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Vegan Cheese Polenta with Pesto + Chickpea

This Vegan Cheese Polenta with Pesto + Chickpea is the perfect family dinner that's vegan but full of flavor.

Vegan Cheese Polenta with Pesto + Chickpea

This Vegan Cheese Polenta with Pesto + Chickpea will be ranked one of the best dishes eaten in your household, believe me! It's based with creamy dairy-free polenta, followed by a tasty homemade pesto sauce, and topped with roasted chickpeas that creates a beautiful texture. This dish surely boasts of bold flavors that marry so well together for one great bowl of goodness. All vegan. Gluten-free, make ahead, + nut-free options.

Vegan Cheese Polenta with Pesto + Chickpea

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links via Amazon for products that I wholeheartedly love.

Creamy polenta is always a thing that I'm into, although I grew up eating mostly grits. I know that most people aren't as confident that polenta can actually get as ultra creamy as grits, however, this recipe changes your mind! This Vegan Cheese Polenta with Pesto + Chickpea is by far on my favorite things to make in my house around this time of the year and it's a great meatless option for any looking to slowly transition into a more plant-based and/or vegan lifestyle.

This recipe is loaded with healthy plant-based ingredients, including spices and dried herbs, for a cheesy and savory combination you'll love. Paired with a delicious pesto sauce and roasted chickpeas, you have a well-rounded vegan dinner the whole family will enjoy----adults and kids alike.

If you're in love with this polenta and chickpea recipe, then you'll surely love this Vegan BBQ Meatballs with Creamy Polenta as another great weeknight meal option.

How to Make Vegan Cheese Polenta with Pesto + Chickpea

To make the chickpeas,  you'll toss together the drained + rinsed chickpeas with the olive oil and other seasonings until coated well. Add them to a baking sheet and allow to roast in the oven for 15-20 it until crisp and golden.

Then make your pesto sauce easily by adding everything to a food processor, store in a jar in the fridge until ready to use. Finally, add the polenta to the stovetop with the veggie stock, milk, and seasonings--allowing everything to boil and then simmer as your whisk. 

Once done, assemble everything onto a plate or bowl and enjoy!

Vegan Cheese Polenta with Pesto + Chickpea

Ingredients for Vegan Cheese Polenta with Pesto + Chickpea

The three components for this vegan creamy polenta recipe are: the roasted chickpeas, homemade pesto, and the delicious polenta itself. 

Here’s what you need to make this Vegan Cheese Polenta with pesto +  chickpeas:

  • Chickpeas. Remove as much moisture from the chickpeas as possible for the crispiest texture. 
  • Dried herbs and spices. I love a combination of salt, black pepper, smoked paprika, garlic, oregano, basil, cumin, etc.
  • Olive oil. You can also use Grapeseed oil or coconut oil as well. Also, a must in any great pesto. 
  • Basil. This leafy green has bold earthy flavor. You can also add in kale or spinach for a nice leafy green + herb balance.
  • Walnuts. These are soft enough to blend easily into your pesto to make it fluffy and creamy. For a nut-free option, you can use seeds (i.e. pumpkin, sunflower, etc). 
  • Garlic. I recommend fresh---about 4 cloves will do!
  • Lemon juice. This helps preserve the bright green color and adds a bright note of citrus.
  • Nutritional yeast. This helps to give the sauce a “cheesy” flavor. However, if you aren't making this fully vegan, you can use parmesan cheese, mozzarella, etc.
  • Red pepper flakes. this is optional, but I like bit of heat.

Vegan Cheese Polenta with Pesto + Chickpea

Creamy Vegan Polenta Ingredients

This polenta is totally dairy-free but tastes just as creamy and decadent as dairy-full polenta. Plus, to reheat any leftover polenta is rather easy and is best done over the stovetop while adding a bit of water or milk until creamy and smooth again.

Here's what you'll need to make it:

  • Vegetable stock. You can also use water if you're out of stock, but you may need to season your polenta a bit more with salt. 
  • Plant-based milk. You can use any fave dairy-free milk you like. 
  • Polenta. Use organic corn for the best flavor. 
  • Vegan butter. I like Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks for cooking and baking. 
  • Nutritional yeast. I love using nutritional yeast for a nice "cheesy" flavor, however, you can always use dairy-free cheese shreds.
  • Garlic powder and salt. For a bit of flavor.

Vegan Cheese Polenta with Pesto + Chickpea

Nut-Free Pesto

Traditionally, pesto contains nuts. However, you can substitute the walnuts in this recipe with sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds for a nut-free version. 

SHOP MY FAVORITE TOOLS FOR COOKING, ESPECIALLY FOR THIS DISH!

Here, I’ve curated a list of cooking + baking essentials that I use to achieve my favorite baked goods or cooked meals, especially with this Vegan Cheese Polenta with Pesto + Chickpea. Everything from my fave baking sheet, parchment paper, food processor, high-powered blender, skillets, and more. SEE THEM HERE!

Vegan Cheese Polenta with Pesto + Chickpea

Why Chickpea? Any Health Benefits?

For those of you who aren’t aware, another name for Chickpeas are Garbanzo Beans. Despite the most recent craze, chickpeas have been around for thousand of years and originate from the Middle East.

Chickpeas have such a great texture and nutty flavor, which allows them to successfully pair well with a lot of other ingredients, especially in vegan and/or vegetarian recipes.

When it comes to the health benefits of Chickpea, here a few awesome reasons why you should probably add this simple ingredient to your diet more often:

  • Packed with Nutrients + have a moderate amount of calories!
  • Rich in Plant-Based Proteins!
  • Support Blood Sugar Control.
  • Full of Fiber + might aide digestion.
  • May protect against Chronic Diseases (such as heart Disease, Cancer, Diabetes, etc.)
  • May Help keep your appetite under control (Think about how protein + fiber helps to slow down digestion, therefore keeping you full longer!).

Vegan Cheese Polenta with Pesto + Chickpea

Why You’ll Love This Vegan Cheese Polenta with Pesto + Chickpea

  • Bold flavors—Savory + Spicy marry so well together!
  • Easy to make. Easy weeknight meal option.
  • Chickpeas are just so delicious as topping!
  • Uses simple ingredients.
  • Completely meal-prep friendly!
  • Great gluten-free and nut-free options for everyone!
  • Fun cooking activity for entire family.
  • And just absolutely wholesome and perfect for any kind of weather.

Vegan Cheese Polenta with Pesto + Chickpea

Topping Suggestions for This Polenta with Pesto + Chickpea

I like to add some extra texture to my polenta like this Vegan Cheese Polenta with Pesto + Chickpea. Most people might enjoy this vegan dish as is, which is totally fine. But I wanted to share a few more ideas incase you make this creamy polenta more than once and want to switch things up outside of using roasted chickpeas and/or pesto!

Other topping ideas include:

  • Roasted broccolini, broccoli, or veggies
  • Crispy bacon (if you're not plant-based, of course)
  • Meat (chicken, beef, etc.)
  • Seafood (Shrimp, lobster, etc.)
  • Roasted Nuts, such as pecans, hazelnuts or walnuts
  • Crispy sage leaves
  • Other beans

Can I Add More Veggies?

Definitely! This is a great recipe to mix and match the ingredients/toppings. For added nutrients, fiber, and color, add your favorite veggies. 

You can add roasted cauliflower, broccoli, bell peppers, asparagus, green peas, roasted herb tomatoes, mushrooms, or leafy greens (kale, spinach, collard greens). All will be delicious! And you can roast the veggies alongside the chickpeas so everything is ready at the same time. And fewer dishes!

Vegan Cheese Polenta with Pesto + Chickpea

How to Store Leftover Polenta with Pesto + Chickpea

Leftover polenta can be kept in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Re-heat over the stovetop when ready to serve, by adding a bit of milk (¼ cup or so) and stirring until creamy again.

Make-Ahead Vegan Cheese Polenta with Pesto + Chickpea

All ingredients can be made and individually stored as meal prep and assembled + heated when ready to serve.

Can I Make Gluten-Free Vegan Cheese Polenta with Pesto + Chickpea?

Absolutely! To make this recipe entirely GF, simply ensure that the polenta is GF-friendly.

More Healthy Weeknight Meals To Try!

MADE OUR RECIPE(S)?

If you make Vegan Cheese Polenta with Pesto + Chickpea or any other recipe from us, be sure to tag us on Instagram at #Orchidsandsweettea so that we can share the love, rate, comment below, + share!

Vegan Cheese Polenta with Pesto + Chickpea

Vegan Cheese Polenta with Pesto + Chickpea

Vegan Cheese Polenta with Pesto + Chickpea

5 from 6 votes
This Vegan Cheese Polenta with Pesto + Chickpea is the perfect family dinner that's vegan but full of flavor. All vegan. Gluten-free, make ahead, + nut-free options.
Prep Time: 15 mins
Cook Time: 30 mins
Total Time: 45 mins
Serves: 4 servings

Ingredients

ROASTED CHICKPEAS:

  • 1 (15 oz.) can chickpeas, drained + rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • ½ teaspoon cumin

CREAMY POLENTA:

  • 1 cup organic polenta corn grits, yellow
  • 3 cups organic vegetable stock (You can use water instead, if preferred!)
  • 1 cup Your fave plant-based milk
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ cup vegan butter
  • cup nutritional yeast (You can also use dairy-free cheese shreds instead!)

HOMEMADE PESTO SAUCE:

  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 1 cup shelled walnuts
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • ¼ cup Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon freshly-squeezed lemon juice
  • ¼ cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika, optional
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes

Instructions

ROAST THE CHICKPEAS:

  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, add the chickpea, olive oil, salt, black pepper, smoked paprika, parsley, oregano, basil, and cumin, stirring them together until well coated.
  • Add chickpeas to the prepared baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes, tossing them mid-way until golden brown and crisp. Once done, remove from the oven and let the cool.

TO MAKE THE PESTO SAUCE:

  • Add all ingredients into a food processor or blender and process (or blend) until combined and broken down. NOTE: If needed, add a bit of water (1 Tbsp), if too thick. The pesto should be paste-like in consistency.

TO MAKE THE CREAMY POLENTA:

  • Bring 3 cups veggie stock, milk and salt to a low boil in a large-size pot or dutch oven. Once boiling, whisk in the polenta and cook 15-20 minutes until thickened and most of the liquid has "dried out". Stir in the butter, garlic powder, and nutritional yeast (if using), until melted and the polenta becomes creamy.
  • In serving bowl(s), spoon the polenta into the bottom of the bowl(s) or plate(s) and top with a spoonful (or two) of pesto followed by the roasted chickpeas. Sprinkle dried parsley (optional) as garnish, if desired and serve immediately.
  • Bon Appétit!

Tips & Tricks

  • STORAGE: Leftover polenta can be kept in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Re-heat over the stovetop when ready to serve, by adding a bit of milk (¼ cup or so) and stirring until creamy again.
  • MAKE AHEAD: All ingredients can be made and individually stored as meal prep and assembled + heated when ready to serve.
  • OILS: Instead of using Extra Virgin Olive Oil, you can substitute with Grapeseed Oil, Avocado Oil, or Coconut Oil. 
  • GUTEN-FREE OPTION: To make this recipe entirely GF, simply ensure that the polenta is GF-friendly.
  • NUT-FREE: Traditionally, pesto contains nuts. However, you can substitute the walnuts in this recipe with sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds for a nut-free version. 
  • EQUIPMENT: Here, I’ve curated a list of cooking + baking essentials that I use to achieve my favorite baked goods or cooked meals, especially with this Vegan Cheese Polenta with Pesto + Chickpea. Everything from my fave baking sheet, parchment paper, food processor, high-powered blender, skillets, and more. SEE THEM HERE!

Nutrition

Calories: 644kcal | Carbohydrates: 44g | Protein: 13g | Fat: 49g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 20g | Monounsaturated Fat: 21g | Trans Fat: 2g | Sodium: 2052mg | Potassium: 431mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 1831IU | Vitamin C: 4mg | Calcium: 156mg | Iron: 3mg

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Vegan Cheese Polenta with Pesto + Chickpea.

 

ORCHIDS + SWEET TEA

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  1. Absolutely love this polenta recipe, so satisfying and creamy and the chickpeas are incredibly flavorful! Will definitely be making this one again, thanks for the recipe!