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Frugal Black Beans and Polenta

What you need: 

6 cups water (plus about 3/4 cup)
2 cups dry cornmeal grits (polenta) or cornmeal
sea salt and pepper, to taste
vegetable oil, as needed
1 (15 ounce) can black beans
1 1/2 tablespoon tomato paste
cayenne pepper, to taste (I use 1 teaspoon)
1 1/2 teaspoons flour, optional

What you do: 

1 For polenta, bring the 6 cups water to a boil with about 1/2 teaspoon salt. Slowly pour in the polenta, a little at a time, stirring as you add to prevent lumps. Bring the polenta down to a simmer and stir frequently with a wooden spoon until very thick and comes away from the sides- about 30 minutes.
2. Lightly grease a casserole dish or bowl with the vegetable oil (cooking spray works as well). Check to make sure your polenta is fine for seasoning (but keep in mind even if it tastes a little bland that the sauce will add flavor). Spoon the polenta into this prepared dish (it should be impossible to pour easily) , and smooth out so you have an even surface; let sit about 10 minutes.
3. After 10 minutes, divide the portions into four and slice each portion to make nice little pieces (cubes could be a fun change from the norm), place on dishes to prepare to serve.
4. For black bean sauce, pour beans into a saucepan. Add the tomato paste and 3/4 cup water. Add the cayenne pepper Simmer, and add flour to thicken, if needed. The sauce will be very thin otherwise.
5. When heated through, spoon on top of the sliced polenta. I usually spoon plenty of liquid on top so that it soaks through the polenta. Yummy!
For timing, I usually start the sauce about 5 minutes before the polenta will be done (25 minutes into the cooking of the polenta). You could easily use prepared polenta for this recipe; just lightly oil a frying pan and fry round slices and then top with the black bean sauce. In addition, you could always fry the sliced polenta if that's what you'd like. To thicken, if you don't want to use flour, it's possible to puree some (or all) of the black bean sauce. Ideas for additions include: adding chopped onion, omitting the tomato paste and adding salsa instead, adding chopped cilantro, adding a can of chopped or whole tomatoes (you'll want to omit the water if that's the case), and adding grated soy cheese on top. This costs approximately 75 cents a head to make and is very filling.

Preparation Time: 
35 minutes, Cooking time: 1 hour
Cooking Time: 
1 hour
Recipe Category: 


I really liked the idea of this recipe. When I made the polenta, I added lots of seasoning (salt, pepper, cumin, oregano, cilantro, cayenne) and nutritional yeast. I then let it cool in the fridge. I sliced the polenta and baked it on each side. For the topping, I used onion, black beans, chipotle salsa, lots of spices, hot sauce, corn, and bell pepper.


i heart this!  its my go to cheap recipe... i can change it up by adding different veggies/seasonings and its always good!  thanks!


I just made this for my boyfriend and he loves it! I was just wondering, do you have any ideas for seasoning the polenta? Thanks! ;D

Adding a little bit of salt and pepper never hurt. In any sauce with tomatoes a little bit of fresh basil probably wouldn't go awry. You could also try adding a bit of nutritional yeast/ vegan parmesan, if I'm not mistaken the traditional Italian way of preparing polenta calls for adding a bit on top. If you're going for a more tomato-ey taste, you could add some cut up sun-dried tomatoes. Think of it as a porridge/oatmeal. You can really stick anything in there that you want. The possibilities are endless! Hope this gives you some ideas.

Oh, one last thing, I tend to add a little bit of vegan margarine to add creaminess, but I don't always have that around so it depends. If you're looking for a little bit more robust of a taste from your polenta, you could try adding some of the ingredients above, letting it cool, slicing it, and frying it.

Thanks for the positive reviews! I made this recipe back in high school and now that I revisited it I'm not too impressed, but it's good for a tight budget, which I'm on (yet again!).


I just made this for my boyfriend and he loves it! I was just wondering, do you have any ideas for seasoning the polenta? Thanks! ;D


this was my first time making or eating polenta, and next time I will use a whisk to mix the cornmeal into the water - mine was very lumpy, but tasty.  after I let it set in the casserole dish, I put the pieces in the oven for 10 minutes on each side to toast it a bit.  to the beans, I added sweet potato, mushrooms, green bell pepper, a can of tomatoes, chopped spinach, cumin, and some chipotle chili sauce.  I used a little cornstarch dissolved in water to thicken the sauce up.  I am very pleased with this recipe.  it was fun to make and eat!



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