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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?

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    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 eye.

    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. 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.

    If self rising cornmeal mix isn’t available where you live, try this homemade version.

    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.

    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.

    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. 

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    1. I’m waiting for this cornbread to come out of the oven!! I have been making cornbread for 65 years!! .. and yes my mom did not put sugar in it but when I was a young bride a new good friend told me she added it.. my family thinks I make the best!!!

    2. Hated to ask my mom for the 50th time how to make this. I could never find a “recipe” online that was similar so I could stop asking (and losing what I wrote down). I’ve occasionally looked and this I have yet to see and it is 100% it – including the not measuring part. She’s been making it for more than 40 years and this is what I grew up on and so glad you shared this! -Kyle (South Carolina)

    3. Planning on making this on my smoker with some pork butt. My smoker will be running at 275 degrees, do you think this would be ok to cook at a lower temperature for a bit longer or might dry it out?

    4. Can you also put corn nibs in it? If so, how much do you recommend? Cooked or fresh corn? I have some fresh cobs I’d like to incorporate into the recipe if possible.

      1. I’m sure you could Jillian. I never have so I’d be guessing on an amount. A cup maybe? Maybe a bit more if you want more corn in there. I think it will forgive you either way. –Rachel

    5. 5 stars
      This is the cornbread of my childhood. I was raised on this, pinto beans and fried potatoes. Can’t be made any other way than in a cast iron skillet in my opinion. The crust from caste iron cannot be duplicated in any other kind of pan. Thank you Rachel!

      1. Lee that is exactly the way I was raised. Nothing better than corn bread, fried potatoes, cold slaw and sometime salmon patties.

    6. I made this the other week. Loved it! Have a question: recipe calls for 1/4 cup of oil in the pan but only 2 tablespoons of oil in the batter – is that correct? Also, following the recipe, had to add a lot more milk than called for to achieve the right batter consistency.

      1. Hey Sara, yes that’s right on the oil. You need enough in the bottom to make a golden crust. And with the milk, keep in mind that you’re using an ingredient that has flour in it and flour will vary in moisture levels so depending on how humid or dry your air is that day can make a big difference in how much liquid it will absorb. I honestly never measure when I make this so I’m sure I adjust my milk too. –Rachel

    7. 5 stars
      A few weeks ago, we were traveling from Nashville to Atlanta and stopped for lunch at Rebecca’s Farmhouse Restaurant in Jasper, TN. (Highly recommend Farmhouse Restaurant!) The cornbread served with our lunch was a light and crusty cornbread muffin. Since we had just passed signs for the Lodge Cast Iron Factory Outlet in South Pittsburg, TN, I asked if the cornbread was baked in a cast iron muffin pan. After lunch, we backtracked a few miles to the outlet so I could get a cast iron muffin pan. Last night, I used your cornbread recipe with my new pan and it was perfect. There is no self-rising cornmeal mix in my NH grocery store, so I used your recipe for the cornbread mix. I made a half batch of the cornbread recipe for the 6-hole muffin pan. I preheated the oiled muffin pan in the oven and baked the muffins for 18 minutes. Perfection!

    8. 4 stars
      My grandmother was born in 1884 and taught my dad born 1919 how to make cornbread.the south used sugar due to keeping it moist. So it eould not dry out.that is what sugar does.the north never used sugar.and used mostly white corn meal.my great grandfather owed a grits mill.i believe in making recipes that you are comfortable with.what to add or not too.my grandmother passed down recipes to my dad.im very privileget. THank you for posting your recipes.

      1. 5 stars
        That’s funny bc I’m southern & my fam, ppl I know nor myself do not sugar anything lol from my observation it’s Definitely a northern thing; sugaring grits, rice, bread & so forth..

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