Black Bean Polenta Bowls – Creamy polenta gets topped with black beans, pico de gallo, and allll the fixin’s for a delicious vegan dinner the whole family will love! (Gluten Free & Vegan)
During a busy season, it’s nice to have a simple, easy meal I can pull together in a flash. I feel like it’s bonus points when that meal is A) inexpensive, B) delicious, and C) a meatless option! These black bean polenta bowls check all three boxes.
Creamy polenta gets topped with black beans, pico de gallo, and all the fixin’s to make this an easy, family-friendy dinner!
Build-your-own dinners are usually a hit at my house, so I like to put everything out as a sort of black bean polenta bowl bar. Everyone can choose what they’d like and leave the rest.
Here’s what I usually put out for our black bean polenta bowls…
HERE’S WHAT I PUT IN MY BLACK BEAN POLENTA BOWLS:
POLENTA (OR GRITS). Polenta (or grits–your choice!) is the base of these bowls. I love the creamy texture, and the flavor goes beautifully with the tex-mix vibe of these bowls. It’s a nice change of pace from rice! (If you’re gluten-free, be sure to buy certified gluten free polenta to avoid any cross contamination. I like this brand or this brand.)
SEASONED BLACK BEANS. I dress up simple canned black beans with a few warm spices to wake them up and give them a bit of kick.
PICO DE GALLO. I love how fresh and bright the flavors of pico de gallo are in these black bean polenta bowls. Homemade is always nice if you can swing it (it takes just a few minutes and five ingredients!), but store-bought is totally fine. Whatever works better for you! (Or, swap out for your favorite salsa.)
AVOCADO OR GUACAMOLE. My one true love! Adding a bit of creamy avocado on top of these black bean polenta bowls is such a nice contrast to the black beans and bright, puncyy flavors of the pico de gallo. Or, you can always go with guacamole!
LETTUCE. I love the pop of color and freshness from a bit of lettuce on top. You can use whatever variety looks good (or swap it out for some sautéed greens if you like!). I like something with a bit of crunch, like romaine or green leaf.
YOUR FAVORITE EXTRAS. From there, you just kind of get to add whatever you’d normally add to tacos, burrito bowls, or taco salad. Try options like cilantro, lime wedges, cheese/dairy-free cheese, sliced jalapeños, olives, corn, grilled veggies, etc.
FAQ + TIPS FOR THE BEST BLACK BEANS POLENTA BOWLS
NEW TO COOKING POLENTA OR GRITS? READ THIS. If you’re a polenta or grits newbie, don’t worry! It’s easy to cook. You simply add water or broth, polenta/grits, and a hefty pinch of salt. Then, you bring it to a simmer and cook it until the grains have plumped a bit and the liquid is absorbed. I like to cook mine to a nice creamy stage (where it scoops easily). If it thickens too much, just add a splash more water or broth, or stir in a bit more milk or a pat of butter/ghee.
Also: if you’re not whisking regularly, polenta can splatter while cooking. Avoid burns and splatters by using a deep saucepan, stirring regularly, and reducing the heat if it starts bubbling too quickly.
NOT VEGAN? YOU CAN TRY... if you’re not vegan or vegetarian, you can also feel free to add something on top, like slow cooker beef carnitas, sweet pork, grilled chicken, a poached egg, etc. The sky’s the limit!
A TIP FOR REHEATING POLENTA. If you’re making this ahead of time, know that polenta continues to absorb liquid as it cools and sits (much like oats or rice). Cold leftover polenta will look like a big clump at first, but heat it with a splash of milk or water and it’ll loosen right back up.
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN GRITS AND POLENTA? A short answer is that grits are a southern staple made from ground white corn, whereas polenta is an Italian staple made from ground yellow corn. Sometimes, grits have a finer texture than polenta, but they cook essentially the same. You can use either polenta or grits in these black bean bowls. (You can learn more about it here.)
LOVE THIS EASY VEGAN DINNER? YOU MIGHT ALSO LOVE:
- My Ultimate Guide to Guacamole
- Vegetarian Tortilla Soup
- Black Bean Tostadas with Mango Salsa
- Simple Vegetable Minestrone
- Mediterranean Cauliflower Rice Skillet
- Curried Butternut Squash Soup
HELPFUL FOR THIS RECIPE: