Southern Cornbread

A Southern-style savory cornbread, baked in a hot iron skillet.

White cornmeal is used in most Southern cornbreads, but we could not find any here in California, so we used yellow cornmeal. If you can find white cornmeal, by all means use it.

  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: Makes 8 servings.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups cornmeal OR 1 1/2 cups cornmeal and 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 to 2 Tbsp sugar (optional)
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk
  • 1 egg (optional)
  • 6 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 Tbsp bacon drippings

Method

1 Put the bacon fat in a 9 or 10-inch cast iron skillet and put the skillet into the oven. Then preheat the oven to 400° with the skillet inside. (If you don't have an iron skillet, you can use an uncovered Dutch oven or a metal cake pan.)

2 Whisk together all the dry ingredients in a large bowl. In another bowl, beat the egg and buttermilk until combined, then mix that into the bowl of dry ingredients. Stir in the melted butter.

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3 When the oven is hot, take out the skillet (carefully, as the handle will be hot!). Add the cornbread batter and make sure it is evenly distributed in the skillet. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the edges are beginning to brown and a toothpick inserted in the center of the bread comes out clean.

4 Let the bread rest for 10-30 minutes in the skillet before cutting it into wedges and serving.

To avoid burning your hand because you've forgotten the pan is hot, I recommend placing a pot holder on the pan's handle while the cornbread is resting, or cooling the handle down a bit with an ice cube.

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Comments

    • Jason

      I remember hearing my grandmother speaking negatively about someone putting sugar in their cornbread… all the other ladies in the room gasped.

      (Alabamian transplanted to California)

    • Lynnewebb

      I am nearing three quarters of a century and never put sugar in my cornbread. I know a handful of ‘old timers’ who do and I dread being asked to eat theirs. Neither do I use butter in the pan. I put at least 2TBS bacon grease that’s kept and added to in the refrigerator. I swish it around and pour whatever will, into
      my cornbread mixture.
      Also I never, ever wash that skillet. It’s my cornbread skillet, and that’s
      it’s only purpose! I wipe it out while it’s hot and put it up adder it cools a spell.

      • Amy

        I love reading about you making your cornbread Lynnewebb. I totally agree. I’m living in Australia now but I grew up in the South and I never heard of cornbread having sugar in it either. My mammaw used to keep all her skillets in a special place and only one was used to make cornbread. She never washed it either lol. She used those old black good quality iron skillets . I sure miss her and her cooking soooooo much!:)

      • gala2

        I’m a total snob about cornbread. But I have learned rather than leaving out sugar entirely to use a very small amount 1 to 2 teaspoons. Because, besides being a sweetener, sugar has a way of rounding out some tastes. That is why you put in a pinch in salad dressings and tomato sauces. But that said, you need to use very, very little. The one thing you do not want your cornbread to be is sweet. Ever.
        I do think it is hilarious that Southerners who put way too much sugar in damn near everything get all hissy about any of it in cornbread.

    • Phoenixwmn

      I know plenty of Southern women who use sugar in their cornbread; my beloved Grandmother in Virginia and her sisters did and so do I my entire life; thus far, no one has refused to eat it nor have any planets stopped spinning as a result. I think far too much is being made of this; it’s strictly a matter of personal preference and to assert that only REAL “Southern Cornbread” is made without sugar is rather silly.
      Geez. Wondering if any of you folks realize your posts could actually discourage someone from even TRYING to make it out of concern for making some blown-out-of-proportion culinary faux pas ??? It’s not a kidney, people, it’s cornbread.

  1. Debbie

    I grew up in Texas. When my mother made cornbread she used mostly cornmeal and a little bit of flour. Probably close to your ratio of the two. A tiny bit of sugar. Crisco in a cast iron skillet that was put in the oven to heat up and melt. Taken out of the oven and the extra melted crisco was dumped into the cornbread mix. No butter or bacon grease,ever! Regular milk and 1 egg and some baking powder. Unfortunately my mother was a dump cook, as am I most of the time. She tried to guesstimate her measurements for cornbread and it just wasn’t the same.

  2. Debbie

    Southern born and raised, grew up eating cornbread nearly every night for supper, as my mother called it. White cornmeal definitely, with some flour, an egg, buttermilk if possible, NO sugar. I preheat the bacon drippings with the iron skillet. This is a good southern cornbread recipe!

  3. Jackie

    This Louisiana girl would NEVER put sugar in cornbread! I don’t use bacon drippings, either – a scant amount of canola oil to grease the pan is sufficient.

  4. A.A. Bruisee

    I grew up in north Alabama. My Mom mixed two cups yellow self-rising cornmeal, one cup self-rising flour, an egg or two, enough buttermilk to make a nice batter, then stirred in a couple of tbsps of bacon drippings. Once in a blue moon, she’d throw in some pork cracklings. No sugar. I use the recipe in the Pioneer Woman link when I make cornbread. I add a teaspoon of sugar and use bacon drippings. I have cousins who use mayonnaise instead of eggs in their cornbread. When I was 8 in 1956, my Grandfather let me accompany him in his mule-drawn wagon to the local grist mill to have corn that he himself had raised and shelled ground into cornmeal

  5. Mary Black

    Your recipe and directions are certainly appropriate for Southern cornbread. I am 74 years old and have eaten a tremendous amount of various cooks renditions of this bread and this recipe is close to standard. If someone wants to try ‘southern cornbread’ this recipe will certainly give you a sampling of what it is all about!

    My mother would say —-the small amount of sugar is a good thing. Brings out the flavors! You other southerners —quit nitpicking!!! Every family has a tiny little ‘secret’.

    • Susi Franco

      I am Southern by birth & long tradition, although transplanted to New England since the 70′s, and have ALWAYS added sugar to my cornbread ; my Grandmother, a formidable Southern cook, used it and as a few others have said here, she felt it emphasized the other flavors. Following her tradition, I do too. My cornbread is not dry and mealy but moist & has a very fine crumb, almost cake-y in texture and my family would absolutely revolt if I made it any other way. It is also not overly sweet nor cloying; just a comfortable note you barely notice in the bite.The recipe stated is a very good one, I feel, and traditional. Tradition is important to most cooks, I think, and dictates how we do what we do, but I think respecting other’s traditions is just as important~ Good Eatin’ to you all~ :)

  6. Jon

    Every Southerner has a take on cornbread but you definitely have a good starter recipe here. Mom never measured anything, but I would guess the corn meal, White Lily of course, to flour was about 50/50. About 2-3 tablespoons of bacon grease in the skillet to heat up and once it was hot add some grease and the buttermilk to the dry mix. If you want to kick it up a notch find some cracklings and add to the batter, now that is real eating! You are right about heating the skillet up, but she would get the grease to the smoke point and when the batter hit the pan it would develop this incredible crust that was the best part.

  7. Dottie

    Southern born, raised and educated. Cook cornbread the way my grandmama did. Definitely must use: cast iron skillet, buttermilk, egg. No sugar or flour. Put the bacon grease in the skillet and heat in a 450 degree oven for about 15 minutes. Pour hot bacon grease into cornbread mixture. It should really sizzle when you pour into mixture.. Bake for 20 minutes. This results in no sticking to the pan and a crusty exterior to the bread. As soon as you remove from oven, turn bread over in hot pan and let rest for no more than 10 minutes.

    • Sheryll & Critters.

      NO Sugar, NO Flour, NO butter except in the REAL buttermilk. If you do not have bacon grease, use corn oil…… but definitely NO sugar or flour in mine. I am born and raised and retired in my south…… so yes I consider Southern Cornbread, just that… CORNBREAD…. NOT cake!

    • bruce

      Amen, Dottie. NO Flour, NO Sugar, prefer buttermilk, but can use whole milk.

      And absolutely MUST heat that skillet well before adding mixture! I also like to sprinkle a pinch or two of cornbread to the hot grease. Let it brown just a bit before adding the batter. Just a thing my Momma taught me.

      BTW, Alabama born and 53 year resident. I was raised in the Mountains of Northeastern Alabama and I have never heard of any of the old folks using flour in cornbread. AND if you can find it, try using cornmeal that is fresh stone ground. I grew up near a grist mill and my Grandmother always used the fresh ground.

  8. marykistre

    Question: How necessary is it to cook the cornbread in a cast iron skillet? If I didn’t use one, would it seriously affect the result?

    • denver

      yes use cast iron the heavy cast iron once heated holds the temp up to start
      cooking the crust nice and thick thin pans will cook the bread but with thin crust and the crust is the best part…. west Virginia hillbilly raised appalachia hills

    • Susi Franco

      Hi Mary—you can use a heavy rectangular pan (or any shape cake pan of substantial weight you may have, even an Air-Bake pan will work well; thin pans won’t do the trick), but you’ll want to put it in a pre-heated hot oven with a stick of butter in it to melt and heat up the pan ( have your batter ready to go first and don’t let the butter burn!); a hot baking surface when the batter hits it is what helps create a wonderful crust; you’ll know you’ve done it well if the batter “curls” around the edges when you put it in your pan. A cast-iron skillet will turn out a very consistent and reliable “crust” on your cornbread every time, but you can still make a respectable cornbread without one. You can always get a cast iron skillet later on.

  9. Kathleen

    Louisiana – sugar! We also do all the incarnations of canned cream corn, mexican corn, jalapenos. Its like soup. You want more than one flavor of soup. Red beans and rice, gumbo. Cornbread is the go-to sopper upper.

  10. Debbie

    I make cornbread in the same cast iron skillet used by my grandmother many years ago. My favorite part of the cornbread is the outside crust made nice & crunchy by adding the batter to the skillet after the butter has melted in it in the oven. This Carolina girl likes a tad bit of sugar added to the batter. I’ll give your recipe a try to see how it compares to the one I use from an old issue of Southern Living.

  11. Lori

    Never, never, ever any sugar. My Mimaw would roll over in her grave. She did often do a Mexican cornbread with cheddar cheese, jalapenos, and corn and only occasionally bacon. Always in a smoking hot cast iron skillet. Good hot or cold, but awesome with fried chicken or brunswick stew. Please, for the love of everything you hold holy, DO NOT add any sugar, for flavor balance or anything else. Another of her favorite jokes – Do you know the difference between a Yankee and a Damned Yankee? A Yankee will visit, but a Damned Yankee won’t ever go home!!! ;)

  12. KimH

    Haha… good thing you asked all your Southern readers to comment, cuz you knew they were gonna anyways, didntja? ;)

    Yeah, I can barely stand sugar in cornbread unless Im eating it like cake… gag! To get a good piece of cornbread in Yankee-land, ya gotta do it yourself. I keep hoping though. ;)

    Mom & Grandma always made it in the oven hot cast iron skillet too… Yum.. bacon grease.. yum!!

    I had a neighbor man (Old Man Myers) who was like a grandfather to me who use to mix white corn and yellow corn in his mix and it was the best cornbread I ever ate in my life.. but he wouldnt give me the recipe other than to tell me it had both types of cornmeal in it.

    Looking forward to trying your recipe, cuz I dont have a great one! Thanks! :)

  13. Tim Clark

    I’m always amused when I see Southerners complain about sugar in cornbread. I’ve lived in the south for years and over time I’ve discovered that cornbread is just about the only food all of us down here DON’T put sugar in. So I kind of think it’s a small step in the right direction. This recipe looks just about perfect to me.

    • gala2

      I wrote pretty much the same thing just above. Just for the sake of variety I suggest trying to add one to two teaspoons of sugar to your next batch. You won’t taste sugar. You’ll taste a more complex cornbread. If you taste any sugar at all in your cornbread, you are for sure adding too much. Although I can’t see how Southerners can actually taste something that doesn’t have sugar in it.
      I believe that Southerners think sugar is a flavor like chocolate, for example. My view on it is if the first thing you taste when you put something into your mouth is sugar, you are definitely doing something wrong unless you are making cotton candy.

  14. Judi

    Oh my, you have touched upon a subject that I love…. cornbread. And whether or not to include sugar. I don’t and I don’t know anyone in my family or circle of friends who does either. But I’m from Georgia. :)
    My method is to heat the oil/bacon grease with the skillet. That way when you add the batter the whole thing sizzles and the crust is perfect when you remove it from the oven. As far as the flour/cornmeal ratio, I go for the same as you. Also, yes to the addition of egg.
    Mmmm, cornbread. Just don’t add sugar. Ever.

  15. georgia

    My mother used the cornmeal/flour ratio as in your recipe, but always yellow cornmeal. She used either shortening or bacon grease both in the mix and in the cast iron skillet to bake the bread in. Never, ever would she put sugar in her corn meal. As she said, “If I wanted cake I’d make a cake.” She used buttermilk if she had it and regular milk if she didn’t have buttermilk. Butter was never included in the batter. Butter was for slathering on the hot baked bread. However she made it it was always perfect and delicious.

  16. pateberry

    I’ve lived nowhere other than the Deep South. If you are interested in cornbread made as both my grandmothers and my mother made it things will go like this: Put 4Tbsp bacon grease into small (2C) cold iron skillet and place into oven as it preheats to 425. While oven and skillet heat put 1C self rising cornmeal mix into small bowl. Mix a pinch of baking soda into 1/2 C buttermilk; stir in measuring cup. Crack and stir 1 large egg into cornmeal then add buttermilk to make a batter of medium consistency. When bacon grease has melted in oven, pour it into the batter, sprinkle a couple of teaspoons of dry cornmeal into skillet and return it to hot oven while melted grease is stirred into batter. Pour batter into skillet when meal in skillet has browned. Bake 15-20 minutes or bread is browned and crusty. To prevent sticking and a soggy crust, immediately turn out of skillet onto a paper towel lined dinner plate.

  17. Lynne

    I grew up in Mississippi. Had cornbread often with dinner and supper, and often milk and cornbread for a snack. Mom uses white cornmeal and just a little flour but never sugar. I think she uses one egg. No butter. Just canola oil or drippings if available. She told me people used to use lard. The way she browns the crust is swirling a fine coat of oil in the iron skillet and then dusting cornmeal (white) in the skillet. She browns the crust in the oven for about 5 minutes, then (carefully) removes it from the oven to add the batter. Then she bakes it normally. This makes for a really nice crust that holds up well in milk or with pot liquor from your peas, greens or butter beans. My grandmother baked hers in a wood stove when I was a kid. She had a regular oven but she swore that wood stove made for the best biscuits and cornbread. As the lucky little taste-tester, I would always agree!

  18. RM

    My mom is from the Midwest and my dad is from the South (I grew up in the South), so I grew up eating it both ways. A few years ago, when I was in college, my mom started making a hybrid version with buttermilk and 2 Tbsp of sugar, which is I believe relatively similar to this version. I think that’s my favorite way. But you can give it to me full on Southern style (although no bacon drippings…vegetarian here!) or Jiffy style (that’s as cake-like/sweet as I’ll go), and I won’t complain. I love me some cornbread!

    And @Kathleen, cornbread dressing is the best food ever! I’m in law school and can’t go home for Thanksgiving this year, and I’m so sad that I won’t get dressing!

  19. Martha

    I grew up in a southern state. I frequently make cornbread in a cast iron skillet. I use 1 egg, 2c white cornmeal, 1 1/2c milk, 2 tsp canola oil, (no sugar) batter will be somewhat thin.
    Grease the skillet sides and bottom with 3 TBS oil. (Tip) sprinkle 1 TBS cornmeal in the skillet to prevent the crust from sticking. Place the skillet on bottom rack of oven as it preheats.
    When oil is very hot and meal in skillet begins to brown, pour in the batter. Bake 30 min at 425. Last 10 mins I move the skillet to the middle rack so the top browns evenly. Results is delicious light fluffy cornbread.

    • Mary Milionis

      I love cornbread, I am not a Southern American but a Greek all the way from
      Athens. Where I come from, I the old days people survived eating cornbread.
      I’ve been looking for a good recipe and I think this comes very close to what I like. My problem is the bacon grease and the butter. I wonder if I use olive oil
      would it be ok?

  20. Lisa

    This old Southern gal learned to make cornbread from her Mama and Mamaw…always use a cast iron skillet and can’t imagine ever putting sugar in the bread!

  21. Todd

    Good starter recipe. The buttermilk and quality cornmeal is key. The bacon grease is not necessary. Plain olive oil or canola oil can be added to the hot skillet prior to adding the batter and works very well to brown the crust and keep it from sticking. You can add pimiento from a jar with juice, fresh jalapenos, green onion and cheddar cheese for a twist. Creamed corn can be added to this twist too but you have to cook it longer than expected and adjust for your other liquids. As a true southerner I dip my warm cornbread in buttermilk when I eat it with fried green tomatoes, black eyed peas or pintos with onions, collard greens and macaroni and cheese.

  22. BPR

    I’m from New Orleans and true southern cornbread never ever ever has any sugar in it!!!!! That is a yankee thing cause they can’t seem to eat it without sugar. The Nola way always has bacon drippins in it!!!

  23. Cindy

    My husband and I once visited my Dad (and step-Mom who was from New York) She made some chili beans and her version of corn bread. It was Jiffy Muffin Mix baked and cut into squares. We live in North Carolina so this Yankee version of so-called corn bread was just awful to us. I prefer to make mine with 2:1 white self-rising corn meal to self-rising flour. I use whole milk and buttermilk, 1 egg and about 1/2 c. shortening. Keep adding milk until it is just a little thinner than cake batter. Absolutely use a cast iron pan. I don’t heat mine. I grease it with shortening and dust it with flour and my corn bread never sticks.

  24. raigna

    I grew up just south of the Arctic Circle. I used plain medium ground cornmeal slightly more then the amount of flour. An egg and some sugar. Yes, Don’t you use sugar in your yeast breads too? Sugar snobs. :)

    I used bacon fat and soured milk (who could afford buttermilk?). That was then. Now I use Bob’s course ground corn meal, whole wheat flour, browned butter in the batter, but bacon fat for the pan. I use it for everything, as bread by splitting a slice for sandwiches, with meals plain, toasted with jam, cheese, crumbled croutons if there’s any left for soup or salad. I make it in whatever pan I have handy since I don’t have a cast iron pan anymore, but I can’t recall it made any difference over pyrex, or metal, except looked cool. :)

  25. JO jo

    I completely agree with the above comments that the oil/fat is heated in the empty skillet in the oven.

    My family is from Arkansas and we never used sugar or buttermilk, just regular milk, and we always heated up vegetable oil in the skillet. Then we poured that hot oil into the batter (leaving enough to still coat the pan), stirred it two or three times, and then poured it in the skillet and baked.

    The result is an amazingly crispy crust and a savory cornbread that is great crumbled into a glass of milk. It’s like the best breakfast ever.

  26. Susan

    I’m a Bama girl. I won’t get into the sugar/no sugar debate (no sugar, ever) or the bacon grease option (it tastes and browns better with bacon grease! but you can use shortening)- but you should definitely turn the bread out of the pan immediately. otherwise the lovely brown crust turns soft. The light top during baking is meant to be on the bottom on serving.

  27. Becki's Whole Life

    You are right. Calling something southern definitely stirs up controversy and that is one of the things I love about southern cooking! I do need to perfect my cornbread. I am a New Yorker living in North Carolina and I have to admit I like my cornbread on the sweet and cake-like side. However, my husband likes a more savory cornbread and I have been in search of a good recipe. The last recipe I made was from the back of a bag of Martha White cornmeal (I think) and it was pretty good, but definitely not the last recipe I will try. I will try this one next, which will be soon. I would probably drizzle with a little honey and my husband would probably just eat it as is.

  28. Kitty Temperley

    Golly, how good to see a cornbread discussion. I grew up in Louisiana and my grandmothers never used sugar. Both used castiron skillets that were heated red hot in the oven with corn oil that would then be pored into the batter. I live in England now, but still make my cornbread in my Grandma Powe’s castiron skillet, which I figure is going on a hundred years old now. It’s so black with years of cooking that nothing sticks to it. My Grandma Woodward used white cornmeal and I think no flour or eggs so her’s was a wonderful chewy dense cornbread that was great in a glass of ice-cold milk as an after school snack. Can’t get good stone-ground cornmeal here, but I make do with cornmeal from the Asian store. Would love to have some white cornmeal though.

  29. Martha

    . . . just to add a note to my previous comment. I use The self-rising cornmeal. The Crispy crust is wonderful. Love eating hot cornbread with a fresh sliced garden tomato.

  30. Quinn

    I’m so happy to see this recipe (and the comments; though I haven’t read all of them yet, I will!) because I’ve bought cornbread so many times hoping for the “right” toothsome texture and flavor, and instead end up with something like a cupcake :(

    Guess it’s time to make my own! And my first batch will have no egg, only because my hens are all moulting and have stopped laying. I noticed this morning that one of the hens is almost completely feathered again, so maybe my second batch will have an egg for comparison.

    Thanks!

  31. Leslie

    Always a cast iron skillet, always heated with the shortening or drippings (I’ve used both. Bacon drippings are the best, but there’s only so much bacon fat I’m willing to eat these days!)Always eggs and buttermilk. A teaspoon or so of sugar doesn’t hurt. The real sugar issue is adding enough sugar to make it taste sweet and cakelike, that’s really what most Southerners hate. There’s a difference in adding a half cup or a tablespoon. We all add salt to cakes, don’t we? Sugar and salt in proper balance enhance a lot of foods, both sweet and savory.

  32. Babs

    Too funny re the sugar/no sugar opinions. I’m from Tennessee/North Carolina, and we’ve always made it with sugar when serving with certain foods, without when serving with other foods. And with bacon grease, in a cast iron skillet (the original “non-stick” cookware). Either way is southern, and either way is the “right” way. It’s how you like it, what your tradition is, just like anything else.

    My absolute favorite way to eat cornbread – has to be the type without sugar – is leftover with oatmeal in the morning. PERFECT!

    Also: torn up in a glass of buttermilk, and eaten with a spoon.

  33. Edith

    I learned to make cornbread (without measurements) by my grandmother’s side around age 4! Having been reared in Mississippi and marrying a Chicago boy, I’ve had to compromise a bit. I now add two eggs to my cornbread to fluff it up a bit for the northern tastebuds (not so dense and less gritty). My family never used buttermilk (just reg milk) and didn’t add grease of any sort to the batter, just to the hot pan. You’re spot-on in directing to preheat the cast iron skillet. We flip out bread in the pan, before resting.

  34. Rich Hill

    Put the grease, butter or oil in the skillet so it is hot when you blend the wet and dry ingredients.
    Let it rest 30 minutes? Let it rest long enough to get a tall glass from the cupboard and an ice tea spoon. Cut a slice and break it into the glass. Burn your fingers a little and then pour buttermilk over the bread and enjoy.

  35. Susan

    Southerners and their “no sugar” cornbread! It’s almost as bad as the Mayonaise/Miracle Whip people! I use a couple of Tbsp’s of sugar sometimes. It doesn’t make it sweet, just brings out the corn flavor. The best southern style cornbread I’ve ever eaten was a recipe from Cook’s Country magazine. It had no sugar or flour it in. The recipe had you toast the cornmeal, like you’d toast nuts, just enough to bring out the corn flavor but without browning the cornmeal. You then soak the hot cornmeal in the buttermilk to soften it and until cool enough to add the eggs and leavener. Meanwhile, you heat the cast iron skillet in the oven with oil (enough to coat the pan) then add some butter to melt and pour it in the batter. It was moist and held together without crumbling, with a good crust and the corn flavor was outstanding. Best I’ve ever eaten!

  36. June Lovell

    i’m a SoCal gal with parents from Little Dixie (aka SEOkla). this is the deal with cornbread in my family: ‘clabbered’ milk (as my dear, departed Daddy would say) or buttermilk; big, black cast iron frying pan heated with bacon drippings (which used to be kept in a bowl on the back of the stove but now go in the frig); white/yellow cornmeal; baking pwdr; no more than a tsp of sugar; batter to make a thin round (about an inch high). my Dad would break up cold, leftover cornbread and put it in a glass of buttermilk and eat it with a spoon ‘larruping good!’ Best with slow cooked pinto beans/black eyed peas/chili/soup/stew. i ordered pinto beans and cornbread in Idabel, OK, one time and bread was prepared like a thick pancake–crust on both sides, oh lawdy….

  37. Betty M

    I grew up in Alabama and my grandmothers made cornbread a great deal like this recipe. We didn’t put sugar in ours though. I make my own cornbread mix and keep it handy. 2 cups yellow self-rising cornmeal mixed with 1/2 cup self rising flour is my ratio. To that I add two eggs, 1 cup milk and 1/4 cup oil (you could use bacon drippings if you wanted). I liberally coat the cast iron pan with oil and put it in the oven to heat up as the stove preheats. Then I pour the mixture into the hot pan and bake for 20 minutes. My family loves it.
    My mom likes to put cracklins in it or turnit into “Mexican” cornbread with cheddar cheese, chopped jalapenos, creamed corn.

  38. Reli

    Hi, Elise! Long time reader, first time commenter. I am from the north (Cleveland) but my family hails from the south 2-4 generations ago – Louisiana, Mississippi, and I think Georgia. In any case, I grew up eating southern cornbread, and the first time I tried Jiffy I was completely revolted! As far as my family is concerned sugar does NOT belong in cornbread, although buttermilk does when it’s available. My mom preheats her skillet in the oven with the vegetable oil already in it, as well as a little cornmeal sprinkled in. It adds a nice texture to the bottom crust. My husband was born in the south but grew up in a family that does not cook from scratch, so he prefers his sweet. But I do not know anyone from a southern cooking family who would eat sweet cornbread. It tastes like some weird dessert. Thanks for posting such amazing recipes all the time. Your blog is one of my go-tos.

  39. Linda Neyland

    I’ve been making cornbread since 6 years old
    (I’m now almost 75.) Buttermilk for sure;
    only very little flour; egg for sure;
    sugar NO !!! Who wants cake???? Cook in an
    iron skillet for sure. “Southern” at its
    BEST !!!!!!

  40. kate C.

    So funny to see all the southerners complaining about a tablespoon or two of sugar in cornbread! Have they ever tried it? It’s not the same as that super-sweet cake-like stuff, which I don’t like either (midwest girl with mom from rural southern IL, which has some southern similarities, and uses 2T of sugar in cornbread :).

  41. Paula

    We Southerers love to talk about our cornbread, don’t we? Traditionally my family used vegetable oil heated in the iron skillet in the oven. Put it in when you turn the oven on, and when the oven comes up to temp the oil will be perfectly hot. Corn meal “mix” was used by both sides of my Carolina folks from the time it was invented. Half flour,half white corn meal (self-rising) , buttermilk most of the time, 1 egg. Cracklins were Grandmother’s occasional treat. I don’t think you can find the mix outside of the South, but I recently found some reasonably priced on Amazon. Hooray, no more hauling it back in my suitcase!
    I’ve experimented some. A teaspoon or two of sugar actually complements it without being sweet and makes for nice browning. You can healthify it by using all olive oil and a combo of whole wheat flour and coarse corn meal, hearty and delicious. I love to add rubbed sage and dried onion for a dressing taste, and always do that when I fix it to actually make dressing. I recently used melted butter for all the oils, and it was sooo good.
    Good soupy pintos and cornbread is one of my favorite meals. Throw some good ol collards on the plate for perfection.
    I never order cornbread in a restauraunt here in the PNW unless I want dessert. I’ll never understand dunking corn cake in your chili!

  42. joanne stone

    Great cornbread at our house has to be crispy on the bottom….the only way to accomplish that is to flip it over the minute you take out the oven….if not, it sweats and the bottom loses that crunchy goodness. You don’t need sugar…just an added calorie…I add a little olive oil to the batter, as well as in the muffin tins…(which are almost as old as I am…they are pitiful looking but cook great!)I like using White Lily cornbread mix and buttermilk…Ahhhh…cornbread….one of life’s great comfort foods!
    By the way….LOVE the recipes that appear on this link!

  43. Paul M.

    Elise,
    As a Philadelphia Yankee (with some South Carolina relatives from waaaay back,) I respect both recipes. But please don’t call yellow cornmeal with added sugar Southern or, for the sake of expediency, substitute yellow for white just because you can’t find it locally. Northern is more like a yellow cake while southern is more like a light savory biscuit. INHO, they are two different renditions altogether.

  44. Edward Sudduth

    I have lived in Mississippi all my life. The way my Grand-Mother made cornbread was twice the yellow cornmeal (fresh ground) as flower. Eggs were from the chickens on the yard and the bacon grease was from our own hogs, WITH NO SUGAR! My Granny used buttermilk, and lard from the pigs instead of butter. Your recipe brought back some really good memories. I’m 35 and I still make this cornbread from memory. Thanks.

  45. Linda Harrington

    Having grown up “southern” I think you are right on except for the sugar! No Sugar! These days though with only two of us at home I make the cornbread into muffins and freeze them to eat with homemde soups. Yummy!

  46. Kate

    Huh. Well, I’ve read all these comments with interest. My very southern friend, born in Florida panhandle, Atlanta parentage and now himself living in Atlanta gave me his cornbread recipe. It included at LOT of sugar. Actually, he had a version that use sweetened condensed milk, fer pete’s sake. Did he snooker me? Wow, stupid northerner that I am, I believed him. Trouble is I LOVE his recipe. Almost sticky sweet and goes GREAT with his spicy Cajun food (did I mention he went to college and lived in Louisiana for quite a while?) and his chili. I think he has impeccable southern cred. But he sure has a different take on cornbread than y’all.

  47. Shannon of Arkansas

    Buttermilk is needed when plain flour and cornmeal are used. The acid in the milk activates the baking powder so the batter will rise as it bakes. Sour milk is fine, and a teaspoon of vinegar stirred into a up of milk will work. Just wait a minute or so ’til it thickens. A good self rising corn meal MIX will cut out getting flour everywhere as I usually do. Don’t make the batter too thin, like one would a cake mix. Don’t beat it to death either.
    Bacon grease is for flavor. I can’t see tainting a pan of cornbread with olive oil,
    Sugar in the batter? Then bake it in a muffin tin, and call it a corn cake. Whatever taste folks are accustomed to is the way to go tho’.”

  48. Shel F.

    I moved to Illinois from Texas about 8 years ago now. One of the culture shock moments for me was realizing that up here, cornbread could easily be considered dessert! It doesn’t just have sugar in it, it’s so sweet you can see and smell the sugar in the finished product before you even get around to tasting it!
    Not for this Texas girl. Cake is sweet, cornbread is NOT. I’m having no luck converting the natives to this way of thinking, however *grin*.

    I’ve also had to change my answer to the question “Do you like cornbread?” when asked by an Illinoisian. If I say yes, they will gleefully present me with an alternative for cake.

  49. Paul Carroll

    Texan, manning a forward outpost in the hinterlands of Oregon:

    Mince up a jalapeño and a clove or two of garlic, plus a sprinkle of fresh chopped chives, if you have them. Any herbs work fine, truth be known, just don’t get carried away (a problem for me).

    Consider using creme fraiche instead of butter (bacon grease is good!) and a scant tbsp of honey (no sugar otherwise).

  50. Bill Boswell

    As you can see from the comments, cornbread with sugar is a “Yankee” thing. Once in Maine, with a partially eaten plate of “cornbread” on the table, I was asked if I would like a desert. So, I told here that I had already had it……..

  51. Karen

    I loved reading all the comments. I’ve had the best of both worlds! My mom’s family is from Georgia. Mom makes her corn bread with sugar. Her sister Evelyn, did not – and used white corn meal. I have an appreciation for both.
    I think my own family would be in shock if they ever tasted corn bread without sugar.

  52. Paula

    I grew up in North Dakota where corn bread was yellow and sweet, but very good. Then I moved to lower Alabama where corn bread(according to my mother in law anyway) was white, dry and tasteless. I couldn’t get yellow corn meal so I found a good recipe for white and it does include sugar. I’m not talking about a lot, just a little will enhance the flavor of your corn meal and help get that crispy crust. I use a local corm meal now and the recipe on the back calls for sugar. So somebody else in Alabama is sneaking sugar in their cornmeal. And always use an iron skillet. I don’t think it’s even legal to make corn bread in a cake pan. Watch out for the southern corn bread police!

  53. skibotex

    I’m from Florida and all my kin grew up or still live in GA. As I remember, My Aunt Charlotte used to make two kinds of cornbread. One with sugar and one without. It always depended on what was for dinner. If it was for soppin, Pintos and ham, Butter Beans it was no sugar. More like a biscuit. If it was for treat after dinner it had sugar and was more like cake, (not sure how that recipe went). We would eat with Strawberry jam or syrup. It was great both ways but I do like my soppin style. Always Butter milk, egg and Bacon Drippin’s in the soppin style. I’d have to ask about the sweet Cornbread Cake Recipe but maybe it was just the sugar. Also there was a little thing she used to do to her corn which was add a TBLSP of suger to the water for each ear when she boiled it. Ever heard of Sweet Corn? Don’t hate…Relate.

  54. Jim Bennett

    I have enjoyed this conversation, but like someone else mentioned, I am surprised that cornbread does not have sugar, seems like everything else southern does!
    I wanted to ask another question: does anyone have a recipe they use for corn pancakes? I could not find a recipe in the cookbooks that I usually use. I used JIFFY in the past but like to make it from scratch now.

  55. Shelby

    One thing I have not seen in your comments: since I only use bacon grease for cornbread, I don’t save it- I put 2 thin slices of bacon in the cast iron
    pan as the oven is heating. Take out the bacon,pour batter into the hot
    bacon grease-never sticks, always crusty. I am Southern! 2Tbl.sugar is just right! Also, 2 Tbl.flour with white cornmeal-any kind of oil-buttermilk – and only 1 egg. Secrets abound- it’s really what you get use to having. Thanks,
    you posted a good recipe.

  56. almoore

    I grew up on beans and corn bread. This recipe sounds great, I can’t wait to try it. I do like to preheat the skillet smokin hot before adding the batter. My neighbor’s mom used to make it that way and the crust was fantastic. Mom used to preheat the pan of grease then pour most of the grease in the batter. My neighbor’s mom would get the pan so hot when she poured the batter in it would sizzle and start to fry.

    The butter sounds like a good idea too. My corn bread comes out on the dry side. And bacon just makes everything taste better. Mom never used sugar but I think I’ll give it a go at least once.

  57. Jane

    Southerners never use sugar. Also, the recipe seems dry to me in the pictures. I heat a cast iron skillet in the oven with shortening at 425 degrees. While it is heating, I mix Cornmeal mix (which contains cornmeal, flour and leavening ingredients) together, beat in an egg and then add buttermilk until I reached a consistency which will pour easily. When the skillet is almost smoking, I pour most of the heated shortening into the mix to make it silky smooth and activate the leavening. I leave some in the pan to keep the cornbread from sticking. The heated pan is essential. When the cornbread is brown on top, about 20 minutes, remove from oven and serve. You can make any amount, so I just eyeball it.

    Hi Jane, the cornbread pictured was made with 100 percent cornmeal and without an egg, so it was a bit on the crumbly side, hence the photo. It was not at all dry though. ~Elise

  58. Christi

    I’m a South Carolina girl, and my family always made it with no sugar. It is funny how we will pour sugar into our desserts (and lots of other food) but turn up our noses at a few tablespoons of sugar in cornbread :)

    Our family’s “secret” was the divided round cast iron pan- comes out in 8 perfect triangles (higher crust ratio = more crunchy, yum!) We also usually add some onion- just a little very finely diced, it gives a great (but subtle) flavor. Other musts: a well-seasoned cast iron pan, and good quality cornmeal (stone ground and fresh).

  59. devon from fallbrook, ca

    Beans and Cornbread had a Fight. Look it up if interested. It is a nifty little song you could jump and jive to while cooking this with children or grandkids. Beans and Corn Bread is a 1949 jump blues song by Louis Jordan and Tympany Five. Find it on You-Tube or where all y’all get your grooves.

    Great song! Thanks for bringing it to our attention. Here’s the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fM9jT2eM6KQ. ~Elise

  60. Shelley

    I remember My mom makin white cornbread and the next day she would soak it in buttermilk It took a while for me to appreciate the flavor but it was worth it.

  61. Daniel

    I’m a Texan born n’ bred, but I don’t follow many “rules” when I cook. Cornbread is a favorite because you can do just about anything to it. A few successful experiments included (no necessarily together) garlic, agave nectar (2 or 3 drops, don’t go crazy), chipotle peppers, and even Sriracha Sauce (it was delicious). Bacon grease is the primary lubricant for my cast iron skillet.

  62. Jennifer

    Funny about the sugar debate. My parents make theirs with no sugar, ever. But, to me, seems a tad dry. I add the small amount of sugar and it is much more flavorful and moist. I’d say it won’t kill anyone to try it with the sugar, but, c’mon… We’re dealing with Southerners here.

  63. Sharmila

    I love that the sugar is optional. I’m still on the fence about how I feel about the sweetness of maple syrup or sugar in cornbread. I’ve come to understand people have strong feelings one way or the other. I’m waiting to be convinced but meanwhile, this is perfect!

  64. Melinda

    This looks very dry! And no to SUGAR in Southern Cornbread & white, not yellow for this Georgia Peach!

    It wasn’t dry, just a bit crumbly because this particular cornbread I made with all cornmeal and without an egg. When I’ve made them with egg, they hold together well. ~Elise

  65. Julie S.

    I’ve lived in Texas for 40+ years & don’t know anyone who uses sugar in their cornbread. I learned to make cornbread from my mom and grandmothers. They were all three Illinois girls who never used sugar either, so not sure it’s just a southern thing.

  66. Robyn

    Most of my family always used White Lily Self-rising Cornmeal Mix when I was growing up in Georgia. Since it’s not that common in California, I make mine similar to this recipe, except I use equal parts cornmeal and flour, and use butter or oil, eggs and buttermilk. And 1-2 Tbs of sugar. It’s not sweet at all, just gives a boost to flavor and browning. My mom and I like the crunchy outside that comes from baking it in a hot cast iron skillet. So, I use a 12″ skillet so it’s thinner and has more crust. No fluffy corn cake for us :).

  67. Claire L.

    This native Alabamian says “No sugar, ever, in cornbread!” I make mine in my grandmother’s cast iron skillet. Lately, I’ve tried it with coconut oil instead of butter, bacon grease or shortening, and I really like it! It gives a nice crunch on the edge. Of course, it’s not only just for eating by itself, but it’s a must-have ingredient for Thanksgiving dressing.

  68. JKHH

    I use 1.5 c cornmeal and .5 flour, add 1/2 tsp Baking soda and also use 1/4 c honey and either olive oil or canola oil (not a meat eater any more) but I did used to use bacon grease. The honey does NOT make it sweet but adds some richness. The cast iron skillet is the key, the batter must sizzle when you pour it in the pan. Adding chopped green chiles or jalapenos and a little cheddar is yummy, too.

  69. Bronwyn

    Wow. This sugar / bacon fat / white / yellow / flour / egg debate is a bit of an attention getter in the States. Northern, Southern…
    Guess there’s a lot to be said for what you get used to eating as you grow up.
    Anyway, over here in NZ, I love making & eating cornbread but I haven’t made it often enough or with enough of the variants to have a personal preference … Yet! Must make some more again soon. Yum!!!

  70. Marzia

    Has no one ever taught some of you that if you ain’t got nothing nice to say, then don’t say anything at all… 1 or 2 tblsps of sugar in that amount of flour does not make a batter sweet like cake. It’s like putting a little salt in cake batter, it merely enhances the other flavors… and besides… read… she states in both the introduction and the recipe that it is OPTIONAL, and that you can leave it out… geez… alot like certain southern Italian women… a recipe is their way, or no way… il mondo è bello perchè e vario! What a boring world it would be if everyone made their corn bread exactly the same… I say Thank You Elise! for all your terrific recipes and for your really great blog!

    Grazie Marzia! ~Elise

  71. Againstthegrain

    My introduction to Southern food was in Durham, NC, where I lived for a decade after graduating from college. Despite my northeastern roots, I quickly developed a deep affection for pulled pork BBQ with slaw on top, pimiento cheese sandwiches, savory grits, fluffy biscuits, hushpuppies, and many other Carolina & Southern specialties (but not “sweet tea” or okra!). When well made by hand with high quality traditional ingredients, there is nothing inherently unhealthful about these foods.

    I truly regret, however, consuming the amounts I did of the industrial versions of Southern foods – in particular, the biscuits made with industrial seed oil shortening (oh, the transfat ignorance was blissful back then), and the food service rendition of pimiento cheese that I often had for a snack or lunch from the Duke University Medical Center’s cafeteria are stuck in my mind like a bad song. My omega 3:6 fatty acid balance must have been seriously out of whack in those days, but I was still young enough to weather the nutritional abuse of industrial food. While I still love traditional Southern foods, I’m considerably more discriminating about the quality.

    The book Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier, and set in North Carolina during the Civil war era, fascinated me with its rich details of food production, living off the land (talk about extreme locavorism), and which practical foods will allow survival during extreme hardship (it’s not kale, it’s pork fat!). The book’s romance characters paled in comparison to the story of how people survived and avoided starvation in that horrible time and desperate place.

    Melissa McEwan posted a blog recently about the healthful vs unhealthfulness of Southern food:

    http://huntgatherlove.com/content/southern-food-unhealthy

    Now pass the pulled pork, please.

  72. Heather B

    Looks delicious! I love all varities of cornbread, sweet or not. I grew up in Texas with sweet (but not cake-y sweet) cornbread so that is my preference. However, I will not turn down a good slice of non-sweet cornbread!

  73. Nini03

    I didn’t realize this would be such a hot button topic (or that it would cause such a passionate response in me that this long time lurker would finally comment). I’m from Tennessee, born and raised, and I’ve had my cornbread both with and without sugar. Usually, we add a little sugar to bread that we’re going to eat with a meal (with greens, pinto beans, etc.) or alone. For cornbread that we’ll turn into dressing, we omit the sugar. I use yellow cornmeal, not white. I also prefer butter to bacon grease. I prep the cornbread while heating the cast iron skillet and butter in the oven. Once melted, I mix in the butter and bake. My mother, also a Tennessean, adds sour cream to her cornbread. As you can see, there is no one right way to do it! Your recipe looks great, and I’ll try it the next time I make cabbage.

  74. Sandy

    Raised in the far reaches of SW VA and my grandmother made cornbread, no sugar, using lard in the skillet, but she brushed bacon fat on top of her biscuits (also made from scratch). I’m not a purist about the sugar, but I remember that Grandma’s had a saltier taste than I’ve tasted in anyone’s cornbread since. I’ve tried to find a cornbread that would stand up to hers, but have never managed it. She taught me to eat cornbread in milk (she used buttermilk) as a bedtime snack. But you really need a decent-tasting cornbread to begin with if you’re going to enjoy it in milk. It’s a good way to use up cornbread that’s gone slightly stale if it’s not near enough to a holiday to make stuffing. Thanks for the walk down memory lane!

  75. Nilstria

    I wasn’t going to comment, but after seeing this debate, I couldn’t resist!

    My mother’s family is from Arkansas, but we’re all Texan down here. Regardless of ratios or sugar, there are two tricks to cornbread. You have the first one. Hot cast iron skillet with the oil. I consider cornbread cooked any other way to be blasphemous. The second trick is to use stone-ground cornmeal. White or yellow doesn’t matter (I didn’t know you could buy white cornmeal,) but stone-ground gives the bread such texture, body, and flavor that the regular grind stuff looks like flour in comparison. It’s so…rustic and Southern. When you have something as simple as cornbread, you need to use the best ingredients you have.

    Now, I use a bit of sugar in mine. Two tablespoons max. It brings out the flavor of the cornmeal so nicely without actually tasting sweet. I also use more baking powder. A heaping tablespoon.

    Here’s my great-grandmother’s recipe. Simple and easy to remember ratios.

    Dry:
    1 cup each AP flour and stone-ground cornmeal
    1-2 TB sugar
    Heaping TB baking powder
    1 1/2 tsp Season-all (I eyeball this)

    Wet:
    1 cup milk
    1/2 cup oil
    1 egg

    Makes the best cornbread I’ve ever had. And I agree with whoever said you should make a cornbread dressing post. Do that. I could eat my weight in my mother’s cornbread dressing. Yums.

    (Lastly, if the oil in your skillet is smoking, that’s because you burned it. That’s bad.)

  76. Mary

    Wow, a lot of people are really passionate about no sugar. But I think you’re right Elise, the small amount of sugar would bring out the flavors in the cornbread–not make it sweet. It’s like putting a pinch of salt in a brownie or cake batter. In fact, there’s this savory indonesian dish using beef. I tried making it once, and it was missing something to make it as good as my mom’s. Apparently the secret ingredient was sugar!

  77. Carol

    Florida via Tennessee…Grew up in Tennessee & I’ve made cornbread since I was 8 years old. No sugar…preferably bacon grease, but have used Crisco (and long ago, lard) instead, both in the batter and in the skillet. I prefer white cornmeal (occ. a little flour) and buttermilk, but will use regular milk if I have to. You don’t have an iron skillet? Muffin tins are fine…same taste. And btw, I won a 4-H county bread baking contest when I was in the 5th grade!

  78. DGee

    In Oklahoma and Texas, we put a little sugar in our cornbread, it intensifies the flavor… 1 or 2 tablespoons isn’t going to make the whole pan sweet, at all, it just brings it alive! My grandmother had a diner called the Dixie Pig in Alabama and customer’s couldn’t get enough of her cornbread. During the holidays, people came from miles & miles away to get it for their dressing. Her recipe was similar to yours, it was savory. I think the biggest mistake people make with cornbread is the 50/50 cornmeal/flour…it’s not a good mixture..your’s is true to southern form. She never admitted to putting sugar in it when asked, which I really think a lot of people do. But I know for a fact she did, because I watched her do it!

  79. Fat Dave

    I love cornbread! My mom always made it without sugar and without egg (she claims she can taste the egg in it). Must be made in the cast iron skillet. When I make cornbread dressing, I use 50/50 cornbread and biscuits, wonderful!

  80. Holly

    I’m from Idaho, and consider myself to be open minded. (I think it comes from all the open space there–lots of room for lots of opinions and ideas. Just kidding! As if where I grew up has anything to do with that!) I like cornbread sweet or savory, they are both good, but please don’t ever serve me anything from a Jiffy box and I am BEGGING YOU don’t mix that Jiffy box with a yellow cake mix!! Those are only palatable when actually starving!! AHEM. I guess I’m not so open minded after all, haha!

    I like a sweet cakey cornbread with cream on top on occasion, but there is something outstandingly original and fantastic about the crunchy goodness of savory skillet cornbread. I like white and yellow cornmeal too, I’m not picky. Much. And I liked the comment about being a relater, not a hater. To each their own, I say! Thanks for sharing such wonderful recipes here, I enjoy trying them and seeing if they are a fit for our tastebuds. :)

  81. Totem

    I’m confused folks. Are we saying ‘no sugar’ because of ideology, or because it changes the flavor?

    Multiple people have commented that the scant amount of sugar heightens the corn flavor, not that it makes it sweet, so are the objections to it based on ideology or is there something else I’m missing?

    I think I’m gonna have to make it both ways and see which I like better…

  82. Adjoran

    I know many people who have a religious fervor against any sugar, but I never understood it. If it makes the cornbread taste sweet, you are using too much! Use the proper amount 1-2 T, and it merely enhances the flavor.

    I always use whole wheat flour instead of AP or bread flour, it complements the cornmeal very nicely for a hearty bread. Ditto to heating the skillet in the oven while you mix the ingredients.

    If you don’t have buttermilk, substitute 1/2 whole milk, 1/2 plain yogurt, add 1 tsp cider vinegar and whisk together, allow to stand for a couple of minutes, then blend as usual.

    Add-ins like cracklings, chopped chiles, or creamed corn are optional – but in the case of creamed corn, use sparingly, perhaps a 1/2 cup.

  83. Julie

    Thanks for the savory recipe! I’m a northerner but I don’t enjoy sweetness in cornbread. I made your recipe to go with some chili. The cornbread tasted good but it was very dry. I went with 100% yellow cornmeal and used the optional egg. Maybe I overbaked it? Or the partial flour option would be better? Or maybe my uber-dry SoCal climate means I should’ve added more buttermilk? I’ll plan to try it again with tweaks!

    That is one thing that 2 Tbsp of sugar should help with, in addition to intensifying the taste, moisture. It could have gotten overbaked. The times that I made it, both with and without eggs, it wasn’t dry. Crumbly without the egg, but not dry. ~Elise

  84. Kathy

    Hi.. My husband and I just visited the Smoky Mtns area and he bought a bag of cornmeal…I had a sample of something the size of an egg yolk but it was fried in a skillet on a hotplate. Has any one ever tried this? And can you share a recipe on how to make this? It sure looked easy, an tasted good.

  85. joanne stone

    Great cornbread at our house has to be crispy on the bottom….the only way to accomplish that is to flip it over the minute you take out the oven….if not, it sweats and the bottom loses that crunchy goodness. You don’t need sugar…just an added calorie…I add a little olive oil to the batter, as well as in the muffin tins…(which are almost as old as I am…they are pitiful looking but cook great!)I like using White Lily cornbread mix and buttermilk…Ahhhh…cornbread….one of life’s great comfort foods!
    By the way….LOVE the recipes that appear on this link!

  86. Kay

    I am from NC. LOVE your recipes! I always use white self rising cornmeal. No flour, definitely no sugar. Hot skillet. Perfect with chili and vegetable soups. Recently I made a batch in my mini muffin pan and it turned out terrific. I think I will make some too keep in the freezer.

  87. joanne stone

    Great cornbread at our house has to be crispy on the bottom….the only way to accomplish that is to flip it over the minute you take out the oven….if not, it sweats and the bottom loses that crunchy goodness. You don’t need sugar…just an added calorie…I add a little olive oil to the batter, as well as in the muffin tins…(which are almost as old as I am…they are pitiful looking but cook great!)I like using White Lily cornbread mix and buttermilk…Ahhhh…cornbread….one of life’s great comfort foods!
    By the way….LOVE the recipes that appear on this link!

  88. Katja

    Looks great! I am a recent convert to using polenta (what Bob’s Red Mill calls “corn grits”, but they’re not real grits) in (Southern-style) cornbread, and it’s an incredible improvement over regular degerminated cornmeal. Much more substantial and toothsome, with a real corn flavor.

    (Virginian transplanted to Colorado)

    • Sharon

      NO SUGAR in Southern cornbread. Use 2 cups self-rising white cornmeal and 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, 1 cup milk, one egg, 3 T oil and 2 T butter melted in black skillet. Pour the oils in batter, add 1/2 cup cold water, let pan continue to heat, then pour batter into skillet. Bake at 425 degrees for 30 minutes.

  89. Donald Kemp

    I’ve been making cornbread using a cast iron skillet for years now and love it. I learned about heating the pan first from Homesick Texan. I had been doing equal parts of flour and cornmeal. I will try your ratio the next time I make cornbread.

  90. Barbara

    Here in the southern Appalachian mountains, NC….
    Never sugar, heat that skillet to 425 or 450, your cornbread’s only as good as your meal! Use really fresh ground cornmeal from a local mill (splurge on Anson Mills heirloom white or yellow corn if you want to see what good meal tastes like.) Or grind your own corn in a food mill. The germ goes rancid quickly and the meal needs to be stored in the freezer. And Sorghum syrup is in season. Oh. My. You have to serve it with sorghum syrup!
    Great discussion. Thanks!

  91. Nancy Long

    still use my mother’s cast iron skillet for cornbread; though mine probably isn’t southern. I prefer a more equal mix of yellow cornmeal/flour and a bit of sugar. definitely heat the fat in the skillet and Louisiana hubby who never really cared for cornbread/muffins/corn sticks, loves mine.

  92. Debbie

    Gosh! And you haven’t even touched on the white vs yellow cornmeal controversy:). That issue could definitely divide the South and cause all -out war!

  93. Scott

    Nothing says comfort like good old Southern Cornbread. Nothing goes better with greens, vegetable soup, gumbo or red beans and rice than cornbread. A cast iron skillet is crucial for the crust to be correct. Buttermilk and bacon grease are must haves as well. I’ve always heated the skillet on top of the stove with the bacon grease. Then pour the hot bacon grease into the batter and stir (the batter in the picture above looks too thick, it should pour). When done, flip it out onto a plate and slide a knife between the cornbread and plate to let the steam escape and enjoy. Also, to make it even better add cracklins to the batter.

  94. Beth Walker

    Arkansas born and bred – NO SUGAR! But bacon drippings, yes. I just use more than you do, melting it in the cast iron pan and pouring about what you do into the recipe but leaving lots to coat the pan.

    • Elizabeth

      Yes! This is almost exactly the same recipe I use that I found in the original Betty Crocker cookbook from the 1950′s. I made this last night and it was wonderful. Love the density. I experimented using Roasted cornmeal. I suppose it’s an acquired taste but I think I prefer good, basic, yellow, stone-ground cornmeal (un-roasted). Does anyone know…..is Roasted cornmeal a Yankee thing? Pennsylvania Dutch, maybe?

  95. meg

    I’ve always been a staunch “no sugar” cornbread devotee. As many of the southerners I know would say, “Cornbread with sugar in it is cake.” However, there are southern enclaves where sweet cornbread is the norm. I guess it’s just a matter of taste. Bacon grease, though, is necessary.

    • Elise

      This cornbread is not sweet. The added scant amount of sugar accomplishes 2 things. First it helps keeping the cornbread more moist. Second, it intensifies the corn flavor.

  96. Anna H.

    I just made this recipe tonight. I used the egg and flour, 1 tsp of sugar instead of 2 tbsp, and my cornmeal was homegrown, homeground blue cornmeal that my mother sent me from home. Amazing. I’m sure it would be even more amazing with bacon grease, but alas–no bacon in the house, so I used butter instead.

  97. Harriet

    Native Georgian here. White Lily cornbread mix, add buttermilk and egg, heat the butter and/or bacon grease in the oven in a cast iron skillet until really hot, pour in mix, wait about 30 minutes and eat! No sugar in these parts. But I don’t mind sugary corn muffins once in a while. No flour for me, but to each her own.

  98. Jeff Wykel

    My world famous cornbread,I use the same cast iron skillet for cornbread and it’s not used for anything else, When I turn it over and drop the cornbread on a plate it is placed in the spare oven,”never wash it” just wipe it out when using again. Put a little coat of crisco inside the skillet and set aside,put 2 cups of self rising white cornmeal in a bowl,add 1 egg,2 tablespoons of cooking oil, then stir in buttermilk until batter is very thin, add 1 chopped onion stir and pour in skillet. Place in preheated oven @ 450 degrees bake until golden brown. Slice while hot in wedges spread butter on and enjoy.

  99. Janie Skaggs

    Kentucky “cornbread”

    It is very simple–I have been baking it for a long time.

    1.5 Cups Self rising cornmeal
    buttermilk–make it a good texture

    spray pan with oil—bake cornbread 450 until it is brown
    on top.
    serve with butter!!!!

  100. pjcamp

    Do not EVER put sugar in cornbread. It is an abomination in the eyes of the Lord.

    Also, actual Southern cornbread has about a quarter cup extra oil heating up in the oven that you mix into the batter before pouring the batter into the skillet.

  101. bobbobwhite

    Most recipes I read are actually for corncake, not cornbread, due to the amount of sugar and butter added. Reduce butter and eliminate sugar, for true cornbread. The goal is to taste the corn, not the rich and fatty ingredients that make it taste more like cake than bread. Also, if you need gluten free, substitute rice flour. Great!

  102. Edna

    Where I come from in Georgia, no sugar allowed. I learned from my grandmother who never measured so I don’t either. These are her instructions:

    Add grease from fried streak-o-lean to an iron skillet, enough to cover the bottom and a little bit more and heat the skillet in a hot oven (450). (I have used bacon grease when I lived in an area where it’s hard to find streak-o- lean, but I recommend streak-o-lean if you can find it)

    Put three or four handfuls of White Lily self rising white cornmeal in a bowl.

    Add enough buttermilk that the mixture looks like “loose grits”

    Add the excess hot grease to the batter and pour into the skillet. When I asked her “how long”. Her answer was always the same. “until it gets done.” For me, that’s 15 to 20 min, depending on the skillet size.

    She never used yellow cornmeal, flour or eggs. My uncle got trendy and starting adding a dollop of mayonnaise. My grandmother wouldn’t hear of it, but I once snuck it in on her, and she ended up liking it.

    If only I could make biscuits like hers.

  103. Eric Krauss MD

    Tania and I tried this recipe this AM and were delighted. We used a 10″ cast iron skillet. Might I suggest the option of substituting for the buttermilk 1/2 cup milk plus 3/4 cup plain yogurt; we don’t always find buttermilk, it’s sold by the quart, and there is the issue of what to do with 2 3/4 cups unused buttermilk…also I halved the salt (1/2 tsp). Rather than use 6 tablespoons of butter I used 1/4 cup vegetable oil and 2 tbsp melted butter…and it came out fine!

  104. prettydimples

    To all the southerners on here, good for you and your tastebuds! I love sugar in my cornbread and I grew up with a southern grandmother. Now what?! LOL
    Everyone likes what they like and you can put whatever you want in it and it’s still cornbread. Sheesh!

  105. Samantha

    I’m from California but I grew up on Southern Cornbread (father and grandmother were from Alabama). Cornbread should NEVER be sweet. Sugar in cornbread is sinful in my family. :-)

  106. Jenn

    I LOVE that you put that note about forgetting the handle is hot. I always cover my handle, because I always forget and grab the handle, because, well, it’s a handle!

  107. STEPHANIE

    Are you using self-rising corn meal and flour?
    I bake a lot of things but cornbread from scratch is not one of them. Mine is always dry which brings me to online search for recipes. I picked this one because “Southern Cornbread” caught my eye. I have it all measured out but not yet mixed and baked. I happened to notice before I mixed the wet in with the dry that your recipe does not call for Baking Powder only Baking Soda.

  108. Ford

    This is the best base recipe out there. If you want it sweet add sugar if not don’t. It can be southern either way but, Bacon grease is a must for Southern cornbread. If you don’t have Bacon Grease on hand you might be from the South but you are not Southerner.

    • Elise

      Not the way the recipe is written. You need a pan that can handle very high heat, and most pans warp under that kind of heat. Not cast iron though, which is why this cornbread is traditionally made in a cast iron skillet.

  109. Little Too Southern

    Here’s the thing with sugar in cornbread. (Yes I’m a no sugar girl but you might want to know where the difference came from.) Sugar was, and still is to a point, a precious commodity. It was expensive and most families could not afford it. So cornbread recipes from the slightly poorer to poor families did not include sugar in them but the families that had a little extra income and could afford the sugar would add it to their recipes. It isn’t just a difference of taste but the difference of expense of sugar.

  110. Bushman5

    I’m a Northener, way north, in Canada.

    own about 600 lbs worth of cast iron cookware, skittles, pans, griddles, pots, dutch ovens etc.

    i love using fresh bacon grease in my recipe, both for the pan and the mixture. My favorite is adding tiny diced jalapenos and cubes of strong cheddar or asiago cheese into the mixture. I serve it with big slices of real butter on top, not that fake margarine crap, and slabs of cheese.

    no sugar here either…..hahaha

  111. Donna

    Need help! I folowed the recipe carefully using all cornmeal, no flour. I did use an egg but the cornbread was still very crumbly. Will flour hold it together better? It did have a great flavor! No sugar for my country boy husband! :)

    • Elise

      Yes, flour has gluten in it and will help provide the cornbread with structure. All corn cornbread can be rather crumbly, which is why I personally prefer cornbread with a little flour in it.

  112. Denny Clements

    This is a very good recipe. Only one comment. No self-respecting southerner, and I am one would EVER put sugar in cornbread, unless one is making Yankee cornbread.
    Southern cornbread is not sweet bread!

  113. Jon Wright

    I have not had a cornbread I like for a long time but this one is top of the line. I used organic cornbread and added a bit of hot red peppers ground up and it was a delight to taste.
    I will make it again today with some blue cornbread for different twist.
    Thanks for sharing your info.

  114. Krissi

    Mississippi Girl from a long line of Mississippians here…no way, no how is there sugar in cornbread! My Granny would sometimes make cornbread fritters that she included a small amount of sugar in, but those were similar to pancakes…served at breakfast time with some butter & syrup. She would roll over in her grave if I put sugar in my supper/dinner time cornbread! Other than that, this recipe sounds pretty close to what my family does. The skillet and bacon grease make the recipe IMO ;)

    (Mississippi girl transplanted to California)

  115. Belinda Luck

    I use 2 cups of cornmeal and 1 cup of flour, everything else is the same! My mother-in-law taught me to sprinkle a little cornmeal in the bottom of my skillet and it will not stick! Turns out she was right! I always do it now! This is yummy cornbread and I omit the sugar, when I want cornbread I make cornbread! Cornbread muffins can be sweetened however! Love this recipe!

  116. Grere

    Hi from New Zealand! I lived in Kentucky for a year and I’m pretty sure they put a little sugar in their cornbread. Anyway, has anyone tried using a coarser ground cornmeal? I find the finely ground one is just a little too fine and would like to know if the texture is improved by using a medium-ground polenta. Maybe split it fifty-fifty with the fine-ground? Can anyone advise?

  117. Jgirl

    Sweet cornbread is a no no if you’re making Southern cornbread. It is savory, part of the recipe should always include buttermilk. Making cornbread with sweet milk isn’t as rich. If you only have sweet milk you can add a teaspoon of white vinegar to add the correct flavor.

  118. Austin

    My parents from Mississippi often made cornbread that I loved growing up. Living in California, I thought I had lost my taste for cornbread until I figured out that “Yankee” cornbread is more like a corn cake than the traditional unsweetened cornbread from the south. I’m all for the evolution of recipes, (i.e. California cuisine), but there’s nothing like a favorite from your childhood.

    I’m going to try this recipe today using my own garden grown cornmeal.

  119. Robin

    I guess I am a bit of a cornbread snob myself. I tell my friends that use yellow cornmeal and sugar that theirs is not real cornbread. Cornbread in my family is white cornmeal, preferably stone ground, whole milk, an egg, baking powder and a little salt. I have to mix it in the 1950s Tupperware bowl that belonged to my mother or else I have no idea how much cornmeal to use. Mother always saved the bacon grease, melted it on the stovetop and poured it into the cornmeal mixture. It makes a wonderful crust that is delicious slathered with butter. My paternal grandmother was from Virginia and made something called “sweetin bread”. It is something like cornbread, hard to describe , very moist, the mix has to sit and come up to a brine somehow( darn it for not asking how to make it!) . I have never known anyone but my family to have ever made it. I have loved reading all the comments. My father and brothers loved sorghum and butter with cornbread and cornbread and milk is one of my comfort foods.

  120. Dan

    I make my cornbread pretty much as in the recipe, but sometimes I like to “kick it up a notch” by adding 1 lb of ground beef, 2 or 3 jalapeno peppers (minced, leaving the seeds in) and 8 oz of grated sharp cheddar cheese. Brown the ground beef and set aside. I make my batter while the beef browns using House-Autry cornmeal. In over 20 years of using House-Autry I have never had a bad batch of cornbread as I have sometimes had happen with other brands. I preheat the cast iron skillet (10 1/2 inch). Pour 1/2 the batter into the skillet and evenly cover with the ground beef, then the peppers, and then the cheese. Pour the remaining batter on top and bake (425F) until bread is done (20-25 mins). Try this some time when you are wanting “a little extra”.

  121. Jenni

    I love your post on cornbread. While living in NC, I am not yet southern enough for anyone in Georgia or Alabama. My family says.
    Thank you for the cornbread recipie. I thought it tasted like my grandma.
    She still cooked on a wood cook stove until the mid 80″s.

  122. Steve Clayton

    I guess if I wish to put jalapenos in my yogurt, or blackberries in my apple pie, I should be dragged into the nearest Southern Town Square and forced to eat Suggafied Corn Muffins?!! Bless my fritters… I love tradition, but they don’t call it “taste” for Nuttins’

    (Still lookin’ for that Southern Cooks Bible)

  123. Cat Riley

    I live in Kentucky. Born and raised. I was raised by my old regular Baptist papaw and anyone that know what that means knows what I am saying is true. Now granted he never put sugar in his corn bread. But me personaly after raising two teenage girls after the yr 2000 I added sugar.
    The reason i write this is because my 21 yr married daughter just called me a few days asking for my corn bread receipt so apparently it made an impression. dont add sugar,add sugar. its a personal preference but it has nothing to do with whether it is southern or not