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This classic southern cornbread recipe is slightly sweet and far from dry. It crumbles nicely making it great for serving over chili and casseroles. It’s also great served as a slice on the side of your favorite meal.
I am from the south and grew up on my grandma’s famous southern-style cornbread. It was served at all the family gatherings.
I’ve since turned her recipe into cheddar jalapeno cornbread muffins and maple brown butter cornbread, which is absolutely amazing.
There are so many different ways to make cornbread and the most traditional southern way doesn’t have any form of sweetener. True southerners will curse you for adding sugar to cornbread, ha!
I guess I’m not a true southerner. I like my cornbread to be a little sweet and today’s recipe is just that.
Why this recipe works
- The right balance of cornmeal and flour gives the bread structure while also allowing it to crumble easily. A good cornbread should crumble!
- A combination of oil and butter is used to give the bread flavor without sacrificing the moist texture.
- A little sugar is added to give the bread a hint of sweetness.
Southern Cornbread Recipe
As I mentioned before, I grew up on my grandmother’s cornbread. She is Lumbee Indian and one of the best cooks I know. My entire Lumbee family is pretty incredible at cooking.
I was gifted a handmade cookbook that is a compilation of recipes from my deep-rooted southern family and there were at least 5 different cornbread recipes inside.
I tested them all but kept going back to grandma’s recipe. A couple of the recipes were too dry or tastelss. And I prefer a slightly sweeter bread that crumbles nicely and isn’t too dry.
You don’t have to use sugar. You can completely omit it if you wish. But I will say, it doesn’t taste overly sweet like cake. It’s just enough sugar to add a hint of sweetness.
Southern cornbread ingredients
I’ve seen cornbread recipes made so many different ways! Some use buttermilk, some use all cornmeal and no flour, some use baking powder and baking soda. Let’s go over the ingredients I use:
- Flour: All-purpose flour gives the bread structure so it isn’t too crumbly.
- Cornmeal: Look for fine ground cornmeal that is stone-ground. Don’t use anything that already contains flour or leavening agents. The package should state that it is just cornmeal.
- Sugar: I like to put sugar in my cornbread but this is completely optional.
- Salt: To enhance the flavors.
- Baking powder & baking soda: To help the bread rise.
- Eggs: Needed for moisture and structure.
- Milk: Whole buttermilk is best for this recipe. Try to avoid using low-fat buttermilk.
- Butter: Just a little to add flavor and moisture.
To bake this cornbread you’ll need:
- Mixing bowls: A large mixing bowl plus a large liquid measuring cup is all you need for mixing the ingredients.
- Whisk & spatula: You don’t need a mixer for this recipe. All you need is a large whisk and a silicone spatula.
- Baking pan: Cast iron skillets are typically the go-to for baking cornbread. But a stoneware baking dish or even a cake pan will work.
How to make Southern cornbread
The process is simple and requires only 2 bowls, a whisk, and a spatula. The bread can be baked in a castiron skillet, casserole dish, or a square cake pan.
The Batter – The batter uses the muffin method for mixing. This is where you mix the wet and dry ingredients separately then you combine the two.
Just like with all baking recipes, start with room temperature ingredients. Set the eggs and milk out on the counter 1 hour before you plan to make the bread.
Measure out all the other ingredients. Set them on the counter along with a large mixing bowl, a medium mixing bowl, a whisk, and a spatula.
Preheat the oven to 400°F and grease the bottom and sides of a baking dish with butter. You can use a 9-inch cast iron skillet, stoneware baking dish, casserole baking dish, or square cake pan.
Step 1: Combine the dry ingredients
Add the cornmeal to a large bowl. Then sift the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into the bowl.
Stir all the dry ingredients with a whisk to combine.
Step 2: Combine the wet ingredients
Use a large measuring cup with a pour spout or a separate bowl. Add the buttermilk, eggs, and butter. Whisk them together until well combined.
Make sure the melted butter has cooled so it doesn’t scramble the eggs.
Use a whisk or silicone spatula to stir the wet and dry ingredients together just until they are combined.
Avoid over mixing!
It’s okay if the batter isn’t completely smooth, it should look a little lumpy.
Step 4: Bake
Pour the cornbread batter into the prepared pan and use an offset spatula to spread it evenly. Bake the cornbread for 20-25 minutes, until the top is golden brown. A toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean.
Let the bread cool slightly before slicing and serving.
Tips for making the best Southern cornbread
- Choose the right cornmeal! Fine-ground plain cornmeal works best. And avoid using a cornmeal mix. Those contain flour and leavening agents which will not work with this recipe!!
- Properly measure the flour. Don’t scoop the flour directly out of the bag with the measuring cup. Since flour compacts, this method will add too much flour to the recipe.
- You can omit the sugar if you are one of those folks who doesn’t care for sweet cornbread.
- Use a cast-iron skillet for an extra crispy crust on the outside of the cornbread.
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I was worried at first because the batter seemed a bit thin but it turned out perfectly! I made some minor adjustments based on the ingredients I had on hand (more cornmeal less flour, made buttermilk with milk and lemon juice). I used a 9 inch cast iron pie plate. Perfectly golden!
I made this yesterday; it was so good! I accidentally omitted the sugar, and it was still good! Great texture. I did measure the flours with a scale. Perfect! Thank you.
Do you think I could use a vegan milk option like oat milk or coconut milk? I am dairy free so I tend to rely on these options.
Because baking soda is used in the recipe, you need an acid like buttermilk to neutralize it. You’re not going to be able to do that with any dairy-free milk unless you add lemon juice or vinegar. Even then, I can’t guarantee it will taste okay.
This looks like a great recipe. I’d like to make it in a cast iron skillet. Do you think a 9″ round pan would work? Thanks!
Yes, 9 or 10-inch round pans will work perfectly.
I made this tonight to accompany red beans, and it was satisfactory combining the two. Since it was okay to omit the sugar, I only used 1 T. Next time I’ll use the called-for 1/4th cup as it will not be too sweet. The cornbread seemed to need more salt and I’ll increase that, also.
I only had reconstituted Carnation evaporated milk to use. Otherwise the recipe was followed although I didn’t weigh the flour and the cornbread bordered on dryness. Baked in a smaller, buttered 8×8 glass pan for 25 min. Cut cleanly without any falling-apart problems, so muffins would be fun to try. There was even a delicious crust on the bottom and sides of the nine pieces the recipe made. Could I add more melted butter for a richer taste, I wonder, and sub salted butter instead of increasing salt? Would decreasing my flour measurement help? I stirred and took flour out of container with a spoon as tip indicated.
This looks like a great cornbread! I can’t wait to try it.