Vegan BBQ Lentils with Millet Polenta

Created by Laura Wright
5 from 1 vote

A cozy and quick bowl of vegan BBQ lentils with millet polenta. This is a filling and flavourful vegan and gluten-free main course.

#vegan bbq lentils with millet "polenta" //
illuminati lentils // via @thefirstmess
kitchen vibes // via @thefirstmess
shredding shallots // via @thefirstmess

Mark’s and my favourite kind of food to eat is somewhat sloppy stuff on top of starch, and dang if I’m not willing to provide at least that. Curries, pasta, veg ragout/beans on toast, Moroccan-style tagines with couscous and the like eaten out of a big bowl while we catch up on our stories is how the dinner bell rings most nights. Sweatpants, hair up, dog whining for a few scraps, and any number of variations on the rhetorical “This is good, right?” It makes me happier than a beautifully set table ever could.

I unabashedly love baked beans. From scratch, canned, doesn’t matter. When Kristy from Keepin’ It Kind sent me her new cookbook But I Could Never Go Vegan!, my eyes went right to her maple-baked beans + cornbread dish. Deep comfort in a tidy package. But I didn’t have beans and I had used up all of my cornmeal trying to develop a recipe for my own book, so I had to get creative. Having seen a baked beans approach to lentils from another cooking site that I love, and knowing that millet ground for porridge is very corn/polenta-like, I sort of stumbled into a solution. I like Kristy’s book because, in a very fun way, it’s structured around the idea of “no excuses.” She makes brilliant nut-based versions of cheeses to satiate dairy cravings and thoughtful hearty mains to nip the “rabbit food” criticism in the bud.

This dish, with flavours inspired by her recipe, was so cozy and light at the same time. Once the lentils are cooked, it comes together pretty fast too. I’ve been making homemade barbecue sauce since I learned how to cook and I always find it a satisfying process. The recipe I’ve offered here is my go-to quick and dirty version that’s perfect for this little bowl, but it’s also nice for grilled portobellos, crispy tempeh slices, roasted sweet potato wedges etc.

#vegan bbq lentils with millet "polenta" //
#vegan bbq lentils with millet "polenta" // via @thefirstmess
But I Could Never go Vegan! by Kristy Turner
#vegan bbq lentils with millet "polenta" //

Vegan BBQ Lentils with Millet Polenta

A cozy and quick bowl of vegan BBQ lentils with millet polenta. This is a filling and flavourful vegan and gluten-free main course.
5 from 1 vote
#vegan bbq lentils with millet "polenta" // via @thefirstmess
Servings 2 -3


Quick BBQ Sauce

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 small shallot, peeled and grated on a box grater
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon mustard powder
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 ½ cups jarred tomato sauce
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Tamari
  • sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Everything else

  • 1 ¼ cups cooked french or black lentils
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 small cooking onion, small dice
  • sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • 3 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 cup raw millet, ground into flour/meal
  • handful of flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 2-3 sticks of celery, small diced with inner leaves if possible


  • inspired by Kristy Turner’s maple-baked beans in But I Could Never Go Vegan! Millet polenta technique from Erin Alderson‘s The Homemade Flour Cookbook
  • I cook lentils like pasta. Tons of water in the pot and I just keep checking for doneness.
  • With the liquid components of this barbecue sauce, I like to blend them up for total smoothness prior to adding them to the pot, but this is an optional step. A good thing to note as well: I’ve made this sauce with less than half of the specified maple syrup amount, and loved it just the same. If you’re less excited about the play of sweet flavours in a sauce, you can use less.


  • Make the barbecue sauce. Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the grated shallot and minced garlic to the pan and sauté, stirring frequently, until soft. About 3 minutes. Add the smoked paprika, mustard powder, and chili powder to the pot and stir for 20 seconds or so. Add the tomato sauce, maple syrup, apple cider vinegar, and tamari to the pot and stir. Bring the barbecue sauce to a boil and simmer until sauce is slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Reserve 1 cup of sauce for this dish and store the rest covered in your refrigerator.
  • Combine the cooked lentils and 1 cup of barbecue sauce in a small saucepan and keep very warm. Add a fat pinch of salt and pepper if you like.
  • Make the polenta. In a medium saucepan/small soup pot, heat the 2 teaspoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the diced onion and sauté, stirring frequently, until translucent and soft. About 5-7 minutes. Add the vegetable stock to the pot along with a heavy pinch of salt. Bring the stock to a boil and then slowly sprinkle in the ground millet flour while whisking. Keep whisking the ground millet and stock until you have a thick, cooked polenta-like mixture. Remove it from the heat and divide the polenta among two large-ish bowls. Top the polenta with the warm vegan BBQ lentils. In a small bowl, quickly toss the parsley leaves and celery together with some olive oil, salt and pepper. Divide the little salad amongst the two plates and serve.
12/03/2015 (Last Updated 05/08/2023)
Posted in: creamy, earthy, gluten free, lentils, main course, nut free, refined sugar-free, salty, sour, spicy, sweet, tomatoes, vegan


Recipe Rating

  • Sarah

    I made this last night for dinner because I had millet I wasn’t sure what to do with… I am SO happy I found your recipe! It was scrumptious and very filling. I used standard green lentils and halved the sugar in the bbq sauce recipe and it came out beautifully. This is going to be a staple and has been added to the rotation list! Thanks for posting it :)

  • Erin Jenkins

    This bbq sauce was crazy delicious! my 5 year old gobbled it up like mad. We put it over quinoa and it was great. thanks for the recipes here.

  • Marry

    Made the BBQ Lentil part of this tonight and served it over traditional polenta. The sauce was too sweet for me and I love sweet. I added more vinegar which helped. Maybe my maple is sweeter?

    • Laura

      Hi Marry,
      I actually made this sauce for some beans the other night (just roughly without measuring), and used at least 1/2 the amount of maple syrup. I liked it just the same and I tend to like sweet things as well. Although I liked the original formulation, too. The only thing I can think of: did your jarred tomato sauce have any added sweetness in the ingredients? Or you really cooked the sweetness out of the shallot? I’m a little stumped on this one. I’m going to make a note on the recipe though.

    • Marry

      Made this again tonight with the millet this time and loved it! I used 1 1/2 Tablespoon of maple only and served it topped with sauteed dandelion greens. I was in taste bud alley!

  • Theresa

    Just made this and I really enjoyed it! My husband liked it too and that’s always a plus. This will be a repeat.

  • Karen

    Laura, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts/struggles with long-term partnership!(Here and in the Jessica Murane podcast) It is so incredibly helpful to know that I’m not the only one struggling with those same issues. It is so f#$%#ing hard to silence that little voice that creates resentment and anger and then unnecessary conflict in our relationships. So in the spirit of sharing- I’ve been reading a lot about the destructive nature of victim-hood and came up with a list of affirmations. Who knows, maybe you’ll find them helpful :)

    –“The victim surrenders power over their life to others, their life is driven by their environment.”–
    I choose not to give my power away.
    I take responsibility for controlling myself.
    I choose not to take things personally.
    I choose not to make assumptions
    I choose to approach all situations with kindness and empathy.
    I choose to act from a place of love, not anger or fear.

    • Laura

      Thank you for this thoughtful comment, Karen! I’m so glad you liked the podcast too. It’s always a relief to read wonderful feedback like this when you put some non-sunshine-and-rainbows topics out there. These affirmations are wonderful. Thanks again! :)

  • lydia

    oh yum! so so good with roasted pumpkin and topped with fresh avocado

  • krystal

    I am currently eating this sauce with a spoon and trying to save some for the lentils. I am mad excited for your cookbook. I’m gonna Julie and Julia the shiz out of that thing.

  • Leo Sigh

    Definitely going to try this. Just going back to being vegan so need all the help I can get :) And, like you, I love sloppy stuff on top of starch. Got you bookmarked and will definitely be back. Like I said – need help :)

  • Renee

    Love this comfort-y looking bowl of deliciousness!

  • Jordan

    This looks delish! I’ve been trying to find more things to do with lentils, since they’re pretty easy to get. I’ll definitely have to try this out!

  • Sus ||

    Laura, this post, is so on point to my current situation is unreal! What a great, honest post. I get so stressed sometimes and am constantly being told to ‘not get stressed’ which drives me mad but maybe he’s right!

    This recipe looks like the ultimate comfort food, Ima cook it for my man tomorrow!

    Keep up the great work girl.


  • Elena

    This was freaking DELICIOUS. I loved the creamy millet. I don’t have a vitamix and my food processor didn’t do the best job grinding the millet but that was okay, it had a great texture. I cheated and added some parmesan to the millet too! And the celery leaves were so surprisingly good on this – would’ve never thought of that. Thank you these were awesome – will be a household staple for us and so glad to have a good and easy homemade bbq recipe!

  • olly

    i made this the other day and it turned out great, and i too, like sloppy stuff on starch. it is absolute comfort food. i will without a doubt be making this again :)

  • kristie {birch and wild}

    I love coming to your blog because I always come away having learned a new technique, or I find I appreciate an ingredient in a new way after seeing how you use it (celery leaves!). I recently found out I am allergic to corn, so it is good to see that there is another way to get my polenta fill (which I have always loved). Gorgeous photos here, too :)

  • John

    1. Healthy. 2. Delicious. 3. Amazing to look at. I already love lentils and scrolling through the recipe know this is gonna be killer. But I would like to comment about the beauty of your photographs throughout the blog. Just that. Beauty!

  • dedietrich

    I really like lentils and always look for new recipes. This one I’ll definitely try in the nearest future.

  • Kate

    BBQ lentils are the best!!! I’m dipping my toe into the millet bucket, I’ve only tried like a salad, but this looks super good and I can’t wait to give it a try!

  • Sarah Nikolovska

    Hi! I tried this recipe the other day with a few modifications because of food allergies, and it was still delicious!!! I’m allergic to garlic and onions so recipes that involve BBQ are usually a no go, but I just used canned whole tomatoes, left out the garlic and onion, and added a teaspoon of chinese 5 spice powder to replace the smoke (only had regular paprika). As I said, simple delicious! Thank you for sharing :)

  • thefolia

    This is my kind of meal in a bowl…I love the mushy component with my favorite lentils…black. Would love if everyone in my nest would agree so that I can make this as a meal instead of optional side…cheers to working on my patience! Happy Nesting.

  • Lori

    I have three kids, and it’s busy all the time! I always have a chore to do, and planning how to the next one. I feel I am missing how much fun my kids are! This spring, I want to enjoy them more without stressing about the mundane.
    Lentils on the weeks list!

  • Jane

    Two things. One, I want to learn more about combining flavors and cooking techniques by actually following recipes. Two, I want to eat each dish I make along with those from restaurants I hope to visit with gusto!

  • Laurén

    What a coincedance that I read this today. I woke up this morning with an over all sense of “bleh”. Just the general humm and grind of life and responsibilities, and a husband whom I love more than anything, but as hard as he tries he just CANNOT manage to adequately clean the sink out after he shaves. And the only vegetable he likes is broccoli. Other than that, it’s meat and ice cream haha. Maybe I’m being selfish, but I honestly have these stupid little freak out moments in my head of “Oh my gosh what if he doesn’t live as long as I do?!” And the total hippie within me is dead set on shoving vegetables down his throat because dang it he’s going to get nutrients and live a long life with me. As if clean eating is the only variable. As if I don’t eat more ice cream than him.
    The point of all that is to say thank you. Thank you for the comfort food recipe and the true writing about love and relationships. Thank you for reminding me there are a million ways to say “I love you”, and if cleaning out the sink after him is one of them then I’ll do it forever.

  • Dixya @ Food, Pleasure, and Health

    this post really hits home about is supposed to be selfless but i feel im way more selfish than my boyfriend..and we often talk about it. its amazing how relationship, or love in general has a power to change you, make you powerful. absolutely love your words.

  • Brigitte

    I absolutely love legumes!! any bean !! My wife is Mexican and opened my eyes to beans and cooking from scratch with chillis , spices and all!! Anxious to try this one!!! We recently moved into our first home and she is starting school full time. I work in a hospital..evening/nights…I want to be able to organize my time. Be able to spend time with her as much as possible. Also to be able to get out of this rut and get more active, exercise going to the gym and being healthier!! Lots of changes coming in spring and Hopefully we will be able to sprout new roots together in our new home and and grow strong and healthy together in this chaotic time ahead of us!!

  • Alissa

    this spring i would like to focus on being more present in all facets of my life

  • Chris

    I could never go vegan. Actually, I could go. But it’s always a visit. Like vacation. Like that week I used to spend at Grandma’s in the summer. There is so much to appreciate about the vegan approach. I’ve been nearly-vegan. And Paleo and “Clean” and free-of-added-sugar. All at different times. Currently I’m exploring the bottom of the barrel in terms of diets. Sparsely populated with vegetation at all. I think it’s called the American diet and my particular version involves quite a bit of coffee and often something that’s been baked or fried. I needed this post. My poor diet is affecting every aspect of my life and the sad, sad truth is that I KNOW this. I’ve done the hard work of planning menus, shopping the perimeter of the grocery store, and lovingly making meals. But I’m not sure how I’ve fallen off the wagon so thoroughly. In reading this post it’s nice to know there are people, albeit out there in the internets, dealing with the same struggle around the sustainability of eating for health. Yes, being mindful. Cooking with intention. This serendipitous post is my wake-up. This will be my dusting off. Thanks for the hand.

  • Zanna F

    I just saw you’re running a little contest for the cookbook, so I’d also like to share a life change I’m implementing this year. (I started yesterday, actually.) I’ve decided to start writing down my thoughts: interesting things I read about or hear on the radio, things or words or ideas I learned, self realizations. Anything that matters, really. So that it doesn’t only matter for a split second, but maybe a little longer. And maybe it ends up making a greater impact in my life..

  • Kristin

    This post and your description of how we might find ourselves behaving in comfortable partnerships really resonated with me at this point in my life, thank you! In addition to working on that, I’ve been thinking of trying to replace my morning routine of coffee/internet consumption with something a bit healthier/proactive to start the day.

  • Neko

    This was a simply beautiful post.

  • Tiffany

    Can’t wait to try this! My spring goal is to work on adopting a healthier lifestyle, primarily through learning basic cooking techniques as I make healthy home-cooked meals. Your recipes inspire me to cook! Thanks! :)

  • Casey

    One habit I’d like to kick to the curb is watching TV (or rather shows on my laptop) up until going to sleep. I know it’s stupid but it’s such a comfortable habit. Though I suppose that’s the nature of habits…

  • Millie | Add A Little

    Gorgeous words Laura – I definitely want to start get on the exercise band wagon – not to lose weight but to get those endorphins running around my body!! Also, super into making way more vegan meals!

  • Zanna F

    Ok, that third paragraph really speaks to me. Thank you! I made a screenshot and then read it again, and it’s such a great reminder to stay open and not take people for granted when it’s comfortable to do so. Also, super excited to try this recipe! :)

  • Sara

    Totally loving the little parsley and celery salad on top. Such awesome contrast. Also, your comment on sweatpants, hair up and the rhetorical “this is good, right?” just rings through so authentically for me.

  • Riley

    I’m actually going through a very similar situation with my significant other and I know how tough it is to not take stress home after a long day. The change that I want to make this spring regards my self-love; there certainly isn’t enough of it but it’s getting better! Cheers to you, Laura.

  • Linzy

    If I had to pick one thing to work on this spring, it would be to cut back on the sugar a bit. I’ve noticed that I’ve just been craving it like crazy, and it never does me any favors.

  • jennfier

    Wow, gorgeous pictures and love the recipe! Can’t wait to try this – thanks for the cookbook recommendation.

  • Jodi

    Being with someone for the long haul is hard work. Especially because they begin to know you almost better than you know yourself and call you out on our shit in those moments when you could reaaally just use a pity-party. I get it. And coffee totally helps. My husband challenges the hell out of me, but committing to him and life together has been the best decision I’ve ever made. Stew-y things on starch and a quiet dinner in sweatpants, it’s a similar scene over here most nights and l love what you’ve gone and done with these quick +dirty lentils. Thanks Laura, always a good read over here xo

  • Ella Weed

    Thank you for your post! I check your blog everyyy day with hopes that it’ll be a good one and you’ll have posted something new :)
    I am going through finals here at college and I appreciate getting to take a break and read your always lovely and so inspiringly delicious recipes.
    I hope to be less controlling, especially of my boyfriend. I want him to eat more healthy sooo badly and so I push fruits and veggies on him and ask him to work out when he isn’t always interested in those things. I want to work on accepting and loving him for just who HE IS, not the “perfect” him I want him to be.
    I appreciate you so much Laura! Thank you for your brightness.

  • Grace

    This is beautifully written. I’ve been going through similar feelings lately. Having to dig deep to do the work that takes your relationship to the next level, wherein you have to reveal more about yourself and fully accept your other half. It’s the good stuff, but it’s not easy.

  • Abby

    This spring I need to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables. I feel like I say that every year, but trying to eat seasonally in the winter gets pretty tough in Michigan! Spring always reminds me of new greens and other young vegetables. I cannot wait for fresh produce.

  • Jessica DeMarra

    It is so funny to read this post-existential crisis. I have spent the last year of my life preparing to major in Nutritional Science at a prestigious university but after auditing a few classes and really questioning why I decided to pursue it in the first place, I have decided to simply not to do it. Not that it isn’t a valid or admirable profession to strive for but to me cooking/blogging has always been about the food, what it tastes like, the memories it can create or the conversations around the dining table and not carbon bonds or glycolysis reaction.
    So after many tears of panick, laughs and then more tears I have decided to give food writing my all and treat it like it is my passion because it is and there is nothing embarrassing about that. I have decided to enjoy the now and stop worrying too much about the next 10 years. They are going to pass no matter what and I may as well be happy!

    • Jessica DeMarra

      And by panick, I mean panic. I wrote my comment from my phone on the bus, “Your fingers are too fat to complete this call…” How silly of me!

  • Stephanie

    This spring is all about self-reflection for me! In all aspects of my life.

  • Chelsea @ Chelsea's Healthy Kitchen

    Something I want to work on this spring is being more intentional with my time. Sometimes when I have blog posts to write, pictures to edit, photos to take, I’ll find myself wasting so much time on social media! I need to start blocking out my time and being intentional about how I spend it.

    This looks seriously delicious. I had no idea you could grind millet to make a polenta like dish. So neat!

  • Arlene

    Love this post about all the frustrations! Yes, wait until you add children to this (but it’s amazing how we parents make it work). I started watching my 2 grandbabies again (mom back to work until summer, she’s a teacher). I need to plan out these two days better especially cooking! This meal will be a good one to make the day ahead, even my meat eating husband will love it.

  • Milica Loncar

    One habit/life-y change I’d like to work on this spring is to turn social media off at 9pm, get to bed by 10pm and wake up after a deep and refreshing sleep at 7am, instead of my current life long ‘habit’ of staying plugged in until midnight, taking over an hour to fall asleep and then having a tossy, restless night until finally getting up after 8am and straight back onto social media. this is nuts! i have to break this cycle and winning this prize will give me the sweet joyful impetus to do so :)

  • Emily

    I’m trying to eat less refined sugar, ever since I found our it’s processed with bone char. I recently fell in love with your site and bookmarked a gazillion recipes, so that should help me out!

  • Andrea

    Eating more and more and more vegan food in general!

  • Siobain

    Loved your post !
    There’s a lot of maturity there, it took me a long time to get to that place of ‘loving a good man who is strong enough to love me back’, but I’m glad I did.
    But why can’t we Europeans get the swag ?
    We’re prepared to pay the postage girl !! Come on ! xx