Culinary Arts

The Best Cornbread Recipe, Plus 7 Cornbread Variations

Written by MasterClass

Jun 26, 2019 • 4 min read

Soft and tender, almost like a cake, cornbread can be made sweet or savory, depending on how you want to serve it. Fold in diced jalapeno and shredded cheddar for a perfect chili side dish, or add a touch more sugar and serve with butter and jam for an afternoon sweet.


What Is Cornbread?

Cornbread is a quick bread containing cornmeal, popular in Southern cooking and enjoyed by many people for its tender, crumbly texture and sweet aroma. This dish was originally made by Indigenous Americans that had been using ground corn (maize) for thousands of years and was later embraced by European settlers. Southern cornbread has traditionally been made with little to no sugar and a higher cornmeal-to-flour ratio, while Northern style cornbread is sweeter and more cake-like.

6 Different Types of Cornbread

  1. Baked Cornbread: Cornbread is a staple bread in South and Southwest cuisine. The batter is made with cornmeal, flour, eggs, buttermilk or milk, and a leavening agent, which is then poured into preheated cast-iron skillet, where in the hot oil fries the outer layer of the quick bread.
  2. Corn Pone: Corn pone also known as Indian pone is a type of cornbread made from a thick cornmeal dough that lacks eggs and milk. It is cooked in an iron pan over an open fire using butter, shortening, or cooking oil.
  3. Cracklin’ Bread: A Southern dish consisting of cornbread with crispy pork cracklings baked inside. Pork rinds add a crispy texture to the moist bread.
  4. Johnnycakes: Pouring cornbread batter into a greased hot griddle or skillet produces a pancake-like bread called a johnnycake. This type of cornbread is made in New England, the Midwest, and Southern US.
  5. Hushpuppies: Hushpuppies are a thick buttermilk-based batter that is deep-fried, a common side to fried fish in the South. Hushpuppy recipes differ from state to state, some include varying combinations of onion powder, chopped onions, and jalapeños. They are moist on the inside, while crispy and golden brown on the outside.
  6. Hot Water Cornbread: Hot water cornbread is an Indigenous-American dish still made in the South. Cooked over a stovetop, it is made by pouring a small amount of batter made with boiling hot water and self-rising cornmeal into a skillet of hot oil, and allowing the crust to turn crunchy while the center of the batter cooks into a crumbly, soft bread.

5 Ways to Serve Homemade Cornbread

  1. Honey and Butter: One of the most delicious ways to enjoy freshly baked cornbread is by simply spreading butter over slices and drizzling honey over the top.
  2. Butter and Jam: Cornbread, like other types of bread, goes well with butter and jam. Using a low sugar jam that will let the sweet flavors of the cornbread shine through. Berry, fig, and apricot jams are all great pairings.
  3. Barbecue: Dunking wedges of sweet bread into smoky, spicy barbeque sauce makes for a wonderful contrast of flavors. BBQ pulled pork shoulder, ribs, and chicken all taste great with slices of cornbread.
  4. Chili: Chili is one of the most popular dishes to eat with wedges of cornbread. A hearty, saucy bowl of slow-cooker chili goes well with the sweet taste of cornbread.
  5. Louisiana Seafood Gumbo: Another Southern favorite, seafood gumbo is a thick stew of shrimp stock, vegetables, shrimp, oysters, crab, sausage, and okra that pairs well with cornbread.

7 Mix-Ins to Spruce Up Your Cornbread Recipe

  1. Jalapeños and Cheddar: For a spicy, cheesy kick to your cornbread, add 2 tablespoons chopped jalapeño peppers and ¾ cup shredded sharp cheddar to your cornbread batter before baking.
  2. Apple Sage: This makes a great base for cornbread stuffing during the holidays. Stir ½ cup grated, peeled green apple and 2 tablespoons of fresh, chopped sage leaves into the batter.
  3. Maple Syrup and Bacon: A breakfast cornbread with ½ cup maple syrup and 1 cup chopped, cooked bacon added to the batter.
  4. Pumpkin Spice: For a fall inspired cornbread, add ½ cup of canned pumpkin purée and 1 teaspoon pumpkin spice to the batter.
  5. Corn kernels: This addition is fantastic with chili and stews. Fold in 1 cup of fresh, frozen, or canned corn (drained). For a Southwest twist, add diced red and green peppers for color and flavor.
  6. Cheesy Garlic: Add ¾ cup of sharp cheddar cheese, ½ teaspoon thyme leaves, and 3 cloves minced garlic.
  7. Corn Dog Muffins: An easy twist on homemade corn dogs, add ½ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese into the batter. Fill lined muffin tins ⅔ of the way with batter, add 1-inch hot dog pieces into the center of each, and bake. Serve corn dog muffins with a side of ketchup for dipping.

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Easy Buttermilk Cornbread Recipe

Prep Time
10 min
Total Time
30 min
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • ⅓ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 3 tablespoons melted unsalted butter, divided
  1. Preheat oven to 400ºF. Place a heavy cast iron skillet, square baking dish, or muffin tin in the oven to reheat.
  2. Combine dry ingredients into a large bowl.
  3. In another mixing bowl, whisk the egg and buttermilk and 2 tablespoons of the melted butter.
  4. Slowly whisk the wet ingredients into the dry mixture, being careful not to overmix the batter.
  5. Carefully remove the hot skillet from the oven and add 1 tablespoon of butter, letting it sizzle and melt in the pan.
  6. Pour batter into the baking pan and bake for 15–20 minutes (5 minutes less if making cornbread muffins), until cooked through and golden brown.