Southern (With a Twist) Cornbread… naturally gluten-free with a dairy-free option

Because there are a few major league cornbread fans in my family, I have experimented with quite a few recipes over the years.  This combination of ingredients is one of my favorites for several reasons.

First, it’s easy!  This recipe can be quickly prepped and baked and will compliment a variety of soups, salads, and proteins.  Secondly, there is no flour in the recipe, making it ideal for those who cannot eat gluten and appealing to those who are simply looking to avoid it. Lastly, the method of baking creates crispy edges and moist insides…and with just one tablespoon of fat in the whole recipe, there is very little guilt!

I am sure this is highly un-Southern, but I love to top this cornbread with a spoonful of strawberry jam.  And even though many think that cornbread tastes best straight from the oven, I wrap and refrigerate any leftovers and think they taste quite good the next day.

Southern (With a Twist) Cornbread
When you pour the batter into the hot cast iron skillet, the magic of this recipe begins. If you do not have a cast iron pan, you may substitute another oven-safe skillet. Just make sure to not use a round pan with a diameter of greater than 10 inches or the bread will be too thin. A 9-inch skillet will work, too, and may simply require an extra minute or two in the oven. In a pinch, you may substitute a 9-inch square metal baking pan.

Yield: 8-10 servings
Ingredients
  • 2 cups stone-ground cornmeal*
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups buttermilk, well shaken (see notes for dairy-free option**)
  • 1/4 cup honey (may substitute sugar***)
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil (bacon fat would be traditional; may substitute oil of choice)
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  3. In medium bowl, whisk the eggs until foamy. Whisk in the buttermilk and honey.
  4. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and mix until just blended.
  5. Meanwhile, place the coconut oil in a 10-inch cast iron skillet (see comments above about pan size/type), and heat the skillet in the oven for 5 minutes or until very hot.
  6. Remove the skillet from the oven, and immediately pour in the batter. Return the skillet to the oven, and bake for 18 minutes, give or take a few minutes, or until the top is golden and the center is just cooked through. Check a few minutes early as all ovens vary and add a few extra minutes if needed. Taking care not to over-bake will ensure moist cornbread. (If the top is sufficiently browned but the center is still not cooked through, lightly drape with a piece of foil.)
  7. Serve hot or at room temperature, with butter, honey or — my personal favorite — strawberry jam. Wrap tightly, and refrigerate any leftovers. If the leftovers become dry, wrap lightly in a damp paper towel and reheat gently in the microwave. This will “refresh” the cornbread, as my grandmother used to say!
Notes

*I recently noticed that the weight listed on the package of a popular brand of cornmeal does not match the corresponding volume measurement, potentially leading to a discrepancy for those who use that brand.  (This could lead to not enough cornmeal being used if measuring with a kitchen scale.)  So while I usually say that weight is the most accurate measurement, in this case it may not be.  Weight of cornmeal will vary slightly based on grind (fine, medium, or coarse), so for best results I recommend scooping into cups and leveling with the straight edge of a knife.

Also, over time I’ve had the occasional comment mentioning that the center was still undercooked but the edges were done, which was likely tied to too little cornmeal being used.  However, I have raised the oven temperature to 400 degrees F (from the 375 degrees previously recommended) because I think it does bake the bread more evenly.  If you’ve had success with this recipe at 375 degrees, by all means stick with it.  However, I have begun cooking this cornbread at 400 and do prefer it. (10/28/17)

**Low-fat buttermilk works in this recipe, but for best results I prefer the full-fat version. (If you are local and a patron of Lancaster Central Market, Maplehofe Dairy‘s buttermilk is extra delicious.)  Because I have heard from many people who cannot consume cow’s milk, I have tried this recipe substituting a 14.5-ounce can of light coconut milk combined with 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice for the buttermilk, allowing the mixture to sit for five minutes. Though this is quite untraditional and I had my doubts, the resulting cornbread rivaled the buttermilk version and was enjoyed by all. I wouldn’t hesitate to prepare it this way again.

***Purists may prefer no honey or sugar in their cornbread. The amount used in this recipe adds just a hint of sweetness; feel free to increase or reduce if desired. If you use sugar, mix in with the dry ingredients.

A few more things:  

  • Finely ground cornmeal will produce a more tender crumb while a medium grind yields a hint of crunch.
  • You may mix the batter and allow it to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes or so before baking.
  • If you prefer to use butter in place of oil, I recommend ghee, or clarified butter.  Regular butter is more likely to burn as the skillet preheats.
The Fountain Avenue Kitchen https://fountainavenuekitchen.com/

Strawberry jam may not be the traditional way to enjoy cornbread, but it sure is good!  For my Classic Strawberry Jam recipe, click HERE.

Naturally gluten-free, there is also a moist, delicious dairy-free option to this cornbread included in the recipe notes.

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Comments

  1. Martha

    Dear Ann,
    I really like the recipes that you share in the Sunday News. Your Southern Corn Bread is really a big winner with me. I think it is the best because it is a recipe that uses only corn meal–no other flour. I made it today using my 9 inch Wagner cast iron skillet and it turned out beautifully and is so tasty and good. Thank you, thank you and keep up your good work.
    Sincerely yours, Martha

    Reply
  2. Anna

    I am in love with this cornbread. It’s simple to make and super yummy, especially with honey butter.

    Reply
  3. Sarah

    This is our new favorite cornbread. I tried your coconut milk option as I didn’t have buttermilk on hand. So moist and delicious!

    Reply
      1. GRACE

        I also used the coconut milk. Batter was VERY runny & took almost 60 min to cook. My can of c. milk was less than yours. Since I had to open another can, I added enough to make the 2 c , since that is the amount you used of Buttermilk. I also let it set the 5 min w/ the lime juice as stated.

        It was very moist but a little strange w/ the coconut flavor. Texture was a little off also.

        Will have to try again w/ Buttermilk when not making for my daughter who needed a dairy free option.

        Any ideas why it took soooooo long to get done?

        Reply
        1. Ann Post author

          I am perplexed, Grace. I wish I had been in your kitchen with you! Did you use light coconut milk as opposed to coconut cream or another sweetened product? Also, the batter is thin, and if the pan was a smaller size–even 9-inches in diameter–that could have extended the cooking time. My only other suggestion would be to make sure the cornmeal is measured correctly. All the times I make this is bakes up quite well. That said, I’m so sorry you didn’t have success.

          Reply
  4. Jodie

    Hi, I tried your recipe tonight. It looked terrific but the texture was spongy with no crunch or “crumbiness.” Is that how it’s supposed to be, or what could have gone wrong?

    Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      Hi Jodie,
      I’ve made this cornbread many times and would describe the texture as moist and tender but not spongy. The edges have a hint of crispness but it’s not a dry, crumbly cornbread. The first thing that comes to mind is that perhaps your measurement of cornmeal was low? I wish I could see yours to better answer your question. For a more traditional cornbread recipe that incorporates flour, you might like this one: https://fountainavenuekitchen.com/northern-style-corn-muffins-gluten-free-option/. I hope this helps.

      Reply
  5. Cat

    Hi There!

    I made your dairy free option and it turned out great!

    I was very surprised by the flavor and texture!

    Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      The muffin tin would probably lose much of the heat before all of the cups are filled, but that said, I think the recipe should still turn out well. With the smaller size muffins, just careful not to overcook. They will likely cook pretty fast. If you try, I’d love to know how you make out!

      Reply
  6. Anastasia

    I would like to try this recipe using applesauce instead of eggs. From what I’ve read, I’m thinking of substituting 1/2 cup of applesauce + 1/2 tsp of additional baking powder for the 2 eggs. Does anyone have any experience with this or suggestions on how to ensure my cornbread does not fall apart or come out too dry?

    Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      I’m not a huge fan of applesauce as an egg replacement. Instead, I’d probably try a chia or flax egg or a product like the Neat egg. (I’ve tried that and it works really well!) I hope that helps!

      Reply
  7. Gena

    I’m a CKD patient and my diet consist of NO dairy and NO flour; just to name a few.
    But this recipe sounds good. Will try and get back w/you.
    Y’ll have a blessed evening.

    Reply
  8. Maggie

    I can’t wait to try this! Getting off cow’s milk and this looks great and the comments so reflect.
    I’ll give you my results, can’t wait!!

    Reply
  9. Barbara Hall

    Ann,
    I’m looking forward to trying this recipe, especially since I ❤️Cornbread and have been diagnosed with Celiac Disease ☹️
    I have a question for you…
    I would like to make some individual portions of Baked Oatmeal for a church bazaar. Could you give me some suggestions for baking/cooking times and reheating directions for small loaf pans? I’d really appreciate whatever advice you can give.

    Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      Hi Barbara, I’m sorry to hear about the celiac diagnosis. Hopefully, this cornbread will be a new recipe to add to your repertoire. Most of the recipes on this site are gluten-free or easy to adapt. I even have recipes for homemade Jiffy corn mix, Bisquick, etc., which can be made gluten-free and used, as is, or in a variety of recipes as needed. (Check out the Rice Chex panko option, too, if you haven’t seen that!) As for the baked oatmeal, I have made it in muffin cups (as with this recipe: https://fountainavenuekitchen.com/cranberry-almond-baked-oatmeal-muffins/) and they take about 20 minutes at 350 F. Time will vary based on precise size of pan and oven, but you can use this as a gauge. Also, if you have an instant read thermometer, the baked oatmeals will be done when they reach an internal temperature of 200 F. In terms of reheating, gently warming in the microwave will prevent overcooking or drying out, and they can be enjoyed at room temperature, plain or with warmed milk. I hope that helps…and how thoughtful of you to make them for your church bazaar!

      Reply
  10. Ann Post author

    This would likely work with less liquid and, although the batter is thin, the recipe as written does work beautifully. For those who may wish to experiment with less liquid, the baking time would need to be adjusted, and perhaps a slightly smaller pan would be preferable. Thank you for your feedback, Becky.

    Reply
  11. Danielle

    Hello! Do you have any advice for baking this at high altitude? I’m hoping to make the dairy free version. Thanks!

    Reply
  12. Linda

    I made the dairy-free version and it came out delicious! My son who has wheat and dairy allergies loved this cornbread!
    What are your thoughts about adding a cup of pumpkin puree to make it a pumpkin cornbread for Thanksgiving? I’m wondering if it would make it too moist.

    Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      Hi Linda, Your comment makes me so happy! I’ve actually experimented with pumpkin cornbread and I didn’t love my first attempt, although it wasn’t with this recipe. If I were to add it to this cornbread, I’d start moderately–maybe 1/2 cup–and decrease the liquid by an equal amount. You could also add pumpkin pie spice or a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, etc, to taste. If you try, I’d love to know how you make out.

      Reply
  13. Andrew

    followed this recipe to a tee and everything inside the crust is liquid …. I don’t get it

    It’s been in a 375 oven for 25 minutes and blegh

    Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      I wish I had more info and could troubleshoot for you, Andrew. My suggestion at this point would be to cover lightly with foil, reduce the heat by 25-50 degrees, and continue cooking until the center is just barely set.

      Reply
  14. Ashlee Begaye

    I made this recipe tonight, but used flax milk (without the lime), and it came out so good! Topped it was a dap of coconut oil and honey. Amazing! The texture is perfect! Family said it was some of the best cornbread they’ve ever had!

    Reply
  15. Vicky Lindsay

    Seeing how you like your cornbread with strawberry jam, if you want to try something similar and absuloutely delicious, I put strawberry butter on it. Actually I never have put it on cornbread but love it on cornmeal muffins. Pretty much the same.
    Amounts? I use a stick of butter to a jar of Simply Fruit strawberry jam. Love Kerry Gold grass fed butter.

    Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      I love that idea and will try, Vicky. I often make a simple honey butter, and strawberry butter sounds at least as wonderful!

      Reply
  16. Sara H

    I don’t have a cast iron pan. I’m working on it. Lol. In the mean time, is it possible to use a glass baking dish or muffin pan to make this? And would I need to pre-heat those? I’m not sure I would pre-heat the glass. I really love that your recipe has no other flour in it. It’s been impossible to find a gluten free/dairy free recipe that only has corn and no other flours.

    Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      Hi Sara, I agree with not preheating the glass baking dish because it could crack. You could probably skip the preheating and just manage the cooking time accordingly. Alternatively, you could use a muffin pan, again adjusting for the cooking time. I don’t know if I’d bother to preheat that either because much of the heat would be lost in the time it takes to portion the batter into the cups. I hope that helps, and I’d love to know how you make out!

      Reply
  17. Melissa

    Just finished a slice of cornbread, made to your recipe with only slight variations, and it is delicious! I loved the slight coconut flavour lent by the full fat coconut milk that I watered down a little and had no limes, so added lemon juice to. My frying pan is a little shy of 9″, and it was pretty full, but didn’t spill over. I also used 2 tablespoons of organic cane sugar instead of the honey and found it quite sweet enough on its own although decreasing the sweetness meant I could top it with some butter and a drizzle of maple syrup without guilt. Yum!

    Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      Thanks for sharing all of your tweaks, Melissa. I’m thrilled this was a success…and you’re making me hungry!

      Reply