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Southern Cornbread Recipe

Is cornbread an issue of true debate? That depends on where you live. But for those of you who love a no-sugar, crispy skillet version this southern cornbread recipe is spot-on. 

baked cornbread in a cast iron skillet on a red napkin

I have a theory about cornbread.

If you grew up north of the Ohio River or had a family member who taught you to cook who did, you will put sugar in your cornbread.

If you grew up south of the river, you don’t.  You never realized I was so wise did you?

I grew up south and so did the cooks in my family so we don’t put sugar in our cornbread. In fact, the only thing sweet cornbread is good for to me is a corn dog. I’ll just pass if I have to eat it with sugar in it. Isn’t it funny how we get used to something tasting a specific way?

So I say that to say this: you CAN put sugar in my recipe and I will still work for  you. I don’t know how much to tell you to put in though–you may just have to wing it.

And speaking of winging it, that’s what I realized that I do when I make this. Even when  my mom taught me as a little girl, it was all by eyeball. If it’s too thick, add more milk. If it’s too thin, add more cornmeal mix.

I’m going to try to give you measurements, but just remember it should be just thicker than pancake batter. Get that down, and you’re good.

I kept wondering if this recipe was just too easy to share with you. Then I heard my friends talking about it one night–they use a (gasp) bagged mix that you just add water to.

Oh. We have a problem.

We need real cornbread.

If you’re gonna get out a mixing bowl and dirty a spoon, you might as well make it taste better than a bagged mix–that’s just my opinion.

My secrets to crispy southern cornbread

I use a self rising cornmeal mix. I’ve tried making it from true scratch and  it was terrible. You can find self rising mix in your baking aisle with the flour. Don’t just buy a bag of cornmeal. You will call me mean names if you do. White Lily makes a good one.

And for the best crust–that golden crispy crust, you’ll need a cast iron skillet. You can make yours in another dish, but it just won’t be the same.  Mom taught me to turn the cornbread over when it’s done (flip it out of the skillet while its raging hot) onto an oven mitt and put it back in the pan with the pretty, crispy side up. You can do that if you want to. I didn’t for this picture, but it does make it really pretty.The key to that crispy crust is to have your skillet screaming hot and plenty of oil in it when you pour in your batter. I heat mine on the stovetop, or you can heat your pan in the oven.

You can also skip that step if you don’t have cast and just lightly grease an 8×8 baking pan and bake it up that way.

Serve it warm with pinto beans and mashed potato cakes, chicken pot pie, or just butter and jam.

Watch the full video on YouTube

baked cornbread in a cast iron skillet on a red napkin

Southern Cornbread Recipe

Southern cornbread is crispy outside, tender inside and ready for all of your favorite cold weather dishes.
Prep Time 7 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 32 minutes
Servings 8 people
Author Rachel Ballard


  • 2 cups self rising cornmeal mix not just plain cornmeal
  • 2 eggs or 1 extra large egg
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil or an equivalent amount of refined coconut oil, bacon grease or lard
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil for the skillet if using cast iron; an equivalent amount of refined coconut oil, bacon grease or lard will substitute
  • 1 3/4 cups buttermilk or regular milk Start with 1 cup of liquid if you are using regular milk and add the rest as necessary


  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  • If you are using cast iron, place the 1/4 cup oil in the bottom of a 9″ skillet and place over high heat on your stovetop while you make the batter.
  • Pour the cornmeal into a bowl and add the oil, egg, and buttermilk.
  • Mix until combined and drop a small amount into your skillet.
  • If it sizzles immediately, go ahead and pour in your batter to within 1 inch of the top. If you want a thinner cornbread, just don’t pour in as much.
  • Transfer the skillet from the stove top to the hot oven.
  • Bake 25-30 minutes or until golden and set.


If you are not using cast iron, grease your pan with nonstick cooking spray and do not preheat the pan.
Bake as directed.
Nutrition information based on the use of refined coconut oil in place of the vegetable oil. 


Calories: 255kcalCarbohydrates: 34gProtein: 7gFat: 11gSaturated Fat: 7gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 47mgSodium: 631mgPotassium: 174mgFiber: 3gSugar: 3gVitamin A: 268IUCalcium: 194mgIron: 2mg
Tried this recipe?Tag us on Instagram @feastandfarm and hashtag it #feastandfarm
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American

This post contains affiliate links. 

Recipe Rating


Friday 22nd of April 2022

I don't like sweet cornbread and never have. My granny would never put sugar in it and I was curious as to how other southern people made their cornbread. Here we are and although my husband likes the recipe I do not. It's still too sweet for me.

Rachel Ballard

Tuesday 26th of April 2022

This recipe is too sweet for you? Is that what you mean? There isn't any sugar in this version. --Rachel


Friday 25th of March 2022

30 years ago a man would come by at harvest and ask for some field corn. Some time later a sack of ground cornmeal would show up on the porch. The grind was rougher than commercial corn meal, but finer than polenta. But what made it outstanding was that it still contained the oil and the germ, hence it had to be stored in the freezer. Wish I still had that to try your recipe. As I'm north of the Ohio River, I've never had cornbread without sugar, but I've never made it using any flour either so I look forward to trying yours.

Rachel Ballard

Sunday 27th of March 2022

Oh that's a wonderful memory Loretta! I hope you'll give this recipe a try when you can.

iris harrill

Thursday 10th of March 2022

My grandmother made an unlevened cornmeal hoecake. I cannot remember the recipe but she used a cast iron griddle well greased, plain cornmeal (no salt or baking powder) and either water or milk. It was a very different kind of conbread. It looked like a pancake. Do you have any recollections or recipes?

Karen Branham

Saturday 14th of May 2022

@iris harrill, my grandmother made something she called hoecakes that might be what you are looking for. Put 2 cups of corneal in a heat proof bowl. Heat water to a full boil and immediately start adding the water to the cornmeal. Begin stirring to combine the cornmeal and water. My grandmother said this step was to scald the cornmeal. Continue stirring and adding water a little at a time until you have a consistency of thick pancake mix. Heat oil of your choice in a skillet, I use cast iron. I like the oil to be about half an inch deep. When the oil is hot enough to make the batter sizzle add batter with a measuring cup to help with uniformity of size. Let them fry until the bottoms brown then carefully flip them over to brown. When they reach the desired brown crust, remove from skillet and drain on paper towels. Hopefully, this will be the help you are looking for to make the hoecakes you remember.

Rachel Ballard

Thursday 10th of March 2022

I don't have one Iris, but we get a lot of readers who respond to this recipe who may have an idea for you. I do make the round pancake style, but not plain ones without baking powder or salt. Maybe someone here will know! --Rachel

iris harrill

Thursday 10th of March 2022

I learned to make cornbread the same way with one minor exception. With castiron skillet with bacon grease is heating up on stovetop, when hot I lightly toss dry corn meal into the grease and then add my mixture. I let it sit on hot stove fo about five minutes then place in oven.

Rachel Ballard

Thursday 10th of March 2022

Oh that's so interesting! Does it make the cornmeal a bit browned and more crispy?

Janice Bates

Wednesday 9th of March 2022

This is similar to my mom's recipe using White Lily cornbread mix & butter flavored crisco. She's been gone over 40 years now but was one of the best cooks I know. Thank you for that lovely trip down memory lane. 🥰

Rachel Ballard

Wednesday 9th of March 2022

Oh you're so welcome Janice.

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