They say that some people crave their childhood comfort food; something full of carbs and cheese like pizza, cheesy garlic bread or macaroni and cheese. For me, it’s anything with beans, enchilada sauce and a little (OR A LOT) of oozy-gooey melted cheese.
My Mom started making this Mayan Sweet Potato Polenta Bake (or casserole) when I was in high school. She loved to experiment with flavors and test out recipes, often times for people at the church potluck. After a few years, we started referring to them as Lynn’s (my mom) taste testers because they simply couldn’t get enough of her food. Sometimes I’d even have her take them some of my creations, just so I could get opinions from someone other than her.
This recipe was always, always a crowd pleaser. There must have been something special about the combination of all of the ingredients in a single pan. The sweet and spicy flavors melded together in perfect harmony to create a dish that you simply CANNOT stop eating.
So, you must be wondering what makes up this recipe and why it’s oh-so-addicting, right?
POLENTA! The polenta is the base of the recipe, and it’s mixed with a little water to create a creamy base that turns golden brown on the bottom as it cooks. Hot damn. I used Ancient Harvest Polenta, a new find that I didn’t know they created until a few months ago. I can tell you that I’ll absolutely be using it more!
There’s also a nice layer of creamy refried beans, onions, garlic, bell peppers and a quick homemade red chile sauce (or enchilada sauce). Plus CHEESE! Doesn’t that sound absolutely fantastic? Plus it’s nutritious, vegetarian, wholesome and naturally gluten free.
I can’t wait for you to make it. I’m sure Mama AK will be checking the comments out, so let me know if you make it!
If you make anything from AK, be sure to tag #ambitiouskitchen on Instagram — I love seeing your creations and featuring followers! You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Snapchat (username: ambitiouskitch).
Mom's Mayan Sweet Potato Polenta Bake
A recipe for my Mom's vegetarian Mayan polenta bake with layers of sweet potato, refried beans, polenta, red chile sauce and cheese. This comforting dish is creamy, sweet, spicy, and incredible!
- FOR THE SAUCE:
- 1 - 15 oz can tomato sauce
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- FOR THE PEPPER MIXTURE:
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- FOR THE BAKE:
- 1 tube Ancient Harvest Traditional Polenta
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1 - 15 oz can vegetarian refried beans
- 1 large sweet potato, very thinly sliced
- 1 cup shredded colby jack cheese
- For garnish: cilantro and avocado
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 inch pan with nonstick spray and set aside.
Make the sauce: Add tomato sauce, water, chili powder, cumin, oregano, salt and cayenne pepper to a medium saucepan and place over medium heat. Bring to a low boil then reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes or until tomato sauce thickens up a bit.
Saute the onions and peppers: In a separate skillet, heat 1 teaspoon of olive oil over medium high heat. Once oil is hot, add in garlic, onion and red pepper. Saute for 5-7 minutes or until onions are translucent and peppers are tender. Remove from heat and set aside.
To make the bake: In a separate medium bowl, add in polenta and a few tablespoons of water. Use your hands to mash the polenta and break it up again. Transfer to prepared pan and press into the bottom of the pan, creating a base for the bake.
Next spread half of the refried beans, slices of the sweet potato, onion/pepper mixture, half of the sauce and 1/2 cup of cheese. Then spread the remaining refried beans on top, the rest of the sweet potatoes, the other half of the sauce and remaining 1/2 cup of cheese.
Cover pan with foil and bake for 1 hour or until sweet potatoes are tender when poked with a fork. Serves 8.
This post is sponsored by Ancient Harvest. All opinions, recipes and text are my own. Thanks for continuing to support AK and the brands that help make this site possible!