Sundried Tomato Polenta Bites

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These Sundried Tomato Polenta Bites are a beautiful appetizer to serve at a holiday party.

Sundried Tomato Polenta Bites

I’ve been making this appetizer for my holiday parties for eight years now.  It’s never one that I leave off the menu because this is always a very popular appetizer.  For one thing, it’s so darn pretty.  It looks so very festive with the red and the green.  And it’s really a very unique appetizer that tends to catch everyone’s eye.

Of all the delicious appetizers I serve at my parties, these Sundried Tomato Polenta Bites are always the one to get the most compliments.  People love them!  They also love my Vodka Party Punch– which is always on my menu too!

How to Make the Polenta for Sundried Tomato Polenta Bites

How do you make Polenta?

Making the polenta rounds couldn’t be easier. Hot milk is infused with herbs and garlic. Then the herbs and garlic are fished out and discarded. The infused milk is mixed with the polenta… which is cooked for several minutes until it gets really thick. It’s then spread evenly into a pan and cooled.

How to Make Sundried Tomato Polenta Bites

Once cooled, the polenta becomes firm. Use a 1-inch round to punch out small bite-sized polenta rounds  If you don’t have a 1-inch round cutter, you can certainly use something similar.  Refrigerate the polenta rounds until you’re ready to continue the recipe (or you can continue with the next step).

How to Make Sundried Tomato Polenta Bites

Fry the polenta rounds in a little oil to lightly brown both sides (make ahead tip: you can make the fried polenta rounds ahead of time.  When you’re ready to assemble, you’ll just warm them again briefly- or at least bring them to room temperature.)

How to Make Pesto for Sundried Tomato Polenta Bites

How do you make Pesto for this recipe?

A simple pesto is made from fresh basil, pistachios, Parmesan cheese and olive oil. (Time saving tip: if you want to use purchased pesto as a quickie sub, that would be ok, too.)

How to Make Sundried Tomato Polenta Bites

To assemble this appetizer, you’ll need the sauteed polenta rounds, pesto, chunks of goat cheese, sundried tomatoes and some chopped pistachios.  If you’d rather leave out the cheese or pistachios, that’s perfectly okay.  Some people are allergic to nuts, and some people are dairy free.

How to Make Sundried Tomato Polenta Bites

How to assemble Sundried Tomato Polenta Bites:

You can serve these warm or at room temperature. Add a little pesto to the center of the sauteed polenta.

Sundried Tomato Polenta Bites

Top with a piece of sundried tomato.

Sundried Tomato Polenta Bites

Add pistachios.  Add cheese, if you’d like.

Sundried Tomato Polenta Bites

And they’re ready to serve!  See?  Festive and delicious!  These Sundried Tomato Polenta Bites are a great make-ahead appetizer recipe for the holidays (see recipe for details).  And they also just happen to be naturally gluten-free!

If you’re looking for more recipes to add to your holiday party table, you might like to try my Cranberry Caramelized Onion Cheese Spread or this Blue Cheese Ball. Spinach Palmiers, Margarita Shrimp Bites and Baked Brie Bites are fun holiday recipes too!


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5 from 1 vote

Sundried Tomato Polenta Bites

Love this polenta appetizer for an elegant holiday party!
Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Servings 30 appetizers
Calories 91kcal
Course Appetizer
Cuisine American
Keyword polenta appetizer recipe, sundried tomato polenta bites



  • 2? cups whole milk
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled & crushed
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal or polenta
  • 1/3 cup olive oil (more or less, for frying)


  • 1/2 cup (packed) fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup shelled pistachios
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


  • 2 ounces goat cheese
  • 1/3 cup sundried tomatoes, packed in oil (drained & cut into small pieces)
  • chopped pistachios, optional
  • sea salt



  • Lightly oil a 13x9-inch baking pan. Bring the first 4 ingredients to simmer in a large saucepan over medium heat; simmer 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the herbs and garlic. Whisk in the cornmeal in a slow steady stream; return to boil. Reduce heat to low. Simmer until the polenta is very thick, whisking often, about 10 minutes. Turn polenta out into prepared pan; spread to 1/2-inch thick layer- don't worry about making it perfect- just spread it out as even as you can. Let it cool completely. When the polenta is cool, use a 1 to a 1 1/2-inch round cutter to cut out 30 polenta rounds (or as many as you can).


  • Place the basil, pistachios and cheese in a mini processor Blend to create a coarse puree. Add olive oil and blend until pesto is smooth. Season with salt and pepper.


  • Pour about 1/3 cup olive oil into a large nonstick skillet to coat the bottom; heat over medium-high heat. Saute the polenta rounds until they are lightly browned, about 1 minute on each side; transfer to paper towels to drain.


  • Top each polenta round with a small amount of pesto, a chunk of goat cheese and sundried tomato. Add a few chopped pistachios too, if you'd like. Finish them with a sprinkle of sea salt.  Serve warm or at room temperature.


  • If you want to leave off the cheese, you can certainly do so.
  • I like to use Bob's Red Mill brand Corn Grits (Polenta).
  • MAKE-AHEAD TIP: Prepare the polenta rounds as described in step 1 up to two days ahead; cover and chill.
  • MAKE AHEAD TIP: Prepare the pesto up to 1 day ahead; cover and chill. For a quick & easy sub- use store bought pesto in place of the homemade.
  • MAKE AHEAD TIP: Fry the polenta rounds up to 4 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature, then re-warm in 375 degree oven for 5 minutes before adding toppings and serving.


Serving: 1appetizer | Calories: 91kcal | Carbohydrates: 5g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 6g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 3mg | Sodium: 25mg | Potassium: 86mg | Fiber: 0g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 285IU | Vitamin C: 2.1mg | Calcium: 39mg | Iron: 0.4mg
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  • Trish wrote:

    Love making fried polenta (or fried mush as we used to call it) so tried your rounds idea. How beautiful! I have always used water instead of milk, so just added the herbs and s&p to the water, and perfect. As to the people who say they stick and dont brown….. patience!! As soon as they brown, they will release from the pan. I omitted the nuts, but everything else was Delicious! Cant wait to try them again so I can see if they will freeze. Love the idea of browning and cooling, freezing, and pop in the oven later. I cant imaging not eating them so fast there will be nothing left to freeze!

  • Katie wrote:

    Am going to try this with the pre-made packages of polenta available at Trader Joe’s. I recognize the majority of the flavor from the herbs comes from making it from scratch- but for the sake of my sanity over hosting I figure a shortcut may babe necessary. Hopefully it will turn out! Have you tried using something similar?

    • Lori Lange wrote:

      I haven’t… good luck!

  • Elizabeth Poulos wrote:

    I have made these 2-3 times. I LOVE the flavor but mine do NOT look like yours. I CANNOT get mine to brown! I’m doing exactly what the recipe says. I have even cut down on the oil to get them to brown. Please help!!

    • Lori Lange wrote:

      Hot pan and hot oil- that’s all the advice I can offer!

  • Hoosier1202 wrote:

    Do you think there is anything you could envision substituting for the goat cheese? 

    • Lori Lange wrote:

      Feta would be fine– or anything else that would be crumbly.

  • Karen wrote:

    Hi there, these sound great. Do you know if the polenta bites would freeze well? I want to make them for a party in September, but have quite a few other things to make as well, so need to get as much made ahead and frozen as possible. 

    • Lori Lange wrote:

      I have not tried freezing them. I’d say the best thing to do would be to try it out ahead of time and see if it works!

  • Jen wrote:

    Any reason you don’t season your polenta with salt and pepper?  

    • Lori Lange wrote:

      You can certainly do that!

  • Mia wrote:

    I have quite a few dairy-intolerant people in my family….could you substitute stock for the milk?

    • Lori Lange wrote:

      I’m not quite sure!

  • Judi wrote:

    Has anyone tried freezing the polenta rounds?

  • Margaret Nunnelley wrote:

    Made these last night for relatives.

    Only hard part was getting them to not stick to the skillet.

    They are so yummy though. Definitely will make them again. Soon!!

  • Amy Mikolay wrote:

    Just made my very first. Batch of homemade polenta using your recipe. I can’t wait to finish it off tomorrow and have my first taste. Thank you for sharing this recipe

  • Julia wrote:


    I can’t wait to make this recipe, it looks great!!!  I was wondering if I could cut the recipe for the polenta in half since I will be making it for just 3 people the first time.  

    Thanks so much


    • Lori Lange wrote:


  • Lianna wrote:

    You are a lifesaver!  I am catering a wedding next month and was looking for a base for thinly cut beef w/chimichurri sauce.  I wonder if they can be made then frozen.  I might try to do just that in the next few days.  Thanks!

    • Lori Lange wrote:

      I haven’t tried freezing these. Definitely try it out and let us know if it works out!

  • Sandi wrote:

    These sound yummy, but appear to be far more involved than there is time for when preparing the main holiday meal. I will definitely give them a try after the holidays when time allows.

    • Lori Lange wrote:

      They’re not quick and easy, but they’re great to make ahead and serve for an elegant holiday party.

  • Jan Voris wrote:

    We must think the same way. I’m all about from scratch whenever possible but shortcuts when necessary, such as the jar pesto. Also make ahead recipes speak loudly to me. I’ll make these soon.