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Old Fashioned Cornbread

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Old Fashioned Cornbread made with white cornmeal, buttermilk, and no sugar (!) is perfect with everything from fried chicken to chili.
4.7 from 27 votes
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
A slice of cornbread topped with a pat of butter.

My best and most basic recipe for Old Fashioned Cornbread. Made with finely ground white cornmeal, buttermilk, and no sugar (!) it’s the perfect accompaniment for everything from fried chicken to chili.

There are probably as many recipes for cornbread as there are southern cooks. Although it’s not strictly a “southern thing,” cornbread is very widely served throughout the south. It’s so good with a plate of southern-style vegetables like field peas, fried okra, and greens.

A slice of cornbread topped with a pat of butter.

🤔 So Many Kinds of Cornbread!


There are many different kinds of cornbread. It’s an inherent part of southern comfort food. There’s the old fashioned buttermilk cornbread like I’m going to show you here. Then there’s corn pone which is nothing more than plain cornmeal, water, and salt formed into “pones” like thick little pancakes and cooked in the oven. There are also hot water cornbread, corn sticks, and corn muffins as well.

And don’t forget about hush puppies! They are essentially cornbread, too.

My favorite of all the different types is what we call lacy cornbread. It’s cooked in a skillet on the stovetop made from a very thin, light batter that is poured into hot oil and fried quickly to a golden brown. It takes some skill and a little practice to make lacy cornbread.

I have lots of cornbread recipes, but this one is my standard and a great one to add to your recipe collection.

💗 Why We Love This Recipe


  • Made from scratch cornbread is a rustic, simple comfort food.
  • It’s a classic southern side dish served with many traditional southern meals.
  • When you see how easy this recipe is, you’ll never reach for a boxed mix again.
  • Everything is cooked in one skillet. Less kitchen clean up time!

🥘 About the Ingredients


All ingredients needed to make old fashioned cornbread.
  • Fine Grind White Cornmeal (See my cornmeal commentary below.)
  • Canola or Peanut Oil (Use an oil with a high smoke point.)
  • Buttermilk (Gives the cornbread a pleasantly tangy flavor, a soft texture, and helps it rise quickly.)

🌽 The Secret’s in the Cornmeal


Besides all the different types of cornbread, there is also the matter of the cornmeal itself. Grocery stores throughout the south have lots of different cornmeal products on the shelves. But the most important for making good cornbread is finely ground, white cornmeal. 

My favorite brand? Well, it’s Arnett’s hands down. 

Now, I have no association whatsoever with Arnett’s. They have absolutely no idea who I am. I just happen to like their cornmeal.

A couple of other good brands are Hoover’s and Sholar’s. It’s easy to find those brands in the rural areas, but here in North Georgia near Atlanta, I can’t get them anywhere! That’s okay, I just stock up when I make a trip down to the southern part of the state.

One further note: You will notice that there is no sugar in this recipe. In my opinion, there is no place for sugar in cornbread. This is a rustic, savory bread and sugar just doesn’t belong in there. If I wanted something sweet, I’d make a cake. Cornbread is not cake. Sorry if you’re a sugary cornbread lovin’ kind of person.

You’ll find detailed measurements for all ingredients in the printable version of the recipe at the bottom of this post.

WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING …

“The one must: an iron skillet. Mine belonged to my great grandmother.”
— Dixie

🔪 How to Make Old Fashioned Cornbread


Prepare the Skillet

A cast iron skillet with oil in the bottom.
STEP 1.

STEP 1. Add 3 tablespoons canola oil to a 10-inch iron skillet (or for a lighter recipe, coat generously with cooking spray). Place the skillet in the oven, set the oven to 400 degrees, and preheat both the skillet and the oven while you mix up the batter.

TIP: A cast iron skillet makes the very best cornbread. If you don’t have one, I encourage you to purchase one. They’re not very expensive and will last you a lifetime.

Dry ingredients in a mixing bowl.
STEP 2.
Wet ingredients in a mixing bowl.
STEP 3.
Wet and dry ingredients combined in a bowl.
STEP 4.

Mix the Dry Ingredients

STEP 2. Combine the dry ingredients of cornmeal, flour, salt, and baking powder in a medium mixing bowl.

Mix and Add the Wet Ingredients

STEP 3. Combine the wet ingredients of oil, eggs, and buttermilk.

STEP 4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Mix well. I use a whisk just to make sure I get all the lumps out.

TIP: For a lighter recipe, use 1/2 cup eggbeaters or similar egg substitute and skim or low-fat milk in place of the buttermilk.

Add the Batter to the Skillet

Cornbread batter added to hot oil in skillet.
STEP 5.
Baked cornbread cooling in the skillet.
STEP 6.

STEP 5. Carefully remove the hot skillet and quickly pour in the batter. Immediately return the pan to the oven.

TIP: Can you see in the picture (step 5) above how the batter has already started to cook around the edges just seconds after being poured into the pan? That’s exactly what you want it to do.

Bake the Cornbread

STEP 6. Bake for approximately 25 minutes or until the top and edges are light golden brown.

Silicone pot handle cover.
STEP 7.

STEP 7. Remove the skillet from the oven and let it cool slightly before serving.

TIP: If you don’t have a silicone skillet handle cover, please treat yourself to one! They make it so much easier to handle hot pans. A hot, heavy skillet is much easier to hold onto with one of these than with a pot holder.

🥇 All My Best Cornbread Recipes


💡 Recipe Tips and Advice


  • A well seasoned cast iron skillet is a necessity for nailing the perfect old fashioned cornbread. It makes a delicious, golden crust, and a light, moist interior. If you don’t have one, you can use a different oven safe skillet or a baking dish. Keep in mind that your results will be different.
  • Be sure to preheat the cast iron skillet. That step is very important for achieving those delicious crispy edges!
  • Use a toothpick to check for doneness. If a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, the cornbread is done.

🍚 Storage and Freezing


  • Store at room temperature for 2-3 days or a week, well wrapped, in the refrigerator. To reheat, simply put it back in the oven until it’s warmed through.
  • May be frozen in an airtight container or bag for about 2 months. Thaw in the refrigerator before reheating.

🔀 Recipe Options


  • Make “loaded cornbread” by adding shredded Cheddar cheese, bacon bits, and scallions to the batter.
  • Give it a kick with shredded pepper jack cheese and diced jalapenos.
  • If you simply insist on some sweetness, try a drizzle of honey or syrup on top.

❓ Questions About Old Fashioned Cornbread


Isn’t cornbread supposed to be sweet?

No! It’s a common misconception that southern cornbread is sweet. In fact, if you Google “is southern cornbread sweet?” the first response that pops up tells you that southern cornbread is sweeter than northern, which is a load of nonsense! I sometimes wonder if this belief comes from the pre-made store mixes. While we may occasionally add a drizzle of honey to a serving of cornbread, the recipe itself is made without any sugar. To make a long story short – don’t believe everything you read on the internet, even if it’s on the first page of Google!

Can I make cornbread in advance?

Even though cornbread is best when served fresh and hot from the oven, you can make it a day in advance and reheat it before serving.

What size cast iron skillet is the best for cornbread?

I recommend using a 10-inch cast iron skillet.

What can I do with leftover cornbread?

Leftover cornbread is great for making southern cornbread dressing or croutons for your salad or soup!

🧾 More Recipes You’ll Like


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📖 Recipe

A slice of cornbread topped with a pat of butter.

Old Fashioned Cornbread

Old Fashioned Cornbread made with white cornmeal, buttermilk, and no sugar (!) is perfect with everything from fried chicken to chili.
4.71 from 27 votes
Print It Rate It Save
Course: Breads, Side Dishes
Cuisine: Southern, Vintage
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Servings: 8 servings
Calories: 253kcal
Author: Lana Stuart

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups finely ground white cornmeal
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • ¼ cup canola or peanut oil plus 3 tablespoons (or substitute cooking spray for the 3 additional tablespoons oil)
  • 2 large eggs or substitute ½ cup Eggbeaters
  • 1 ½ cups buttermilk or substitute skim or lowfat milk

Instructions

  • Add 3 tablespoons canola oil to a 12-inch iron skillet (or for a lighter recipe, coat generously with cooking spray). Place the skillet in the oven, set the oven to 400 degrees, and preheat both the skillet and the oven while you mix up the cornbread.
  • Combine the cornmeal, flour, salt, and baking powder in a medium mixing bowl.
  • Combine the remaining 1/4 cup oil, eggs, and buttermilk in a separate small bowl.
  • Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture and whisk to combine and remove any lumps
  • Carefully remove the hot skillet and quickly pour in the batter. Immediately return the pan to the oven.
  • Bake for approximately 25 minutes or until the top and edges are light golden brown.
  • Remove the skillet from the oven and let it cool slightly before serving.

Notes

Tips:
  • A well seasoned cast iron skillet is a necessity for nailing the perfect old fashioned cornbread. It makes a delicious, golden crust, and a light, moist interior. If you don’t have one, you can use a different oven safe skillet or a baking dish. Keep in mind that your results will be different.
  • Be sure to preheat the cast iron skillet. That step is very important for achieving the crispy edges on the cornbread.
  • Use a toothpick to check for doneness. If a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, the cornbread is done.
Storage and Freezing:
  • Store at room temperature for 2-3 days or a week, well wrapped, in the refrigerator. To reheat, simply put it back in the oven until it’s warmed through.
  • Cornbread may be frozen in an airtight container or bag for about 2 months. Thaw in the refrigerator before reheating.

Nutrition Information

Serving: 1 | Calories: 253kcal | Carbohydrates: 32g | Protein: 7g | Fat: 11g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 6g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 46mg | Sodium: 659mg | Potassium: 217mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 134IU | Calcium: 151mg | Iron: 2mg

Nutrition information is calculated by software based on the ingredients in each recipe. It is an estimate only and is provided for informational purposes. You should consult your health care provider or a registered dietitian if precise nutrition calculations are needed for health reasons.

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— This post was originally published on June 18, 2009. It has been updated with new photos and additional information.

A slice of cornbread on top of a skillet.

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64 Comments

  1. I have to order cornmeal, too, so do from Anson’s……and get both self rising & regular, white & yellow………….because use for coating so many veggies. I’m from OK & love reading the similarities that alll of us from the South do. The one must: an iron skillet. Mine belonged to my great grandmother.

  2. My favorite store quit carrying Hoovers cornmeal so I started searching online and ran across the 2011 05 27 Hoover Mill Tour in Chipley, FL on YouTube!
    You have to watch it because guess who makes Arnett Cornmeal? And what’s the difference between Arnett’s and Hoover’s?
    : )

  3. As my Mother in Law used to say “THEE Lord have mercy!!! I’m from California but I married a Tarheel so I’m proper Southern by marriage.
    I couldn’t have cornbread for a long time, I haven’t made it for anyone else since my husband died and can’t find my own recipe anywhere. The internet is filled with all kinds of strange sugar and baking soda recipes. Just no!! This is as close to how I remember mine as I’ve seen. (Oh! Some of those recipes called for “scallions” too. I never ever heard any proper Southerner call a green onion a scallion!
    THANK YOU for preserving a real recipe

  4. Forgot to mention bacon grease that was heated up in the pan and then the extra poured in the cornmeal mix.

    1. Always put enough bacon grease in a cast iron skillet, enough that at least the corners will be covered when adding the batter put in oven until hot 5-7 minutes. Pour in the batter and bake until you have crispy corners and golden brown center. That’s the way grandma did until she passed at 102 grandpa at 98. It wasn’t the bacon grease that killed them.

  5. This is probably a good cornbread, but it shouldn’t be called old fashioned. It is a modern version. The spray oil, the egg beaters, the skim or low-fat milk? While it’s fine to make changes for health or other reasons, nothing about that is old fashioned. Old fashioned cornbread didn’t have flour either. It was cornmeal, eggs, milk or buttermilk, salt and baking powder or baking soda-if that was available. So call it what it is-a modern interpretation.

    1. It’s pretty close though. My mom just finally gave me a great grandma’s recipe, it must be old as dirt and if you ignore the possible substitutions, the base recipe here is almost identical to it. The ratios and everything is the same. 1.5 cups cornmeal, 1/2 a cup flour, etc. Though I will say my recipe calls for shortening rather than oil, which is more old fashioned i suppose.

  6. Wish I could use a cast iron skillet, but they are too heavy for my 80ish arms. My grandma made cornbread every day in a CA skillet. No flour, and bacon grease in place of oil. Cooked in a cookstove, and no burned part at all. The same with cakes and pies. I write about her hardship in my memoirs for my sons.

    Thanks for bringing back memories for me.

  7. The “pones” that you allude to, my mom made but called it “Dodger bread”. Cornmeal, water and salt. Fried in a pan. Crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. Would eat with fried catfish, fried potatoes, homemade red beans with bacon and salad. Yum!

    1. I think this is what my gma did. She was born 1908 and left us in the 80s. As a young person I just thought she would always be here. I didn’t get the recipe. I think I am going to guess quantities until I get it right. (She used bacon grease too I remember that)

  8. Great recipe, especially with no sugar. The latest food craze seems to be “Gluten Free” and my new son-in-law is allergic to wheat, so lucky for me, growing up in central Alabama, we never used flour in our cornbread. The recipe you have so graciously provided for us will work just as well, by increasing the cornmeal by 1/2 cup and eliminating the flour. We also added 1/2 tsp of baking soda and used buttermilk. To add a bit of flavor we also substituted bacon fat for the oil.
    As for the brand of cornmeal we always used Adams, which is stone ground at a mill in Dothan, Al (if they are still open). I can only find it when I get back to Montgomery. Living in Maryland the only brand they sell seems to be Indian Head.

    1. Sorry, but I’m originally from Maryland, and my Mama would always use Martha White white cornmeal. She never put sugar, or flour in her cornbread. She was from NC. And I would say I live in the North, but raised a Southern. My Daddy was from NC, also. My Daddy used to fix tomato gravy. It was always so good, that you wanted to lick your face, and slap your kinfolk, if you couldn’t get any.

      1. Hi Louise, your comment sure sent me on a blast from the past. My entire family is from Southern Virginia/Northern North Carolina. My mother, grandmothers and I remember 2 of my great grandmothers used bacon grease when available and shortening when it was not available. I am blessed to still have 1 of my grandmothers; I’m 52 yrs old, she still cooks, cleans etc. Getting recipes from my mom or grandma is like pulling teeth! Neither of them measure anything. They always say just add this or that until it looks right. 🙄 You also mentioned tomato gravy, I’m not sure I ever remember having that but it definitely made me think about red-eye gravy! It would also make you slap yo mamma if your mother never made it or if missed out before it was all gone. The red-eye gravy was made with coffee and bacon grease.
        Thank you for the stroll down memory lane. ❤

  9. Don’t try making this recipe with King Arthur Flour. I tried All Purpose AND Self Rising and my Husband implored me not to use that flour anymore. It came out flat in places and raw. I tried it at least 4 or 5 times with both flours. I have no idea what the difference is in the flour. I normally use White Lily or something but this stuff was new in Walmart so I thought I’d give it a try.

    Ugh.

    1. I used King Arthur all purpose flour and it was delicious. I will say the recipe here calls for a half cup but it should read one and a half cups.

      1. No, the recipe is correct as written. It needs only 1/2 cup of flour. 1 1/2 cups flour plus the sugar you mentioned in a second comment, makes this an entirely different type of cornbread. That’s fine if you like that sweet, floury cornbread, but it is not what this recipe is intended to be.

  10. I know this is an old post but wanted to comment on everyone saying “no sugar”. There is a real reason to use A Little Sugar. The original corn was late harvested dent corn which was sweeter than the current harvested commercial corn meal. Add a touch of sugar to get an original taste but not a bunch because nobody wants that sweetened cornbread or they would buy jiffy.

  11. Thank you SO much for NOT including sugar in your cornbread. I agree with you that sugar has no place in it. I even canceled my subscription to The Ozarks Mountaineer when they published a recipe for cornbread with half a cup of sugar. HALF A CUP! That’s not cornbread, it’s cake! My buttermilk cornbread has no sugar and really brings out the flavor of the cornmeal.

  12. As to cornbread, there are a few differences in mine. I’ve never heard of any of those brands but then I never looked. Granny always used Indian Head usually yellow, always self-rising. She put the pan on top of stove and turned on low to melt a little Crisco. Her corn meal, flour ratio was more like 2 to 1. Only time I’ve ever seen her measure was making fruit cake.

  13. Thank you for your statement regarding SUGAR in cornbread. My mother grew up along the Ohio River in the early 1900’s She learned to make cornbread from her mother. I learned to make cornbread from her. The first time I had SWEET cornbread I was shocked. That wasn’t cornbread; it was corn cake.

  14. Lana am so delighted to find your Old Fashioned Cornbread recipe. I have lots of cookbooks, but have never been able to find a recipe that didn’t have sugar in it. I grew up on cornbread, but never ate any with sugar in it until I was grown up. It doesn’t taste right with sugar in it. Have looked many years for a recipe without and didn’t find any until today. Obviously, I don’t live in the South but on the West coast and rarely see cornbread on any menu. It was a staple in my childhood. I use lots of your recipes, but this is the first time I’ve run across the one for Old Fashioned Cornbread. Thanks so much.

    1. You’re welcome, Rosemarie! I don’t like sweet cornbread, either. Hope you enjoy the recipe.

      1. I am 87, and I grew up in Southeast Tennessee. When I was a kid they were many times that a slab of cornbread and a glass of buttermilk was what we had for dinner. And it was good. the depression lasted a long time in the south.

      2. All my grandparents talked about enjoying cornbread and buttermilk. They just enjoyed eating it, not because there was nothing else but just because it was so good!