Mais moulin, also known as Haitian cornmeal, is a simple and delicious dish that is perfect for a light lunch or dinner. It is made with coarse cornmeal that is cooked in water until it becomes a creamy porridge. The cornmeal is then flavored with spinach, garlic, and tomato paste. The finished dish is hearty and satisfying and a good source of protein and fiber.
I ALWAYS THINK OF MY FATHER when I think of “mais moulin” (creole translation), polenta, or cornmeal. He made “mais moulin” at least 1-2 times weekly for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and it was always delicious. He would add tomato paste, giving it this distinctive red-orange color. Also, he would always add too much oil! Hahaha!!! That reminds me of the numerous times we would complain and his number of excuses.
What is cornmeal?
Cornmeal is a coarse flour made from dried corn kernels. It is a common staple food in many cultures around the world. Cornmeal is ground into different textures, from fine to coarse. The texture of the cornmeal determines how it is used in cooking.
- Fine cornmeal makes cornbread, muffins, and other baked goods.
- Medium cornmeal makes polenta, grits, and other dishes that require a creamy texture.
- Coarse cornmeal is used to make cornmeal mush, hominy grits, and other dishes that require a more substantial texture.
Cornmeal is versatile and can be prepared in a variety of ways in Haitian cuisine. It is normally prepared or served with beans, vegetables, and different sauces. But my favorite way to eat mais moulin is how my dad always made it, Red! And by the way, with less oil. LOL… I can hear him now from heaven telling me that more oil will make it tastier. LOL…
Ingredients for Mais Moulin ak epinard or Mais Moulu avec Epinard or Polenta with Spinach.
- Olive oil: you can also use extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, or grapeseed oil
- Onion: for flavoring. Use a red or white onion.
- Shallot: for added flavor when combined with the onion.
- Thyme: for seasoning. It is best to use fresh as it is easier to remove after cooking.
- Scotch Bonnet: must be whole, and do not let it burst during cooking. This pepper gives the cornmeal a nice subtle peppery taste.
- Cloves of garlic: you can also use powdered garlic, about one tablespoon.
- Fresh Parsley: for seasoning. If using dried parsley, add two tablespoons.
- Tomato paste: for flavor and to add color to the mais moulin.
- Dried shrimp powder: you can grind dried shrimp or use fish sauce or anchovies. The taste will be different but still good.
- Coarse cornmeal: the star of the show. Not all cornmeal will have the same cooking time. Choose a brand you are comfortable with.
- Frozen spinach: easier to use than fresh spinach. You can also use fresh if you prefer.
- Water: needed to cook the cornmeal. You will need a good amount to cook the mais or cornmeal thoroughly. Don’t forget to keep adjusting the seasoning.
- Salt & pepper to taste
- Seasoned salt/Maggi or salt-free chicken bouillon: for seasoning
- Avocados are a must for the whole experience.
Notes and Tips for the Mais Moulin:
- For a smoother polenta, use fine cornmeal.
- You can use instant polenta if you don’t have time to cook the polenta from scratch. Just follow the package instructions.
- Add grated Parmesan cheese, chopped fresh herbs, or your favorite spices to add more flavor to the polenta.
- Serve the polenta with your favorite toppings, such as grilled vegetables, roasted chicken, or a simple tomato sauce.
I hope you enjoy this recipe from my childhood. It is super simple and is great when you don’t want to be in the kitchen all day. Recipes like this are great, especially if you have a busy schedule like me and want to eat a comforting meal.
I have tweaked the recipe a bit, adding more herbs, dried shrimp powder, which you can find at your local farmer’s market or Mexican market, and less oil. If you can’t find the powdered one, at the Asian market, they have these spectacular jars of tiny salted shrimp that will give this dish a nice distinct flavor as well. Just make sure not to add too much. As always, feel free to tweak this recipe to your liking; get creative.
- 3-4 tablespoons olive oil
- half of a medium onion chopped
- 1 large shallot chopped
- 2 sprigs of thyme
- 1 Scotch bonnet pepper whole
- 2-3 cloves of garlic or 1 teaspoon powdered garlic
- 4 sprigs of parsley
- 4 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon dried shrimp powder optional, 1 tbsp of fish sauce or 4 anchovies fillets
- 2 cups coarse cornmeal
- 1 cup frozen chopped spinach
- 6 – 8 cups water
- Salt & pepper to taste
- Seasoning salt or salt-free chicken bouillon, optional
- Avocado to serve
- In a sturdy Dutch oven large pot or similar, heat oil, under medium heat. Add herbs, spices and tomato paste, sauté until tender, it should be a thick sauce consistency.
- Next add the cornmeal and quickly add the water, then stir thoroughly.
- Adjust season on ingredients if necessary.
- When stirring make sure not to burst the pepper. Cook uncovered, stir often.
- Once all the water has evaporated, check to make sure it is cooked, if not add about 1-2 cups of water if necessary and continue cooking until the grains are fully cooked and soft.
- Serve with slices of avocado.
Cooking time will depend on type and brand of corn meal.
Please keep in mind that nutritional information is a rough estimate and can vary greatly based on the products used.
Nutrition info is automatically generated and provided as a courtesy and as an estimate only.
Always choose ingredients without corn or corn derivatives.
Originally published August 13, 2016. Revised and updated to add additional content.