Black Bean Polenta Cakes with Pepper-Cilantro Salsa

  • Prep-time: / Ready In:
  • Makes 8 polenta cakes + 5 cups salsa
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Enjoy these scrumptious polenta cakes for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Unlike standard Italian-inspired polenta recipes, this one adds hearty black beans and smoky spices into the mix, which is then baked and sliced into savory cakes. A quick-chopped salsa composed of peppers, onions, cilantro, and lime juice adds extra Southwestern flavor to this easy and versatile meal. If you like your veggies slightly charred, throw them on the grill instead of in the oven to bring smoky flair to the dish.

By Shelli McConnell,


  • 1½ cups dry polenta
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1½ 15-oz. cans no-salt-added black beans, rinsed and drained (2¼ cups)
  • 1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 3 medium red and/or yellow bell peppers, halved and seeded
  • 2 medium fresh poblano chiles, halved and seeded
  • 2 medium onions, thickly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • Lime wedges


  • Line a 13×9-inch baking pan with parchment paper. In a large saucepan bring 6 cups water to boiling. Gradually whisk in polenta and chili powder. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook about 25 minutes or until mixture is thick and creamy, stirring occasionally. Remove pan from heat. Stir in beans and ½ cup of the cilantro; season with salt and pepper. Spread polenta in prepared pan. Let cool. Cover and chill about 2 hours or until set.
  • Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Arrange bell peppers, chiles, and onions in a single layer. Drizzle with lime juice.
  • Roast 20 to 25 minutes or until tender and starting to brown. Peel bell peppers. Coarsely chop bell peppers, poblanos, and onion. In a medium bowl combine chopped vegetables and the remaining ½ cup cilantro.
  • Meanwhile, cut polenta into four rectangles; cut each in half diagonally. In an extra-large nonstick skillet heat polenta pieces, in batches, over medium about 6 minutes or until heated through and lightly browned, turning once. Top with vegetable mixture. Serve with lime wedges.

Comments (34)

(5 from 14 votes)

Recipe Rating

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Argh, sorry - not for me I ended up throwing half of it away. Bland and soggy after baking. Perhaps I didn't do it right or it's just ingredients that I find palatable.


I agree with some of the previous reviews. This site seems to cook in the middle. Not good, not bad, just bland. I still appreciate the starting point, but I alway seasons my meals differently. With polenta I add the beans as well and jalepeno. For flavoring I add nutritional yeast, garlic/garlic powder and a little vinegar (apple cidar or white).


I cook polenta regularly the Italian way so this was a different and cool way for me to prepare it. It turned out nicely and was delicious.


has anyone used a square pan instead of the 13 x 9


Incorporated most of the suggestions of other chefs here and it was perfect. I also added fresh diced tomatoes, garlic and fire roasted corn to the salsa. It did make a ton (just two of us here) but we froze some bean cakes to take on our next camping trip! Using up both the 1/2 can of beans and all those veggies is not a problem. Roll them up in a tortilla for a quick lunch or snack. Thank you FOK for another great, easily customizable, recipe.

Paige Martin

Hi FOK! This sounds really delicious. Can you suggest a corn free option? I was considering millet? Thank you for all you are doing for the health of the human race! Amazing work!


Absolutely delicious! I substituted green onions for the cilantro in the polenta and it worked out really well!

Ann Marie Gambino

Yummy! This was a wonderful recipe. I did make some changes to the spice content after reading the reviews. I added 1/2 teaspoon of cumin and 1/4 teaspoon of smoked paprika and 1/2 teaspoon of Himalayan Pink salt to the polenta along with the chili powder. Also I added a good size zucchini with big chunks of garlic which I pan seared on the stove top with lime juice and bit of salt while the peppers and onions were roasting in the oven. Also I raised my oven temp to 425 degrees to make sure the peppers and onions were nicely roasted. One last thing I did was I added the extra 1/2 can of black beans to the zucchini mix and brought the beans up to temperature so it wasn't wasted and then mixed in the chopped lime roasted peppers and onions and cilantro and it was delicious. One more tip; I made the polenta the day before and let it set up nicely.


I ended up with so much polenta/bean that I could feed my neighborhood. Can you freeze squares of the polenta/bean cakes?

Jane Tarran

I loved this recipe and it was tasty with a few additions. Also added stock powder snd cumin to the polenta for more flavour. I added sweet corn chopped avocado and shredded baby spinach to the salsa to boost the veggie component and to add healthy fats. I will definitely make this again.


I really love this recipe for its versatility. I made the polenta cake as written, but added a few additional spices as suggested by others and a bit of nutritional yeast. I topped it with a mango, corn and tomato salsa. It’s so easy to change up and I am glad to have extra polenta cakes to freeze.


I too sometimes find the recipes on here a bit bland so I took the advice of others and cooked the polenta in vegetable broth and added a tsp of cumin. I loved it! I thought it was flavorful with a nice creamy texture. I will be making it again!

Cooking Healthfully

Dear Forks Over Knives, Thank you for this free recipe. It sounds great just as it is. How nice that creative people can use it as a base to build upon. I'm sure they appreciate it.


Lovely, thoughtful response. Thank you.


Why are so many Forks Over Knives recipes so bland? I always have to make the recipe as written and then figure out what it needs to taste like something. Made it tonight and first thing I will do next time is not waste two hours waiting for the polenta to gel--I will use the tube of polenta and just add beans to the veggie mix. Also I will add some Mexican spice blend to the veggies and more salt to the polenta.


I've noticed the same regarding the spice level. Good suggestions for my first time on this recipe.

Beth E

I suspect it is because you can always add more spice but you can't take it out. Especially salt. A lot of people following a WFPB lifestyle can't have sodium because of heart disease. Just add what you like to the next recipe.


I cooked the polenta in vegetable broth for more flavor and added some cumin. It was excellent!


Why do you create recipes using ½ can of beans….what do you do with the other ½ can except take up space in refrigerator? I’ll make this bc it reads interestingly, but jeez-o-Pete, wasting 1/2 can of beans???


I would do a bean hummus with the 1/2 can of beans.

Theresa Gibson

Make a double batch or just use the whole can!


I freeze left over beans, just run them under hot water in a strainer to thaw. I actually just cook all my beans from dried and sheet freeze. You can thaw as much as you need!


I bought two 15 oz cans of black beans, rinsed them, and used the entire two cans, which is a bit more than what was recommended. I used vegetable brother and will know soon if I should have added cumin. I did not see that recommendations. It looks like it makes a ton of polenta cakes. I tasted the polenta while it was cooking and now want to make it for breakfast. It was delicious.


Throw them on a salad the next day.


Why don't you list the nutritional information for the recipes?

Beth E

People following a WFPB lifestyle don't need to keep track of calories.

Karen Horn

Can I use cornmeal in place of the dry polenta?


I was wondering the same thing.. Or maybe white grits .


Cornmeal and polenta are the same. The only difference may be that cornmeal is a finer texture, but you should be able to find a slightly coarser meal. If not, it still makes a cooked polenta which is virtually the same texture and density. The option is to buy a large tube of pre-cooked polenta and mix in the beans and seasoning

Jean Bogardus

In step 4, can you reheat in oven or microwave if you don’t have non stick pan?

Linda Campbell

I use tube polenta grilled in my panini press. Then top with bean mixture.


Save the liquid to make chocolate aquafaba


Delicious! Love these lime roasted veggies.

About the Author

Headshot of Shelli McConnell

About the Author

Shelli McConnell

Shelli McConnell graduated with a bachelor of science in consumer food science and a minor in journalism from Iowa State University. She began her career as a home economist in the Better Homes & Gardens test kitchen before moving into an editorial position within DotDash Meredith. She has since freelanced for 25 years and has served as an editorial project manager for many books and magazines, including three editions of the Better Homes & Gardens New Cook Book. She has also developed thousands of recipes for publications including Forks Over Knives magazine; Eat This, Not That!; Diabetic Living; Better Homes & Gardens; The Magnolia Journal; and more. McConnell loves to entertain and inspire, so when she’s not in her office, she’s usually in her kitchen. Find her on LinkedIn.
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