Traditional Romanian Polenta Recipe | How to make polenta (2024)

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Make traditional Romanian polenta, the easy way! I will show you how to make polenta perfectly, every time!

Polenta is a staple dish in many countries around the world, especially in Italy, Romania, and Northern Africa. It is made from boiled cornmeal, which is then shaped into cakes or used as a base for a variety of dishes. Polenta is incredibly versatile, and its origins can be traced back to ancient civilizations in the Americas.

Traditional Romanian Polenta Recipe | How to make polenta (1)

What is Romanian Polenta?

Romanian polenta, commonly known as “mămăligă” in Romanian, is a traditional cornmeal-based dish that holds a special place in Romanian cuisine. It is a versatile and beloved staple that has been enjoyed for generations, making it an integral part of Romanian culinary culture.

Key Characteristics of Romanian Polenta:

  • Cornmeal Base: The core ingredient of Romanian polenta is cornmeal, a type of ground corn. This finely ground cornmeal is used to create the base of the dish.
  • Texture: Romanian polenta can vary in texture, ranging from creamy and smooth to firm and sliced. The texture largely depends on the ratio of liquid to cornmeal and the cooking method employed.
  • Versatility: One of the defining features of Romanian polenta is its adaptability. It can be served in various forms, making it suitable for a wide range of culinary applications. Whether it’s served as a side dish, a base for stews and soups, or creatively incorporated into other recipes, Romanian polenta can take on different forms to suit different tastes.
  • Cultural Significance: Romanian polenta is deeply rooted in the country’s cultural and culinary traditions. It is often associated with rural life and is a cherished component of Romanian family gatherings and celebrations.
  • Historical Roots: While the term “mămăligă” may sound uniquely Romanian, the dish’s origins can be traced back to the Americas. Corn, the primary ingredient in cornmeal, is native to the Americas and was introduced to Europe following the Columbian Exchange. Over time, it became an essential component of Romanian cuisine.
  • Accompaniments: Romanian polenta is commonly served as a side dish alongside various meat-based dishes. It complements the flavors of roasted meats, stews, and gravies exceptionally well. Additionally, it can be topped with a variety of sauces or served as a bed for other ingredients.

In summary, Romanian polenta, or “mămăligă,” is a cornmeal-based dish celebrated for its versatility and cultural significance in Romania. Its adaptability allows it to be enjoyed in numerous ways, making it a beloved part of Romanian culinary heritage. Whether it’s creamy or firm, plain or flavored, Romanian polenta continues to be a cherished component of traditional Romanian meals and a symbol of the country’s rich culinary history.

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Tips for making the best polenta

Making the best Romanian polenta, also known as “mămăligă,” requires attention to detail and some culinary finesse. Here are some tips to help you achieve a delicious and authentic result:

1. Use High-Quality Cornmeal:

  • The foundation of great polenta is high-quality cornmeal. Look for fine or medium-ground cornmeal for a smoother texture.

2. Choose the Right Cornmeal-to-Liquid Ratio:

  • The ratio of cornmeal to liquid determines the texture of your polenta. For creamy polenta, use a ratio of about 1:4 (one cup of cornmeal to four cups of liquid). For firmer polenta, use less liquid.

3. Use a Mixture of Water and Milk or Broth:

  • To enhance flavor and creaminess, consider using a mixture of water and milk or broth instead of just plain water. Many people prefer a combination of milk and water or vegetable/chicken broth for a richer taste.
  • For a creamy, smooth polenta, use a mixture of milk and water, or chicken or vegetable broth, instead of just water. For a firmer polenta, use less liquid. If you want to add flavor to your polenta, try stirring in some grated cheese, garlic, herbs, or even a little bit of olive oil.
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4. Slow and Steady Cooking:

  • Patience is key when making polenta. Cook it over low to medium heat, stirring continuously to prevent lumps from forming. The slow cooking process allows the cornmeal to absorb the liquid fully and develop a creamy consistency.
  • When it comes to making the best polenta, the key is to use high-quality cornmeal and to cook it slowly and steadily, stirring often to prevent lumps from forming. A traditional Romanian polenta is made with yellow cornmeal and is served as a side dish with meat dishes or as a base for stews and soups.

5. Add Salt Sparingly:

  • Begin with a small amount of salt and taste as you go. Cornmeal has a naturally mild flavor, so you don’t want to overpower it with salt.

6. Stir Constantly:

  • Consistent stirring is essential to ensure the cornmeal is evenly cooked and free of lumps. Use a wooden spoon or a whisk and be prepared to invest some time in stirring.
Traditional Romanian Polenta Recipe | How to make polenta (4)

Creative polenta variations

In terms of variations, the options are endless! Some people like to add diced vegetables, such as mushrooms or bell peppers, to the polenta mixture, while others prefer to top their polenta with a flavorful sauce. For a more substantial meal, try serving sliced polenta topped with a hearty tomato sauce and melted cheese. You can also use polenta as a base for a variety of other dishes, such as a hearty vegetable and bean stew, or as a crust for a savory quiche.

Here are some creative polenta recipes you can try:

  • 10 Recipes with Polenta That Are Comforting and Delicious
  • Creamy Polenta | The Best Creamy Polenta Recipe Ever!
  • Mushroom Polenta
Traditional Romanian Polenta Recipe | How to make polenta (5)

This is the basic polenta recipe. It’s simple and yet it can be modified in so many ways to create new and even more delicious recipes. All you need are just 3 ingredients: water, cornmeal, and salt. I often eat itinstead of bread because it’s much healthier and also it contains a higher amount of fibers.

In conclusion, polenta is a delicious, versatile, and affordable dish that has been enjoyed for centuries. Whether you prefer it creamy or firm, simple or loaded with flavor, there is a polenta recipe out there that is perfect for you!

Traditional Romanian Polenta Recipe | How to make polenta (6)

Basic Polenta Recipe | Traditional Romanian Polenta

Easy recipe for traditional Romanian polenta, easy to make and without a hassle! Make polenta the easy way!

5 from 1 vote

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Prep Time 5 minutes mins

Cook Time 30 minutes mins

Course Side Dish

Cuisine Romanian

Servings 6 + servings

Calories 158 kcal


  • 1 L water
  • 200 g cornmeal
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 25 g butter optional


  • Bring water to a boil in a large pot. Add sea salt.

  • Take cornmeal by the handful and add to water slowly by sprinkling it bit by bit. Stir quickly to avoid lumps. Use a long handled wooden spoon (I used one with a hole in the middle which is more suitable for liquid consistency meals).

  • Cook for 20-30 minutes, stirring constantly. Polenta will become very thick while cooking. It is done when it comes away cleanly from the sides of the pot.

  • Optional – Add butter.

  • Pour polenta in a round shape form and let it cool for 15 minutes.

  • Cut polenta into slices and serve!


Serving: 1gCalories: 158kcalCarbohydrates: 24gProtein: 3gFat: 5gSaturated Fat: 2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0.1gCholesterol: 9mgSodium: 424mgPotassium: 108mgFiber: 3gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 104IUCalcium: 8mgIron: 1mg

Keyword cornmeal, polenta

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Do you like polenta? Here are some creative recipes using cornmeal:

  • Mushroom Polenta
  • Creamy Polenta | The Best Creamy Polenta Recipe Ever!
Traditional Romanian Polenta Recipe | How to make polenta (2024)


What is the Romanian version of polenta? ›

What exactly is mămăliga (polenta)? It is basically a porridge made out of yellow maize flour, traditional in Romania, the Republic of Moldova and West Ukraine. Mămăliga (polenta or cornmeal) is a fat and cholesterol-free, high-fiber food.

What is the method for making polenta? ›

If Using the Standard Method: Add water, milk, or stock to a large saucier or saucepan and set over high heat. Sprinkle in cornmeal while whisking (water does not have to be boiling). Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Let boil, stirring frequently, until polenta thickens enough that it starts to spit.

Which cornmeal mush served in Romania resembles the Italian polenta? ›

Mămăligă is a cornmeal mush (similar to polenta) that is the staple of Romanian cuisine.

Is polenta Romanian or Italian? ›

Polenta (/pəˈlɛntə, poʊˈ-/, Italian: [poˈlɛnta]) is a dish of boiled cornmeal that was historically made from other grains. The dish comes from Italy.

Is semolina the same as polenta? ›

What Is the Difference Between Polenta and Semolina? As polenta is made from corn, it's gluten-free. Semolina, on the other hand, is coarsely ground, high-gluten durum wheat used to make pasta, cakes, and breads. Photo by Getty Images.

What makes the best polenta? ›

In Italy, you'll find polenta made from yellow cornmeal or white cornmeal, though yellow is more common. The best polenta is made from stone ground corn, which comes in a coarse, medium, or fine grind. Cornmeal labeled polenta is usually a coarse-grind, but you can make the dish with a medium or fine-grind.

How did Italians make polenta before corn? ›

Of course, back then polenta was not made of maize, but with other grains. Yes, since ancient roman times. It was called Pulenta, made with barley flour. A similar porridge made with spelt, or millet, buckwheat, pulse, but not barley, was called Puls.

How do you keep polenta creamy? ›

Slowly pour the cornmeal into the pot, maintaining a boil and continuing to stir. This is basically prevents lumps and clumping. Once all the cornmeal has been added, reduce the heat to a low simmer and stir frequently until polenta gets creamy.

What is the American version of polenta? ›

Grits were originally consumed by Native Americans and are an enduring staple ingredient across the American South. Polenta is a dish of cornmeal porridge that originated among farmers in Northern Italy and is a staple in Italian and Italian American cooking.

What is polenta called in America? ›

Both grits and polenta fall under the heading of cornmeal, which is essentially a coarse flour, or “meal,” made from dried corn.

What do Italians do with polenta? ›

A Northern Italian staple, this humble Italian peasant food has emerged as a versatile fine-dining-style comfort food. Polenta can be made into layered terrines (in its solid form) or easy creamy porridges with Parmigiano-Reggiano and butter.

What are the black flakes in polenta? ›

Don't fret! It's normal to have black specks in your polenta. During processing, the corn kernel germ gets ground into the cornmeal.

Did the Romans eat polenta? ›

Polenta is deeply rooted in the cultural identity of our land. In ancient Rome, a softer type of polenta made with cooked ground spelt was called 'pultem'. When corn was brought to Europe from America, it took the place of spelt as polenta's main ingredient.

What do Italians call polenta? ›

Polenta is one of the most comforting things you'll ever eat, it's creamy, smooth and so delicious. Polenta or farina di mais is commonly known as yellow cornmeal outside of Italy. There are a few different varieties like cornmeal with added buckwheat but polenta gialla is what's most commonly used.

Is there a substitute for polenta? ›

Labeling and Substitutions

Packages labeled polenta mean that the grind of the corn is appropriate to make the polenta dish, but you can substitute regular medium or coarsely-ground cornmeal instead.

What is the best substitute for polenta? ›

A better substitute for uncooked polenta would be plain corn meal (1:1); for precooked polenta would be cornmeal that has been cooked into a thick porridge (1:1). If you do substitute hominy type grits for plain polenta, your result will be somewhat different, but you can try 1:1, by volume or weight, either way.

What are Romanian MICI made of? ›

Mititei (Romanian pronunciation: [mitiˈtej]) or mici ( Romanian pronunciation: [mit͡ʃʲ]; both Romanian words meaning "little ones", "small ones") is a dish from Romanian cuisine, consisting of grilled ground meat rolls made from a mixture of beef and lamb and pork, with spices such as garlic, black pepper, thyme, ...

Is Mamaliga Romanian? ›

It's the national dish of Romania and also enjoyed in Moldova and many other countries in Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe. Similar to polenta, mămăligă showcases the flavor of the corn, and it can be a side dish or the main attraction.


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