Baked polenta chips are a great addition to a platter or alongside soup, dips or burgers when you desire something crispy without the excessive fat or effort of making (or going out to buy) deep-fried chips.
What is polenta?
Polenta is actually a simple Italian dish made with ground corn and other food staples; water or stock, butter, salt and pepper. It is prepared to a consistency somewhere between porridge and mashed potato or is allowed to cool as a loaf, which can then be sliced and baked, fried or grilled. This is essentially what we do to make baked polenta chips.
So, polenta is really the dish, while ground corn or cornmeal is the ingredient.
However, the names polenta and cornmeal are often used interchangeably. Here in New Zealand, and in Australia, you’ll find it in the store named polenta.
The cornmeal used to make the traditional dish of polenta is quite coarse. However, to make baked polenta chips, you’ll want to choose fine cornmeal, labelled quick-cook or instant polenta.
Where to buy polenta?
You can find polenta at the supermarket or in wholefood stores usually near the pasta and rice or in bulk bins.
How to make baked polenta chips
Quick-cook or instant polenta needs very little time to prepare to achieve a gooey, porridge-like consistency.
In the below recipe, I share how I prepare polenta on the stovetop. However, it is possible to cook polenta in a microwave, cooking it on high heat and stirring a few times over the 5 minute cook time.
Although polenta is quick to cook, you’ll need to allow 1 hour for the polenta to cool before you can cut it. Once cooled, it will be quite firm and cut easily without crumbling.
Can you make polenta chips ahead of time?
For crispy chips with soft, not dry, centres, I recommend to either refrigerate for 1-2 days or freeze the chips after cutting but without cooking.
To freeze, place on a baking tray lined with paper and freeze for 4 plus hours. Once firm, transfer them to a bag, removing excess air. They are best if frozen for less than 1-2 months before cooking.
Defrost in the fridge overnight, before placing in the oven and cooking as per the recipe instructions.
Can you reheat polenta chips?
You could, but they can dry out quite a bit. I prefer making them fresh or freezing ahead of time.
Baked, not fried
We often see, baked, not fried, on packaging to indicate that a food is lower in fat than the fried alternative. And this is definitely the case with polenta chips as compared to deep-fried chips. You would be consuming considerably less saturated fat and salt with these polenta chips than store-bought chips.
Not that you should omit store-bought chips, as the taste doesn’t really compare, and all foods fit in a balanced diet.
However, these baked polenta chips are easy to make at home. And if you keep a bag of polenta in the pantry, you can pretty much whip them up at any time.
How do they taste?
To be honest, polenta itself has very little flavour, maybe a slight corn flavour. But it is very mild.
It’s really about the flavours that you add to the polenta and the crispiness of the outside as contrasted to the soft doughy centre that makes baked polenta chips delicious.
Feel free to adjust the flavour additions in the recipe below to get it just right for you.
Baked Polenta Chips
- 400 mL vegetable stock (~ 1 ½ generous cups)
- 150 g quick-cook or instant polenta plus 2 tablespoons for dusting (1 heaped cup)
- 40 g Parmesan cheese grated (½ cup grated)
- 1 teaspoon dried Italian herbs oregano, rosemary or thyme
- 1 teaspoon onion or garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon salt or 1 teaspoon if use water rather than stock
- Pinch chilli flakes optional
- 2 tablespoons Olive oil for cooking
- Bring stock to boil in saucepan.
- Then slowly whisk in polenta, continually stirring.
- In 3-5 minutes, it will thicken. Then add grated Parmesan and all remaining ingredients, except for olive oil, and stir through.
- Scoop polenta mixture into a lined 20 cm square dish, and place in the fridge to chill and firm up, allow about 1 hour.
- After 1 hour, preheat oven to 220oC.
- Remove the polenta from the dish and place on a cutting board. It should come out as a firm slab.
- Cut chilled polenta into ‘chips’.
- Brush with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and dust with the extra polenta.
- Arrange on a lined baking tray in a single layer, with space between.
- Bake for 20 minutes.
- Then turn the chips so that the underside is now exposed.
- Bake for an additional 15 minutes, until golden brown and crispy.
- Serve alongside soup or dips such as aioli or pesto.
Have you tried making them yourself?
Let me know in the comments below.