Pumpkin Polenta Recipe with Tomatillo-Avocado Salsa

Bowl of pumpkin polenta topped with tomatillo avocado salsa and pumpkin seeds is gluten free and vegan
My inspiration this week- pumpkin polenta with salsa fresca.

Time Travel

(Edited from a previous entry...) It's been quintessential Autumn here on the Cape. Cool blue skies. Honeyed sun. Flirty sea breezes that coax you to slow down. And breathe deep. Garnet and gold mums that nestle against white washed fences. Pumpkins on porch steps. Cider and apples.

The first gifts of Fall have arrived.

Time to dig out the Crock Pot and your favorite flannel shirt. If you can find it, that is. It's got to be around here somewhere, right? You used it wore it to death last year. Or was that the year before?

The harvest moon is playing tricks with your memory again. The crows outside in the oak trees caw like the crows in tomorrow's dream. Days turn into weeks and lunch turns into next month's breakfast. Hours spill through worm holes of time like so many episodes of Lost.

And the Buddha imagines the universe.

And gets it close to right.

We're talking atoms, people. Particles of teeny tiny specks of even tinier teenier fragments of a single point of something so small the naked eye perceives it as invisible. Yet the Buddha perceived this. In 528 BC.

I ponder this as I walk in a stream of brittle bronze oak leaves.

The succession of days that adds up to a life is only a blink. The moment when you started reading this sentence is already the past. You think about this stuff as you get older. When you squint into your future you see a shorter slope than the path that winds behind you. It can cause a slippery sense of vertigo. A tipping sideways melancholy that infuses every lost opportunity with meaning, bittersweet.

I remember a West Hollywood walk to the market past ninety-pound skateboarders and a gaggle of thin actors smoking outside the Lee Strasberg Institute. I think about the Russian speaking men with impossibly sad eyes brushing past me, their impeccably groomed wheat-blonde wives carrying shopping bags of kale. I smile at the memory of my brown-eyed neighbor sitting on his front wall listening to Miles Davis on a transistor radio.  

Great music, I tell him, feeling myself altering my cadence to the beat. It's JAZZ, Baby! he shouts, laughing as I pass by. I feel his joy in my chest. And I know he is exactly right.

This whole life thing?

This whole circuitous method of survival called living?

It's jazz, Baby.

And you just gotta go with it.

Vegan pumpkin polenta with home made salsa- gluten-free comfort food
Polenta and pumpkin are a cozy combo.

Pumpkin Polenta Recipe

Originally published October 2010.

I'm so glad Bob's Red Mill now has gluten-free polenta. The quality of their polenta is by far the best- in my humble goddess opinion. Stirring cooked  pumpkin into the polenta as it cooks brings an autumn inspired depth of flavor and nourishment. Comfort food at its very best.


3 cups fresh water
Pinch of sea salt, to taste
1 cup Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free Polenta
1 14-oz. can organic pumpkin puree
2/3 cup coconut milk or soy milk
2-3 tablespoons vegan butter

1 tablespoon raw organic agave nectar, optional
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg


Heat the water in a deep saucepan until boiling and add a pinch of sea salt, to taste. Pour the polenta into the simmering water, stirring with a whisk as you pour. Continue to whisk for a minute or two as the polenta cooks and adjust the heat to medium-low heat, so that the mixture gently simmers but does not cook too quickly- you don't want to scorch it. Keep an eye on it and stir frequently to keep it from sticking.

When the polenta has absorbed most of the water, add in the pumpkin puree and whisk to combine. Add in the coconut milk, vegan butter, agave and nutmeg, and stir again. The polenta should be ready in roughly 20 to 30 minutes. It should be tender to the bite, not gritty. If it isn't soft enough for you, add more coconut milk and cook it a little longer.

Serve in soft mounds with a topping of salsa fresca (recipe follows) or more vegan butter and maple syrup.

Sprinkle with roasted shelled pumpkin seeds.

Makes four main dish servings, or six side dish servings.

Karina's Notes:

If you enjoy cheese, this polenta would be delicious served with grated vegan cheese or fresh crumbled goat cheese.

Add protein to the plate with cooked black beans. Or add black beans to the salsa recipe below.
To make polenta ahead of time: cook till done and spread the warm polenta into a cake pan and cool. Cover and chill. Slice cooled polenta into wedges. Broil wedges brushed with olive oil till sizzling. Top with salsa or grated vegan cheese.

Recipe Source: glutenfreegoddess.blogspot.com

All images & content are copyright protected, all rights reserved. Please do not use our images or content without prior permission. Thank you. 

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 My kitchen table with fresh salsa ingredients
Farm fresh ingredients make the tastiest salsa fresca.

Tomatillo-Avocado Salsa Fresca Recipe

Salsa fresca is so easy. Chop up your favorite fresh salsa ingredients as the polenta is cooking. Cover and chill. Let the flavors mingle and get happy. If you're using avocado (so good with pumpkin!) add it in just before serving, to keep it from turning dark.

Here's what I used for my salsa fresca.


3 tomatillos
1/2 orange or yellow bell pepper
1 Anaheim chile pepper
1 fresh lime
A dash of extra virgin olive oil
A drizzle of raw organic agave nectar
Sea salt, to taste
A handful of fresh chopped cilantro
1 small avocado


Remove the papery skins from the tomatillos and wash the stickiness off with produce soap and water. Roughly chop. Toss into a bowl.

Wash and halve the bell pepper; seed and chop one half. Add to the bowl.

Stem and clean the chile pepper; dice. Add it in.

Drizzle the mix with fresh squeezed lime juice, olive oil and agave nectar. Season with sea salt, to taste. Add in fresh chopped cilantro and stir to combine.

Cover and chill till serving.

Just before serving, peel and pit the avocado, dice it and add the avocado to the salsa.

Makes four servings.

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  1. This looks so very tasty! I love the creamy comfort of polenta and as someone who uses pumpkin year-round, I would LOVE this! I have starred it in my reader, thank you for sharing!

    Also, as someone living in Portland, Oregon (and just closed our swim pool for the season!), I can relate to the rain. :D

  2. Mmmmm, this looks fantastic! I definitely will give it a try. :)

  3. I love your site and I am always looking for new vegan recipes. Sometimes you get tired of eating the same thing and have to branch out and try something new. Also will try the pumpkin chocolate chip recipe to have with my afternoon tea.

  4. Two gorgeous and inspired recipes. And I hear ya about that feeling of vertigo! Really feeling it lately.

  5. I'll have mine with black - or even pinto - beans and goat cheese, please. It's 4 pm and 84 degrees here, but the nights are getting cooler, so I'd eat this in a Honolulu minute! The colors of your food are so tasty - just add jazz...

  6. Laura22:18

    Great idea!!! What an original use for pumpkin.....This would make a great breakfast, too.

  7. MORE PUMPKIN. YUM! And anything with avocado? Sing me up. Your soup looks similar to my soup. Oh pumpkin goodness!

  8. Sounds delicious, I'm going to have to run out for some tomatillos! I love them!

  9. Mary Canevari13:18

    Karina, I love your umbrella comment. On a rainy day earlier this week I needed to run some errands and I couldn't find my umbrella, but I did find a child sized one that had belonged to my now 13 year old goddaughter. So I went out with this little teal and purple umbrella with pink ruffles around the outside edge. It did a good job in keeping my head dry as I exited a store during a strong down pouring of rain. Also, this cute little umbrella brought back sweet memories of goddaughter's tender early years. She's a way cool teenager now! xoxo

  10. The colors in these dishes are really jumping off the screen at me. So seductive! And how great that there is a good gluten-free polenta; that should open lots of opportunities for new recipes.

  11. Ooh how perfect it would be with creamy goats cheese!
    Thanks for your introduction to the recipe. I really enjoyed the feeling of walking in your world for a while and seeing it through your eyes. Perhaps I slipped through one of those wormholes and walked beside you for a while...

  12. Pumpkin and coconut milk sound like a great combination.

  13. Anonymous11:07

    I love your writing, Karina. I am 56, so I can relate. Your recipes are wonderful, but your writing is really what I love to read. Thanks for sharing your recipes and your thoughts!

  14. Hi Karina,

    This looks great--I will definitely play with creating a version of it without coconut milk, since that happens to be out for me. I'm thinking maybe hazelnut milk might do nicely, though the texture will be lighter.

    And I loved your post. I was contemplating those same feelings, walking over bronze leaves, a thousand miles north of you, but in the same wet weather system. And yeah, indeed, baby, is it ever jazz! Thanks for the images--so vivid, ringing so true. And, having lived in Southern California for many years, I loved the bit about people rushing to find their umbrellas and not being able to remember if it was last year or the year before they used it. The rain riff makes everyone a little crazy, and I loved remembering that.

    Here's to the tune that brings such breath-taking improvisation from us all--



  15. Lovely writing, Karina. This polenta recipe is the most beautiful and original pumpkin recipe I have seen on the web so far.

  16. I just made this and it's delightful! I doubled it and omitted the maple syrup because I wanted it to be more of a savory dish that I could serve with chili. It's extremely creamy, something I miss being dairy free as well as gluten free.

  17. Anonymous16:26

    I'm so glad I found you!
    My friend's Husband, who has a gluten allergy, has just been diagnosed with lung cancer. We are creating a supper club to support him, his wife and their 15month old baby girl. He has lost so much weight they are asking for Gluten free, high fat meals. I love the look of this with its delicious, fantastic fat avocado and pumpkin seeds but am new to gluten free and wan to know... the comment about the cheese, is it vegan or goat for a gluten reason or just personal preference (i.e.: could I use Parmesan?). I plan to visit lots for inspiration I can use to help my friends. Thank you for being right here right now!

  18. I'm sorry to hear about your friend's health. How lovely that you are creating a supper club to help! I am vegan (for health reasons in addition to needing to be gluten-free) but if everyone can do dairy, I would serve this with crumbled goat cheese- it's flavor would be lovely with the pumpkin. Shaves of good Parmesan would work if you add some chopped sweet yellow or red grape tomatoes. Sending healing wishes... xox Karina

  19. Marcie20:51

    I just made the polenta from this dish- it's very good! I unfortunately didn't have any of the ingredients for the salsa, so I served it with a spinach, onion, black bean sautee topped with a little fresh lemon juice. It was absolutely delish!

    Thanks so much for the inspiration! My non vegan husband loved it as well :)

  20. The recipes and pictures look awesome! Thank you for sharing! I can't wait to try these recipes. :-)

  21. Anonymous12:50


    This was an amazing combo of flavors! My husband and I are switching to a vegan/vegetarian diet and your blog posts inspire me! I love your writing and can hear the love you put into your meals and recipes shining through. Thank you so much!


  22. What an interesting idea and no dairy in it. Will try it tonight. Thaks for a very different recipe.

  23. Thanks everyone- for the pumpkin polenta love. It is so creamy and delicious. I can't wait to make it again! xox Karina

  24. Anonymous14:14

    I made this recipe last night. It was so easy and delicious! My husband, an avid meat eater said "I would eat vegetarian if I could eat things like this all the time!" This will make it into our regular rotation. Thank you for a delicious, easy to make vegetarian recipe!

  25. Your polenta recipe looks wonderful! Great with the pumpkin :)

  26. Stefanie14:08

    This looks and sounds Fabulous! Can't wait to make it....tonight, again and again and again. Cozy dishes like this are winners around my home.


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