Crispy Baked Polenta Fries

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Transform plain polenta into delicious fries! These crispy baked polenta fries are made from scratch and baked to perfection with a crisp-golden surface and a rich, velvety center. Serve these crunchy fries as a side or appetizer with dips and sauces.

Today, we’re using instant polenta to make this easy polenta fries recipe!

And, WOW!

These polenta chips are so GOOD, you are not going to be able to stop eating them. I swear, they taste much better than they look, and they look incredible, don’t they?

Like my roasted rainbow potatoes and butternut squash salad, these polenta fries are an easy side dish (or appetizer) that will impress your family and friends at a dinner party! You’ll just need cooked instant polenta, slice it into sticks, and then bake until perfectly crisp outside and creamy inside.

Ingredients

  • Polenta: To reduce cooking time, we’re going to use instant polenta. Regular polenta is better for stews, gravies, and saucy dishes. If you only have regular polenta at home, you can use that too, but add around 30 minutes to the cooking time.
  • Water: To cook the polenta.
  • Salt: Salt enhances the naturally buttery and sweet polenta flavor.
  • Fresh herbs: I used thyme, rosemary, and sage, but you can use any combination of fresh and dry herbs here (parsley, dill, oregano, etc.)
  • Sea salt flakes & black pepper: A bit of seasoning to round out the flavors. Finishing with salt and black pepper is optional but certainly recommended.

First time you make polenta? Similar to grits, polenta is a porridge made from coarsely ground corn. When cooked, it’s soft, mushy, and has a sweet and buttery flavor.

Polenta originated in Northern Italy (and I should know since my family is from that region) and is served as a bed for meat or vegetable stews and delicious sauces and toppings. These days, you can find polenta pretty much everywhere. Just check your local Italian deli or grocery store.

How to make baked polenta fries

  1. Cook polenta: In a medium-size pot or large saucepan, bring the water and salt to a boil on high heat. As soon as the water reaches a boil, turn the heat down and slowly whisk in the polenta. Cook for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring continuously. Check the packaging for detailed instructions.

TIP: We don’t want to over-salt our polenta, as we will add some sea flakes at the end. Plus, polenta will dry a lot in the oven, which will increase its saltiness. So, do not add too much salt at this stage.

  1. Season polenta: As soon as your creamy polenta is ready, add the herbs and pepper. Mix well.
  1. Cool polenta: Spread the polenta in an even layer in a parchment-lined and greased baking dish and let it cool down for at least 30 minutes. If your baking dish is non-stick (like mine here), you can skip the parchment paper.
  2. Cut into fries: Once set, remove the polenta sheet from the baking dish, place it on a cutting board, and slice it into fry shapes.
  1. Prepare fries for baking: Place the polenta crisps on a baking tray, brush them with olive oil, and spread them out in an even layer. Sprinkle with extra herbs.
  2. Bake, season, and serve: Bake in a 430F (220C) preheated oven for 15 minutes, then flip the fries over and bake until they are golden brown on the edges and crispy on the outside(15 more minutes). Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and serve hot with your favorite sauce or dip.

Alternative method: pre-cooked polenta

If you want to reduce the cooking time, you can also use pre-cooked polenta. It’s sold in tubes or rolls and is incredibly versatile.

When making fries with pre-cooked polenta, you can skip the first 3 steps and jump to step 4.

A few extra tips:

  • Herbs: Since you won’t be able to add herbs to a tube of polenta, you will need to add more herbs to the baking tray.
  • Salt: Polenta tubes contain quite a lot of salt. Avoid adding any extra salt on top, or they’ll be too salty! Just add some extra black pepper instead.

Tips & Tricks

Reduce the heat: Make sure the reduce the heat before adding the polenta flour to the water. Polenta tends to boil quite fast, and you can easily burn yourself if you don’t reduce the heat. Another trick is to add a lid on the pan as soon the polenta starts to boil. After a couple of minutes, the polenta will start to thicken, and you can remove the lid and keep stirring without any risk.

Use a whisk: Use a whisk instead of a spoon to mix the polenta flour when you add it to the water. This will avoid creating any lumps, and you’ll get a creamier texture.

Setting the polenta: Speed up the process by setting the baking dish in the freezer.

Cut the polenta sticks evenly: They do not need to be perfect, but your fries should be relatively cut into the same size and shape to bake evenly.

Fried polenta fries: If you’d instead fry your polenta, submerge the fries in hot cooking oil and fry until crispy. But this option is not as healthy, so I do not recommend going for it.

Close up of baked polenta fries on a baking tray

Different flavoring ideas

  • Spicy Polenta Fries: Toss fries with smoked paprika and a pinch of red pepper flakes, cayenne, or chili powder.
  • Garlic Parmesan Polenta Fries: For a more cheesy flavor, you can add 2 minced cloves of garlic and 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese when you add the herbs to the polenta. If you want to keep this recipe plant-based, you can try 1/2 cup of nutritional yeast instead of parmesan cheese.

My favorite dips and serving suggestions

These fries are fantastic served as an appetizer or side dish. When served as an appetizer, a dipping sauce makes these crispy fries even better.

I love dipping these polenta fries into:

How to store

Fridge: If you have any leftovers, store your cooked and cooled polenta fries in an airtight container or bag in the fridge for 1 to 2 days. Reheat in a 400F preheated oven until re-crisped and warmed through.

Freezer: Another option is freezing the cut fries before baking them. After setting the polenta and slicing it into even stick shapes, transfer the fries to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and keep them in the freezer until the polenta fries are frozen solid. Then, move them to a freezer-safe bag or container and keep them in the freezer for up to 2 months. Reheat polenta fries from frozen in a 430-degree preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes or until heated through and crispy.

The great thing about polenta fries? Unlike potato fries, these fries stay crispy at room temperature, too. If I have any leftovers, I eat them as a healthy snack in the afternoon without reheating them.

Why I love polenta fries

  • The fries can be prepped up to 2 days in advance and baked right before serving.
  • Crunchy on the outside and smooth and creamy on the inside.
  • Gluten-free and has fewer calories than potato fries.
  • Perfect as a snack, appetizer, or side dish.
Close up of polenta fries with dippings around like ketchup and mayonnaise

More side ideas

If you try this crispy baked polenta fries recipe, please leave a comment and a rating and let me know how much you liked it!

baked polenta fries on a baking tray
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Crispy Baked Polenta Fries

Transform plain polenta into delicious fries! These crispy baked polenta fries are made from scratch and baked to perfection with a crisp-golden surface and a rich, velvety center. Serve these crunchy fries as a side or appetizer with dips and sauces.
Cook Time30 minutes
Resting time30 minutes
Total Time1 hour
Course: Appetizer, Side Dish, Snack
Servings: 6 servings
Calories: 170kcal
Author: Sara Trezzi

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cup instant polenta - Note 1
  • 4 ½ cups water
  • 1 ½ teaspoon salt - Note 2
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/2 tablespoon fresh sage - chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary - chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

TOPPINGS

Instructions

  • Add the water into a medium-size pot and bring to a boil. Add the salt. 
  • As soon as the water starts to boil, turn the heat down and slowly add the polenta while whisking to avoid lumps.
  • Keep stirring and cook for around 5 to 10 minutes (check your polenta package instructions). Then add the chopped herbs, a bit of pepper, and mix well.
  • Lightly oil a baking dish (9×13 inch) or line it with parchment paper, and spread the polenta in an even single layer. Let it cool down for 30 minutes to an hour (you can also chill overnight). You can speed up the process by putting the baking dish in the fridge or freezer.
  • Preheat the oven to 430F (220C).
  • Once the polenta is set, remove it from the tray and cut them into fries with a sharp knife.
  • Place the fries on a baking tray, brush them with olive oil, spread them in an even layer, and sprinkle with extra fresh herbs. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, turn them around, and bake for another 15 minutes until golden and crispy.
  • Sprinkle with some sea salt flakes black pepper, and serve them hot with some dips as a side or tasty appetizer.

Notes

Note 1: If you want to reduce the cooking time, you can also use a pre-cooked polenta tube. 
Note 2: Don’t add too much salt to your polenta. The polenta will dry a lot in the oven, which will increase its saltiness. 
How to store: Store your cooked and cooled polenta fries in an airtight container or bag in the fridge for 1 to 2 days.
*Nutrition information is a rough estimate per serving.

Nutrition

Calories: 170kcal | Carbohydrates: 32g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 3g | Sugar: 1g

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