Mamaliga, The Recipe

If you can boil water, you can whip up a superb Mamaliga (or polenta as probably known more widely). There isn’t much science that goes into it. The creative input comes when you decide what to garnish it with (or use it as a garnish to a main dish).

Each region or use has its own culinary twist to it. For instance, in Moldova it is used often as a bread substitute so the consistency can be so thick that you can cut slices using a string of some sort. Of course the Sarmale (stuffed cabbage or grape leaves) is a signature dish that goes excellent with it.

Here I am making a simple Mamaliga cu Branza (polenta with feta cheese), with a somewhat thinner consistency, longer boil time, garnished with Bulgarian feta cheese I found in our local ethnic grocery store we absolutely love, and just to ad an extra touch of creaminess, I added cottage cheese.

The following feeds roughly two-three hungry adults, or four children but can multiply the serving to feed an army.

For the Mamaliga:

1 cup corn meal (I use an Indian brand called SWAD)
4 cups water
1/2 Tsp salt

For the feta cheese garnish:

1 1/2 cup feta cheese (preferably imported from a country in the Balkans)
1 cup cottage cheese
1 Tbs chopped parsley

Mamaliga and FetaBring the water to a boil in a large pot, and add the corn meal in a slow steady stream while constantly whisking – this will prevent lumps. Add the salt and reduce to low heat, whisking the mamaliga frequently. Continue this for about 30-40 minutes, until the mamaliga starts pulling away from the pot’s sides. Add the feta and cottage cheese, sprinkle the chopped parsley on top and presto! You are done!

The Mamaliga can be used as a base, side dish or garnish to numerous recipes. I will have a couple of those on the list to post so stay tuned for more!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

40 thoughts on “Mamaliga, The Recipe”

  • Gabi, good stuff! The video is great! Now we know what you look like too. 🙂 I am going to make some mamaliga this weekend as an accompaniment to a meal. What do you suggest I serve it with?

  • Sam – glad you like it! The thing is you can use it as a starch garnish for any imaginable main dish. One of my favorite is the grilled polenta with a simple tomato and mushroom (porcini if in Italy) sauce. Thanks for stopping by!

  • I’m embarrassed to admit that I bought the pre-made kind of polenta and ate it today (it came in a tube). What’s worse is that I cooked it in the microwave. I should not judge mamaliga based on this; nor should you judge me based on this mometary lapse of reason.

  • Multumesc mult pentru reteta!
    Chiar daca sunt din Romania nu stiu sau nu stiam sa fac mamaliga dar acum sper ca voi reusi. Ai avut o buna idee sa postezi asa ceva! Felicitari, Mirela

  • Ciao Mirela!
    Multumesc de complimente – ma bucur ca ti-a reusit mamaliga! Este desigur doar o varianta. Exista sute de feluri sa faci mamaliga.

    Pe curand!

  • Thanks for the recipe! I missed eating mamaliga. I should make a note that I usualy make the mamaliga more stiff, and also eat it with sour cream and cheese (brânză şi smântână) on the side, not in it, and also with fried eggs.

    Great video, Gabi!

  • I am so glad to find your recipe and directions for making mamaliga. It has been thirty years since I made it as a new bride. For some reason I forgot about the recipe until my husband, the other day, was excited thinking I was serving him mamaliga, when I brought dinner to the table. I didn’t even know that it was Romanian! I have no idea how I first saw the recipe here in California, but I will make it again, tonight, and surprise my husband. Thank you for posting so much good information on the internet.

  • What a great recipe and video! I actually used most of my polenta in the Anadama bread, but I’ll have to buy more. I believe I can find it in the same store where I occasionally buy the excellent Bulgarian cheese. (It’s a little closer to Balcan from where I live in Sweden compared to USA …)

  • I will try this! I just married a Romanian from Deva and have been craving this stuff like crazy!

  • mary, you did the mistake of your life by getin` married with a romanian !! 😀 i wish you all the luck in the world.

  • I just had some mamaliga. I’m Greek, grew up in Chicago, but my dad grew up in Romania. Since my grandparents lived with us, I grew up with Greek/Romanian/Turkish food. Mamaliga with stuffed cabbage is the BEST! I just took a trip 30 years into my past. Thank you! And yes, we even cut it with the string! Oh, Grandpa, where are you?

  • Tasia!

    Thanks for the comment! Are you still in Chicago?? I am in Arlington Heights (Chicago’s NW suburbs)
    You grew up with the best menus there! Hahaha – you used the string?!?!?! That’s genuine mamaliga!

    Thanks much for the comments!

  • Try the canadian recipe:
    1.canadian bacon
    2.fresh mushrooms
    3.Feta chese
    4.Polenta ( made using clasic recipe)
    5.Sour cream

    Fry the bacon ( how do u like it) toss the mushrooms sliced and reduce
    till the water is gone ( by the wind )
    slice polenta ( with a string if u want in the traditional way)
    In a thermo resistant pot put one row of bacon+mushrooms,polenta, fetacheese,polenta sour cream – is up to u !
    put a piece of butter in top of those and bake for 20 minutes

  • My Dad made mamaliga all the time when we were growing up. He used an 8 quart pan and a wooden spoon. He used to say it was done when the wooden spoon stood up straight in the pan. We ate it with cottage cheese, salt and pepper. It was fun to watch your video. Think I better go buy some corn meal…………….NOW, you’ve made me hungry!

  • lem!

    Thanks for the comment! The wooden spoon trick is a very good indicator that the Mamaliga is done! Good tip! Hehe – glad I made you hungry! Make sure you buy the more coarser corn meal, that makes the best mamaliga!


  • I found mamaliga in the Scrabble dictionary. I don’t think it is even in Webster’s Dictionary…how about that! the writers of the Scrabble dictionary must be Romanian because the word is not as well knnown as the word polenta.

  • I found you site by accident and enjoyed reading this thread. I love mamaliga, but I prefer the richer taste of banush(mamaliga made with cream instead of water). Depending on the region of Ukraine, mamaliga is also called kolesha. My first trip to Ukraine, my tour group went into the Carpatian mountains and we stopped at a restaurant (absolutely beatiful, completely made of wood and lots of carvings and inlay) for lunch. The tour guide had pre-arranged for us to have a traditional mountain lunch; Mamaliga with Brindza, fresh picked mountain mushrooms in cream sauce, a fruit drink called Compote, and something resembling apple strudel for dessert. One of the ladies in our group took one look at the mamaliga and the mushrooms and decided it was not on her diet, and pushed the plates away. In a split second it looked like a wedding bouquet got tossed as 30 pairs of hands made a lunge for the mamliga and mushrooms. I was too far away to score anything. I would have traded my strudel for another bowl of mamliga.

    My mother has tried to make a diet version of the banush substituting fat free sour cream for some of the water once the cormeal thickens too much. It’s a good compromise, but nothing comes close to the taste that I remember. Feta just doesn’t have that same bite as a good piece of brindza.

    I’m starting to drool…….

  • Liliana:
    Thanks much for the comment on Mamaliga! And thanks for the precious information on how Mamaliga is prepared differently in certain regions.

    And I can see easily that pushed away plate by that lady being coveted by the others in the group! Hahaha. I am sure that lady is regretting that now.

    So you completely swap the water for the cream in the Banush recipe?? You must have some water to bring it to a boil first, right?

    Feta – the ones you buy in the groceries in America, is a joke. Real FETA has to be Greek or at least from the Balcans. you can find it, nevertheless, but you pay a premium price for it. Sometimes, look for “Bulgarian Feta” in ethnic grocery stores, that comes quite close to the real thing. But please don’t buy the “Feta” made in Wisconsin – hehehehe.

    Thanks again!

  • Hi my Grandparents were born in Russia in the 1800’s.
    Now the area is in Romanian.[Tiraspol]
    Dad just told us about his Mom making Mamalika.[we didn’t know the correct spelling]
    When I when on the net and typed it in I found what I really wanted was Romanian Mamaliga. Wonderful, now I can make it for Dad who is 95.
    Thanks very much.

  • Glad to hear, Elva! Tiraspol? Didn’t hear the name of that town in a while! Looks like now is part of the Moldova Republic instead of Romania. Let me know how it turned out and if your Dad liked it!

  • Hey Gabi,
    Looks like a great recipe. Do you have one for baked? I am told it is also used. And would you have a recipe for samale? I have just moved and the lady that lives in the apy> next to me came from Romania to America in the 50s. She spent time in an Japanese Internment Camp during WWII. She likes to bake and when she does she usuallygives me a portion. I would like to attempt to make her something. My skills in the kitchen are average (at best). Anything you can offer would be appreciated.

  • Hi Bob! Hmm – Not sure of the bakes Mamaliga. I make a version that might come close where I spread Mamaliga (about 3/8″ thick) on two oiled half cookie sheets, let it cool, then build a layered polenta dish filled with tomato sauce, cheese etc. Almost like a Lasagna. The lady is Romanian and spent time in the Japanese Internment Camp?? She must have a story!
    You can try the layered Polenta as I described it – really easy and it looks delicious:
    Sarmale recipe is here.

  • I just prepared baked Mamaliga, my mother’s recipe (originally from Transilvania):
    – prepare the basic mamliga as your recipe and video suggests.
    – pour half of the mixture into an 8×8 oiled baking dish.
    – dot with 4 teaspoon of butter, cut to small pieces.
    – cover with generous amount of crumbled feta cheese.
    – cover with generous amount of grated yellow cheese (such as Mozzarella, Gruyère, Asiago, etc.)
    – cover with 2nd half of mamliga mixture.
    – top with some more grated cheese.
    – Bake in 350F till golden, about 30 minutes.

    Gabi, I love your site! Thank you

  • Thanks for the compliments! Now this is an awsome take on Mamaliga and THANKS for posting the recipe here! Guess what! I’ll make it tonight!! THANKS!!

  • Hey Gabi,
    Locuiesc in Australia de vreo 7 ani si nu gasesc decat instant polenta, ceea ce nu e acelasi lucru cu faina de porumb din Romania, cu care am crescut si sunt obisnuita. Tocmai am facut o portie mica de mamaliga cu branza si cautam pe net versiunea baked Mamaliga, cand am dat de site-ul tau care e super. E minunat ca aduci romanilor din strainatate gustul de acasa. Te pup.

  • Gabi, thanks tons for the recipe. i came to the States 4 yrs ago and today i made mamaliga for the first time!! it was awesome! my husband even loved it!
    i mixed it with butter, Bulgarian feta and sour cream from a Mexican store (it’s really close to the Romanian kind) and topped it off with a fried egg!

  • This best tip I got from the video was to use a thinner pan and a gas fire. My Cajun husband refuses to try very many of the eastern european dishes my grandmother raised me on so I thought I would try Mamaliga, since he already eats cornbread. DISASTER! I tried every recipe and could never get it right. After I saw this video, I tried using a thin metal pan instead of the cast iron so popular down here, and I put it on my barbecue grill to see if a gas heat source made the difference. Voila! Wonderful mamliga! And if you add honey and blueberries, it makes a nice replacements for Riz au lait that we have been eating for breakfast

  • I loved reading this thread and thank you for the recipe. As a child I spent every summer at my grandparents in Moldova, in a town called Benderi. I have the fondest memories about my grandma’s mamaliga.
    She was serving it with fried eggs, fried onions, brindza, cottage cheese and sour cream. All the ingredients were served separately, but then mixed on the plate into a very colorful mush which was amazingly delicious!
    I am so craving it right now!

  • So excited to have found this thread. My parents were born & raised in Romania, and Mamaliga was a staple food in our house when I was a child. We were desperately poor and when mom could get her hands on sharp cheddar (dad’s favorite) she would make it lasagna style, baked with layers of thick corn meal mush and sharp cheddar…absolutely delicious! My family loves it too, along with many friends. I’ll be making a large casserole of it for a church potluck very soon based on ethnic favorite dishes. Tempted to make stuffed cabbage too, a Christmas tradition. Oh, and a nice option to the mamaliga lasagna is to add chili to each layer. Tastes just like an enchilada pie. YUM!

  • did you decide not to share your recipe any more? I found this page in a google search for mamaliga recipes, and your video, above, has been set to “private.” are you no longer welcoming visitors interested in your recipes?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *