fire and hearty stew (essentials for survival), not in the cutesy way when it’s 3 P.M. at the office and I am “craving” a chocolate chip cookie.

Enter this Creamy Vegan Polenta with Wild Mushroom and Tomato Ragú! I wish I could serve everyone a bowl of this rich, cozy comfort food on a cold winter day. It is quite literally a hug in a bowl that will warm your soul and make you feel happy on the inside.

Creamy Vegan Polenta with Wild Mushroom and Tomato Ragu

The good news is that despite being a luxurious dish, this dish is vegan (of course) and gluten-free! I add some richness with a big of vegan butter here and there, but it is totally optional. According to my polls on Instagram, so many of you are interested in more gluten-free savory recipes, so this one is just for you!

Creamy Vegan Polenta with Wild Mushroom and Tomato Ragu

First, let’s talk polenta. For the longest time, I refused to make polenta. “Refuse” is a bit dramatic, I suppose, but I had heard so many rules surrounding the right techniques—“rain in the grain,” use only an authentic Italian variety of corn, stir only with a wooden spoon—that I figured it wasn’t worth entering this dogmatic territory.

To my great surprise, polenta is actually really easy to make! Sure, you can’t entirely ignore it while it cooks on the stove, but you don’t have to constantly stir it. And you can use the time it takes to cook the polenta (about 45 minutes) to prep and cook the wild mushroom and tomato ragú.

When it comes to buying polenta, you can use cornmeal that is labeled “polenta,” but you don’t have to. An easily available option is to buy an product that’s labeled medium grind cornmeal or coarse grind cornmeal. I don’t advise using packages advertised as “instant polenta” or packages that list a cook time of 5 minutes. They tend to be made from precooked polenta that’s then dried and processed and don’t have as much body or that deep corn flavor. Also, finely ground cornmeal tends to get pasty during cooking, so I’d steer clear of that as well.

Creamy Vegan Polenta with Wild Mushroom and Tomato Ragu

The most important key to good, creamy polenta is nailing the liquid:polenta ratio. I like using a 4 1/2:1 ratio, but you can use a tiny bit more liquid if you want a slightly looser texture. Traditionally, polenta is made with water, and my recipe calls for using mostly water, but to give it even more luxurious creaminess, I substitute 1 cup of the water with 1 cup of “lite” coconut milk. If you’d like, you can substitute some or all of the water with vegetable broth to give it a more savory taste.

Creamy Vegan Polenta with Wild Mushroom and Tomato Ragu

To take this polenta over the top, I add two star ingredients: nutritional yeast and vegan butter. The nooch brings a welcome cheesy flavor (plus lots of vitamins and minerals), and the vegan butter brings, well, a buttery flavor. If you don’t want to use vegan butter, you can omit entirely or use olive oil instead.

While the polenta cooks, you can get started on your wild mushroom and tomato ragú. I used wild mushrooms because they are the star of the sauce, so I wanted maximal flavor, but ordinary cremini mushrooms or button mushrooms will also work.

Creamy Vegan Polenta with Wild Mushroom and Tomato Ragu

The key to developing deep flavors in this ragú is to allow the onions and mushrooms to brown a bit. No need to constantly toss them. A little browning is good for the veggies! Once they’re nice and golden, you’ll add some cherry tomatoes until they start to burst, along with some marinara sauce and white wine. If you don’t have marinara sauce, canned or jarred tomato sauce will work just fine. The white wine brings a welcome acidity, adding a splash of freshness to this otherwise rich dish. Oh, and if you’re into the vegan butter, you can melt in a tablespoon at the end.

That’s about everything you need to know about this wildly delicious, comforting Creamy Vegan Polenta with Wild Mushroom and Tomato Ragú. If you make it, be sure to let me know what you think in the comments below!

Creamy Vegan Polenta with Wild Mushroom and Tomato Ragu

Creamy Vegan Polenta with Wild Mushroom and Tomato Ragu

4.3 from 3 votes
This Vegan Creamy Polenta is buttery, silky cold-weather comfort food that will warm your soul. Paired with a rich, umami-packed ragu made of wild mushrooms and cherry tomatoes.
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cook Time: 45 mins
Total Time: 55 mins
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Italian
Diet Vegan
Keyword: gluten-free, nut-free, soy-free
Serving size: 4

Ingredients

Polenta

  • 1 cup (~132g) polenta, medium grind cornmeal, or coarse grind cornmeal (see notes above)
  • 1 cup (~240mL) lite coconut milk
  • 3 1/2 cups (~825ml) water
  • ¼ cup (~20g) nutritional yeast
  • 3 tablespoons vegan butter (optional)
  • Kosher salt and freshly black pepper, to taste

Wild Mushroom and Tomato Ragú

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 12 ounces (~340g) mixed wild mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, divided
  • 1 pint (~275g) cherry tomatoes
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup (~120g) marinara sauce of choice (or tomato sauce)
  • ½ cup (~120mL) dry white wine, such as Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blank
  • 1 tablespoon vegan butter (optional)

Instructions

Polenta

  • In a medium or large saucepan, add the lite coconut milk and water. Bring to a gentle boil, then gently whisky in the cornmeal gradually and stir together.
  • Bring the mixture to a boil and stir frequently. Allow to boil, and as soon as the polenta begins to spatter, lower the heat. Continue to cook, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula, until the polenta begins to pull away from the side of the saucepan and is very thick, about 45 minutes.
  • Add the nutritional yeast and vegan butter (if using), and stir. Season with salt and pepper to taste. If the polenta starts to clump, whisk vigorously until the clumps are gone.

Wild Mushroom and Tomato Ragú

  • Once the polenta is on the stove, prepare the ragú. Heat the 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 5-6 minutes, or until lightly browned.
  • Add the mushrooms and fresh thyme leaves, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are golden, about 5-6 minutes.
  • Add the cherry tomatoes, black pepper, and 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt. Cook until the tomatoes burst, about 6-7 minutes. If the tomatoes or mushrooms start to burn, lower the heat. Pour in the marinara sauce and stir to coat the vegetables.
  • Pour in the white wine and bring the mixture to a simmer. Cook until the wine is mostly reduced, about 5 to 6 minutes. If desired, turn in the vegan butter and stir in until melted.

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15 comments on Creamy Vegan Polenta with Wild Mushroom and Tomato Ragu

  1. Courtney

    5 stars
    This recipe is delicious and will definitely go into the rotation. Preparation takes a little longer, but the polenta from scratch is 100% worth it. I have loved every recipe of yours that I’ve made…the flavors are divine (I’m making your red lentil curry dish tonight, which is a household fave!).

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      That is great to hear, Courtney! Thanks for the wonderful review :)

  2. Randy

    I have cooked this twice now. A very tasty recipe. It is on the heavy rotation list.
    Both times I have added diced summer squash to the Ragu. That has worked out well so far.
    I diced the onion and sliced the mushrooms before I started the Polenta. Once the polenta was on the burner, I started the sauce and everything worked out as far as the timing goes. That included dicing the summer squash as the onions sauted. I don’t use oil for the saute I use a bit of water with veggie powder instead. 45 minutes and I was done.
    Yum!
    Thanks.

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi Randy, we’re thrilled to hear you enjoyed this recipe! Next time, would you mind leaving a rating alongside your review? Star ratings are big help to readers who are thinking of making the recipe. Thanks!

  3. John

    3 stars
    Polenta took 2 hours before all the moisture boiled out. The rest of the meal was done way before and everyone lost interest and ate other food. Give yourself way more than 45 minutes.

  4. Brenda

    I had been looking for a vegan polenta recipe for a while now, so I could hardly believe it when one of my favorite vegan food bloggers already had a recipe for it! Needless to say, this recipe did not disappoint. It was so rich and hearty and made for the perfect weeknight meal! I didn’t have any cherry tomatoes or marinara sauce on hand, so I used half a can of diced tomatoes and it still totally worked! I also added some kale to the ragu. Overall, yum!

  5. Vivien Gilbert

    Can the ragu be frozen?

  6. Tori

    I’m so excited to try this, but Would I be able to sub the coconut milk with a different plant milk?

    1. Nisha Vora

      Hi Tori, yes you definitely can. Maybe oat milk or unsweetened soy milk since they are quite creamy.

  7. Danielle

    Hi Nisha! I cook it at 350 for about an hour- I do the same for steel cut oats because I loathe cleaning sticky grains from pots!

    1. Nisha Vora

      Hi Daniella, thanks for sharing. I will have to try it in the oven next time. What kind of pan do you use?

  8. Danielle

    Awesome recipe! I cooked my polenta in the oven using a pyrex and I was low on mushrooms so I added eggplant and it turned out great.

    1. Nisha Vora

      Hi Danielle! So cool that you were able to cook it in the oven. What temperature and how much time? And ooh, I like the addition of eggplant, sounds great!

  9. Sam Westerly

    Made this last night, and oh-em-gee, was it incredible! This was my first time trying polenta and now I am going to make it every week. The mushroom rage was so good with it too.

    1. Nisha Vora

      Hi Sam! So happy you enjoyed this polenta dish, especially since it was your first time making it. I actually made it last night hehe!

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