Gluten-Free Meals with Cornmeal

Living a gluten-free life doesn’t have to mean mean living a life without biscuits, pancakes and breads. In fact, it means a whole new palette of opportunities to explore. Consider using cornmeal, for instance. Cornmeal is basically coarse flour made from dried corn and ground to fine, medium, and coarse consistencies.

Cornmeal has been used as a food staple for centuries. Whether you call it cornmeal, grits or polenta — it’s all ground corn or maize. The biggest difference between the three is simply how it’s ground. Cornmeal is finely ground, grits are more commonly a coarser grind and made with hominy — corn treated with lime to help remove the hull. Polenta, which is a Northern Italian food staple, is also a coarsely ground corn. It’s made from flint, a corn variety with a hard starch center.

And, because cornmeal doesn’t contain wheat gluten, it’s a great product to keep in your pantry shelf. Let’s look at a few easy recipes to get you started cooking with cornmeal.

Gluten-Free Dinners with Cornmeal, Polenta and Grits

Cornmeal Pancakes With Vanilla and Pine Nuts


  • 1 ½ cups fine or medium cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup milk, or more as needed
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil, plus more for frying
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup pine nuts
  • Honey, for serving

Heat the oven to 200 degrees. Combine the cornmeal, salt and 1 1/2 cups boiling water in a bowl and let it sit until the cornmeal absorbs the water and softens, 5 to 10 minutes. Stir in the milk, a little at a time, until the batter is spreadable but still thick. Stir in 2 tablespoons oil, the vanilla, and the pine nuts. Put a large skillet or griddle over medium heat. When a few drops of water dance on its surface, add a thin film of oil and let it become hot. Spoon out the batter, making any size pancakes you like. Cook until bubbles form on the top and burst, and the underside is golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Turn and cook on the other side until golden. You may have to rotate the cakes to cook them evenly, depending on the heat source and pan. As they finish, transfer them to a plate in the oven while you cook the remaining batter. Serve with honey.

Cornmeal Fish Batter (great for walleye, or any white fish)


Mix together all ingredients except cornmeal, fish and oil.

Dip fish into batter, then coat both sides of fish with cornmeal.

Heat vegetable or coconut oil (preferred due to capacity for cooking at high heat). Place 3 or 4 fish fillets in hot oil. Cook over medium heat until golden brown

Mexican Cornmeal Chicken Nuggets

Here’s one the kids will love and you’ll be happy too, because it’s simple, fast, delicious, and gluten-free.


  • 1⁄2 cup cornmeal
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil **use coconut oil if possible.

Combine cornmeal, chili powder and cumin in a bowl. Add chicken to bowl and toss to coat well with the mixture. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add chicken and cook, stirring frequently, 5-6 minutes or until chicken is browned on all sides and done in the middle. Serve with your favorite salsa or dip.

Southern Shrimp and Grits

This iconic Southern dish shouldn’t be kept a secret. It’s easy and delicious!


  • 2 servings cooked grits
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup diced tasso ham (or substitute pancetta, prosciutto or bacon)
  • 2 tablespoons diced leeks
  • 2 tablespoons diced onion
  • 2 tablespoons diced green peppers
  • 20 medium to large shrimp, peeled and deveined, with tails on
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons white wine
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • Salt and pepper
  • Green onion tops, chopped

Cook grits according to package directions, set aside and keep warm.
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add tasso (or substitute) and sauté until crisp. Add diced vegetables and sauté until onions are translucent. Add shrimp and sauté for 30 to 45 seconds, or until pink. Remove from the pan and set aside. Deglaze the pan with a little white wine. Slowly add the cream and let reduce until thickened. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Divide grits among 2 serving plates. Line plate edges with shrimp (10 shrimp per serving). Pour sauce over grits. Garnish with green onion tops.

More GF Recipes


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