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garlic chicken legs with polenta in a serving bowl
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Last Updated on 24/03/2020 by Adina


A simple recipe for stewed chicken and polenta with garlic, a delicious polenta dish, full of comfort and flavor.







These garlic stewed chicken legs served over polenta are delightful! A dish that is easy to make, needs only three main ingredients but has so much flavor.

A typical Romanian dish – pui cu usturoi si mamaliga – chicken with garlic and polenta, this recipe is a great example of the simplicity of the Romanian kitchen, which always had to make the most of few and cheap ingredients.


Garlic Chicken with Polenta



Polenta is a dish made from medium or coarsely ground yellow corn kernels. It is made by cooking the cornmeal in salted water. You could also cook polenta in stock or a mixture of water and milk.

Types of cornmeal for polenta:

Cornmeal comes in different textures: fine, medium or coarse.

Fine cornmeal:

  • It is not really suitable for making polenta, I tried once – it was not good.
  • You can use fine cornmeal to make porridge, cornbread, pancakes or tortillas or to bread chicken, meat or fish.

Medium cornmeal:

  • I usually prefer the medium cornmeal/polenta, it has a shorter cooking time than coarse cornmeal, but it tastes just as good.
  • It should be ready in about 15-20 minutes.

Coarse cornmeal:

  • It is perfect for making polenta as well but has a longer cooking time – 40 to 50 minutes – compared to the polenta made of medium ground cornmeal.

Instant polenta:

  • There is also the instant polenta, which is ready in no time. I cannot say how that is as instant polenta is not available around here.

Precooked polenta:

  • And there is the precooked polenta, which is vacuum packed. I bought it once while on holiday in Italy.
  • It was fine to eat, but not as tasty as regular polenta, it had a pretty strong artificial/plastic aftertaste.
  • The only way I found to use that polenta was to cut it into thick slices and fry the slices in butter.

Polenta cooking times:

As already mentioned the different kinds of cornmeal have different cooking times, coarse cornmeal takes the longest to cook while instant cornmeal is ready in a couple of minutes.

ALWAYS check the packet’s instructions when you cook polenta. The cooking times differ not only from one type of cornmeal to another but also from one brand of cornmeal/polenta to another.





Polenta is very easy to cook:

  • Measure the amount of water you need.
  • For regular polenta, you will need 250 g/ 8.8 oz/ 1 2/3 cups medium cornmeal, 1 liter/ 2.1 pints/ 4 ¼ cups water and 1 teaspoon fine sea salt.
  • For softer polenta (the kind you need for this polenta chicken), you will need 250 g/ 8.8 oz/ 1 2/3 cups medium cornmeal and 1120 ml/ 2.4 pints/ 4 2/3 cups water and 1 teaspoon fine sea salt.
  • Pour the water into a large, deep, preferably non-stick pot. Bring to a simmer, add the salt.
  • Slowly start adding the cornmeal in an even stream, while whisking continuously.
  • Continue whisking for a half a minute or so until there are no polenta clumps to see anymore.
  • Reduce the heat to medium-low.
  • Cover the pot leaving a crack open and cook the polenta according to the packet’s instructions while stirring often with a wooden spoon.
  • Stir in the butter, optional, but great.


  • Once the polenta is cool it will become sturdy, so you cannot reheat it by stirring it again in the pot.
  • The only way of reheating polenta is to cut into slice and fry or grill these slices. They are wonderful served with sour cream or yogurt, tomato sauce, goulash, stews and so on.





  • Remove the skin from the chicken quarters. The chicken will be stewed and the skin will become soggy if you let it on the chicken. That is not nice!
  • Cut the chicken quarters at the joint, to separate the chicken thighs from the chicken drumsticks. Or use already separated chicken drumsticks and chicken thighs.
  • Heat the oil in a large heavy-bottomed pan. The pan should be large enough to hold all the chicken pieces in one layer.
  • Brown the chicken parts in oil. Add the paprika and stir to coat the chicken.
  • Add the stock, you will need just enough to cover the chicken pieces almost entirely, but they should not be swimming in liquid, the top of the chicken parts should still be out of the liquid.
  • Add half of the chopped parsley.
  • Turn the heat down to medium-low, put the lid on the pot leaving a crack open and cook for about 30 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Turn the chicken parts in the sauce once during the cooking time.
  • The sauce should reduce by half during the cooking time. If you want a thicker sauce, remove the lid from the pot during the last 5 minutes of the cooking time. I don’t find it necessary, I like to have a runnier sauce to soak the polenta.
  • Add the grated garlic and the remaining parsley and cook for one more minute.
  • Serve the garlic chicken stew over the freshly cooked polenta.



The traditional Romanian way of serving polenta chicken would be with pickled vegetables, my first choice would be green tomato pickles, but you can choose your favorite pickles as well.

Alternatively, serve the polenta chicken with a salad with yogurt dressing, cucumber dill salad or white cabbage salad.



HOW TO COOK BASIC POLENTA – MAMALIGA – how to cook basic polenta or Romanian mamaliga, creamy or sturdy.

POLENTA PIZZA – a gluten-free, healthier alternative to pizza: a cheesy polenta pizza that you can top with just about anything you like.

POLENTA AND CHEESE BALLS – soft on the inside, crispy on the outside: polenta balls rolled with feta cheese and sausages.

POLENTA CHIPS – crispy, spicy, low-fat, gluten-free and utterly delicious homemade polenta chips.

POLENTA ORANGE CAKE – Romanian polenta cake soaked with orange syrup.




polenta chicken with garlic sauce in a bowl



polenta chicken with garlic sauce in a bowl

Polenta Chicken

Yield: 4
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes

A simple recipe for chicken and polenta with garlic, a typical Romanian polenta dish, full of comfort and flavor.


  • Garlic chicken:
  • 6 whole chicken legs/ chicken quarters (See note)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 350 ml/ 12 fl.oz/ 1 ½ cups chicken stock
  • ½ bunch parsley
  • 4 large garlic cloves
  • fine sea salt and pepper
  • For the polenta:
  • 250 g/ 8.8 oz/ 1 2/3 cups polenta
  • 1120 ml/ 2.4 pints/ 4 2/3 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons butter, optional


  1. Remove the skin from the chicken legs and divide them at the joint. Sprinkle them generously with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottom pan, a pan large enough to hold the chicken pieces in one layer. Place the chicken parts in the pan and brown all over. Sprinkle the paprika on top and stir well to coat the chicken parts with it. Add the chicken stock, it should cover the meat almost entirely, but the chicken should not be swimming in liquid.
  3. Chop the parsley and add half of it to the pan. Add some pepper, bring to a boil, lower the heat and cover the pan leaving a crack open. Cook for about 30 minutes (turning the chicken once in between) or until the meat is cooked through.
  4. Start making the polenta about now if you want to serve this immediately.
  5. By the end of the cooking time, the sauce should have reduced by half. If you want a thicker sauce, remove the lid from the pot during the last 5 minutes of the cooking time. I don't find it necessary, I like to have a runnier sauce to soak the polenta.
  6. Grate the garlic cloves and add them to the pan together with the rest of the chopped parsley. Cook for 1 minute, remove from heat and season.
  7. To make the polenta, heat the water in a large pan but do not let it come to a boil. Add the salt, stir to dissolve. Add the polenta in a slow stream while stirring all the time.
  8. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover with a crack and cook, stirring often, according to the packet's instructions. Mine takes about 20 minutes, but that can differ greatly depending on the polenta you bought.
  9. Once the polenta is ready, stir in the butter.
  10. Serve as soon as the polenta is ready.


Or use 4 large chicken thighs and 4 large chicken drumsticks.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1/4 of the dish
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 665Total Fat: 34gSaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 22gCholesterol: 407mgSodium: 1419mgCarbohydrates: 10gFiber: 1gSugar: 2gProtein: 79g

Nutritional information is not always accurate.


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[email protected]'s Recipes 27/12/2015 - 14:35

We didn’t spend the X’mas with the family this year…just two of us with our cats :-))…so it’s a really simple and relaxing holiday. Your garlic chicken with polenta looks super duper delicious and comforting, Alida.
Happy New Year to you and your whole family!

Adina 28/12/2015 - 10:31

Sounds really relaxing just the two of you, I suppose relaxation is the only thing I missed this Christmas. 🙂 Happy New Year to you too.

Kate @ Framed Cooks 28/12/2015 - 14:06

This looks like the perfect New Year’s comfort food – especially in its cozy bed of polenta! Definitely putting on my must try in 2016 list. 🙂

Adina 30/12/2015 - 08:43

Thank you, Kate. It would be great if you tried this! 🙂

grace 28/12/2015 - 14:10

is it weird if my favorite aspect of this is the polenta? i like both garlic and chicken, don’t get me wrong, but i LOVE me some polenta! 🙂

Adina 30/12/2015 - 08:43

Not weird at all, my son only ate a little bit of chicken after getting his tummy full with polenta and sauce.

sue|theviewfromgreatisland 28/12/2015 - 17:02

Could this chicken get any more comforting? That bed of creamy polenta is calling my name…

Adina 30/12/2015 - 08:41

I am glad you like it, Sue. 🙂

Kathryn @ Family Food on the Table 28/12/2015 - 18:30

Haha, garlic junkie! This chicken seriously sounds so delicious though – easy and full of flavor! I like the idea of serving it with polenta too – I’m always forgetting how much I love polenta. And I’m with you on simplifying… it’s so easy to get caught up and want to go overboard at the holidays. Better to slow down and spend that time with family. Next year we’ll do better 😉 Cheers to a happy New Years!

Adina 30/12/2015 - 08:40

I have even told my husband he should remind me about keeping it simple next year, I am afraid I always forget that myself. 🙂 And we love polenta too, we eat it very often one way or another.

Cathleen @ A Taste Of Madness 28/12/2015 - 19:57

I am always looking for more chicken recipes. Also, can you believe that I have never tried polenta? On my to-do list for the new year 🙂

Adina 30/12/2015 - 08:38

Oh, polenta is so great. Our favorite way to eat it is with cheese and yogurt or sour cream, really mushy and delicious. You should definitely try it!

marcela 29/12/2015 - 01:28

lovely chicken! looks delicious! Can’t wait to give your recipe a try!

Adina 30/12/2015 - 08:36

Thank you, tell me if you give it a try.

Kathy @ Beyond the Chicken Coop 29/12/2015 - 15:01

This looks like total comfort food….total delicious comfort food! I love the frenzy of all the cooking around the holidays, but I also would like it a bit more relaxed….or maybe just find someone to clean up the kitchen after all my frenzied cooking!

Adina 30/12/2015 - 08:35

That would be great, wouldn’t it, someone to clean the kitchen after the battle.

Meghan | Fox and Briar 29/12/2015 - 18:59

I am a totaly garlic junkie too, I don’t believe that there is such a thing as “too much garlic” 🙂 The holidays can be stressful sometimes, I think your plan to keep it simple next year is a good one! Loving this simple and delicious chicken!

Adina 30/12/2015 - 08:32

Thank you, Meghan. And garlic rules!!! 🙂

Monica 29/12/2015 - 22:00

You sound the way I felt last year. I totally made things simpler this year and it does pay off…but no matter, that mix of delight and stress is definitely part of the holidays for adults/parents. : )
And this chicken dish is totally gorgeous!!
PS – I made Barcelona hot chocolate for x’mas morning and realized I’d left out the cocoa and sugar in the instructions…fixed it..but hope it wasn’t too annoying for you when you were reading it…

Adina 30/12/2015 - 08:17

Thanks for the warning about the chocolate. I didn’t even realize something was missing, I made the way it was written and I liked it. The sugar was optional anyway, I didn’t add any to my cup, I never take sugar with coffee.

Dean @ Globe Scoffers 08/03/2016 - 16:24

Hi Adina, this dish looks yummy. We have polenta quite often and we make polenta chips. I’ve tried to make creamy polenta before but it just comes out like a solid lump, any tips?

Adina 08/03/2016 - 16:41

Hi Dean. When I want a creamier polenta I use more water than it is actually necessary, in this case about 1/2 cup water more. Sometimes I mix the water with milk. I hope this will work for you. Thanks for visiting. 🙂


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