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Eat Well Aug. 13. 2013
Condiments

Cheezy Polenta Jalapeño Poppers with Mango Salsa

Aug. 13. 2013
Condiments
McKel Hill

McKel Hill

MS, RDN, LDN, Dietitian

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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Did you try it out?

Share Your Thoughts & Images

  • Wow! Everything about this looks amazing and it’s so creative. I’ve been meaning to get more familiar with polenta and this looks like a perfect way to give it a shot, using it to add the creamy texture to these poppers.

    The the almond meal coating idea is perfect but I’m wondering what I could use for step 1 of the coating to replace the egg… I could imagine a water + flour mixture possibly working?

    • Hi Andrew! Thank you for the kind words, I’m glad you enjoy the recipe! As far as a vegan coating- egg replacer may work (prepared vegan egg replacer mix) or as you said flour and water may work, I have to say I didn’t try without an egg. If you do try, let me know! Thanks for stopping by 😉

  • Hogai

    Amazing. Very inspiring. I just love everything here!

    • Thank you very much! I’m glad you’re enjoying the recipes and website. Hope you come back soon 🙂

  • Jennifer

    How do you think these would taste without the mustard? If it’s necessary, can you think of a good substitute? I am sensitive to mustard.

    • You don’t have to use it, I just like the flavor and it brings out the cheezy flavor of nutritional yeast 🙂

  • I don’t even have words for this. These look amazing! Beautiful, colorful, delicious! I could eat these all day. 🙂

    • Haha thank you dear! Beware, these babies are HOT! That’s why the mango salsa is so perfect- or if you eat cheese a good sprinkle of that would be sure to cool it down 😉

  • These look amazing!!! I have never seen this recipe concept with polenta and am itching to try it. Thanks for sharing : )

  • I made these this weekend and they were so delicious. I had some cashew cream made for another recipe and added it to your mixture. I also didn’t use egg and used egg replacer (from a box) instead. It still stuck pretty well. Thanks for the great recipe! I’m so excited I ran across your blog! It is so inspiring!

    • Hi Stephanie!
      I’m glad it worked out for you! Cashew Cheese is a great component to this. Thanks for sharing how you made yours tasty. Thanks for stopping by and I hope you come back again 🙂

  • Colton

    Im a confused by your instructions. You say:
    “¼ cup polenta (prepared from package directions, organic polenta)”
    and
    “Mix the prepared polenta, spices, nutritional yeast, etc. in a bowl and mix until combined.”
    Does this mean cook it first before creating the filling? or use it straight from the package to make your filling?
    Does this mean the polenta is getting cooked twice? im not super familiar with polenta so maybe im missing something. Thanks for the help i would love to make this as a pre thanksgiving appetizer! Happy Holidays

    • Hi Colton!
      Polenta you can buy in a package with directions on how to cook. You’re mixing the cooked polenta with the nutritional yeast and spices etc. in a large mixing bowl, then using it as a filing and baking together with the jalapenos. Hope that helps and I hope you enjoy it 🙂

  • Diana

    These poppers look delicious! I would like to bring them to a dinner party as an appetizer, but would like more of a dip to keep the dish finger food, (the mango salsa looks like a fork would be needed). Do you have any suggestions for a ‘cool in’ dip? What if I blenderized the mango salsa to make it dipping material?

    Thanks for the great recipes!

    • Great question Diana, I have a Ranch Dip in the Buffalo Cauliflower Bites recipe that would be great for these as well- or my classic cashew cheese! Thanks again for your kind words 🙂

  • Meadhbh

    And I thought I loved your website before… I LOVE jalapeno poppers, but because of dairy allergies I haven’t been able to have them. You are an absolute legend.

    Love from your newest (and biggest) Australian fan xx

    • Thank you! I’m so glad you love these- they’re hot! I love adding my cashew cheese to these as well 😉 and welcome to the NS community xx