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Polenta Chicken

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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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