Classic Southern Cornbread

Buttermilk Cornbread cut into bite-size pieces, on a wooden chopping board
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Foods featuring corn are common in the South because the plant is hardy and easy to grow—even in the hottest temperatures. Cornbread, the most popular corn-based Southern dish, is a staple that's seldom forgotten at everyday dinners and celebratory occasions alike. It's considered a must to accompany any bean dish, greens, or other vegetables, and is a classic along with country ham, sorghum molasses, black-eyed peas, sweet potatoes, and so many more wonderful foods.

Since Southern cornbread doesn't usually contain sugar, there is no sugar in this recipe. But if you like a slightly sweet cornbread, feel free to add a few tablespoons of sugar or honey to the mixture. If you like it very sweet, add 1/3 to 1/2 cup of sugar.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup melted shortening (divided)

  • 2 cups white or yellow cornmeal

  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

  • 3/4 teaspoon salt

  • 1 large egg

  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk

  1. Heat the oven to 425 F (220 C). Place 2 tablespoons of the melted shortening in an 8- to 10-inch cast iron skillet or 8- or 9-inch baking pan and place it in the oven for 6 to 8 minutes, until hot.

  2. In a large bowl, combine the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

  3. In another bowl, whisk the egg with the buttermilk.

  4. Pour the egg and buttermilk mixture into the dry ingredients, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of melted shortening, and stir until blended.

  5. Pour the batter into the hot pan and bake for 20 to 30 minutes depending on the size of the pan. (The smaller pans will take slightly longer than a 10-inch skillet or 9-inch baking pan.)

  6. Cut the cornbread into wedges or squares and serve hot.

Tips and Variations

If you have any leftover cornbread, you can make cornbread croutons; cut into cubes, toast in oven until crunchy, and add to any salad for something unexpected and delicious. You can also freeze the leftovers and save to use for stuffing during the holidays. Leftover cornbread crumbs (sautéed in butter) also make a delectable topping for baked macaroni and cheese as well as other casseroles.

You can also add sweet toppings to cornbread and serve it as a dessert. Try browning a wedge of cornbread in butter and heating it slowly in a cast iron skillet. Once the bread is toasted and warm throughout, transfer the slice to a plate and top with honey, fresh berries or peaches, and then finish with a generous amount of whipped cream. You can even add ice cream—bourbon peach is a favorite flavor in the South.

There are two ways to make cornbread, with or without self-rising cornmeal mix. You can buy self-rising cornmeal mix or make it yourself.