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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.
4.81 from 92 votes
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Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 7 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 32 minutes
Servings: 8 people
Calories: 371kcal
Author: Rachel Ballard


  • 2 cups self rising cornmeal mix not just plain cornmeal
  • 2 eggs or 1 extra large egg
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil for the skillet if using cast iron
  • 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.


Calories: 371kcal

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Recipe Rating


Tuesday 7th of December 2021

Grease cast iron with bacon grease, including the sides, for a next-level treat


Monday 29th of November 2021

If you want sweet cornbread, add 1/2cup of sugar.

Rachel Ballard

Wednesday 1st of December 2021

Shew we that's a lot of sugar, but if that's what you think it takes...


Saturday 27th of November 2021

When adding the oil to the pan would you use 2T of oil and then 2T of bacon grease? I’m going to go ahead and try…..Thanks for sharing this recipe!

Rachel Ballard

Saturday 27th of November 2021

You can do that if you'd like to Ann. --Rachel

Curran McQuillan

Thursday 25th of November 2021

This recipe all day every day. Could substitute the oil for bacon fat, but canola oil still works and Only change I'd make is 2 jumbo eggs. Done it all ways listed, but need enough egg to firm it up right and the amount of oil/bacon fat will keep it from being too firm.

Dave bright

Thursday 25th of November 2021

I just saw the amount of milk and tossed 1 3/4 cup of whole milk in . Didn't read enough to see that was for buttermilk. Lol !!! We'll see how it works out in about a half hour. It was kinda runny 😁

Rachel Ballard

Saturday 27th of November 2021

I'd bet it was runny Dave! It's always good to read the whole recipe through a couple of times before starting a recipe just to make sure you don't miss details like that. I hope it turned out okay! --Rachel

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