Bacon Cheddar Baked Polenta Fries

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For a flavor-packed way to shake up the dinnertime routine, add Bacon Cheddar Baked Polenta Fries to the menu. It is an easy side dish recipe that is naturally gluten free and not a bit greasy since they aren’t fried. Just bake in the oven until they are perfectly crispy. Then add a little kick when you dip them in a simple Chipotle Aioli, or use your favorite dipping sauce.

bacon cheddar baked polenta fries on a piece of parchment paper with small bowls of chipotle aioli and minced chives

Crispy Baked Polenta Fries – Why You’ll Love Them

Fries might be a staple for many people, but polenta fries are a way to enjoy that crisp exterior with a soft inside texture that you love in a whole new way. It’s time to ditch the spuds and try a different flavor profile.

Speaking of flavor, unlike potatoes, since you have to cook the polenta, you have the opportunity to incorporate herbs, spices, and more tasty things before you transform them into golden little sticks of happiness.

In this recipe, there is some garlic, fresh thyme, and chives, though you can definitely change up the herbs and spices to add what you love. But the real bang for your buck comes from bacon and cheddar cheese. You know I love my cheesy finger foods like Cauliflower Tots and Quinoa Bites, so naturally, my family and I went crazy for these.

And since they are baked instead of fried, they aren’t greasy, and might even be, dare I say, even healthy! Plus, they are naturally gluten free!

polenta fries lined up on a baking sheet on top of a cooling rack and a striped napkin next to a small bowl of dipping sauce

What are polenta fries made of?

Polenta fries can be made out of the precooked tubes of polenta that you find in the grocery store. But since we are adding bacon and cheese here, you’ll start with quick-cooking polenta. Regular polenta typically requires about 40 minutes of cooking while stirring constantly. Quick-cooking polenta has been processed to make it cook more quickly, and helps speed up the process of making baked polenta fries.

Since polenta is made from corn, it is naturally gluten free. But there is the possibility that it is processed on equipment with other gluten-containing grains. So be sure to read the labels on the brand you buy if that is a concern for you. Colavita Polenta is manufactured in a dedicated allergy-friendly facility.

Colavita Polenta, 1 Pound

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Can you use cornmeal?

Polenta is technically ground corn, just like cornmeal. However, to be considered polenta, it is typically made from a specific variety of corn and often ground a little more coarse than cornmeal.

But yes, you could make this recipe with cornmeal, though I would recommend a medium or coarse grind for the right consistency. You may have to cook it a bit longer. Just follow the directions on the package, and don’t skip the step of letting it rest covered in the pan and chilling in the freezer.

Some cornmeal is processed on shared equipment with wheat or other gluten-containing grains, so do be sure that your cornmeal is gluten free and not cross-contaminated.

a pile of baked polenta fries and a hand dipping one into a bowl of aioli

Ingredients

  • Quick cooking polenta: Be sure it is gluten free, if needed. You can also use cornmeal, preferable a medium grind, though it will take a bit longer to cook.
  • Garlic: Mince a couple of fresh cloves, or substitute with garlic powder
  • Thyme leaves: Fresh is best, though you can use dried.
  • Fresh chives: Chop them nice and small.
  • Cheddar cheese: I like a good, sharp cheddar. Shredding it yourself is recomended versus buying pre-shredded cheese.
  • Bacon: Cook bacon until crispy then chop it. You can also use turkey bacon or even bacon bits, though it won’t have quite as strong of that salty smoky flavor.
  • Salt and pepper: To taste.
  • Olive oil and/or nonstick cooking spray: It is important to coat your pan well, and you’ll also want a light coating on the polenta fries before baking.
bowls of uncooked polenta, shredded cheese, garlic, chives, and fresh thyme and bacon on a paper towel-lined plate

How To Make Baked Polenta Fries

Make the polenta from scratch: Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Whisk in the polenta, garlic, thyme, chives, cheddar cheese, bacon, and salt and pepper. Stir until the polenta is thick, about 3 minutes, or as directed on your package of polenta. Turn the heat off, cover the saucepan, and let the polenta sit for 5 minutes.

Shape and chill: Line an 8×8 square baking dish with parchment paper. Scoop the polenta into the baking dish and spread it into an even layer. Freeze it for 15 minutes.

Slice into fries: Coat a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray or olive oil. Lift the polenta out of the baking dish and cut into fries about ¼ inch thick. Place the polenta fries on the greased baking sheet and gently toss with olive oil or spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray, and give them a sprinkle of salt.

Bake until crispy: Spread the fries in an even layer. Bake in a 425°F oven for 30 minutes, flipping once halfway through.

How to Store and Reheat Leftovers

Refrigerate: Baked polenta fries can be stored for up to 2 days in the refrigerator. Just place them in an airtight container or cover them with plastic wrap once they are completely cooled. If any moisture collects on them, dab it with a paper towel.

Freeze: You can freeze the polenta fries either before or after you bake them. I recommend leaving them spread apart on a baking sheet until they freeze solid, and then transfer to a plastic freezer storage bag. Let thaw briefly on a greased sheet pan before baking or reheating. They will be best if enjoyed within 1 month.

Reheat: Preheat the oven to 400°F and place the polenta fries on a baking sheet. Reheat for 15-20 minutes.

polenta fries piled on a piece of parchment with one of the fries dunked into a small dish of a dipping sauce

Dips for Polenta Fries

There are so many possibilities for dunking these Baked Polenta Fries. Here are some ideas:

Chipotle Aioli

But to really spice things up, we love this easy aioli. Just combine the following ingredients in a bowl and stir until smooth, then store in the refrigerator until you need it:

  • Mayonnaise: If you want to lighten it up, you can use Greek yogurt plus a bit of olive oil
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Chipotles in adobo sauce: Be sure to comfirm the brand you use is gluten free, if needed. La Costena and Goya are two brands to look for.
  • Smoked paprika
  • Garlic powder 
bowls of mayonnaise and chipotles in adobo sauce, bottles of smoked paprika and garlic powder, and a piece of a fresh lemon sitting on a striped cloth napkin

Tips for Success

Let it chill: The directions call for freezing the cooked polenta briefly so that it firms up enough to cut into fries. Don’t skip this step or the polenta may not cut cleanly.

Make them in advance: But if you are going to prepare the polenta a day or two before you plan to bake it, then you can just put the baking pan with the polenta in the refrigerator until you are ready to slice and bake.

Try variations: Use different herbs or spices, try another cheese, and even omit the bacon for a meatless version.

Make them in the air fryer: You can also cook the polenta fries in the air fryer at 400°F for about 15 minutes or until crispy and golden. Be sure to spray the basket with cooking spray before placing the polenta fries inside, and cook in batches to avoid overcrowding. 

a small bowl of chipotle aioli on a piece of parchment paper surrounded by polenta fries and minced chives

Make it a Meal

Bacon Cheddar Polenta Fries are definitely a fun party appetizer or game day snack. But of course, they are great as an easy gluten free side dish to your favorite dinners.

What to Serve with Polenta Fries
parchment paper on a cooling rack with baked polenta fries laying on it next to bowls of dipping sauce and chopped chives

Bacon Cheddar Baked Polenta Fries

For a flavor-packed way to shake up the dinnertime routine, add Bacon Cheddar Baked Polenta Fries to the menu. It is an easy side dish recipe that is naturally gluten free. Add a little kick when you dip them in a simple Chipotle Aioli, or use your favorite dipping sauce.
Prep: 25 mins
Cook: 30 mins
Servings: 6 servings

Ingredients

For the polenta fries:

  • 1 cup quick cooking polenta
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced of 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh thyme leaves of 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh chives
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 3 strips of bacon, cooked and chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • Nonstick cooking spray

For the chipotle aioli:

  • ½ cup mayonnaise or 1/2 cup Greek yogurt plus 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ lemon, juiced
  • 1-2 chipotles in adobo sauce, minced
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder

Instructions

For the polenta fries:

  • Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Adjust heat to medium and whisk in the polenta, garlic, thyme, chives, cheddar cheese, bacon, and salt and pepper. Stir until the polenta is thick, about 3 minutes. Turn the heat off, cover the saucepan, and let the polenta sit for 5 minutes.
  • Line an 8×8-inch square baking dish with parchment paper. Scoop the polenta into the baking dish and spread it into an even layer. Freeze it for 15 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 425°F and spray a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray or coat with olive oil.
  • Lift the polenta out of the baking dish and cut into fries about ¼ inch thick. Place the polenta fries on a greased baking sheet and gently toss with olive oil and a sprinkle of salt, or spray them lightly with nonstick cooking spray and sprinkle with salt. Spread the fries in an even layer. Bake for 30 minutes, flipping halfway through the cooking time.
  • Sprinkle the cooked polenta fries with chives and serve with chipotle aioli.

For the chipotle aioli:

  • Mix together the mayonnaise, lemon juice, chipotles, smoked paprika, and garlic powder until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Nutrition Facts
Bacon Cheddar Baked Polenta Fries
Amount Per Serving (1 serving of polenta fries plus about 2 Tablespoons aioli)
Calories 311 Calories from Fat 189
% Daily Value*
Fat 21g32%
Saturated Fat 5g25%
Trans Fat 1g
Polyunsaturated Fat 9g
Monounsaturated Fat 6g
Cholesterol 22mg7%
Sodium 251mg10%
Potassium 108mg3%
Carbohydrates 23g8%
Fiber 1g4%
Sugar 1g1%
Protein 7g14%
Vitamin A 398IU8%
Vitamin C 9mg11%
Calcium 85mg9%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

More polenta recipes

I love using polenta since it is naturally gluten free. You won’t believe what you can make with it.

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