Mushroom and Spinach Polenta with Goat Cheese

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Creamy Mushroom and Spinach Polenta topped with goat cheese is a hearty vegetarian meal or side dish that's full of flavor and packed with veggies.

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This Mushroom Polenta with spinach, onions, and goat cheese is vegetarian comfort food at its best. It's creamy, rich, but is still good for you with plenty of veggies. It's ready in under 30 minutes and makes the perfect meatless meal. Polenta lovers should also try this Spinach Polenta and Baked Italian Polenta.

Believe it or not, I get tired of the same old, same old, foods just like everyone else. Sometimes I stare in my pantry/fridge and just wish that someone would invent something new to eat. Preferably, a fat- and calorie-free, decadent chocolate dessert, but really, I'd take just about anything.

This is where I was a couple of years ago when I discovered polenta. Except for this time, I was at the grocery store and scanning the aisles when I saw it: A bag of polenta nestled among the various flours. I had had polenta before (and loved it) but never tried to make it myself. I resolved to change that right then and there.

Nowadays, when I am craving something comforting, there are a few things that come to mind immediately: macaroni and cheese, spaghetti and meatballs, chicken pot pie, and polenta. Ever since that day of discovery, it is now a constant in my kitchen. I love the hearty, creamy, corn filled flavor and it pairs so well with veggies — it's nearly impossible to resist.

Spinach mushroom polenta with goat cheese on a plate with sauteed onions.

What exactly is Polenta?

Polenta is made from yellow corn meal, but it's actually a dish versus an ingredient (even though you'll find bags marked "polenta" but it's really about how you cook it that makes it polenta).

If what you bought at the store is labeled "polenta," that means that the corn meal is ground to the consistency that will make polenta appropriately. It's kind of like, how you'll want a fine grind for espresso beans, but not as fine for regular drip coffee.

You can find polenta dry, as a meal or flour. You can also find it in an instant or quick-cooking variety, or you can buy it already prepared. It will be in a tube-shaped package, like sausage or slice-and-bake cookies. When it's purchased already made, it's best to use this kind of polenta baked, sauteed, grilled, or fried.

What's the difference between Polenta and grits?

Both grits and polenta are made from stone-ground cornmeal, but traditionally, polenta is made from yellow corn and grits are made from white corn. There is also some difference in how the corn is ground — it can range from fine to thicker grinds and that can affect taste and texture. Grits can be a bit mushy (think shrimp and grits) and polenta can be more course and almost al dente — like cooked pasta. In a pinch, just buy coarse cornmeal and use it in your recipe as instructed.

How healthy is Polenta?

Polenta is low-calorie, with only 70 calories per 100-gram serving. It is also a source of protein and fiber, as well as iron and vitamin A. Some brands are also fortified with additional nutrients, so check the package to be sure.

Polenta is gluten-free, and, although it does have carbohydrates, the kind it contains are complex carbohydrates, which means these carbs are broken down slowly and therefore will give you energy for a long time after you've consumed the polenta. It also helps to maintain your blood sugar levels, so you don't feel that crash two to three hours after eating a meal with lots of carbs.

Is Polenta Mexican or Italian?

Polenta has its origins in Italy — a peasant food, like many foods that we love today. It was comforting, inexpensive, filling, and easy to make, all of which made it a perfect food for the working class of Northern Italy.

Polenta with mushrooms, spinach, onions, and goat cheese with a fork.

Side Dishes to Serve with Mushroom and Spinach Polenta with Goat Cheese

I often make polenta a side, but since this is a main dish, I'd want something else on the side, something like:

  • A hardy side salad. Any kind, any type would go well with this dish.
  • I like to make a protein with this. Salmon, chicken, and pork all go well with this dish.
  • Try a fruit salad to mix things up a bit. Pick whatever fruit is in season or make fruit kabobs.
  • Try a side of roasted veggies — any of your favorites alone or all together with a simple seasoning of olive oil, lemon juice, and some Italian spices.
  • Spaghetti squash or other veggie noodles also make a great low-calorie and low-carb side.
  • How about some Baked Rosemary Carrot Chips?
  • One of my favorite side dishes is this Sesame Soy Broccoli.
  • Rather than add on a side, how about beefing this dish up with some additional veggies, spices, or condiments like hot sauce, red pepper flakes, or feta instead of goat cheese?
The Recipe
Mushroom spinach polenta with goat cheese on a platter with extra cheese on the side.

Mushroom and Spinach Polenta with Goat Cheese

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  • 1.25 tbsp. olive oil
  • 5 cups mushrooms
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 3 tbsp. thyme
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1.25 cups polenta
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2.5 cups vegetable broth
  • 1.25 cup nonfat milk
  • 4 cups spinach
  • 4 oz. goat cheese

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Heat oil in a nonstick pan over medium heat. Add onions, mushrooms, garlic and a few generous pinches of salt and pepper. Cook for 5 or 6 minutes or until onions and mushrooms cook down and caramelize. Stir in thyme.


Meanwhile, in a small pot, combine the polenta, broth, milk, and 1/4 tsp. of salt. Whisk together and bring to a simmer. Continue stirring for five minutes. Stir in cheese and spinach. Taste and season with salt and pepper.


Serve the mushrooms and onions over the polenta.

Nutritional Facts
Serving Size: 1.5 cups
Amount Per Serving
Calories 298
Calories from Fat 78
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 9g
Saturated Fat 4g
Monounsaturated Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0g
Cholesterol 12mg
Sodium 730mg
Total Carbohydrate 42g
Dietary Fiber 4g
Sugars 7g
Protein 12g

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

The Nutritional Values provided are estimates only and may vary based on the preparation method.


This recipe calls for quick cooking polenta. If you use regular polenta, it will need to be cooked with more liquid according to package directions.
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About the authorMeet Kristen McCaffrey
Hi, I’m the cookbook author, recipe developer, and food enthusiast behind Slender Kitchen. I am obsessed with making healthy food that is easy to prepare and absolutely delicious. Meal planning is my secret weapon and I hope I can make meal time easier for you with our tried and tested recipes and foolproof meal plans. Learn More
1 Comment
On Mushroom and Spinach Polenta with Goat Cheese
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Megan Eaton
March 4, 2016 - 10:50
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Loved this recipe and will definitely make this again! Great flavors!!!
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