Virtual Vegan Potluck: Lemon Thyme Polenta Bites with Arugula Pesto & Mushrooms

Lemon Thyme Polenta Bites with Arugula Pesto & Mushrooms

Hello and welcome to the 2014 Virtual Vegan Potluck!  I’m so excited to be part of the VVP this year and want to give a huge shout-out to Annie, Angela and Poppy for organizing this worldwide virtual foodie event!  Be sure to check out all the awesome vegan recipes by way of the Go Forward/Go Backward buttons at the bottom of this post.  You can also go back and start at the beginning of the potluck chain.  Have fun, get hungry and enjoy!

This dish is part of the appetizer course and uses the VVP featured ingredient: citrus.  The polenta bites are infused with lemon zest and fresh thyme; a magical combo!  The arugula pesto also gets a lemony boost by using the juice from the zested lemon.  To compliment the bright, fresh flavor of lemon, the mushrooms are cooked in white wine after first being browned in olive oil.  (If wine ain’t your thang, you can certainly use vegetable stock.)  Thyme is added to the mushrooms to bring the flavors full circle.  The lemon and arugula are refreshing and zippy while the thyme and mushrooms are earthy and comforting.

Get the kids involved!  The polenta is cut into shapes with cookie cutters, a great task for the kiddos!  And one of the best parts is that the polenta and pesto can be made a day ahead – then just bake off the polenta bites and cook the mushrooms.  Easy and delicious!

Lemon Thyme Polenta Bites with Arugula Pesto & Mushrooms

To make the polenta: cornmeal is cooked in salted boiling water for 5 minutes, then lemon zest, thyme, vegan butter, nutritional yeast flakes and cashew milk are added.  So creamy and so much flavor!

Lemon Thyme Polenta Bites with Arugula Pesto & Mushrooms

Spread out the cooked polenta onto a parchment-lined baking sheet that’s been sprayed with cooking spray.  Chill for 4 hours (or overnight) then invert onto a cutting board and cut into shapes.

Lemon Thyme Polenta Bites with Arugula Pesto & Mushrooms

I went with 2-inch circles, 1 1/2-inch circles and bite-sized squares, but the possibilities are endless!  Place them on an oiled baking sheet, brush the tops with oil, and bake until golden brown and crisp, flipping them over once.

Lemon Thyme Polenta Bites with Arugula Pesto & Mushrooms

This arugula pesto is very simple: just blend arugula, lemon juice, garlic, and a pinch of sugar together in a food processor.  Stream in olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Lemon Thyme Polenta Bites with Arugula Pesto & Mushrooms

Mushrooms!  The mushrooms are browned in olive oil, then cooked in white wine (or vegetable stock).  Fresh thyme and vegan butter are added at the end to give them an herbal glaze.

Lemon Thyme Polenta Bites with Arugula Pesto & Mushrooms

I don’t know if there’s a more lovely aroma than thyme-scented, wine-soaked mushrooms.  I wish electronic scratch-and-sniff technology existed!

Lemon Thyme Polenta Bites with Arugula Pesto & Mushrooms

Time to assemble: dollop each polenta bite with pesto…

Lemon Thyme Polenta Bites with Arugula Pesto & Mushrooms

…then add a mushroom or two (or three, depending on size), and garnish with fresh thyme leaves and lemon zest.

Lemon Thyme Polenta Bites with Arugula Pesto & Mushrooms

They’re the perfect size.  And they’ll disappear faster than you can say Lemon Thyme Polenta Bites with Arugula Pesto and Mushrooms!  Phew…

Lemon Thyme Polenta Bites with Arugula Pesto & Mushrooms

Thank you for stopping by!  You can continue forward to the next dish in the Potluck by sweetveg or go back and check out the dish before mine by Robin Robertson’s Global Vegan Kitchen.  Or, start at the beginning with Vegan Miam.  Happy Potlucking!

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Lemon Thyme Polenta Bites with Arugula Pesto & Mushrooms

  • Servings: makes 24 - 34 pieces
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print
For the Polenta:

1 cup cornmeal
3 cups water
1/2 – 1 teaspoon course salt, plus more for salting water
3/4 cup cashew milk (or other dairy-free milk)
2 Tablespoons vegan butter
1 Tablespoon nutritional yeast flakes
zest of 1 lemon (juice will be used in the pesto), plus more for garnish
1 heaped teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
extra virgin olive oil

Line a 9 x 13-inch rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray; set aside.  In a medium saucepan, bring water and 2 pinches of course salt to a boil.  Slowly whisk in the cornmeal.  Lower heat to medium-low and cook for 5 minutes, whisking continuously.  Add cashew milk, vegan butter, yeast flakes, lemon zest, thyme leaves and 1/2 teaspoon of course salt and whisk until well incorporated.  Taste and add more salt if needed.

Pour the polenta onto the prepared baking sheet and spread into an even layer with an offset spatula or the back of a spoon.  Try to get it as even and smooth as possible, but it doesn’t have to be perfect because the top will become the bottom after it’s inverted.  Chill for 4 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Brush a large 11 x 17-inch baking sheet (or two smaller ones) with olive oil.  Invert the chilled polenta onto a cutting board and cut out bite-sized shapes with cookie/biscuit cutters or cut into small squares.  Place them on the baking sheet and brush the tops with olive oil.  Bake for 20 minutes, flip pieces over, and continue baking until crisp and golden brown, about 15 – 20 more minutes.  Meanwhile, make the arugula pesto and mushrooms.

For the Arugula Pesto:
(this amount makes extra pesto)

3 ounces arugula (could also use basil or kale)
juice of 1 lemon
2 cloves of garlic
pinch of sugar
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

In a food processor, add the arugula, lemon juice, garlic and sugar and process until finely chopped.  With the motor running, slowly pour in the olive oil through the feed tube until the desired consistency is reached (you don’t want it too oily; just enough to make a loose paste).  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Pesto can be kept in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

For the Mushrooms:

1 pound sliced cremini or white mushrooms
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup dry white wine (or vegetable stock)
1/4 teaspoon course salt
1 Tablespoon vegan butter
1/4 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, plus more for garnish

In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add mushrooms and cook for 3 – 5 minutes without touching.  Stir and cook for another 3 – 5 minutes without touching again.  Add the salt and continue to cook until browned, about 2 – 3 more minutes.  Pour in the wine (or stock) to deglaze the pan and cook until all liquid is evaporated and the mushrooms are cooked through, about 10 minutes (add water if needed to finish cooking mushrooms through).  Add butter and thyme and stir to coat the mushrooms.  Season with salt to taste.


Place the polenta bites on a platter, add a small dollop of the pesto on top of each one (about 1/2 – 1 teaspoon), and top with 1 – 3 mushrooms, depending on size.  Sprinkle with thyme leaves and lemon zest.  Enjoy!

51 thoughts on “Virtual Vegan Potluck: Lemon Thyme Polenta Bites with Arugula Pesto & Mushrooms

  1. So pretty and yummy! Some of my favorite flavors. Thanks so much for being a part of the Potluck!

  2. I have to make these! They look amazinggggg!!! Yum!

  3. This recipe looks delicious! I love everything about it…polenta…pesto…lemon & thyme…and mushrooms ❤ such a great combination!!

  4. Yum! These are so pretty. I want one right now. I love your flavor combination.

  5. So cute! Love your “how to pics” 🙂

  6. Oh wow, they look amazing! Happy VVP!!

  7. These look amazing! Perfect for a holiday party!

  8. Okay, I am totally NOT a mushroom gal – but I can totally appreciate how delicious these must be.. and super pretty, too! An awesome finger food. Happy VVP!

  9. I have never ever cooked polenta since I have heard horror story of it being made incorrectly, this one seems pretty easy and looks amazing! Can I just eat them all for dinner instead and not share with my guests? Or is that being a bad host?? Haha! Great contribution to VVP!

  10. Just wow! So much yum in these little bites!

  11. All of the flavors you described sound so delicious! And what an absolutely beautiful and elegant plate this makes. Thanks so much for sharing!

  12. ramsonsandbramble

    Yum! I love polenta, mushrooms and pesto. So this definitely fits the bill. Great step-by-step photos!

  13. What a perfect little party appetizer! So cute!

  14. Shut up – these look amazing! This recipe uses pretty much all of my favorite flavors with mushrooms and lemon and thyme….. I just ate and I’m salivating. This is a mega baller entry for the VVP. Yum yum!

  15. These sounds so delicious!! Love polenta, mushrooms and pesto! Definitely going on my list! Great job!

  16. […] If you get lost somewhere along the way, just head back to The Virtual Vegan Potluck to find your place again. At the bottom of this page are links forward to Juicy Dishes by Mind Your Mind and back to the Seasonal Veg Head. […]

  17. Ohhhh yummy!! I need to try this asap.

  18. Those look delicious! I bet that my son would really like cutting polenta shapes, too. Happy VVP!

  19. The arugula pesto sounds great and lemon and thyme sounds like a killer combo. Thanks for sharing & Happy Virtual Vegan Potluck!

  20. Beautiful presentation, thank you for the recipe!

  21. […] Lemon-Thyme Polenta Bites with Arugula Pesto and Mushrooms from Seasonal Veg Head Vegan Dilled Ceviche from Veggie […]

  22. These look so simple to make and super delicious! I love the arugula pesto. I don’t make savoury polenta often enough. Most of the time I use polenta for pudding. This one is definitely on my list of saved appetisers!

  23. […] Lemon Thyme Polenta Bites with Arugula Mushroom Pesto {the seasonal veg head} […]

  24. Oh wow! These are beautiful!! And look delicious! What a great idea! Thank you!

  25. These look just lovely! Polenta is always such a treat.

  26. […] Lemon Thyme Polenta Bites with Argula Pesto & Mushrooms from the Seasonal Veg Head […]

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