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Southern Cornbread Recipe

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Our soul food cornbread recipe is easy to follow and yields a moist, tender crumb. It combines the rich tang of buttermilk with classic ingredients like butter and sugar for a delightful side dish that complements any Southern meal.

This Southern cornbread recipe is a deeply rooted dish that holds a special place in our hearts and on our dinner table. It’s a cornerstone of Black cuisine, often served alongside dishes like fried chicken, collard greens, black-eyed peas, and other staples.

Soul food cornbread is a recipe that our ancestors commonly prepared, as cornmeal was a primary food source and one of the few ingredients rationed to slaves in the American South. It has roots in both Native American and African cultures, and is reminiscent of mealie bread, a traditional South African bread made with cornmeal, flour, sugar, eggs, and milk.

There are some regional variations, cultural influences, and personal preferences between a regular cornbread recipe and a Southern cornbread recipe. This soul food recipe uses buttermilk and sugar and is more sweet with a tender crumb. It’s similar to JIFFY Corn Muffin Mix, which is our favorite boxed cornbread and our go-to when we’re short on time.

What you’ll love about this recipe:


  • TESTED & PERFECTED – This Southern cornbread recipe is tried and true; we’ve tested it multiple times, so it’s guaranteed to come out successful with every batch
  • TEXTURE – It’s tender and moist with a perfect crumb! Unlike other cornbread recipes, this version is not dense or dry.
  • FLAVOR – This Southern cornbread is buttery and flavorful and will complement all your favorite soul food recipes.

Ingredients

  • Yellow cornmeal
  • All-purpose flour
  • Granulated sugar
  • Baking powder
  • Baking soda
  • Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt
  • Buttermilk
  • Eggs
  • Neutral oil
  • Butter

Cornbread Recipe Substitutions and Variations

Cornbread is a versatile dish, and there are many variations that you can try like sweet potato cornbread, hot water cornbread, johnny cakes or hoecakes, bacon cornbread, honey cornbread, and cornbread with corn kernels. Here are some ingredient substitutions:

  • All-Purpose Flour: You can use whole wheat flour or a gluten-free flour blend as a substitute. Keep in mind that this may alter the texture slightly.
  • Kosher Salt: Regular table salt can be used, but only use a pinch.
  • Buttermilk: Create a buttermilk substitute by adding 1 tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice to 1 cup of milk. Let it sit for a few minutes until it thickens.

Special Equipment and Tools

  • 9×13 Baking Dish: Ensure it’s the right size to get the perfect thickness for your cornbread.
  • Hand Mixer: If you have a hand mixer, it’ll come in handy for beating the egg whites. However, you can also use a whisk, it will just take a lot longer.

Note: You can skip the step of beating egg whites to simplify the recipe. It may create a slightly denser texture, but the cornbread should still be delicious. Simply whisk the buttermilk, eggs, butter, and oil together, and then add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture.

How to Make Soul Food Cornbread

  1. Preheat the Oven: Preheat your oven to 400°F. Grab a 9×13 baking dish and grease it up with either vegetable shortening, oil, or butter.
  2. Mix Dry Ingredients: In a large bowl, throw in the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and a pinch of salt. Give it a good stir to make sure everything’s combined.
  3. Whisk the Buttermilk and Eggs: In a separate medium-sized bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and those golden egg yolks.
  4. Blend It All Together: Pour the buttermilk mixture into the cornmeal. Whisk it up until well incorporated. In another bowl, grab your hand mixer and whip the egg whites until stiff peaks form (see instructions below). Gently add to your buttermilk mix. This will help the soul food cornbread be light and airy.
  5. Add the Final Touch: Toss in the oil and melted butter, and give it all a good mix. Pour the batter into your prepped dish. Slide it into the oven and let it do its thing for about 30 to 40 minutes. You want it cooked through until a beautiful golden brown coat.
  6. Check for Doneness: Stick a toothpick in the center – if it comes out clean, and the center feels solid, then it’s done. Once out of the oven, brush with melted butter on top. Then cut that soul food cornbread into squares and serve it up right away.

tiP: How to Beat Egg Whites For Stiff Peaks

Beating egg whites is a crucial step in getting a light and airy texture to cornbread. You will need an electric mixer or hand mixer, a clean, dry bowl, and room temperature eggs.

  1. Crack the eggs, and separate the whites from the yolks. Ensure there is no yolk in the whites, as even a tiny bit can inhibit proper foaming.
  2. Begin beating the egg whites at medium speed. Once they become frothy, increase the speed to high.
  3. After a minute or two of beating, you’ll notice soft peaks forming, which is when the foam holds its shape but the tips curl over when you lift the beaters.
  4. Keep beating at high speed. Stiff peaks will form when it is glossy and stand upright when you lift the beaters. Be careful not to overbeat, as this can lead to a dry and grainy texture.
  5. Check Consistency: Turn off the mixer and check the consistency by lifting the beaters. If it’s firm and holds its shape without collapsing.

Remember, patience is key, and the speed at which you beat the whites matters. Keep a close eye on the texture, and once you’ve achieved stiff peaks, incorporate them into your batter immediately for the best results.

How long does it take?

It usually takes 1-2 minutes of beating at high speed to reach the frothy stage where soft peaks begin to form. From there, it may take an additional 2-4 minutes of continuous beating to reach the stiff peaks stage. The process can be faster or slower depending on the factors mentioned earlier. I stop and check the consistency periodically to avoid overbeating.

Recipe Tips & Tricks

  • Bake Time and Checking for Doneness: Keep in mind that times can vary based on factors like oven temperature accuracy, altitude, and the size of the dish. It’s a good practice to start checking for doneness a bit before the recommended cook time is complete and adjust accordingly.
  • Room Temperature Ingredients: Bring ingredients like buttermilk, eggs, and melted butter to room temperature before using. This promotes better incorporation and a smoother batter.
  • Don’t Overmix: Once you’ve combined wet and dry ingredients, avoid overmixing. Overmixing can lead to a denser texture in the final product.
  • Proper Greasing: Grease your dish or muffin cups thoroughly to prevent sticking. You can also use cupcake liners for easier removal.

What Goes with Southern Cornbread

Cornbread is a classic accompaniment to many Southern dishes. Some of our favorite soul food recipes to serve with cornbread include red beans and rice, black eyed peas, collard greens, fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, and cabbage.

Storage and Reheating

If you have leftovers, here are some storage and reheating instructions for you to enjoy your soul food cornbread recipe.

Storage

  • Room Temperature: If you plan to consume the cornbread within 1-2 days, you can store it at room temperature in an airtight container or wrapped in plastic wrap.
  • Refrigeration: For longer storage, you’ll need to refrigerate it. Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap or place it in an airtight container. It can last up to 3-4 days in the refrigerator.

Reheating

  • Oven or Toaster Oven: For the best results, reheat in the oven or toaster oven at 350°F (175°C), and warm for 10-15 minutes or until heated through.
  • Microwave: If you’re in a hurry, you can use the microwave. Place a moist paper towel over the cornbread to prevent it from drying out. Heat in 20-30 second increments until warmed to your liking.

Commonly Asked Questions

If I don’t have a 9×13 baking dish, can I use a different size?

Yes, you can use a different size dish! However, it will likely affect the cook time. If using a muffin tin, bake for approximately 15 to 20 minutes.

How to determine if the cornbread is cooked through?

You can use the toothpick test and observe visual cues. Insert a clean toothpick into the center; if it comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs (not wet batter), the cornbread is done. Look for a golden brown color on the top. This indicates that it has been sufficiently baked on the outside. The edges should be pulling away from the sides of the dish and the center should feel firm and set when gently pressed.

Summary

This Southern soul food cornbread recipe is made with buttermilk and features a moist, tender crumb. It’s perfect for any occasion and pairs well with red beans and rice, collard greens, fried chicken, and more. We especially love to make it on holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter.

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Southern Cornbread Recipe

  • Author: cooks with soul
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: 12 servings 1x

Description

Our soul food cornbread recipe is easy to follow and yields a moist, tender crumb. It combines the rich tang of buttermilk with classic ingredients like butter and sugar for a delightful side dish that complements any Southern meal.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cups unsalted butter, melted


Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  2. Grease a 9×13 baking dish with vegetable shortening, oil, or butter.
  3. Combine cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Stir to mix thoroughly.
  4. Whisk buttermilk and egg yolks together in a separate medium bowl.
  5. Add buttermilk mixture to the cornmeal mixture and whisk until fully incorporated.
  6. Beat egg whites in a medium bowl using a hand mixer until stiff peaks form.
  7. Add stiff peaks to the buttermilk mixture.
  8. Stir in oil and butter and mix to combine.
  9. Pour batter into prepared baking dish.
  10. Bake until cooked through and golden brown, about 30 to 40 minutes.
  11. Check for doneness by inserting a toothpick in the center. if it comes out clean, it’s ready. The center will also be solid to the touch.
  12. Remove cornbread from the oven and brush the top with melted butter.
  13. Cut into squares and serve immediately.

Notes

You can skip the step of beating egg whites to simplify the recipe. It may create a slightly denser texture, but the cornbread should still be delicious. Simply whisk the buttermilk, eggs, butter, and oil together, and then add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture.

Keywords: soul food cornbread, Southern cornbread recipe, cornbread

2 Comments

  1. Planning to make this cornbread. Is it okay to add canned corn? If so how much would be appropriate? Thank you for sharing your recipes

    1. Hi Barbara! Yes, you can definitely add canned corn. We recommend using one 14- or 15-ounce can (drained). Enjoy!

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