Coated with Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs and Parmesan, these pan-fried polenta slices make a quick appetizer or small plate. They're delicious served with marinara sauce and basil pesto as dipping sauces.
Most of the time there's a tube of polenta hanging around my pantry. Inexpensive and with a considerable shelf-life when unopened, it's a versatile ingredient that can become shortcut creamy polenta, but can also be cooked in its solid form.
This iteration here, pan-fried polenta slices, just may be my favorite way to prepare and serve it. SUPER easy (just slice, coat, and pan fry), these crisped up slices become the perfect vehicles for enjoying pesto and/or marinara sauce when you serve them alongside.
Note: The photos in this post have been updated in July 2022 to focus on the pan-fried polenta, not an extra pesto recipe. There are no changes to the recipe, but there are additional instructions if you'd like to make these polenta slices in the air fryer.
- Tubed polenta: This is already fully-cooked and shelf-stable, though I've seen it stocked in the refrigerated area near the tofu in grocery stores. It can sometimes also be found in the dry pasta aisle.
- Italian breadcrumbs: These provide the right amount of seasoning to the breading. If all you have are regular breadcrumbs, add an Italian seasoning blend (dried basil, oregano, parsley, garlic/onion powders, etc.) to flavor them up.
- Parmesan: You can also use another hard Italian cheese, such as Pecorino Romano. Grating it yourself is recommended for the freshest flavor, though pre-shredded tubs from the refrigerated deli section are also good.
- Egg: Adding one Tablespoon of water while beating the egg thins it out some so that it coats each polenta slice without becoming gloopy.
- Oil: I use about two Tablespoons of olive oil for cooking the polenta slices, though you can use your preferred neutral-tasting pan frying oil.
- Slice the tube of polenta into half-inch thick slices. As it's very dense, it will hold its shape very well. You'll end up with around eight full slices per tube, plus two slightly smaller end pieces.
- Working with one slice at a time, submerge it fully in the bowl of beaten egg and water, and then press it into the bowl with the breadcrumb/Parmesan mixture. Press until it's coated entirely.
- Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once well-heated, add a single layer of breaded polenta slices to the pan, leaving space between them. You'll have to pan fry them in several batches. Cook for several minutes or until the bottom side is golden-brown. Flip and repeat until the other side is golden-brown as well.
- Transfer the pan-fried polenta slices to a paper-towel lined plate to absorb any excess oil. Repeat the process with the remaining slices.
- Serve warm with pesto and/or marinara sauce for dipping.
Recipe Tips and Tricks
- When breading, it's less messy if you reserve one hand for dipping each slice into the egg, and the other for dipping into the breadcrumb/Parmesan. This way the wet hand doesn't get completely coated with breading.
- Store leftover polenta slices separately from any dipping sauces.
- Fried polenta slices are best reheated in the oven to restore their crispness. Place them on an oven-safe rack set over a baking sheet so the air can circulate around them. While the microwave will certainly heat them again quickly, they'll become a bit soggy.
Alternate Method: Air Fryer Polenta
With the same breading, fried polenta slices come out beautifully in the air fryer with no oil necessary.
Spray your air fryer basket with non-stick spray, then place in as many breaded polenta slices that can fit in a single layer. Spritz the tops of them with olive oil spray. Air fry at 375°F for 7-8 minutes, then flip, spray with olive oil, and air fry again until golden-brown and crisp. After the flip may only take around 4-5 minutes, but every air fryer works differently.
I made air fried polenta slices alongside the traditional and thought they were really, really similar. It's a great option if you prefer not to use more oil.
If you’ve enjoyed this recipe, I’d love for you to leave a star rating in the recipe card and/or a comment review below!
Pan-Fried Polenta Slices
- 1 18-ounce tube (510g) prepared polenta
- 1 large egg
- 1 Tablespoon water
- ¼ cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese or Pecorino Romano
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil more if needed
- Pesto sauce for serving
- Marinara sauce for serving
- Remove the tube of polenta from its packaging and blot it dry if necessary. Slice it into rounds about a half-inch thick. You'll end up with around eight full-size slices and two smaller end slices.
- Add the egg and water to a shallow bowl and whisk until beaten and combined. In a separate bowl, stir together breadcrumbs and grated Parmesan.
- Dip a polenta slice into the egg, taking care to cover all sides. Lift the slice up and let any excess egg drip off back into the bowl.
- Press the slice into the with the breadcrumb/Parmesan mixture, taking care to press the breadcrumbs/Parmesan into the top, bottom, and sides of the slice.
- Add 2 Tablespoons of olive oil to a large skillet and heat over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add enough polenta slices in a single layer as will fit in the pan with some space between them. You'll likely need to cook them in a few batches.
- Cook for several minutes, until the bottoms are golden-brown. Flip and cook until the other side is golden-brown. Once done, remove from the skillet and place them on a paper towel-lined plate to absorb any excess oil.
- Serve warm with pesto and/or marinara dipping sauces.
- When breading, reserving one hand for dipping into the wet (egg) and another for dipping into the dry (breading mixture) helps minimize the mess and your hands from becoming coated themselves.
- Reheat leftover fried polenta slices by placing them on an oven-safe rack set over a baking sheet and baking them until warmed and crisp again.
- Spray air fryer basket with non-stick spray, then place the polenta rounds in it in a single layer with some space between them.
- Spritz the rounds with olive oil spray.
- Air fry at 375°F for 7-8 minutes, then flip each round over. Spray the now-tops of them with olive oil spray.
- Air fry again for an additional 4-5 minutes, or until both sides are golden-brown and crisp.
Nutritional information is provided as an estimate. As it can vary due to many factors (brands used, quantities, etc.), we cannot guarantee its accuracy.Food Safety and Nutrition Disclaimer