Mamaliga Recipe (Romanian Polenta)
Mamaliga or Romanian Polenta is a traditional savoury dish used to replace bread. It's an easy to make dish and you will very likely try it when visiting a Romanian friend or an authentic Romanian restaurant
If you had asked me to develop a mamaliga recipe (Romanian polenta) 15 years ago, I would have probably laughed. While I loved my mother's food growing up, I never really connected with traditional Romanian dishes. I'm sure it's because I grew up during the internet era when speaking English was far cooler than speaking Romanian and learning how to act "foreign" was my sport of choice.
I never really feel like I belong in Romania. I didn't like the traditions, the language, the history, the cityscape. Yet here I am, at the age of 30 realising there is beauty in all of it. Ask me about my country and I will tell you how people still perform some of the most intriguing cultural activities to welcome Spring or scare away the Winter.
Ask me about the food, and I will tell you how the Roman blood, running through our veins made us put such emphasis on grand family time on Sundays, where there's no table without laughter, grandparents and grandchildren, traditional dishes and, of course, Romanian polenta.
It's easy to want to be different and reject your own identity until one day, when you are an adult, you learn to appreciate the good and the bad about your own heritage. And then, you learn to like it and have this urge to discover it. From annoying and bothering, it becomes a mysterious temptress, luring you in. And where there is curiosity, there will always be a great adventure.
So one day I woke up, determined to learn everything there is to know about my own culture. Besides, I have one incredible advantage: I speak the language, which enables me to mingle with locals and make my way to the most remote mountain villages, some still trapped in a time capsule.
And that's exactly why, I started experimenting with traditional Romanian cuisine, as the first step towards a rediscovery of a lifetime.
I'm a true believer in storytelling. I think this is what brings us together, as humans. In Romania, stories fuel a special flame inside each and every single one of us. Perhaps the most interesting thing to do is to learn, from locals how to cook Romanian dishes. But before you get to that mamaliga recipe, there is a dance you must perform: the dance of stories.
As you go to a remote village, the air is clean and crisp. You will most likely pass a wooden gate and be welcomed by a scruffy mountain dog, harmlessly barking to announce your presence. The old granny will appear on the porch with large chipped frames decorated with braids of garlic, like beautiful amulets against vampires, bad spirits and ghosts.
She's wearing old and raggy clothes, knitted by herself. A wool vest to keep her back warm, as she knows all too well that drafts can make one's waist hurt for days. Or so, it is a common belief there.
She invites you to sit down, in that chair by the traditional fireplace. You've never seen such a thing, as it is a giant block in the room, covered with terracotta tiles. But it's nice and warm. You have questions and before you even start, she sits down into her rocking chair and starts knitting in quiet. And as you wait patiently, the silence creates the first bond, side by side but didn't speak.
And then the stories begin. A frail voice starts telling you about life which you never even though it's possible. A remote existence, self-sufficient in a way, with its own hardships. Mesmerised, you stare at how the knitting needles move to form an intricate pattern. Hours of stories later, you are getting hungry and you cannot wait to learn something authentic, traditional. Romanian polenta is almost always on the menu, as cornmeal is cheap, easy to store and long-lasting. Learning a Romanian recipe from a local feels as if you somehow became part of the stories and you can freely take a piece of history, home, with you.
At least, this is how it always feels like to me, when someone kindly teaches me an old recipe which has been passed down for generations.
Mamaliga (Romanian Polenta)
Mamaliga has almost always been considered a peasant food usually used as a substitute for bread. It was considered a staple food in poor rural areas. Nowadays, you won't find a truly traditional Romanian feast without mamaliga. Usually served as a side next to grilled meat or stuffed cabbage rolls, mamaliga is on all traditional Romanian restaurants' menus. It can be served slightly runnier, on the side, or as a cake (like this mamaliga recipe) or as a ball grilled on fire stuffed with cheese and dairy products.
Eating mamaliga won't just mean indulging in a piece of Romanian history but savouring history for the whole of humanity. Porridge is the oldest form of consumption of grains before bread was ever invented. We used to primarily consume millets or wild wheat.
Before the introduction of maize in Europe in the 16th century, Romanian polenta was made with millet flour or as the Romans called it in Latin: pulmentum.
Maize was introduced into Spain by Hernán Cortés from Mexico in 1530 and spread in Europe in the 16th century. Maize requires a good amount of heat and humidity. The Danube Valley is one of Europe's regions ideal for growing maize. 
In an edition of Larousse, the French dictionary, in the Danubian principalities, the existence of corn-based mămăligă dates from 1873. mamaligma s. f. Boiled cornmeal.
The quick and easy mamaliga recipe (Romanian polenta)
To make this mamaliga recipe you will need cornmeal (polenta), water, oregano, rosemary, paprika, salt, vegan butter (or plant margarine) and nutritional yeast. Traditionally, we use dairy butter and cheese for Romanian polenta, but of course, we are vegan, so it's only natural to make it dairy-free.
The nutritional yeast will give a nutty and cheesy taste, while the salt and paprika will emphasis the beautiful, sweet taste of cornmeal.
I love fresh herby aromas, so I add a little oregano and rosemary to the mixture. The result is a lot more flavoursome and earthy, especially once the polenta sets.
Add the water and salt to a non-stick pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, add the polenta, oregano, rosemary, cumin paprika and nutritional yeast. Whisk continuously to prevent any lumps. Turn the heat down and simmer until is thickened for around 3 minutes.
Add the vegan butter and whisk again to ensure it's all smooth and nice. Transfer the polenta to a round casserole dish or to a cast iron skillet. Let it cool then refrigerate for about an hour until it sets and becomes firm.
You can heat it up directly in the skillet (just add a little olive oil to it) or in a different, slightly oiled frying pan. Fry it for about 3 minutes on each side until fully crisp.
That's it. Serve Romanian polenta hot or cold (as per your taste) and store in the fridge for up to 3 days, although it's best consumed while fresh. Enjoy your meal or as we say it in Romanian: Poftă bună!
This recipe has been developed entirely by Yuzu Bakes. Any resemblance with other recipes is purely coincidental.
Mamaliga Recipe (Romanian Polenta)
- Prep Time: 1 hour
- Cook Time: 5 mins
- Total: 1 hour 5 mins
- Serves 8 people
Categories: Dinner, Sides Cusine: East European, Romanian
This recipe is about making traditional, authentic savoury mamaliga recipe. Learn how to make Romanian polenta by following this quick and easy vegan recipe. You can use it to replace bread in certain dishes or can be used as a side also.
- 1 cup polenta
- 3 1/2 cups water
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
- 1 tbsp vegan butter
- 2 tsp oregano
- 1 tsp rosemary
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp cumin (optional)
- Add the water and salt to a non-stick pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, add the polenta, oregano, rosemary, cumin, paprika and nutritional yeast. Whisk continuously to prevent any lumps. Turn the heat down and simmer until is thickened for around 3 minutes.
- Add the butter and whisk again until you get a nice, smooth paste. Spread the mixture in a round casserole or in a cast iron skillet*.
Let it cool uncovered on the counter or in the refrigerator until it becomes solid.
- Slice the solid polenta. You can warm it directly in the skillet or you can warm a smaller amount in a different, slightly oiled, non-stick skillet. Fry until golden on both sides.
* I prefer using a cast iron skillet because the polenta becomes firm at the top but remains slightly moist at the bottom. I also really love the taste of Romanian polenta in an iron skillet. As we usually serve the Romanian polenta in one go, having it directly in a skillet makes it also easier to warm in the oven or on the hob. However, you can use any casserole or dish for it.
Total Nutrition Facts
|Amount Per Serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 3 g||4%|
|Saturated Fat 2 g||9%|
|Trans Fat 0 g||5%|
|Polyunsaturated Fat 0 g|
|Monounsaturated Fat 1 g|
|Cholesterol 7 mg||2%|
|Sodium 402 mg||17%|
|Total Carbs 5 g||2%|
|Dietary Fiber 2 g||7%|
|Sugar 0 g||0%|
|Protein 3 g||6%|
|* 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 information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist's advice
What do you think?
Did you like this recipe? Do you have any questions or suggestions? Leave a comment below.
I don’t have a non-stick pot. Would this work in a regulated, high quality stainless steel saucepan?
Hi EvilVegan :) yes it will. Just make sure you stir...a lot! And fast too, because polenta can stick very fast to the bottom. Enjoy the recipe!
Thank you for sharing it on the facebook group. We tried it last night and it was amazing. We added a little more nutritional yeast just to make it even "cheesier" :)
Hi Jo, really happy you liked the recipe. I love sharing my recipes, it's like having you all here for dinner. As for the nutritional yeast, I don't blame you, hehe I can eat that thing on its own I love it so much
I tried it and it tasted really good. Recommended!
Dear Greg, thank you so much for trying the Romanian polenta. Really excited you liked it. Also, thank you kindly for being part of the story :) Much love, stay safe and healthy