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Eat Well Aug. 13. 2013
Condiments

Cheezy Polenta Jalapeño Poppers with Mango Salsa

Aug. 13. 2013
Condiments
McKel Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

McKel Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

Dietitian, Founder and CEO

When you think of Jalapeño Poppers (or at least when I do), you may think of a high calorie, deep fried, refined carbohydrate containing, cheese stuffed jalapeños served at a bar, party, or during football season with friends. I’m here today to give this beloved bar food to many a huge makeover, Nutrition Stripped style. Introducing a gluten-free, dairy-free (yes, no cheese friends), lower calorie jalapeño popper with a delicious and fresh mango salsa on the side. Move over greasy jalapeño poppers and make room for the new and improved Cheezy Polenta Jalapeño Popper with Mango Salsa!

If you’re wondering why jalapeño poppers are on my mind in the middle of August, that’s a legit question. Answer: I have SO many jalapeños growing in my garden I must use them up, recently I’ve been picking about four a day! As I was brainstorming out loud, I came up with a perfect idea to try out. My sweet is a huge cheese lover, and if you have followed me for a while I’m sure you can infer I’m not a cheese or dairy lover, so when I told him I was making jalapeño poppers he was elated, but little did he know this would be a non-dairy, healthy RECIPE MAKEOVER and guess what, it was a hit!

The filling of jalapeño poppers are what makes them so delicious, a thick, creamy, cheesy filling that pours out when you sink your teeth into the soft cooked jalapeño. To recreate this same mouthfeel without using three pounds of cheese (please catch my sarcasm here) as in most traditional jalapeño popper recipes, I looked to the great and versatile polenta. What’s polenta? Polenta is simply cornmeal boiled into a porridge consistency. It’s used in many cultures and regions around the world and be prepared in may ways including boiling (as mentioned), baked, fried, made into pancakes, stuffings, etc. If you’ve never tasted it before it has a slightly sweet taste and absorbs flavors, spices, and seasonings very well (a.k.a. it’s a blank canvas!).

Note to dairy cheese lovers | If you would like to add cheese to this, go for 1/2 cup of part-skim mozzarella or monterey jack, cream cheese, or a 1/2 cup cottage cheese. When melted together with polenta this would also be a suitable filling for the cheese lovers out there who want to cut back a little on the calories from using so much cheese, instead of opting out of using cheese completely; this allows you to get some flavor without the caloric density.

Non-dairy friends, you may also add in 1/2 cup of vegan “cheese” such as these brands (Daiya, Trader Joe’s Vegan Mozzarella, TEESE, or Follow Your Heart) if you choose. I’m not a huge fan of processed cheeses even if they are dairy-free, but every once in a while they make a dish like this more enjoyable and familiar. If you want my opinion, out of the bunch mentioned, Trader Joe’s wins my heart and stomach. You can also make a simple cashew cheese to stir in.

These jalapeño poppers are HOT! That’s why this Mango Salsa is a perfect condiment to cool your mouth and balance the heat and spiciness with a tangy sweet flavor from the mango and lime. Also, have an open mind with these poppers, they are not made with nor cooked how classic jalapeño poppers are. These are baked and will have a different texture, but they’re still so delicious and satisfy that craving for poppers! If you want to try to lightly fry them, do so lightly in coconut oil or olive oil.

Cheezy Polenta Jalapeño Poppers with Mango Salsa
Recipe Type: starter
Author: McKel Hill, MS, RD, LDN
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 12
A healthy twist on traditional high calorie jalapeno poppers. Gluten free, dairy free, and low calorie.
Ingredients
  • 12 jalapeno peppers, halved and seeds/membranes removed
  • 1/4 cup polenta (prepared from package directions, organic polenta)
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 Tbs. dijon mustard
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp. sea salt (to taste)
  • ground black pepper to taste
  • COATING//
  • 1 1/4 cup almond meal
  • 1 Tbs. cornmeal (a.k.a. uncooked polenta)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. cajun seasoning mix (I like McCormick or Penzeys Spices cajun blend)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees on a lightly greased (I use coconut oil) baking sheet.
  2. COATING//
  3. In a small mixing bowl, whisk the egg (this is step 1 in coating assembly)
  4. In on mixing bowl, add almond meal and cajun seasoning together (this will be for step 2).
  5. FILLING//
  6. Mix the prepared/cooked polenta, spices, nutritional yeast, etc. in a bowl and mix until combined.
  7. ASSEMBLY//
  8. You will do this with all jalapeno pepper halves, one at a time.
  9. Take a half of a jalapeno and fill the center with your FILLING mixture.
  10. Dip into the egg wash (step 1 in coating)
  11. Followed by immediately dipping into the almond meal coating (step 2 in coating).
  12. Press to make the coating stick.
  13. Place onto a baking sheet with the FILLING side facing up.
  14. Bake until golden brown on the top or about 30 minutes.
  15. Serve with Mango Salsa.
  16. Enjoy!
Serving size: 1 half popper Calories: 50 Fat: 3 Carbohydrates: 2g (1g Net) Fiber: 1 Protein: 2

Note// I did not try making the coating without using an egg for a vegan version. My suggestion is to try vegan egg replacer mix and see how that works, or using flour + water. Let me know if you try!

Pictured// L: jalapeño poppers without step 1 and step 2 of coating process. R: jalapeño poppers completed after coating! 

Mango Salsa
Recipe Type: dip, sauce
Author: McKel Hill, MS, RD, LDN
A sweet and tangy salsa made up mangos and traditional salsa ingredients.
Ingredients
  • 1 cup fresh mango, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 cup tomatoes, diced
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1/4 cup red onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 juice of lime
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • sea salt and black pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Simply combine all ingredients into a large mixing bowl until combined.
  2. Serve immediately or store in the fridge.
  3. Enjoy!

What’s your favorite way to eat jalapeño’s? Speaking of gardening, what did you grow in your garden this year? Or if you don’t have one, what would you grow! Share below.

Have a poppin’ day!

xo McKel

The Recipe

Serves 12

Print

Ingredients:

  • 12 jalapeno peppers, halved and seeds/membranes removed
  • 1/4 cup polenta (prepared from package directions, organic polenta)
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 Tbs. dijon mustard
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp. sea salt (to taste)
  • ground black pepper to taste
  • COATING//
  • 1 1/4 cup almond meal
  • 1 Tbs. cornmeal (a.k.a. uncooked polenta)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. cajun seasoning mix (I like McCormick or Penzeys Spices cajun blend)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees on a lightly greased (I use coconut oil) baking sheet.
  2. COATING//
  3. In a small mixing bowl, whisk the egg (this is step 1 in coating assembly)
  4. In on mixing bowl, add almond meal and cajun seasoning together (this will be for step 2).
  5. FILLING//
  6. Mix the prepared/cooked polenta, spices, nutritional yeast, etc. in a bowl and mix until combined.
  7. ASSEMBLY//
  8. You will do this with all jalapeno pepper halves, one at a time.
  9. Take a half of a jalapeno and fill the center with your FILLING mixture.
  10. Dip into the egg wash (step 1 in coating)
  11. Followed by immediately dipping into the almond meal coating (step 2 in coating).
  12. Press to make the coating stick.
  13. Place onto a baking sheet with the FILLING side facing up.
  14. Bake until golden brown on the top or about 30 minutes.
  15. Serve with Mango Salsa.
  16. Enjoy!

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