Romanian Cornmeal Porridge (Mămăligă)

Romanian cornmeal porridge

The Spruce

Prep: 0 mins
Cook: 45 mins
Total: 45 mins
Servings: 6 servings
Yield: 6 bowls
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
108 Calories
5g Fat
16g Carbs
2g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6
Amount per serving
Calories 108
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 5g 6%
Saturated Fat 2g 12%
Cholesterol 10mg 3%
Sodium 328mg 14%
Total Carbohydrate 16g 6%
Dietary Fiber 1g 5%
Total Sugars 0g
Protein 2g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 7mg 1%
Iron 1mg 4%
Potassium 60mg 1%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Similar to polenta, Romanian cornmeal porridge, or mămăligă, is an ancient dish that began as peasant food and is now served at fine restaurants. It is a simple combination of cornmeal, water (or stock or milk), salt, and butter, and can be served with sour cream, fresh cheese, and herbs.

This is a basic soft mămăligă recipe, but the porridge can also be baked or fried. No matter how you prepare it, the mixture does need to be stirred frequently as it cooks for about 40 minutes on the stovetop. This recipe suggests topping the mămăligă with telemea, a traditional Romanian cheese made from sheep's milk that is semisoft, crumbly, and a bit salty, similar to feta cheese.


  • 3 1/2 cups water

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • 1 cup coarse yellow cornmeal

  • Sour cream, optional

  • Telemea, or​ feta cheese, optional

  • Fresh herbs of choice, optional

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for cornmeal porridge
    The Spruce
  2. Bring the water to a rolling boil. Add the salt and butter, stirring to melt.

    Bring to boil
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  3. Using a wooden spoon, add the cornmeal very gradually, while stirring constantly in the same direction.

    Stir with wooden spoon
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  4. Simmer over low heat, stirring frequently, until it thickens and starts to pull away from the sides of the pot, about 35 to 40 minutes.

    Simmer over low heat
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  5. Serve hot with sour cream, cheese, and/or herbs if you prefer.

Recipe Variations

  • If desired, while mămăligă is still hot, add more butter along with some cheese, sour cream, and herbs and stir to combine.
  • Mămăligă can be poured into a pan and either baked or fried. Let the porridge cool, then pour into a pan and chill. Flip out onto a cutting board, cut into squares, and either bake or sauté in butter until crispy.

More Ways to Use Mămăligă

  • Mămăligă Balls: Mămăligă or cornmeal porridge is cooked until thick and moldable. It's portioned into balls and stuffed with salami or smoked sausage and fried. (You can substitute chunks of ham or feta cheese for the salami.) This is a great appetizer, snack, or finger food perfect with cocktails.
  • Oxtail Stew: Mămăligă is the perfect accompaniment for hearty stews like this one made with oxtails braised in red wine.
  • Croatian Venison GoulashIn Croatian, polenta is known as palenta. This stew is perfect over a bed of mămăligă. 
  • Peppered Shrimp and CauliflowerMămăligă is the perfect canvas for tender shrimp and crisp cauliflower, all boldly seasoned with garlic and black pepper.
  • Spiced Lamb StewA combination of ginger, cinnamon, cumin, tomatoes, garlic, and lemon juice adds warming flavors to this lamb stew. Serve it over mămăligă.

The History of Mămăligă

In the 16th century, the Turks introduced corn brought by Venetian merchants from the New World to northern Italians and Romanians, who planted the corn and made mush with it. This mush became Italian polenta and Romanian mămăligă. Mămăligă was traditionally cooked in a ceaun, a round-bottomed kettle, and then turned out onto a wooden farm table to cool and harden. (Many Romanian tables are shiny and concave in the center because of this.) A string was used to cut slices that were topped with butter, sour cream, and cheese. It is said any cracks in the mămăligă are an indication of a journey that lies ahead.