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This baked Polenta Fries recipe is a Mexican spin on an Italian classic. Crispy and crunchy, and filled with melted cheese and chicken, this is one baked side you don’t have to feel guilty about eating – you can even enjoy it as your main meal!
Hailing from Northern Italy, polenta is a sweet, mild porridge that’s been enjoyed in its modern state since the 16th century, with its origin traced back all the way to Ancient Rome. Originally made with various grains, nowadays it always refers to a coarsely ground cornmeal.
Boil this basic grain with some cream, cheese, and chicken, and you get a batch of crispy, fluffy fries that are lower in calories than your usual potato wedges. It’s a great source of protein, fiber, and carbohydrates.
Polenta is an excellent alternative to other unhealthy, fried, starchy sides. Serve alongside a meaty Turkey Burger for a healthier take on a cookout classic, or swap it out for the fries in this Chicken Poutine recipe for a low calorie, high flavor alternative.
INGREDIENT NOTES AND SUBSTITUTIONS
- Polenta – You can pick this up in any grocery store. Because we’re boiling and making this from scratch, don’t buy the pre-made, tubed version. If necessary, you can replace it with cornmeal.
- Heavy Cream – To help thicken the polenta. For a lower calorie option, you can thicken regular milk with cornstarch or butter.
- Oaxaca Cheese – A mild, buttery, soft Mexican cheese that melts beautifully. The closest alternative is mozzarella, though you could also use Monterey Jack or Queso Asadero.
- Rotisserie Chicken Breast – This ingredient is optional, but adds considerable body and additional protein to your baked polenta fries.
- Salsa Verde – Made with tomatillos and green Anaheim chiles, this authentic Mexican salsa is vibrant and smooth. You can truly taste the difference when you prepare it at home with fresh, roasted produce.
- Salt & Pepper – These simple seasonings are all we need to flavor this recipe. Of course, you can customize with other seasonings to your liking: chipotle powder, garlic powder, or paprika would add an additional kick.
HOW TO MAKE POLENTA FRIES
1. Prepare the Pan. Lightly spray your baking dish with cooking spray, or coat with olive oil.
2. Boil. Boil a pot of water and slowly add the polenta, stirring all the while. Let cook at a low temperature for 10 minutes.
3. Add Remaining Ingredients. Pour in the heavy cream, salt, pepper, chicken, and grated cheese while stirring. Mix until well combined and let simmer for another 15 minutes.
4. Let Cool & Solidify. Remove from the heat and pour into the baking dish. Spread and level the mixture with a spatula. Transfer to a refrigerator to cool for 1 hour (or freeze for 15-20 minutes).
5. Slice the Fries. While the oven preheats to 425°F, work a spatula along the sides of the baking dish and turn it upside down on a cutting board to remove the solidified mixture. Slice into ¼“ strips.
6. Bake. Transfer the strips to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and spray lightly with cooking spray. Dust with salt and pepper. Slide the baking sheet into the oven and bake for 30 minutes, flipping at the halfway point.
7. Serve & Enjoy! Once crisp and golden brown, remove from the oven and let cool briefly before serving with fresh Salsa Verde.
What are polenta fries made of?
These fries are made with polenta corn porridge along with cream, cheese, and a couple of seasonings thrown into the mix. I use chicken as well for extra flavor, body, and protein. Because this is a baked polenta fries recipe, we don’t pan or deep fry, so no additional, harmful oils are required.
Can you freeze polenta fries?
You absolutely can! If freezing, I recommend freezing the solid polenta prior to slicing and baking. It’s best to make and enjoy them fresh and crisp. Just let it thaw in the refrigerator before slicing.
You can also simply refrigerate the solid polenta for up to 5 days and then proceed with the recipe.
What does fried polenta taste like?
On its own, fried polenta is very mild and sweet – unsurprisingly, it tastes just like corn. It has a dense yet fluffy texture when baked, and forms a crisp outer crust. So you get the crunch when you bite down, but a pillowy soft texture inside. It’s delicious and satisfying!
Salsa Verde Polenta Fries
- Grease a 9×9″ baking dish with cooking spray or olive oil.
- Bring 3 cups of water to a boil in a large stock pot. Slowly whisk in polenta to avoid lumps. Cook on low for 10 minutes.
- Stir in the heavy cream, salt, black pepper, grated Oaxaca or Mozzarella cheese. Add the chicken (optional) and stir.
- Simmer for another 15 minutes more. If it gets too thick you can thin it out with more water or chicken stock to your liking. Season to taste and take off the heat.
- Pour immediately into prepared pan and spread for even layer. Freeze 15-20 minutes or 1 hour in the refrigerator.
- Preheat the oven to 425°F. Using a rubber spatula, run it along the sides of the pan to loosen polenta. Flip the polenta onto a cutting board and cut into 1/4 inch thick "fries".
- Place the fries on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and spray "fries" with olive oil or cooking spray then season with salt, and pepper. Be sure the fries are in an even layer. Transfer to the oven and bake for 15 minutes, then carefully flip to brown other side. Bake for 15 minutes more, until extra crispy and golden brown.
- Let cool 5 minutes before serving with Salsa Verde as dipping sauce.
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.