Black Beans and Polenta for vegans, vegetarians, and omnivores

Sometimes you just want a quickie.

You want it fast and spicy with enough textural action to keep things interesting on the tongue. Bonus points if all parties come to the table looking hot and tasty.

Yes, we’re talking dinner here.

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Now perhaps said quickie involves people who don’t like it exactly the same way you do — say one of you is a vegan, one’s a vegetarian, and the other’s a carnivore.

A three-way quickie, you ask?

Oh yeah — you can get this filling and flavourful black bean and polenta entree on the table in under 30 minutes, and yes that’s IF you’re making it ALL 3 ways.

Black Beans + Polenta | Vegan Version
Black Beans and Polenta | Vegetarian Version
Black Beans + Polenta | Carnivore Version

If you’re just making it for yourself or for a homogenous group, it’s going to be even faster.

Big picture, this is made in four really quick jaunts, three if you’re not a bacon-eater.

Jaunt one has you toasting spices in a frying pan, stirring in some tomato paste and then adding in the black beans. Done. Leave that on the back burner to cook for 5 minutes or so, while you start the second quick jaunt.

Now, you’re grating cheese, slicing avocado, and rummaging through the fridge for your salsa and sour cream. That’s jaunt two. Over already.

The third jaunt, grilling your polenta — is fast, just 2 minutes a side.

Meanwhile, if you’re a carnivore, this whole time you’ve been crisping up a few rashers of bacon on the side. Along with some of its luscious smoky fat, you’ll stir that into your beans just before serving.

All in all, we’re talking 20 minutes tops before you’ll be heaping your plates with spicy black beans, crispy polenta rounds, buttery avocado and/or cheese and garnishes of your favourite salsa and {vegan} sour cream.

Welcome to not not nutritious!

We like making three-ways easier. Actually let’s rephrase that. We just like making cooking easier.

Black Beans and Polenta
Prep Time
5 mins
Cook Time
8 mins
Total Time
13 mins

A quick and easy entree made with black beans, garlic, chili, and smoky paprika and topped with crispy polenta rounds. Vegan with easy vegetarian and omnivore options.  

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican, North American
Keyword: beans and polenta, black beans, easy entree, quick mexican dinner, vegan entree, vegetarian entree
Diet: omnivore, reducetarian, vegan, vegetarian
Servings: 3
Author: Sylvia Eastman
  • 2 cups black beans, cooked {Save the liquid for another recipe. See Recipe Notes}
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • salt {to taste}
  • 1/3 polenta round
  • 1/2 tablespoon oil
  • 2-3 slices bacon {optional, per meat-eater}
  • cheese, grated {optional, for serving}
  • sour cream or plain yogurt {optional, for serving}
  • avocado, sliced {optional, for serving}
  • salsa {optional, for serving}
  • 1 tablespoon cilantro {optional, for garnish}
  1. If you’re making the carnivore version, use scissors to slice the bacon into 2 inch strips. Heat a heavy pan and fry the bacon until your desired level of crispiness and set aside.

  2. Meanwhile, get the black beans going: 

    In a large cast-iron pan, heat the oil, then add in the spices and let cook for a few minutes, stirring.

    Add in the tomato paste and 2 tablespoons of water and stir until well-combined. Stir in the beans. Let cook over medium heat while you are grilling the polenta and prepping your toppings. Add an extra tablespoon or two of water if it starts to dry out. It won’t be saucy, the beans are just lightly coated.

    Add salt to taste.

  3. Sort out your toppings (slice avocado, grate cheese, find salsa and sour cream, etc.)

  4. Grill the polenta:

    Brush a heavy grill pan with oil and heat over medium heat until sizzling. {Note, if you are a carnivore-only crew, use some of your bacon fat for this.}

    Grill each side for 2 minutes until slightly browned and crunchy.

  5. To assemble, heap a pile of beans on your plate, top with polenta rounds, and then your choice of garnishes. Enjoy!

    If you've made the bacon, separate out enough beans for the carnivores in your group and stir it into the beans along with a little bit of the bacon fat. 

Recipe Notes

Recipe Notes

  • Save the liquid from cooking the black beans, or the liquid from the can. It's called aquafaba and it can be used to replace eggs in baked goods. You can freeze it if you don't plan on using it right away. 
  • If you don't have polenta, you could serve this topped with some corn chips.
  • If you don't have tomato paste you can substitute with some ketchup. 
  • If you are all carnivores, cook the bacon first, then scoop out a bit of bacon fat to fry the polenta in in a separate pan. Add the beans and spices to the pan with the cooked bacon. 


# eating together made easy

One of not not’s mission’s is to make eating together easy. What does that mean? It means providing recipes that allow you to easily serve a mixed crowd, from plant-based eaters to reducetarians and omnivores. So come back often to check out our three-ways, entrees like Lemony Pasta with Peas and Arugula; Toasted Quinoa with Smoky Tomato Sauce and Toppings and Simple Black Bean Chili. Maybe you’re looking for a two-way, like our tasty-Thai inspired Butternut Squash Green Curry that can be made either vegan or carnivore, or some tummy-warming Moon Milk Farina, that easily swings vegan or vegetarian.

Of course, all these recipes can just be made one way, whatever way YOU like it!

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