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

By Ann Fulton

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. 
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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!

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. 

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. 

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. 

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.)

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. 

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

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. 

When the batter is poured into the hot skillet, the edges of the cornbread immediately begin to set.

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. 

A 10-inch cast iron skillet is ideal for this recipe, although another ovenproof skillet will work. In a pinch, a 9-inch square metal baking pan may be used. Note that a 12-inch skillet will require less cooking time and produce a much thinner end result.

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. 

Golden with a crusty exterior and a tender interior, the key to delicious success is not over-baking the cornbread. Remove from the oven when just barely set in the middle, as the residual heat from the pan will continue to cook the bread.

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. 

The golden bread is delightful served plain, with a pat of butter, or topped with your favorite jam.

Southern with a Twist Cornbread

We enjoy this cornbread with a variety of chilis, soups, salads, and stews (like this Slow Cooker Beef Stew with Instant Pot option). Sometimes, I serve it as an alternative to another starch on the dinner plate, like potatoes or rice.

      

 

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 will 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**)
  • ¼ 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℉.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. (Add the sugar here if using instead of honey.)
  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 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.)
  7. 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!)
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.

(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.
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Original recipe posted May 2013

This photo from 2013 shows a batch that I baked it a 9-inch square metal pan, which offers a worthy alternative to a 10-inch cast iron skillet.

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Comments

  1. Ashley
    (5/5)

    Soooooooooo good!! This is the best gluten free cornbread recipe I have found. I’m a Southern girl born and raised, and I’ve missed cornbread so much since giving up gluten. This was wonderful with some pinto beans! My hubby and kids loved it too!

    Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      I’m so happy to read your comment, Ashley. It feels so good to fill a void with something that truly stands up to what you were missing…and your Southern girl endorsement means a lot. Glad your family loved it too!

      Reply
  2. Kimberly Wills

    Thank you SO much! I recently found I can’t have wheat or milk anymore (including butter & yogurt). I scoured through so many recipes, and I love that you offered good substitutions. I used the coconut milk & lime trick. I didn’t use “light”, just a store brand organic “coconut milk”, with blobs of fatty stuff on top that needed to be scraped and whisked; maybe people are using a coconut milk intended for drinking if they’re having trouble? For sweetener I used a drizzle each of carob syrup and date syrup (I’m on a food sensitivity elimination diet; honey & sugar don’t join the fun for 2 more weeks). It is SO good. I don’t need to look any further for a cornbread recipe. I will be handwriting this and putting it in my actual little recipe box.
    Oh, one other little change I made… instead of 2c cornmeal, I did 1.5c + 0.5c of a larger ground corn meal meant for making polenta. I like the texture of having those larger grains in there. I’m eating my 2nd piece as I type, plain & warm! Thank you!

    Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      Hi Kimberly, I’m happy this adjustable recipe turned out well for you and will be elevated to recipe box status. Love that!

      Reply
  3. Susan

    Hi Ann,
    I have made this cornbread three times and will surely make it again! It comes out perfectly every time and I love knowing exactly what is in it. Please keep the gluten free recipes and info coming, such a help!

    Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      Susan, I am thrilled you’ve made this several times and have had such good success. (It’s a favorite here, too!) Thank you for your terrific feedback…and I will!

      Reply
  4. Marcia Greenberg

    This looks so good. I don’t have a cast iron skillet but do have a 10” Ninja skillet and is office safe to 500 degrees. Would this work?

    Thanks so much. Your recipes are wonderful.

    Marcia

    Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      Hi Marcia, I’m so happy you enjoy the recipes, and yes. I mention in the lead-in to the recipe that a 10-inch ovenproof skillet will work, as will a 9-inch square metal pan. Hope you enjoy!

      Reply
      1. Marcia Greenberg

        Thanks. I just passed right over that. What brand cornmeal do you use. I just have the round container that I buy at Publix.

        Thanks. Your recipes are always so good.

        Marcia

        Reply
        1. Ann Post author

          Thank you, Marcia. ❤️ I often use Bob’s Red Mill’s cornmeal, although I have used a variety, including two different local stone ground cornmeals recently, one of which was blue!

          Reply
  5. Barbara

    I made this as my gluten free step daughter was visiting – it was awful and I wish I had not wasted the last of my cornmeal and coconut cream on it. The main taste was the baking soda. No-one ate it.

    Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      Hi Barbara, I am sorry this didn’t work for you, although you mention using coconut cream, and I think that was likely the problem. I mention coconut milk for the non-dairy option, which has a consistency similar to buttermilk or regular cow’s milk. Coconut cream, on the other hand, is much thicker and richer. It’s like a full can of that thick layer that sometimes rises to the top of a can of coconut milk. Again, I am sorry this wasn’t a success, and if you have further questions, I’d be happy to answer them.

      Reply