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Savoury Polenta Cake With Zucchini

This delicious and juicy savoury polenta cake with zucchini and onions makes a great side-dish or even a tasty snack on its own. It is vegan, can easily be made gluten-free, and you can make it with many different kinds of seasonal vegetables.

savoury vegan polenta cake

Ingredients for the savoury polenta cake with vegetables

To make this easy vegan polenta cake, you will need:

  • Zucchini
  • Red onions ot shallots
  • Thick soy yoghurt (naturally fermented)
  • Polenta or coarse cornmeal
  • Himalayan salt or seasalt
  • Spelt flour or fine rice flour
  • Bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Tamari or other naturally fermented soy sauce
  • Olive oil

This polenta cake is actually a variation of traditional Croatian corn cake zlevanka – in a savoury version with vegetables. Many of my friends love this dish so much, so I usually make it quite a few times throughout summer. 

savoury vegan polenta cake

Which veggies can I use to make this cake?

Although zucchini is my absolute favourite vegetable to use in this polenta cake, I sometimes also like to use fresh paprikas – in that case I just shortly sauté them together with onions. You can use other vegetables as well, just make sure that you always reduce their water content before adding them to the dough mixture, to prevent the cake from turning mushy when baked. 

This time I went for zucchini and sweet red onions, but some other vegetables that I would recommend for this corn cake recipe would be leeks, shallots, red bell peppers, or even some softer types of squash – such as butternut variety.

savoury vegan polenta cake

Choosing the best cornmeal or polenta

As for the choice of cornmeal – this savoury corn cake will work well both with instant polenta and traditional long-cooking polenta, as well as if you simply use a coarse cornmeal. Since it will be baked for long enough, any of the mentioned will have enough time to soak up the liquid and bake evenly.

However, the instant polenta will give you the most tender and juicy result. You can try it out with different types of cornmeal and see which texture you prefer. All of them are amazing in my opinion, so it is more a matter of personal taste. 

The only cornmeal that will not work in this case is a really fine one (the one that you would normally use for making bread). Fine cornmeal would not give this cake its nice texture, but would instead just make it turn out too mushy.

savoury vegan polenta cake

Gluten-free option

Since this cake is mostly cornmeal anyway, the small amount of spelt flour used in the recipe can easily be substituted with some fine rice flour. Rice is my favourite choice for the gluten-free version, because it is smooth but not too mushy (as, for example, oats would be).

It might be a tiny bit less compact in the version without spelt flour, but it will still be perfectly fine for slicing and everything else (it won’t fall apart!).

Tips for preparing the vegetables

As I already mentioned, the vegetables used in this savoury polenta cake need to be dried out a bit before being mixed into the batter, to prevent the cake from turning mushy during and after baking.

For that reason, I like to grate the zucchini or slice it really thin, mix it with a pinch or two of salt and leave for ten to fifteen minutes to lose water. Then I’ll squeeze it and separate from the liquid. If the zucchini was not bitter, that same liquid can be used in the recipe for making the polenta batter, as described in the recipe below.

As for other vegetables, such as onions or paprika – I usually sauté them on a pan for a minute or so, to lose some water while still keeping some if their crispy texture (don’t overcook them; we still want them to be somewhat juicy after baking the polenta cake).

savoury vegan polenta cake

Storing and reheating the savoury polenta cake

The cake can be stored for a day or two at room temperature, or more days in the fridge. It can be eaten cold or reheated. I find it practical to slice it in advance, transfer into a container and store in the fridge; when I need a slice, I just reheat it on a dry pan over a low heat before serving.

Yield: 20 cm × 20 cm cake mould (8 portions)

Savoury Vegan Polenta Cake

Savoury Vegan Polenta Cake

With this easy recipe you can make a delicious savoury vegan polenta or cornmeal cake with seasonal vegetables.

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Additional Time 10 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • 500 g zucchini (17.6 oz, or 3 + 1/2 cup* grated)
  • 300-350 g red onions (10.6-12.3 oz, or 2 cups coarsely chopped)
  • 400 g thick soy yoghurt (14 oz, or 1 cup)
  • 100 g coarse cornmeal or polenta (3.5 oz, or 1/2 cup + 1 tbsp)
  • 40 g spelt flour** (1.4 oz, or 2 heaping tbsp)
  • 1 pinch bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp Himalayan salt
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp tamari
  • 100 ml olive oil (3.4 fl. oz, or 1/3 cup)

Instructions

  1. Grate the zucchini, or slice it with a mandolin slicer and then chop with a knife into fine strips. 
  2. Add 2 generous pinches of Himalayan salt, mix and let it sit for about 10 minutes so that the zucchini loses water. 
  3. Chop the onions and sauté them on a pan with some oil over a medium heat, until they turn translucent (don't overcook them - for this recipe we don't want them to turn golden). 
  4. Mix the cornmeal, spelt flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl. 
  5. Squeeze the salted zucchini with your hands to strain as much of their liquid as you can. Do not throw all this liquid - we will use it for the batter.*** 
  6. Pour that liquid in a separate bowl and add the soy yoghurt, olive oil, tamari and vinegar, and combine everything well with a whisk. 
  7. Pour the liquid ingredient mixture into the bowl with dry ingredients and whisk well to combine. 
  8. Add the zucchini and sautéed onions and whisk or mix with a spoon. 
  9. Pour the batter into a cake mould and bake on 180 °C for around 45 minutes, or until it turns a bit golden on top. 
  10. Wait for the cake to cool down a bit before slicing.

Notes

* I measured everything using a 300 ml cup, which is a bit bigger than a standard cup

** for a gluten-free option, you can substitute spelt flour with fine rice flour

*** I normally buy seasonal and organic vegetables, so the zucchini that I use rarely tastes bitter. That is why I like to use the leftover juice in the polenta batter. If your zucchini has a bitter taste, you can simply substitute that liquid in the recipe with water.

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