Simple Corn Cakes with Assorted Toppings

Sean Sherman


Beth Dooley


“When we were designing the menu for the Tatanka Truck, we wanted something lighthearted, unpretentious, healthy, and fun. So, we re-created the Indian taco with authentic ingredients—the indigenous taco. The base is a griddled corn cake, like a griddled polenta cake, topped with local foods such as walleye, smoked turkey, cedar-braised bison, and roasted squash. This Simple Corn Cake is made of cornmeal, cooled, formed into a patty, cooked on a hot flat surface—flat rocks, a home griddle—just as many Native communities have been doing for centuries.

The variations on these easy, simple cakes are endless. Stir in fresh corn, herbs, dried meat, berries, maple, seeds, nuts, and mushrooms. The base of cooked cornmeal may be stored in the refrigerator for at least a week, ready to shape into cakes for breakfast, lunch, appetizers, and snacks.” —Sean Sherman with Beth Dooley in their 2018 Beard Award–winning cookbook, The Sioux Chef's Indigenous Kitchen.


  • Generous pinch salt
  • 1 cup polenta or coarse cornmeal
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons sunflower or nut oil


In a large pot set over high heat, bring 3 cups water and salt to a boil and whisk in the cornmeal in a slow, steady stream. Continue stirring to be sure there are no lumps. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is thick and the flavor is rich and corny, 30 to 40 minutes. Set the mixture aside until cool enough to handle.

Shape the cooked cornmeal into patties, about 4 inches round by 1-inch-thick. Film a skillet with the oil and set over medium-high heat. Sear the patties until nicely browned on one side, 5 to 10 minutes, then flip and sear the other side, making sure they are cooked through. Place on a baking sheet and keep in a warm oven until ready to serve with one or more of the following toppings:

Blue Corn Cake Variation:  
The ash from burning a little juniper turns the cornmeal a dark, indigo color and gives it a hauntingly smoky flavor. Simply mix 1/2 cup juniper ash with 1/2 cup water and reduce the amount of water in the corn cake recipe above.


From The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen by Sean Sherman with Beth Dooley (University of Minnesota Press, 2017). Copyright 2017 Ghost Dancer, LLC. All rights reserved. Used by permission of the University of Minnesota Press.


4 to 6 servings