Vegan Polenta Soup (And The Parsnip That Got Away. . .)

by Maria Theresa Maggi on February 28, 2014

Vegan Polenta Soup

I first saw a recipe for Polenta Soup while scrolling through my facebook newsfeed a couple of months ago. But I can’t really call this a vegan version of that, or any other one I saw, because I kind of just did my own thing. I wanted a low fat soup that was somewhat reminiscent of chicken noodle soup–without the chicken and without the noodles–but with all the comfort of that nourishing good-for-the-soul sort of meal.

Most of the recipes I saw relied heavily on butter, olive oil, cheese and/or cream to make a thick kind of creamy soup. Since I like plain soft polenta so much, I just decided to make polenta, but with extra broth and seasonings and a few other things thrown in, and stop cooking it when the polenta was soft but there was still enough broth to create a thick soup.

You can put just about anything you want in this soup. I’ve made it twice and I’ll give you all the options I used in each version. Except one. I almost put a julienned parsnip in the second time I made it, which was at the beginning of this week. I realize parsnips can be an acquired taste–I had never tasted one until I started shopping at our Farmer’s Market–but I fell in love with them. I thought their mild starchy taste would go great with the poultry seasoning and the carrots and other veggie goodies in the soup.

But then I looked at the parsnip. It was beautiful. The much missed sun was finally streaming through the windows in all it’s  brief, late-winter midday glory. Instead of slicing up the parsnip, I put it down a a white sheet of paper on the dining room table and started to draw it.

Parsnip: Ink and Chalk pastel by Maria Theresa Maggi

When I draw, I forget about everything else, even eating and cooking, so I had to keep pinching myself to get up to stir the polenta soup. By some miracle I did not burn it AND I got a drawing of the parsnip I was happy with. So even though the parsnip did not make it into the soup this time, it made it onto the page. . .which is also a lovely  happy thing. I’m glad it got away, at least that time.

If you can’t eat corn, you could try this with just quinoa. If so, you might want to add some sweet potato, to substitute for the sweetness of the corn. Maybe make it more spicy and/or Southwest-y with some chiles or chili powder.

Maria (moonwatcher)


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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Pam Woods March 2, 2014 at 7:13 pm

I love this sentence:

“This is actually more of a strategy than a recipe.”

I’m so much more interested in cooking this way than I used to be. I used to be afraid to cook without a recipe, and now I’m making things up sometimes. It’s really fun, isn’t it?

This soups sounds great.


2 moonwatcher March 3, 2014 at 8:20 am

Yes, Pam, it’s loads of fun, isn’t it? Like you, I used to be much more recipe bound, and I enjoy the creative freedom of these kinds of experiments so much. I think I learned a lot about how to stike out on my own from all my years of reading and following recipes. They are still often my inspiration. So happy to hear you are enjoying your own adventures in stepping away from the recipe! 🙂


3 Veronica March 3, 2014 at 1:54 pm

Polenta soup! I will definitely have to try this. I’ve been on a big soup kick lately, and am ever expanding methods and ingredients. Thanks much! And the drawing of the parsnip is great! Glad you got that and the soup. 🙂


4 moonwatcher March 3, 2014 at 4:26 pm

Hi Veronica–so glad this sounds good to you. It was an experiment that turned out to be worth repeating–at least in my kitchen. I’m happy you liked the parsnip too. It was definitely a win-win situation! 🙂


5 Shona March 3, 2014 at 3:04 pm

Hi, what is in poultry seasoning? I only use vegetable bouillon, will that do?




6 moonwatcher March 3, 2014 at 4:21 pm

Hi Shona, and welcome! The poultry seasoning I get comes from Frontier and has the following spices in it: Organic Sage, Organic Thyme, Organic Onion, Organic Black Pepper, Organic Marjoram, Organic Celery Seed, Organic Cayenne. These are spices traditionally used to cook poultry, but you can use them for anything else you want, too. I imagine your vegetable bouillon has some of these same spices, so it would probably work fine. The thing I like about this particular poultry seasoning mix is that it’s salt free.


7 Shawn March 3, 2014 at 8:15 pm

You’re fantastic-no -soy-I love your blog & recipes! Plus your artwork-your recipes have inspired me thx many times over


8 moonwatcher March 3, 2014 at 8:58 pm

Welcome. Shawn, and thank you so much for this vote of confidence about the recipes and the artwork!!


9 Nicole O'Shea March 4, 2014 at 6:52 am

I totally agree with Pam about the strategy-over-recipe style of cooking. I have The Joy Of Cooking and used to use it regularly, following every direction to the letter. Things came out great of course!

But with so many limitations on my diet, there is not a recipe anywhere that takes my whole situation into account, except perhaps, ” Wash single vegetable. Steam until done” LOL

This makes cooking now a truly creative endeavor, so much more engaging than following a recipe, and so much more appreciated when things turn out tasty. Like you said, if you cannot use corn, try quinoa with a bit of sweet potato for the sweetness. Brilliant!

Love the parsnip. I am beyond impressed that no burning happened whilst you drew. I have ruined many a pot….




10 moonwatcher March 4, 2014 at 8:17 am

Hi Nicole! Thanks for sharing your vote of confidence in the “strategy-over-recipe” approach, and how well it’s worked for you. I love how you write that it’s so much more “engaging” than following a recipe. In a way, it’s like being in a theater group and being given a situation to improvise. You never know quite what’s going to happen, but often the results are magical! I’m glad you liked the idea for no corn in a “polenta” soup too! As for not burning the soup, I have to say it did get a bit sticky on the bottom, but nothing beyond the pale. I was very very lucky. . .I, too, have burned lots of pots while “concentrating” elsewhere. . .but going down the rabbit hole of drawing is probably the worst offender. . .so this was another sort of miracle, I’d say. 🙂 xo


11 veggiequest March 4, 2014 at 7:15 pm

Maria, this looks delicious! I never thought of using polenta in a soup, but I bet it makes it creamy and delicious. Also, I’m so very glad the parsnip didn’t end up being cooked–what a beautiful drawing!


12 moonwatcher March 4, 2014 at 7:49 pm

Thanks Lee! It IS a nice (and easy) way to get a creamy soup without high fat. And so happy you found the parsnip beautiful!


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