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Vegan Coconut Polenta with Harissa Mushroom Bolognese

The best part of making this sauce vegetarian is that it takes a fraction of the time to cook! In this mushroom bolognese recipe, harissa gives the sauce a middle eastern punch. You can sub 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper if you can't find this Moroccan red pepper paste. The polenta is completely vegan, and you can't even taste the coconut flavor in the broth.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 4
Author Phoebe Lapine


  • For the bolognese:
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil plus more for serving
  • 1 large onion finely chopped or pulsed in a food processor
  • 2 medium carrots finely chopped or pulsed in a food processor
  • 2 celery stalks finely chopped or pulsed in a food processor
  • 16 ounces mixed mushrooms cremini, Portobello, shitake, about 4 cups, stems removed and diced
  • 4 medium cloves garlic minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • Sea salt
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • One 15-ounce can crushed tomatoes see note
  • 2 tablespoons harissa
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped flat leaf parsley optional, for serving
  • For the polenta:
  • Two 14.5-ounce can full fat coconut milk
  • 1 quart vegetable stock or water
  • 1 1/2 cups polenta
  • 1 tablespoon ghee, grass-fed butter or coconut oil


  1. In a large skillet or saucepan, heat the oil. Over medium-high heat, sauté the onions, carrots and celery until soft and beginning to caramelize, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the mushrooms, garlic, cumin and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon or spatula, until the mushrooms have released their moisture and softened, about 7 minutes more.
  2. Pour in the red wine, scrapping up any brown bits that may have formed on the bottom of the pan. Once the liquid has cooked off, stir in the tomatoes, harissa and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Simmer on medium-low heat until the tomatoes have lost their acidity and reduced by half, 10 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of water or vegetable stock to loosen the sauce if it seems dry. Set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, while the mushroom Bolognese is simmering, make the polenta: bring the coconut milk and stock or water to a boil in a large Dutch oven or stockpot. Slowing pour in the polenta while whisking. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring frequently, until the corn meal has lost its gritty bite and the polenta has thickened to the point of holding its shape on a plate, 15 to 20 minutes depending on the coarseness of the polenta. Season with 1 teaspoon sea salt and the ghee, butter or coconut oil, if using.
  4. Spoon the polenta into bowls and top with a generous heap of mushroom Bolognese sauce. Drizzle with olive oil, garnish with chopped parsley, and serve hot.

Recipe Notes

  • If you only have diced, that’s fine! If using whole, just pulse them in a food processor before using.
  • If the mushrooms are very dirty, use a damp cloth to wipe off the caps. Never wash them as they will absorb the water and become tough and rubbery. Worst comes to worst, a little dirt is not going to kill you.