Serves a Crowd

Griddled Polenta Cakes with Caramelized Onions, Goat Cheese, and Honey

May 12, 2021
9 Ratings
Photo by Alpha Smoot
  • Cook time 45 minutes
  • Serves 8
Author Notes

This recipe was inspired by one of my favorite tapas: fried goat cheese with onion jam and honey. It's a sweet little bite of deliciousness. —arielleclementine

Test Kitchen Notes

As we tasted this polenta, crisped in a pan and topped with caramelized onions, goat cheese and a sprinkling of honey, we thought aloud that it would make a great first course. No, a small lunch! Or how about breakfast! We’d happily eat it all day long, and we think you would, too. You can make arielleclementine’s polenta and onions ahead of time, then just crisp the polenta and assemble the dish when you’re ready. - A&M —The Editors

What You'll Need
Watch This Recipe
Griddled Polenta Cakes with Caramelized Onions, Goat Cheese, and Honey
  • For the polenta
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup polenta
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • For the toppings
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 yellow onion, halved and sliced in 1/4-inch slices
  • 2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
  • 1 splash Honey, to drizzle
  1. Bring the water, milk, and salt to a boil. Slowly whisk in the polenta. Turn heat to low, and continue whisking for 5 minutes, or until polenta is smooth and creamy. Spread the polenta in a 9- by 9-inch baking dish, and set aside to cool.
  2. While the polenta is setting up, add the butter and olive oil to a heavy-bottomed skillet set to medium-low heat. Add the sliced onions and a sprinkle of kosher salt, and cook, stirring occasionally until soft, golden, and caramelized, about 20 to 25 minutes.
  3. Pour 1 tablespoon olive oil into another skillet, set over medium heat. Using a 3-inch round cookie cutter, cut out circles of the firm polenta, and place in the heated skillet. Cook until slightly browned and crusty on one side, about 2 minutes, then flip and cook the other sides another two minutes.
  4. To assemble the polenta cakes, place on a plate, add one tablespoon of caramelized onions to each cake, top each with about a teaspoon of crumbled goat cheese, and drizzle with honey. Enjoy!
Contest Entries

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Anne Halson
    Anne Halson
  • chris
  • Kathie S
    Kathie S
  • Gay Stevens
    Gay Stevens
  • Ruta
I have always loved food. My favorite books as a kid always featured food (eg. The Berenstain Bears Get the Gimmies- so much candy!) and I loved cooking shows like Yan Can Cook and The Frugal Gourmet. I started cooking the Thanksgiving dinner for my family when I was 13 years old. I have food52 to thank for inspiring me to come up with my own recipes, as well as for introducing me to a community of fantastic cooks and their amazing recipes. I try my best to cook locally and seasonally, and I tend to prefer straightforward, simple recipes where the ingredients get to shine. I live in wonderful Austin, Texas with my husband, Andy (a video game programmer) and my son, Henry (an 8-month-old who loves to eat).

98 Reviews

Anne H. September 10, 2019
Great idea, I make polenta a lot and love this flavour combination. Waste always worries me though and when I see anyone cutting circles out of cooked polenta my first thought is "but what about the waste". This time I have an answer to share, and that is to save those left overs then crumble or cube the remnants and griddle them to add to your next salad as croutons.
JJGood January 21, 2019
Any chance this could be made with chickpea flour?
Jessica J. January 4, 2019
I make polenta all the time but had never tried it fried in the pan, I followed the recipe exactly, i put the polenta in the fridge to help make it a little firmer, then i cut and put it in the man and it ran to mush again. I also didn't think the cooking time you recommended for making the polenta was nearly long enough. Good creamy polenta takes 45 minutes.
Valerie January 4, 2019
I have to agree with you on the cooking time. I have never made polenta or grits in 5 minutes. Tonight I used a pressure cooker. Even that was set for 9 minutes. I have never had polenta turn back into mush either. Make your regular polenta and then let it set up. Try frying it after that.
Anne H. September 10, 2019
You are right traditional polenta needs long slow cooking but instant polenta is done in just a few minutes. I suggest checking the cooking instructions and description of the type of polenta on your packet and wish you well for more delicious polenta.
Valerie September 22, 2018
Been eating fried cornmeal or fried grits for years. Also, polenta. I have found that if you let the polenta dry out in the refrigerator while wrapped in some paper towels that will help it keep its shape. Also, if using cast iron, the pan should be heated to temp before adding oil. Now....can anyone tell me how to stop the spitting?
Samantha F. September 6, 2018
Hello Love,
I bought the pre-made polenta roll in a garlic and herb. I am hoping it will still work with this recipe. (I needed a quick side to some fish fillets I am making.) How thick should the slices be? I bought the polenta before I found your wonderful recipe. I am also going to use some riccota to stretch my goat cheese. and I only have red onions on hand. (again found this wonderful recipe after my weekly shopping trip, lol, but I am still going for it!
Zenqi August 18, 2018
This didn't work for me at all. I followed the instructions exactly. I used a cast iron skillet with plenty of olive oil in hopes that it wouldn't stick. It stuck, AND the polenta was like mush once it began to warm again. I was pretty bummed.
arielleclementine August 22, 2018
I’m really sorry this happened to you, Zenqi. A couple of ideas/observations: I think it’s pretty important to use polenta (versus grits or cornmeal or another ground corn product here) as they hold their texture when reheated. This article is helpful for understanding the difference:

Additionally- if your polenta turns back into a soft oozy pile, I can assure you that it will be just as delicious topped with caramelized onions, goat cheese, and honey. Hell, if you don’t want to bother with the polenta again, just spread that stuff on slices of toasted bread for a great crostini.
Zenqi August 22, 2018
Hi, arielleclementine. Yep, I used polenta (Bob's Red Mill), as opposed to the other products you mentioned. I've made polenta many times, both creamy polenta and the firm, "set" type. The only thing I can think of that I did differently was that my cookie cutter I used was about 1/2 an inch smaller, so my cakes were perhaps taller than if I used the correct size.
chris August 7, 2018
This is a seriously delicious recipe. I wish I'd doubled it, so we didn't have to fight over the nine rounds! My only observation is that, if you're not using "instant" polenta grain, you should get psyched for some long haul stirring. My medium-ground cornmeal took 45 minutes till it was ready: "the polenta should be able to hold its own shape, and begin pulling away from the sides of the pot." Apparently, it's (almost) impossible to overcook polenta, as long as you keep stirring. It just gets creamier and creamier.
Ms.M October 21, 2015
Hi there.
Can you tell me what polenta is? Also I've seen it in a tube.
What is the best polenta to use? I like to prepare foods from scratch instead of buying ready made prodcts.
Thank you.
thank you so much
arielleclementine October 21, 2015
Hi! Polenta is a coarsely ground cornmeal- it should be near the cornmeal in your grocery store. You can use the stuff in a tube if you want to take a shortcut (just slice it in rings and griddle it) but if you're into scratch cooking the ground cornmeal is what you should look for. Thanks and good luck!
pestopasta February 3, 2015
Hi. I had similar problems as some of the other commenters. Even though mine sat in the fridge for over 24 hours, it was still too loose to brown in the pan. As it warmed it got runny and oozed all over. I used a medium-grind cornmeal rather than the coarse-grind traditionally used for polenta. Could this have been the problem?
Squidaline December 2, 2014
My grandmother made this with grits or cornmeal mush. Minus the goat cheese..
Kathie S. October 24, 2014
As delicious as it gets! Great recipe, thank you! I used goat gouda, diced into small cubes, and sheep's milk feta, because that's what I had on hand.
Gay S. June 22, 2014
Made this tonight and it was awesome!! Kicking myself because I got in a hurry to plate it and forgot the honey! Next time! It went beautifully with the roasted quail and the salad with red wine vinaigrette!
Gay S. June 22, 2014
Should add that I used carmelized leeks in place of the onions because I had them all sliced in the freezer.
Eliz June 9, 2023
This all sounds incredible. Got a recipe for the quail?
Eliz June 9, 2023
Oh. You wrote that in 2014. I don’t expect a reply, but I’ll be pleasantly surprised if I get one! 🙃
Molly N. May 15, 2014
These were delicious, but I had a problem with the browning of the polenta. I let it sit for a while and it was plenty cool and thick and wonderful, but as soon as I got it on the skillet it started to turn more liquidy again and part of it would stick to the skillet. I used whole milk, I had plenty of butter on the pan... not sure what to do because I love the recipe. After a few, I just gave up and served the cooled, constituted polenta with the toppings (adding mushrooms that I cooked with the onions which was amazing). I am definitely going to try again though because the flavors were amazing.
arielleclementine May 15, 2014
oh Molly, I'm sorry to hear that! so i think what happened was the extra butter in the pan- in step 3 I crisped up the polenta with olive oil. maybe butter, and lots of it, served to re-hydrate your polenta. next time a bit of olive oil in a very hot pan should help them to crisp up quickly without softening. thank you so much for trying my recipe!
Chrissy April 14, 2014
This may be a silly question, but I am also a polenta novice. When we whisk it into the milk mixture, is it already-made polenta or is it just cornmeal? I feel like polenta is already smooth and creamy once it is made, so is it supposed to become more creamy when added to the milk? Thanks!
arielleclementine April 14, 2014
not silly at all! it is just dry cornmeal when you whisk it in- a coarse ground cornmeal that is often labeled "polenta" on the package because it's the kind you use to make creamy polenta. the ground cornmeal will get soft and creamy when cooked in milk.
Erin.Quinn March 19, 2014
Made this before and it was great, made it again tonight and the polenta kept sticking to the pan so it never browned because the brown part would stick and pull apart from the rest of the polenta cake. Do you think it could be because I used 2% milk instead of whole?
rob W. March 27, 2014
pan too dry, bit more butter?
arielleclementine March 27, 2014
Sorry about that, Erin! I'm with Robweeve on this- the pan probably needed a bit more fat. This is the first recipe I ever wrote, and if I were to write it again today I'd likely griddle the cakes in a mixture of butter and oil, and more like 2-3 tablespoons, not the one I listed here. Also, a good stiff metal spatula will help. Thanks so much for cooking this recipe!
Ruta December 31, 2013
We made this for Christmas dinner. It was so delicious, so easy and so elegant. We also added a rosemary fig confit which we found on Epicurious. I think I might be able to eat this every night.
Adapted from:
Lynda October 23, 2013
This is very good. I left off the onions and it was still delicious.
Tessiewoo December 19, 2012
Check out this polenta recipe...
Laurelb December 4, 2012
Couldn't find polenta today so had to use the premade roll. It was ok. It not great. Used blue cheese instead of goat cheese which was a nice compliment to the beef dish I was serving. I served it as part of a meal rather than an appetizer
This was the best, the best, appetizer! Each aspect of it was delicious and my place smelled great. I definitely need a polenta crisping lesson, but that aside, it was easy and delicious. Got to try making this again, maybe make a few as before and a few with a little chicken chorizo and a dash of smoked paprika.