Hot out of the oven, this Southern-style Old-Fashioned Cornbread with its delicious corn flavor and crispy, crunchy edges has been a family favorite for generations. And, it’s a quick and easy, gluten-free recipe. Classic cornbread, made with buttermilk in a cast-iron skillet, is a true Southern staple.
When I was growing up, my mother made this skillet cornbread recipe and served it often. I make mine in the same cast-iron pan she used, and I’m thrilled to be able to share her recipe with you.
Is Southern cornbread sweet?
Authentic old-fashioned Southern cornbread doesn’t contain any sugar or flour for that matter, which means it’s gluten-free. There are probably as many ways to prepare it as there are varieties of corn, and you will see lots of recipes that call for some flour and just as many that call for sugar as well.
I am a lover of all types of cornbread, which means I also like sweet cornbread. But today I am sticking with this old-fashioned Southern recipe which can be mixed up in just a few minutes.
Why is it popular in the South?
Corn is easy to grow and like Southern peas, thrives in the South’s sandy soil, and hot and humid weather. The first cornbread was simply ground corn and water, and over the years it has evolved into a classic side dish for most Southern food.
What is it, and what does it taste like?
It’s a type of quick bread that is often made with only cornmeal or cornmeal and flour. Most recipes also call for buttermilk. In the South, it is usually baked in a cast-iron skillet, which gives it a crispy crust and how it tastes depends on the recipe, the type of cornmeal used, and whether or not sugar is added.
The best description I’ve seen is that it tastes of cornfields on a warm summer day!
What kind of cornmeal works best?
Because cornmeal is the star of the show, this recipe works best with the old-fashioned coarse stone-ground kind. If you are in the Tallahassee area, try Bumpy Road Farm Cornmeal or Bradley’s Stone Ground Cornmeal, which are both locally made and can be found at local farmers’ markets.
What’s the secret to moist cornbread?
The secret is buttermilk. Not only does this liquid gold add incredible flavor, but it also helps lighten the dense bread and make it more tender.
What type of pan is best to cook it in?
A well-seasoned cast-iron skillet is essential to make perfect cornbread. It will give you the best results and the crispiest crust. You can use a metal or glass baking dish, but you won’t get the beautiful crust.
Here’s what’s in it:
Besides cornmeal, the other ingredients for this buttermilk cornbread recipe include vegetable oil or bacon grease, baking powder, baking soda, kosher salt, eggs, and buttermilk.
How to make it from scratch:
When you are ready to make it, gather your ingredients and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Add two tablespoons of vegetable oil or bacon grease to a 10-inch cast-iron skillet. Place the skillet in the oven for about five to seven minutes to heat up.
While the skillet is heating up, combine the cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl.
Add the eggs, buttermilk, and two tablespoons of vegetable oil or melted bacon grease to a smaller bowl and whisk until well combined.
Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Do not over mix.
Using a heavy-duty oven mitt or potholder, carefully remove the hot skillet from the oven. Tilt the skillet to make sure the bottom and sides are covered with oil. Immediately pour the cornbread batter into the skillet. You should hear a nice sizzle, and you will see the cornbread already start to rise.
Place the skillet back in the oven and bake for about 20-25 minutes. The cornbread is done when the top is a deep golden brown and has slightly pulled away from the sides. To ensure it is done, insert a toothpick into the center. It should come out clean.
Serve immediately with plenty of butter.
What to serve with it?
One of my favorite ways to enjoy cornbread is crumbling still hot and crusty cornbread into a tall glass of cold, tangy buttermilk. This may be an acquired taste, but if you have never had it this way, it’s something you really should try!
Classic Southern cornbread is also often served with chili, and other soups, pink eye peas, field peas, succotash, and collard greens. In the summer, I like to serve it with fresh sliced tomatoes, white acre peas, and creamed corn for an easy meatless meal.
Sharon’s Expert Tips:
Cornbread will keep two-three days on your kitchen counter, about a week in the refrigerator, or about two-three months in the freezer. Be sure to wrap it tightly and keep it covered.
Leftovers are delicious when sliced and toasted under the broiler for a minute or so. Then, top with a pat of butter.
This recipe produces a dense bread because it doesn’t contain any flour. If you are looking for a lighter version to use in your cornbread dressing, give my Traditional Southern-Style Cornbread Recipe a try.
This recipe works best with coarse stone-ground cornmeal. Try to find locally sourced cornmeal if you can.
If you don’t have buttermilk, you can make your own. Combine one cup of whole milk with one tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar. Let this mixture sit for five minutes and voila, homemade buttermilk!
If you like this recipe, you might also like these recipes, which also include cornmeal: Crispy Fried Spanish Mackeral Nuggets, Quick and Easy Hoecakes, Ultimate Cranberry Upside Down Cake, Best Southern Crispy Fried Oysters, Classic Southern Strawberry Shortcake, and Tomato Cobbler with Cornmeal Cheddar Biscuits.
★ If you make this recipe, please give it a star rating and let me know how you liked it.
Thanks for visiting Grits and Pinecones!
Old-Fashioned Style Cornbread Recipe
- 4 tablespoons vegetable oil or bacon grease divided (I usually use peanut oil)
- 2 cups coarse stone-ground cornmeal
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 large eggs
- 1-½ cups buttermilk
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
- Add 2 tablespoons vegetable oil or bacon grease to a 10-inch cast-iron skillet. Place the skillet in the oven for five to seven minutes to heat up.
- While the skillet is heating up, combine the cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl.
- Add the eggs, buttermilk, and two tablespoons of vegetable oil or melted bacon grease to a smaller bowl and whisk until well combined.
- Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Do not over mix.
- Using a heavy-duty oven mitt or potholder, carefully remove the hot skillet from the oven. Tilt the skillet to make sure the bottom and sides are covered with oil. Immediately pour the batter into the skillet. You should hear a nice sizzle, and you will see the batter already start to rise.
- Place the skillet back in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the cornbread is a deep golden brown and has pulled away from the sides a little. To ensure it is done, insert a toothpick into the center. It should come out clean. Serve immediately.
★ This recipe was originally published on January 26, 2017, and republished on July 8, 2020, with expanded directions and helpful tips.
What is the difference if I use butter instead of oil in the mix? I will use oil in the skillet . Also I use a cup of frozen corn thawed and pulsed for a bit smaller corn bits.
Thanks for your help,
Hi Albert, the purpose of oil is to keep the cornbread moist. Oil has a higher fat content, and most butter (varies by brand) is only about 75% fat, with the rest being mostly water. I have never substituted butter, so I can’t say for sure, but you might find that although the butter will give it a richer taste, your cornbread may be a bit drier. I do like your idea of adding the corn bits. If you do decide to use butter, please let me know how it goes.
All the best,
Way to much salt otherwise loved texture and flavor..
Excellent recipe! This cornbread – crispy, course, non-sweet, and non-crumbly – comes the closest I’ve found to my mother’s. I have used this recipe several times and always receive compliments.
Very yummy cornbread. My Aunt Jean made wonderful cornbread and this is close to that.