Recipe: Mamaliga (Dense Cornmeal “Bread”)

I’ve done it standing in front of my refrigerator at midnight. I’ve done it at 8:30 in the morning, right after eating a complete breakfast. I’ve even done it in celebration of eating all my veggies.

I fill my belly with bowlfuls of carbs – pasta, bread, potatoes, or rice – it really doesn’t matter.

Simply put: I’m carb crazy.

Enter Mamaliga, Moldova’s favorite side dish (and Romania’s, too). Carb-tastic.

This thick, dense polenta is made with corn meal (the coarser the better), water, and a bit of butter to make it slip-slide out of the bowl you set it in. Traditionally Mamaliga is sliced into slabs with a string or fishing line. Traditionally, you’d serve it with sour cream and cheese, and it is much appreciated on the side of nearly any dish, especially the locally adored sour soups (like borscht [recipe]).

So, friends, join me on the fast train to Moldova with Mamaliga. I’ll save you a seat.

Train in Moldova. Photo by Донор.

Serves 3-4


3 cups of water
1 cup of yellow cornmeal (medium or coarse grind, ideally)
Salt, as needed

Butter or oil, to grease bowls


Bring the water to a happy boil in a medium pot and stream in the cornmeal, whisking as you go. Season with a smattering of salt, to taste.

Cook, stirring often (eventually switching to a wooden spoon), until the mamaliga pulls away from the side of the pot and you can stick a wooden spoon in it and it stays standing straight up. Reduce heat if it begins to spatter and sputter.

Butter up one large or several small bowls (this recipe fills 3 of the size shown).

Ahh, now that’s a pot of mamaliga, ready to go. Now fill up those bowls, pressing down to remove any air pockets.

Let cool completely. Loosen around edges by pulling slightly with fingertip away from the edge of bowl. Once turned out, you may slice with fishing line or similar waxy thread.

Mr. Picky really enjoyed this one…

I was a bit skeptical about the sour cream, but the creamy coolness was great with the dense cornmeal cakes. Vegans may wish to try this with a vegan sour cream, I’ve noticed some made with tofu at the supermarket.

At the end of the day, it’s all a big bite of happy.

Enjoy with a friend, a string, and loads of sour cream smiles.

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  1. Mamaliga is good with a salty, strong type of farm cheese (feta or bulgarian feta are the closest in the US) and sour cream, or a sort of finely chopped ragu, or fried fish, or chicken on the bone in a sour cream and flour rue or roux sauce.

    Also, this song by a famous Moldovan band is about mamaliga:

  2. You made my day! I’m from Moldova! :) We ate this every time we visited the grandparents. My grandma use to make “friptura” (pork stew) and mamaliga on the side. We dipped the mamaliga in crumbled feta cheese then In the stew. Yum! Sweet memories.


  1. […] Mamaliga (Dense Cornmeal “Bread”) [Recipe] […]

  2. […] starters, I noticed an old friend from our time cooking Moldova: “malmaliga” [Recipe]. This polenta-like side is either served like porridge or made so thick it can be sliced like […]

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