Easy traditional southern cornbread, made with buttermilk and stone-ground cornmeal, is full of rich corn flavor and has a deliciously crunchy crust.
A true reflection of southern goodness, this traditional cornbread is made in a cast-iron skillet. It is versatile, easy to prepare, and is a welcome addition to any meal. It is also amazing straight out of the oven topped with just a pat of butter.
You will need the following ingredients: stone-ground cornmeal, all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, kosher salt, buttermilk, eggs, and vegetable or peanut oil.
For the best results, you will also need a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet.
How to make it:
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F.
Generously oil a 10-inch cast-iron skillet or cake pan and place in the oven to heat for 5-10 minutes.
Add the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt to a large bowl and whisk together. Set aside.
In a smaller bowl, mix the eggs, buttermilk, and vegetable oil.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir with a spoon to combine. Only mix until the batter is moistened. It’s okay if there are a few dry spots or lumps. Do not overmix.
Carefully remove the heated skillet from the oven and pour in the batter.
Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until the top of cornbread is golden brown and the bread starts pulling away from the sides of the pan. The center should also spring back when pressed and a toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean.
Cool in the skillet on a baking rack for five minutes.
Place a plate over the top of the skillet and, using hot pads, carefully flip the skillet and dish over at the same time to remove the cornbread. Serve immediately with plenty of butter while it’s still hot.
- This cornbread is best when served piping hot right out of the oven, topped with a pat of butter or melted butter.
- While it’s best not to make it ahead, you can prep the ingredients by getting everything ready and separately mixing the dry ingredients and the wet ingredients. Don’t mix the two together, however, until right before you are ready to pour the batter in the skillet.
- You can make this recipe ahead to use in dressing and stuffing. For best results, let it cool completely and wrap tightly in plastic wrap and aluminum foil. You can freeze it for up to 30 days.
- A cast-iron skillet works best for baking traditional southern cornbread. Please don’t skip the step of preheating the skillet before you add the batter. Adding the batter to a hot skillet is what makes the crust crispy.
- If you don’t have buttermilk, you can make your own by mixing two cups of whole milk with either two tablespoons of lemon juice or white vinegar. Let this mixture sit for five minutes and voila, buttermilk. It’s probably not something you would want to drink, but it works perfectly in this recipe.
- The type of cornmeal you use has a direct impact on your finished product. I like and use either locally grown and produced Bradley’s Stone Ground Cornmeal or Bumpy Road Farm Cornmeal. I don’t have any relationship with either one of these brands, but think they provide the best results.
- By the way, you should always store cornmeal in your refrigerator or freezer.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
Do you need baking powder for cornbread?
The quick answer is yes, you do need baking powder for the cornbread to rise and have the proper consistency. Cornbread baked without baking powder is dense. However, in a pinch, if you don’t have baking powder, and you are using buttermilk, you can increase the amount of baking soda called for by 1/4 teaspoon instead.
Can you use polenta instead of cornmeal for cornbread?
The short answer is no. Polenta is actually not an ingredient, but a porridge or grits-like dish generally made from medium or coarsely ground corn. Authentic polenta goes even a step further and is made from a certain variety of corn that originally was only grown in Italy.
Are cornmeal and corn flour the same thing?
They are not the same thing. They are both made from corn, but corn flour (two words) refers to finely ground corn that has a texture more like flour and is smooth. It can be used in baking or as a breading for foods that are to be fried.
Cornmeal, on the other hand, is made with a coarser grind and is gritty. It also has more texture and a stronger corn taste.
However, in the UK, the term cornflour (one word) refers to cornstarch which is usually used as a thickening agent in gravies and sauces.
What’s the difference in Northern and Southern Cornbread?
The simple answer here is sugar, it’s the great divider! Generally, although not always, what most folks consider Northern cornbread is a little cakier and is definitely sweeter.
Traditionally, most cooks in the South, and again this is a generality, do not put sugar in their cornbread, including me. However, that said, I love any type of cornbread and I will happily eat a slice of sweet cornbread any day.
There are no hard and fast rules and the lines are blurred. No matter where they live, everyone has a favorite recipe or way they like their cornbread made, and it usually has to do with what kind they ate growing up.
What to serve alongside this recipe?
Traditional cornbread is frequently served in the South alongside Southern peas and cooked greens such as collards or turnip greens. In the summer, I like to serve it with fresh purple hull peas, creamed corn, and sliced tomatoes.
If you like Southern cornbread as I do, you also might be interested in my gluten-free Old-Fashioned Southern Cornbread, which is a tasty, dense cornbread that doesn’t contain any flour. I also have recipes for spicy and flavorful Mexican Jalapeno Cornbread and Broccoli Cheddar Cheese Cornbread Muffins.
This cornbread is a staple in my kitchen, and I use it as the base for my Traditional Southern Cornbread Dressing and Make-Ahead Cornbread Dressing with Pecans and Sausage. It is also delicious paired with Southern Hoppin’John or Southern Black-Eyed Peas.
Last, but not least, my recipe for Hoe Cakes, aka Cornmeal Pancakes, will make you swoon! This staple of early America is a type of cornmeal pancake that is quick and easy to make.
If you are interested in other Southern recipes, you might want to check out these popular favorites: Classic Southern Potato Salad, Homemade Peach Ice Cream, Southern Cheddar Biscuits, Southern Squash Casserole, and Southern Sweet Potato Pie.
★ If you make Traditional Southern Cornbread, please leave a comment and give this recipe a star rating. I would love to know how you liked it!
Thanks so much for visiting Grits and Pinecones!
Easy Southern Cornbread Recipe
- 2 cups stone-ground cornmeal sifted
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 2 cups buttermilk
- 2 large eggs
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil plus one tablespoon to grease the skillet
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
- Generously oil a 10-inch cast-iron skillet and place in the oven to heat for 5-10 minutes.
- Add the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt to a large bowl and whisk together. Set aside.
- In a smaller bowl, mix the eggs, buttermilk, and vegetable oil.
- Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir to combine. Do not overmix, just stir until the dry ingredients are moistened.
- Carefully remove the heated skillet from the oven and pour in the batter.
- Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until the cornbread is golden brown, and the center springs back when pressed.
- Cool on a baking rack and let stand 5 minutes. Remove the cornbread from the skillet and serve immediately.