The magic begins when you pour the simple batter into a hot skillet. This unique recipe is naturally gluten-free with a dairy-free option and has been a hit with readers (and my family) for years. And have you noticed how leftover cornbread always seems dry? There’s a great tip for “refreshing” it, and I also mention how I enjoy the leftovers as an easy, satisfying breakfast.
There are some major league cornbread fans in my family, so I have experimented with quite a few recipes over the years. The following combination of ingredients has become a favorite for several reasons.
First, it’s easy! This recipe can be quickly prepped and baked and will complement 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.
Finally, the method of baking creates crispy edges and a tender, moist interior. And the flavor is spot-on.
I should mention that after many requests for a dairy-free recipe, I fine-tuned an adaptation and have included it in the recipe, below. Quite a few commenters have mentioned having success with both versions.
While it may be highly un-Southern, I like to top this cornbread with a spoonful of strawberry jam. I recently had a jar of pineapple jam from a stand at Lancaster Central Market, and that was divine on this cornbread, too!
How to “refresh” leftover cornbread:
Typically, we think of cornbread as something that tastes best straight from the oven, as it has a tendency to dry out over time. The trick to bringing moisture back to day- (or two or three) old bread, however, is to wrap the leftover piece in a damp paper towel and then reheat in the microwave. (Wet the paper towel and then wring it out so it isn’t dripping.) A single piece takes about 30-35 seconds to warm and rehydrate in my microwave, but precise time will depend on size and number of pieces as well as individual microwave.
To maintain as much freshness as possible in the first place, start by wrapping any leftovers well and storing them in the refrigerator. With airtight wrapping and the clever reheating trick, a piece that is three or four days old will actually taste quite good.
A few ways to enjoy leftovers:
In the south, leftover cornbread is often served in milk. For those who haven’t heard of cornbread in milk, it’s just what it sounds like: a leftover piece of cornbread is crumbled into a glass of milk－some prefer the tang of buttermilk－and then eaten with a spoon.
With my reheating trick, leftovers are equally satisfying served alongside chili, a hearty salad, or a bowl of soup the next night. Topping with a spoonful of strawberry jam may not be traditional, but I love it. Served this way, I especially enjoy the leftover cornbread for breakfast with a cup of coffee or tea. (For my Classic Strawberry Jam recipe, click HERE.)
- 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**)
- ¼ cup honey (may substitute sugar***)
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil (bacon fat would be traditional; may substitute oil of choice)
Preheat the oven to 400℉.
In a large bowl, mix the cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. (Add the sugar here if using instead of honey.)
In medium bowl, whisk the eggs until foamy. Whisk in the buttermilk and honey.
Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and mix until just blended.
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.
Remove the skillet from the oven, and immediately pour in the batter. Return the skillet to the oven, and bake for 18 to 20 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.)
Serve hot or at room temperature, with butter, honey or — my personal favorite — strawberry jam. Wrap tightly, and refrigerate any leftovers. (Tip: 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!)
*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.
(10/28/17 update) Also, when I originally posted this recipe, I had the occasional comment mentioning that the center was undercooked but the edges were done, which was likely tied to too little cornmeal being used. I have since raised the oven temperature to 400℉ (from the 375℉ previously recommended) because I think it does bake the bread more evenly. If you’ve had success with this recipe at 375℉, by all means stick with it. However, I now regularly cook this cornbread at 400℉ and do prefer it.
**Low-fat buttermilk works in this recipe, but for best results (as there is no other fat in this recipe aside from what is added to the skillet) I prefer the full-fat version. (If you are local and a patron of Lancaster Central Market, Maplehofe Dairy‘s buttermilk is extra delicious.) Non-dairy option: 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 5 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.
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 in the mixing bowl 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.
Original recipe posted May 2013