Southern-Style Cornbread

Southern style skillet corn bread

The Spruce

 

Prep: 15 mins
Cook: 24 mins
Total: 39 mins
Servings: 8 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
306 Calories
14g Fat
38g Carbs
8g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 8
Amount per serving
Calories 306
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 14g 18%
Saturated Fat 6g 32%
Cholesterol 100mg 33%
Sodium 1104mg 48%
Total Carbohydrate 38g 14%
Dietary Fiber 3g 11%
Protein 8g
Calcium 176mg 14%
*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.)

Cornbread is a staple in the South. It is absolutely essential with bean dishes, black-eyed peas, greens, hearty stews, and, of course, country-style ribs. It's a cheap, filling dish that's easy to make from scratch and better than any boxed mix. Throughout the years, Southerners have enjoyed cornbread in many different ways, from fritters to corn pone and spoon bread to hush puppies. Despite all of those options, many believe that the best Southern cornbread is baked in a cast-iron pan so it gets a crispy crust.

Southern-style cornbread rarely contains sugar, though some regions and many people do like to sweeten their cornbread a bit. To add sugar or not can be a hot topic of debate, and it's an optional ingredient in this recipe. If you have Northerners and Southerners to cook for, you might have to look for compromise. Or make two pans!

This cornbread recipe doesn't require buttermilk. It's richer than most because it's made with three eggs, and using a combination of cornmeal and flour ensures it won't get too dry or crumbly.

1:25

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Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable shortening (for skillet)
  • 2 cups yellow cornmeal
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • Optional: 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 eggs (beaten)
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup butter (melted)

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients. Preheat oven to 425 F.

    Southern style corn bread ingredients
     The Spruce
  2. Put the shortening in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet and place in the oven to preheat while making the batter.

    Melting butter for corn bread
     The Spruce
  3. In a mixing bowl, combine the cornmeal, flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and sugar, if using.

    Whisking corn bread ingredients
     The Spruce
  4. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, and butter.

    Whisking eggs, bread and milk for corn bread
     The Spruce
  5. Combine with dry ingredients and stir until all ingredients are moistened. The batter will be similar to a thick pancake batter.

    Combining wet and dry ingredients for corn bread
     The Spruce
  6. Carefully, with heavy oven mitts, lift the skillet out of the oven and turn to coat the bottom and sides with the melted shortening.

    Melted butter for corn bread
     The Spruce
  7. Pour the cornbread batter into the skillet and return it to the oven.

    Cornbread in skillet
     The Spruce
  8. Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes, until browned. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean. Serve and enjoy.

    Southern style corn bread
     The Spruce

What's the Difference Between Southern and Northern Cornbread?

It's difficult to generalize recipes because every cook has their own way of making popular dishes. However, there tend to be some regional preferences when it comes to cornbread. One of the most controversial is the sugar, though Northern cornbread also tends to be more cake-like and less crumbly because it uses more flour. Southern cornbread often skips the sugar, includes more cornmeal, and is baked in a piping hot cast-iron pan for that signature crispy crust on the bottom and sides.

What's the Best Fat to Grease the Skillet?

One key to great Southern cornbread is the fat that greases the skillet. Vegetable shortening is just one option. You can use the same amount of oil as long as it has a high smoke point that can handle the oven's temperature. Canola and vegetable oils are good choices. To give the cornbread even more flavor, use bacon grease (some people insist it's the only way to go):

  • Dice 3 or 4 strips of bacon and cook it in the skillet. Use 1 tablespoon of bacon grease instead of the oil or shortening and replace some of the butter with the rest. Add the cooked diced bacon to the batter, if you like.

Tips

  • Baking powder starts acting quickly, so have the oven preheated and the skillet ready before you combine the wet and dry ingredients. As soon as the batter is combined, pour it into the skillet and get it into the oven.
  • If you don't have a cast-iron skillet, a greased 8-inch or 9-inch baking pan may be substituted.
  • This same recipe can be used to make cornbread muffins. Be sure to grease and flour the muffin pan thoroughly.

Why Does Cornbread Get Crumbly?

Cornbread is inherently crumbly to some degree, particularly Southern-style cornbread. A few factors may produce really dry cornbread that simply falls apart, though. Over baking will dry it out, so be sure to check for doneness with a toothpick. Another consideration is if a recipe has too much cornmeal and not enough (or no) flour or eggs. Fortunately, this recipe includes those three elements in proportions that result in tender, not-too-crumbly cornbread.

Recipe Variations

  • Replace the sugar with honey or cane syrup if you like.
  • The salt may be reduced to 1 teaspoon.
  • Add 1 cup of well-drained, cooked corn kernels to the batter.
  • Brown about 1/2 pound of crumbled sausage in the skillet. Add the cornbread batter and bake. As soon as the cornbread comes out of the oven, run a knife around the edge to loosen and invert it onto a plate. 
  • Add 1 to 2 cups of Mexican-style cheese and green chile peppers for Tex-Mex flavor.