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Best Ever Cornbread Recipes – Northern and Southern Style

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If you've been searching for the best cornbread recipes, your hunt is over. Gram Irene's makes a light and moist cornbread; Grandmom Murphy's makes a gluten free, southern style skillet cornbread that you can sweeten with a drizzle of honey after baking, if you're so inclined.

Both of these recipes are featured in my book, “Never Buy Bread Again – 20+ Homemade Bread Recipes“, now available in spiral bound print and digital formats.

Purchase the print copy and get a digital copy free! Learn more here.

best ever cornbread recipes - northern style above text, southern style in skillet below text

Whenever I make homemade baked beans, I always make up a batch or two of cornbread to go with them. When the boys were little we call it “cowboy food”, although I'm sure the cowboy version would have been a lot simpler and probably not nearly as tasty. My youngest also loves homemade cornbread with chicken and gnocchi soup, chili and other hearty soups.

How to Make Cornbread – 5 Tips for Success

1. Use fresh, good quality ingredients.

I think most of us have had a bag of “something” get shoved to the back of the cupboard a little too long. Good cornmeal should smell fresh, slightly sweet smell. Rancid cornmeal will smell musty and stale. Dried corn contains oils, and once ground, it has a limited shelf life. If you use cornmeal infrequently, keep it in the freezer. Bring it up to room temp before you begin baking, or add extra baking time.

2. Mix gently by hand.

Cornbread is a quick bread, not a yeast bread. There's no need for kneading – a few lumps are a good thing. Mix only enough to incorporate dry ingredients – more mixing can lead to tough cornbread.

3. Don't let your batter sit around.

Have your pan prepped and ready to go, so you can get it in the oven promptly once mixed. Baking soda activates as soon as it's mixed with liquid. Baking powder activates when it gets moist and once again in the oven.

4. Add honey for more flavor and browning.

If you like your cornbread a little browner with a slightly richer flavor, substitute honey for some of the sugar. You may need to skimp slightly on the other liquids or add a few minutes baking time to compensate if you switch to all honey.

5. Preheating your pan will make crustier cornbread.

For a hearty Southern style cornbread, melting your fat or oil in your cast iron skillet doesn't just lube the skillet, it also makes for crustier cornbread. For extra crusty cornbread, keep the skillet piping hot so that when you pour the batter in, it sizzles. A hot skillet will trim your bake time by a few minutes, so plan accordingly.

Gram Irene's Best Cornbread Recipe

I got this cornbread recipe from my mom (Irene), after having tried it at her place and commenting on how good it was. The texture is great – really moist and tender, not dry and gritty. The “secret” is in the sour cream. You can make it with whole wheat flour, although I admit, I normally use white or a gluten free blend like Namaste. I recommend full fat dairy (sour cream and regular milk) for best flavor. The photo below ifs from the first time my youngest made cornbread by himself. He got so excited about baking that he climbed right up on the counter to mix.

dunc making corn bread
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Gram Irene's Best Cornbread Recipe

The “secret ingredient” keeps this cornbread moist, never dry or gritty.

  • Author: Laurie Neverman
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 35 minutes
  • Total Time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: 16 servings 1x
  • Category: Bread
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Ingredients

Scale

Dry Ingredients

  • 1 cup flour – all-purpose or gluten free flour blend
  • 1 cup corn meal
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Wet Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 cup sour cream

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350° F and lightly grease a 8″x8″ square baking dish or 9 inch round pan.

Blend dry ingredients together in a large bowl.

Mix in softened butter. Blend in milk, sour cream and egg. Beat until moist. Pour the batter into prepared pan and place in preheated oven. Bake around 30-35 minutes, until surface starts to crack and edges pull away from pan.

If you are using heavy glass bakeware, it may take 5 – 10 minutes longer. A toothpick inserted near the center of the bread should test dry when it is done.

Notes

Enjoy warm or at room temperature with butter, baked beans, soup or meal of your choice.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 slice

Keywords: cornbread, corn bread, quick bread

Did you make this recipe?

Share a photo and tag us — we can't wait to see what you've made!

square slices of cornbread on white plate

Grandmom Murphy's Southern Style Cornbread Recipe

I've taken some flack from southern readers who say a proper corn bread shouldn't be sweetened at all. Given that my momma was not a southerner, I don't have a family recipe like that, but one of my readers was kind enough to share his. This recipe is an authentic southern style gluten free cornbread from Gerald Murphy. It's savory, not sweet, and made with only cornmeal – no added wheat flour.

Gerald's original recipe uses corn oil, but I asked Gerald about substituting other fats, and he said bacon grease or melted butter would probably work fine. He says, “It's a great recipe – you'll love it!”

Print

Grandmom Murphy's Southern Style Cornbread Recipe

Authentic Southern Style Cornbread, savory, not sweet, made with only cornmeal – no added wheat flour.

  • Author: Gerald Murphy
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 35 minutes
  • Yield: 12 slices 1x
  • Category: Bread
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: Southern

Ingredients

Scale
  • 2 cups self-rising corn meal*
  • Approximately 1 1/4 cups of buttermilk (no substitutes for this please)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup corn oil or melted lard or butter

Instructions

Heat oven to 450°F.

Oil a cast iron skillet. I pour my oil in the pan, run it all around, and then pour it into the batter.

Blend all ingredients together in a medium mixing bowl. You can adjust the meal or buttermilk to get the right consistency of mix. The cornmeal batter should be fully wet but not runny.

Pour the batter into the pan, scraping the bowl clean, and shake the pan back and forth until it levels out.

Place cast iron skillet in oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes. You can see the underneath edges turning brown when it is almost done.

As soon as the top gets the least bit of brown on it, turn the over to broil (careful now–this goes fast) until it is the shade of golden brown you like (usually about 2 to 2 1/2 minutes).

Notes

*1 cup self-rising cornmeal = 1 cup plain cornmeal + 1 1/2 tsp baking powder + 1/2 tsp salt

Keywords: cornbread, quick bread

Did you make this recipe?

Share a photo and tag us — we can't wait to see what you've made!

cornbread in cast iron skillet on wooden table

Where to Buy Cornmeal and How to Store it

Most stores stock cornmeal along with flour in the baking section. (Be sure to check the “best by” date!) If you need a source for quality organic cornmeal, check out:

You can also grind your own cornmeal from dried dent corn or flint corn. Dried sweet corn has more sugar and doesn't keep as well or bake the same as corn varieties grown specifically for use as a dried grain. Most commercial cornmeal is made from dent corn. (Check out The Resilient Gardener for tips on growing, using and storing your own grain corn.)

For cornbread, most people lean towards a medium grind cornmeal, which is more course than corn flour but finer than grits. “Stone ground cornmeal” tends to be courser, and usually has the germ and bran left in. This adds more flavor, but also shortens shelf life, so plan accordingly.

To keep cornmeal fresh, store in the freezer in an airtight container, where it will last for up to two years. This is especially important for cornmeal labeled “stone ground” or “whole grain”, as noted above. If you purchased cornmeal that been degerminated, the bran and germ are removed and the product is more shelf stable at room temp. It's probably okay to store for a year or so in the pantry, but cool temps are better.

Use the “sniff test” to make sure your cornmeal is still good before baking. Stale = a bitter, pungent smell; fresh = bright, lightly corn scented aroma.

More Made from Scratch Recipes

We do a lot of “from scratch” cooking, and I've shared over 100 family recipes and kitchen tips on the site. You can find them all listed by category on the Common Sense Home Recipes page.

They include recipes such as:

Thanks for stopping by, and I hope your family enjoys these recipes as much as we do. Please share if you feel so inclined.

Originally posted in 2011, updated in 2018.

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66 Comments

  1. please don't cook with honey! according to Ayurveda, heating honey turns it toxic. use raw sugar instead. (it's okay to add honey to tea, just let it cool a little…) (and honey is a good carrier for medicinal herbs or spices, ie, 1/4 tsp of turmeric powder in a tsp of honey is good for sore throat – and you can add to warm water to gargle with it)

  2. I know Ayurveda is a time honored tradition, but I don't understand the chemistry behind this claim (not cooking with honey). Sure, the enzymes are no longer intact after cooking, but I don't see any physical way it could become toxic. Could you please supply some evidence to back this assertion?

  3. i always avoid cooking w/honey. i use maple syrup instead. i have found VERY FEW folks, however, that follow this "rule".

  4. Hmmm, this is the first I've heard of any issues regarding cooking with honey. I've found maple syrup to be a good substitute most of the time though.

    My cornbread recipe is very similar to this one. It calls for white sugar though. I'll have to try switching the sweetener next time. I've slowly been converting most of my recipes as I make them again.

  5. I found an ayurvedic post at http://www.pioneerthinking.com/dk_ayurvedahoney.html that makes these statements:

    a.. Honey should not be mixed with hot foods.
    b.. Honey should not be heated.

    However, the author gives no explanation as to WHY they make these recommendations. I sent an email off to the author and am waiting for a reply. I am reluctant to accept these claims at face value, as the author's email address ended in "ayurveda-increaselibido.com"…ahem…

    For my part, I view honey as an extremely environmentally friendly sweetener, as raising honeybees enhances the environment, unlike the production of most other sweeteners. Honey is also shelf stable for years, unlike maple syrup.

    1. Honey, when heated above about 110.* , destroys all the good stuff that makes it healthy, leaving only sweetening. It does NOT make it toxic, just makes it less healthy as all the healthy attributes have been destroyed.

    2. I HAVE SEEN WHERE YOU CAN HEAT HONEY TO GET IT BACK TO ITS NATURAL FORM IF IT CRYSTALIZES. also WARM TEA WITH HONEY. tHIS MAKES NO SENSE.

  6. Well, my email has bounced back already, so no answers from Mr. libido-increaser. For my part, I'll still be using honey, unless I get a better explanation.

    1. Not sure I buy it either. You heat honey when it goes sugared, so why would cooking with it make it toxic. I’d be interested if you find out more.

      1. I researched, but the only thing that ever came up was that heat destroys the natural enzymes, so it looses some of it’s vitality and medicinal qualities, but it certainly still sweetens.

  7. I don't know what the heck is the deal with heating honey. Not so sure I'd buy that until I had some good evidence. Anyways, this recipe SAVED me! I'd just made a total flop on cornbread muffins from a food.com recipe. I know it's foolish to try a new recipe last-minute, but I couldn't find my old standby. So right before a luncheon, I made these after throwing the other "bricks" away. This turned out great! I had to bake them longer than 25 minutes recommended for a Pyrex. I made two 8×8 pans, but I'd love to know what you'd recommend for cooking time/temp for muffins.

  8. Amy – glad it worked for you.

    I've never made these as muffins, so I'm not sure. I usually bake most of my muffin recipes at 350 or 375, for around 18-25 minutes.

  9. Don't cook with honey!!!!!!!! What!!!! Toxic!!!! If it turns toxic then why did I not die from it or even get sick. Been using it in baking, etc. all 38+ yrs of marriage. I'm still standing and in very good health.

  10. Plain yogurt should be fine, although it might change the texture a bit. I've used plain kefir, too.

  11. Well I put honey in very hot tea &/or coffee daily and its in my granola recipe & we’re all alive & well so I’ll just roll my eyes & maybe add a “whatever” whenever I see those unsafe claims, lol! Gonna try this recipe thanks!

  12. Good timing! Hubby is planning his chili for tomorrow’s ‘big game’ so maybe I’ll whip off some of this corn bread to go with! Sounds fabulous!

  13. Corn bread sounds great! But what I really want to know is – what is your baked beans recipe?! I have yet to find a satisfactory baked bean recipe from dry beans that my family will eat. So, what do you have? Please share!

  14. This is seriously the best cornbread ever! I am now famous at family gatherings for using this recipe :-). Thank you! P.S. I used honey! And heated it! And I will do it again!

  15. I used 1/2 cup of honey to replace sugar and it tasted great! My kids have all eaten and we are all alive! Love your recipes!

  16. Just for the record…
    Honey is recognized world wide as a natural preservative in baking. It’s recognized by the USDA, Health Dept.s across the country, and is taught in many culinary arts schools to be used in such a manner. So take that Mr. Libido… blame your impotence on something else!

    1. lol – Love it, Jennifer! I know my low sugar jams made with honey are the bomb! The flavor is sooo good. While it may give superior health benefits to eat it raw, using it in baking and cooking is a great way to support local apiaries – and tastes good, too.

  17. Thought I’d add a little more to it from the National Honey Board…

    “Honey used in baked goods has so many benefits,” said Bruce Wolk, Director of Marketing for the National Honey Board. “It can be used as a sweetener, enhance the color of breads or bagels, and extend the shelf-life of many baked foods without having to add chemical preservatives.”
    In addition, honey used in baking applications may improve the functionality of a product, as honey is a natural binder and thickener.

  18. My parents are from the south and cornbread was/is practically a staple at our table. We’ve used the same family recipe for literally generations, but this recipe by Irene is,unbelievably, better. Quite possibly the best cornbread I’ve ever made. As we are not fans of sweet cornbread, I used a little less sugar, but other than that, I wouldn’t change a thing. It is the “new” family recipe!

  19. Honey is toxic when cooking with it? Sounds like the same scientific BS that scientists regurgitate when trying to make the case for Global Warming aka climate Change! And we now know that was all a lie when the emails of these so called “scientists and scholars” showed they were lying about their data in order to get more grant money. I wonder who gains to benefit from saying honey is toxic when cooking with it. I would say that we have much bigger problems from GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) foods than natural honey.

  20. I’m from the south also and we don’t sweeten either. However, we do cook it a little different. My grandmother and dad would never use anything but a cast iron skillet, as do I. We put the oven on
    400 and a little greese in the skillet (about a hardy tablespoon) and place it in the oven. Mix up the
    cornbread then (CAREFULLY) pour the hot greese into the mix, stir a bit, then immediately pour the
    mixture back into the skillet and return the skillet to the oven. Then cook until the top is the shade of
    brown/doneness you like.. Unless your pone is thick (> 1 1/2″) this works well, if it is a deeper pan, it may take longer. All depends on your oven. Heating the skillet prior to pouring your mixture heats up the skillet so the cornbread immediately begins to cook on all sides. This makes for a really nice crust on all sides. Health note: we use coconut and/with/ or palm oil these days. We didn’t like it made with olive oil. 🙂

    1. Yes! I’m also from the South & this is how my grandmas & mom taught me to make cornbread. They would always use an iron skillet – in fact, one grandma had a 5″ iron skillet that was only used for my granddad’s cornbread & a larger one for the rest of the family. Pre-heating the skillet with oil (bacon grease or butter back then) insured that the pone was perfectly cooked, crusty, & never stuck to the skillet. (Btw, cornbread with sugar (or any sweetener) was called “Yankee Cornbread” & that wasn’t a compliment 😉 and would have been considered a dessert bread.)

  21. While raw honey is probably the best. Unlike other sugars, honey is more quickly and efficiently used as energy and is non-fattening (Ayurveda says that it is anti-kapha).

    One would think that heating honey would destroy its antioxidant properties. To the contrary:
    “It was found that the antioxidant properties of honey may increase through heating: “When honey is cooked, it appears to acquire additional, functionally important antioxidants”, according to related studies at Clemson University in South Carolina.”

    HMF (HydroxyMethylFurfuraldehyde) is used as an indicator of heat and storage changes in honey. While it has been found to be toxic to honey bees, it is not toxic to humans. In fact much higher levels are routinely found in molasses and other sugar products.

    Another issue is that honey collected from the wild would often contain wax, and it was then heated and the wax would separate and float to the top for removal. Some ayurvedic texts describe heating or burning this wax to release a toxin. However, modern apiists are able to extract honey without heating and without wax.

  22. Love corn bread, my husband, not so much. I use a recipe that adds a can of creamed corn and a can of whole corn, undrained. I also use onion dip instead of plain sour cream. I just take my recipe with me when I take this cornbread “dish”. If I am making it for just “us” I may add some garlic and a can of ortega diced chilies. I know, it is not real cornbread but really yummy served with anything.

  23. I am new to growing my own food, chickens etc. I really enjoy this newsletter and just want to say thank you very much. My husband and I had some terrific moist cornbread many years ago. I have tried several different recipes. So thank you for sharing the recipes looking forward to making it. Will let you know if I finally found the recipe I have been looking for all this time.

  24. I am from Oklahoma We eat cornbread. We eat it plain and unsweet we also eat it sweet or with extras like ham, jalapenos, cheddar, green chillies etc. You have have corn sticks or muffins or in a iron skillet. you can put it on top of chilli and bake that. it is very versatile. It can be so sweet it is like a cake that does not need frosting. The only thing you dont want it is to be dry. Leave it lumpy when you mix it. if you add sugar to a recipe to make it sweet remember sugar is a liquid so be sure to hold back a little of the milk. Have fun with it and let anyone tell you there is only one kind of cornbread. It is like saying there is only one kind of women. Variety is the spice of life.

  25. DID I MISS SOMETHING when you advised: “Blend dry ingredients together. This may require you climbing on the counter to get closer to the bowl and ingredients.” What does this mean?? I’m pretty short but I can still reach my bowls on the counter to mix ingredients without climbing on the counter! Was it a joke? Again, what am I missing?? I can’t understand from the photo why the young boy is sitting on the counter to make this recipe. He looks tall enough to stand and still reach the counter. As I don’t see any other comments about this, I must be pretty dense. Please enlighten me!

    1. It’s a joke. When my son was littler, he used to climb on the counter to mix everything, whether he really needed to or not. When he was really little, he’d hold the bowl steady by wrapping his legs around it.

  26. The best cornbread, and corn muffins, comes from the best corn and eventually corn meal made from that corn. Harry Records, owner of “Harry Here” farm, grows a nearly extinct white-capped flint corn in the swamp regions of Rhode Island. It’s grown a mile away from any other corn to prevent cross-pollination. Harry grinds the corn using an ancient water-powered stone mill. The slow speed produces a corn meal that is a bit coarser than modern high-speed milled meal. All the yellow corn meal from 2014 has been sold, so we wait until this fall … and buy extra. The farm is named after the way Mr. Records answers the phone.

  27. 1/4 cup bacon grease makes corn bread awesome! Heat it on low in a 10 inch cast iron skillet fix up the rest of your corn bread , then add the grease. Pour batter back into skillet and bake at 400 til done. Yum! The hot skillet puts a nice crust on the bottom. My grandmother used to fully cook her corn bread on top of the stove.

  28. Whether you choose to make Northern or Southern cornbread cooking your cornbread in a cast iron skillet is a must.

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