The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.


Cornbread is one of those things that people get attached to. REALLY attached to. There are dozens of cornbread recipes, and for each one there is someone who swears that that recipe is the best. No amount of discussion will convince them that the recipe their mother and grandmother made isn't the greatest cornbread in the world.

I'm not going to take sides here: leave it to other people to argue about whether Northern or Southern cornbread is real cornbread, or whether you should add sugar to cornbread. What I will do is introduce you to an extremely simple corn bread recipe and then explain how versatile cornbread can be. Once you have this basic cornbread recipe down there are no end of recipes you can derive from it.

It is well known that corn (also known as maize) is a grain first cultivated in America. What is less commonly known is that to this day scientists are puzzled by the origins of corn. Through genetic testing botanist have determined that corn is a teosinte (part of the Zea family of grasses) and was first cultivated in southern Mexico over 7,000 years ago. What they do not know is what inspired the domestication of corn. None of the surviving relatives of maize have anything resembling edible kernels, so it is believed that it took generations of breeding before an edible ear was developed. None of the intermediate species between the inedible grasses and the edible maize we are all familiar with have survived.

The Varieties of Cornbread

As I stated above, there are literally hundreds of cornbread recipes. Some include a mixtures of wheat flour and corn meal, others are made up purely of corn meal. Some include sugar, some include buttermilk, and others include whole pieces of corn.

The recipe below is as generic as possible: it produces an extremely simple, tasty loaf just waiting for your personalization. Some ideas of things you can do once you've got the basic loaf down:

  • Southern style cornbread typically has more corn meal in it, even to the full exclusion of wheat flour. Try that or try the opposite: make a quick bread with only 20% of the grain being corn.
  • Southern cooks also swear that buttermilk is essential to authentic Southern cornbread, as is the omission of sugar.
  • Other fats than vegetable oil may be added. Butter or animal fats, such as bacon drippings, are most commonly used.
  • Any number of things may be added into the loaf for flavor. Diced chili peppers are common, as are whole corn kernels. Meats, such as crumbled bacon bits, are also common.
  • With an increase in the sugar you can make delightful blueberry cornbread muffins.
  • Corn meal can also be substituted for a portion of the wheat flour in yeasted breads. I'd suggest beginning with no more than 20% of the flour being corn meal. If it turns out OK but leaves you craving more corn, bump it up the next time.
  • Different grinds of corn are available. Standard corn meal is medium ground, but finely ground corn flour or coarse corn grits (often labeled as polenta) are also available and can be used to modify the texture of your loaf.
  • White corn meal, blue corn meal, and yellow corn meal each produce different looking/tasting loaves.
  • Bake it, steam it, fry it. Try them all.

Basic Corn Bread

1 cup corn meal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1/3 vegetable oil
1 egg

Preheat the oven to 400.

Combine dry ingredients in one bowl, wet ingredients in another. Combine the two and mix until just blended. Pour into greased pan. Use and 8 x 8 pan if you like it fairly (2 to 3 inches) thick or 13 x 9 pan if you like it thin. I used a 13 x 9 pan for the loaf pictured here, which produced a 1 inch thick loaf.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove and serve while still warm.

My family loves cornbread slathered with honey butter, which is just a mixture of 1 part honey and 2 parts softened butter.

This cornbread does not keep terribly well. A richer recipe probably would keep better, but I suggest eating this bread in the first 48 hours or else reusing it in another recipe, like stuffing or bread pudding (both of which it is excellent in).

Do you have a favorite cornbread recipe or other ideas for ways to modify this recipe? Please comment and share your ideas!



jonquil's picture

I have no particular preference for Southern or Northern, or even knew a distinction existed, but because my husband can't tolerate a lot of wheat (esp. AP flour) I tried out the recipe on the back of the Hodgson Mill Corn Meal (whole grain stone ground from regular supermarket) and found it to be good. Husband loves it.  I like my with some flour, too, but this goes very with soup, and butter, etc.  Have made it 3-4 times at 6000ft elevation.  It falls slightly, but I haven't adjusted their recipe. Made it last night, here's the pic (what's left of the loaf):


Old Fashioned Cornbread

2 T shortening (I use Nutiva organic extra virgin coconut oil from  Vitamin Cottage

2 tsp baking powder (Clabber Girl)

1 tsp soda 

1 tsp salt

1 egg

2 c Hodgson Mill whole grain stone ground Corn Meal

2 T honey

1 3/4 c yogurt (I never have buttermilk on hand)

Put shortening in cast iron skillet in 400F oven (I used 8x8in pyrex).  Mix cornmeal, baking powder soda, salt together. (Here I change from original recipe)-->Mix yogurt, (warmed) honey and egg together in separate bowl with hand mixer until completely smooth.  Add to dry ingredients and mix with spatula by hand with a few, quick strokes (20-30) until ingredients are moistened.  Take pan out of oven and swish around to coat surface.  Pour batter into pan (will sizzle) and smooth top.  Bake 400F until done, about 25-30 minutes.


KipperCat's picture

Interesting jonquil, I'll have to try this the next time I make cornbread.  I've always used half corn meal and half wheat flour.  My sister also doesn't handle wheat very well, so this would be great for her.

edh's picture

I've heard of making cornbread without wheat, and wanted to try it, but never quite gotten around to it, now I will!

A question though; does the original recipe call for buttermilk, or yoghurt? I'm going to have to make this without dairy, but I can usually fake buttermilk with a combination of soy, rice, and coconut milks mixed with a little vinegar. Sounds odd, but you can't really taste it in baking. I don't know how well it would work to replace yoghurt though.

Thanks for posting it!


Doc Tracy's picture
Doc Tracy

I replace soy for dairy in everything. If you need buttermilk soy and vinegar. You can also make soy yogurt which is an even better substitute with a yogurt maker or in your proofer. 1tbsp yogurt or yogurt starter (you can get soy with active culture or goats) or even live lactoacidophillus in non-dairy, and add to soy which has been heated to 180 and cooled to 100 degrees. Keep at 80 degrees 24 hours or until cool.

I usually make a full cornmeal bread with corn and hot peppers, very moist if you add oil. Coconut oil (virgin) is very good for a nutty flavor.

jonquil's picture


Hi, original recipe calls for buttermilk.  Anything acidic should do. 

jonquil's picture

First, I'd like to say that the original cornbread post was very interesting and I was a clod back in 2008 for not being more polite. Luckily, people can learn.

Second: I went through a year of not having this cornbread rise or taste good. I believe it was because I bought some bulk baking powder at the health food store. I returned to Clabber Girl and my results are much better. I'm baking it again tonight (I had to come here for the recipe).