Old-Fashioned Hot Water Cornbread

Old-fashioned hot water cornbread with butter and syrup on a plate

The Spruce Eats

Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 15 mins
Cool Time: 5 mins
Total: 30 mins
Servings: 4 servings
Yield: 4 cakes
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
232 Calories
15g Fat
23g Carbs
2g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 232
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 15g 19%
Saturated Fat 2g 11%
Cholesterol 2mg 1%
Sodium 328mg 14%
Total Carbohydrate 23g 9%
Dietary Fiber 2g 8%
Total Sugars 0g
Protein 2g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 4mg 0%
Iron 1mg 6%
Potassium 88mg 2%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Hot water cornbread is an old-fashioned Southern recipe that's a staple at dinner. Rather than baking cornbread in a pan, the batter is shaped into cakes and fried in a skillet. The hot fat can be shortening or vegetable oil, but bacon drippings add a very nice flavor.

Hot water cornbread is also known as corn pone, hoecakes, or corn dodgers. Some people use a self-rising cornbread mix to make the corn cakes, and some add a small amount of flour or sugar. This version is very basic. No flour, no baking powder—just cornmeal, water, and salt. It cooks up in about half the time of regular cornbread, so it's a perfect last-minute addition to any meal. While the recipe makes just four cakes, it's easy to double or triple it if you need more.

Serve the cornbread cakes with maple syrup or cane syrup. They're great with sorghum molasses, as well, and work wonderfully as a side bread with chili or beans.


Click Play to See This Old-Fashioned Hot Water Cornbread Come Together

"Just like my grandma used to make! Actually! I love the crispiness the shortening gives to the outside of the cornbread. I love the how these seem both light AND dense." —Renae Wilson

Old-fashioned hot water cornbread on a plate with a ramekin of syrup
A Note From Our Recipe Tester


Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for hot water cornbread recipe gathered

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  2. In a heavy iron skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of shortening.

    Melted butter in an iron skillet alongside a bowl of cornmeal

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  3. Place the cornmeal and salt in a bowl.

    Cornbread and salt mixed together in a bowl

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  4. Pour boiling water over the cornmeal and salt.

    Boiling water poured over cornmeal and salt

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  5. Add the melted shortening and stir well.

    Shortening added and stirred into the bowl with cornmeal

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  6. When the mixture is cool enough to handle, after about 5 minutes, divide it into four portions.

    Cornmeal mixture formed into four cornbreads on a plate

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  7. Shape each portion into a cornbread cake about 3/4-inch thick.

    Four cornbread patties, about 3/4 inches thick, on a plate

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  8. Heat about 3 tablespoons of vegetable shortening or oil in the skillet over medium heat.

    Shortening heating in a skillet

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  9. Place corn cakes in the hot oil and fry until browned, turning to brown both sides every 2 minutes, about 8 to 12 minutes total.

    Hot water cornbread frying in a hot skillet

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  • Regular or self-rising cornmeal mix may be used in the recipe.
  • Vegetable and canola oils are good for frying, and lard is a classic choice for this recipe.
  • If you have it, fry the corn cakes in bacon drippings for an extra hint of old-fashioned flavor.

How to Store and Freeze

  • The cornbread cakes keep well for a few days in an airtight container at room temperature. Warm them up in a microwave or oven.
  • You can also make a large batch and freeze some of the cakes. Let them cool completely before wrapping tightly in foil, then place in a freezer bag. Eat within a few months, and reheat in the oven wrapped in foil.

Recipe Variations

  • For fluffier corn cakes, replace 3 to 4 tablespoons of the cornmeal with self-rising flour.
  • Add a few tablespoons of chopped green chile peppers to the cornmeal mixture.
  • Add a few tablespoons of crumbled cooked bacon to the cornmeal mixture.
  • If you enjoy fluffy corn cakes, try these corn oysters or cornmeal pancakes.