Southern Cornbread

BakingBudgetSouthernCornbread

This classic, savory Southern cornbread is just begging for a bowl of chili or a plate of ribs. Made with all cornmeal, straight buttermilk, and no added sugar (like it should be!) in a cast iron skillet, this cornbread is an easy dinner side dish.

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

Anytime you put the words “Southern” in front of a dish, it’s likely to stir up controversy, and cornbread is no exception. It seems like every person I’ve ever known from the South has their favorite way of making homemade cornbread, and every way is different.

Our Favorite Videos

What Makes a Southern Cornbread

The thing that distinguishes Southern cornbread from, say Yankee cornbread, or any other cornbread one is likely to eat outside of the southern states, is that it is savory, not sweet, and it is made mostly with cornmeal.

Northern cornbreads tend to be more cake-like, on the sweet side, with a finer crumb due to more flour in the mixture. Southern cornbread is flavored with bacon grease, and cooked in a cast iron skillet, a perfect side for barbecues, or chili. It also tends to be rather crumbly.

A Cornbread Experiment

With this cornbread recipe, we experimented both with all cornmeal, and with just three-quarters cornmeal and one-quarter flour. We also experimented with including or leaving out an egg.

Result: Either way works! Though the version with some of the cornmeal swapped out with flour, and including an egg, holds together better and is a little more tender.

About this Cornbread Recipe

If you are new to making southern cornbread, take note of the following:

Sugar is optional

Whether to include sugar or not in a southern cornbread recipe is an issue for debate. We’ve included as an option a tablespoon which just intensifies the flavor of the cornmeal; it doesn’t make the cornbread sweet.

The choice is yours as to whether or not to include it. (See this excellent article from Serious Eats on why traditional southern cornbread does not include sugar.)

“All cornmeal” versus “cornmeal and flour”

You can either use all cornmeal or a combination of cornmeal and flour to make this cornbread. If you go the all cornmeal route, note that the result will likely be very, very crumbly. That’s just how the Southern cornbread crumbles. If you would like cornbread with a little more structure, I recommend using a combination of cornmeal and flour.

Why use bacon drippings and butter

You’ll notice there are both bacon drippings and butter in this cornbread recipe. The butter adds needed richness to the bread itself, and the bacon drippings help brown the crust, keep it from sticking to the skillet, and add a lovely bacon flavor to the bread.

Make cornbread in a cast iron skillet

Finally, the method that works best with using a well-seasoned cast iron skillet is to preheat the skillet with the fat and then add the batter to the hot skillet. This helps brown the crust and with the pan already hot, the cornbread cooks more quickly.

Need to season your cast iron pan? Check out this guide to seasoning cast iron.

To our fine readers from our Southern states, how do you like your cornbread? Please let us know in the comments.

From the editors of Simply Recipes

Leftover Cornbread

  • Cornbread will keep at room temperature for a day or two. After that, it tastes stale.
  • Can you freeze cornbread? Yes, for up to two months if you wrap it well, though because it's very crumbly, it's best to freeze it only if you plan to use it as crumbs, or in cornbread dressing.
  • Speaking of, leftover cornbread is excellent in cornbread stuffing.

Try These Other Cornbread Recipes, Too!

Updated November 6, 2020 : Some readers were noticing a metallic flavor in the cornbread, so we tinkered with the amount of baking soda to make sure this recipe was perfect. Updated ingredient amounts are reflected in the recipe.

Southern Cornbread Recipe

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

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.

The egg is optional, though without it the cornbread will be very crumbly.

Ingredients

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

Method

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

Butter melted in a cast iron skillet to make the best cornbread.

2 Make the batter: Whisk together all the dry ingredients (cornmeal, baking soda, salt, sugar if using) in a large bowl. In another bowl, beat the egg (if using) and buttermilk until combined, then mix that into the bowl of dry ingredients. Stir in the melted butter.

3 Pour batter into hot skillet and bake: 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 at 400°F 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.

Batter for homemade cornbread poured into a cast iron skillet set on a stovetop. A flexible spatula smooths the cornbread batter in a cast iron skillet to show how to make cornbread.

4 Rest bread in skillet, then serve: Let the bread rest for 10 to 30 minutes in the skillet before cutting it into wedges and serving.

To store, let the cornbread cool, then remove from pan and wrap in plastic wrap or transfer to an airtight container. Store at room temp for 2 to 3 days

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.

Hello! All photos and content are copyright protected. Please do not use our photos without prior written permission. Thank you!

Products We Love

This post may contain links to Amazon or other partners; your purchases via these links can benefit Simply Recipes. Read more about our affiliate linking policy.

Elise Bauer

Elise Bauer is the founder of Simply Recipes. Elise launched Simply Recipes in 2003 as a way to keep track of her family's recipes, and along the way grew it into one of the most popular cooking websites in the world. Elise is dedicated to helping home cooks be successful in the kitchen. Elise is a graduate of Stanford University, and lives in Sacramento, California.

More from Elise

380 Comments / Reviews

No ImageSouthern Cornbread

Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Sanjukta

    Hey, what can be a substitute for bacon dripping?

    Show Replies (1)
  2. Paula

    Hey! What if I don’t have cast iron skillet? Can I use a regular pyrex?

    Show Replies (1)
  3. Mike

    I used 1.5 cups of yellow cornmeal, 1/2 a cup of cornmeal flour, and 3/4 cup of flour. And, even though I’m from New Jersey, I used a full stick of butter and 1.5 cups of buttermilk ala Paula Dean since I had more dry ingredients. Since I bake bacon to cook and have not been saving the drippings, I had to use butter on the skillet with about a teaspoon of drippings. I’ll start saving and keep it in the fridge.
    My Florida gal said it was the best cornbread, but not as crumbly, slightly more cakelike.
    Next week I’ll use the recipe as given and report back.

    xxxxxyyyyy

    Show Replies (1)
  4. Michael Pinti

    Is there a substitute for buttermilk? Yogurt? I have no problem getting buttermilk but it’s only available in 1 litre packs and I don’t know what to do with the remaining..

    Show Replies (2)
  5. Susan Vanderover

    I have not tried this recipe yet but is sounds great. A few questions – I like the idea of using a little flour – I will be using a gluten free flour – like cup for cup – will this work? Also does this cornbread work for stuffing? Thanks

    Show Replies (1)
View More
Cornbread recipe baked in a cast iron skillet with a large slice removed.Southern Cornbread