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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 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. 

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      1. Hey Janet, great question. If you’ll notice that was in reference to people who want to use regular milk and not buttermilk. Regular milk is much thinner and the “add as necessary” is until you get to the texture described in the post. Did you get a chance to read where I covered that? Enjoy your cornbread! –Rachel

    1. can you use this recipe for muffins? Our church is havinh their 81st anniversity. and i’d like to take cornbread muffins.

      1. Hey Robin, there’s no downside. You’ll just need to increase the recipe by 1 1/2-2 times to get enough batter. There’s a slider on the recipe to let you increase the servings if you need help with that. –Rachel

    2. 5 stars
      My mother passed away when I was 13 so I never really got a chance to get recipes from her. I remember her cornbread being do good and had never found a recipe that was even close…until now! I made this cornbread and it looked and tasted like my mother’s. No more searching, I have found my go to recipe…Thank you so much!!

      1. Oh Jillisa I’m so sorry for your loss but I am so glad you found a way to connect to your mother again. Food can be such a connection to those wonderful memories. I’m so glad you love it. –Rachel

    3. 5 stars
      Thank you for this. Wonderful recipe. The unleavened recipe the lady was asking about is made with boiling water

    4. 5 stars
      I chose your recipe because you use a cast iron skillet. I just can’t trust a cornbread recipe (or cook) not using cast iron. I made it as directed but did add two heaping tablespoons of brown sugar. I used my cornpone cast iron pan. It turned out beautifully. However I think I messed up. This is the first time in 41 yrs of marriage I have made cornbread (blasphemy, right?). Until yesterday my husband always made the cornbread. His comment was “damn you make good cornbread”. I am very afraid he is going to want me to make it from now on. Thanks loads for the recipe, it really is quite good! Next time I’ll try with out sugar. After that I’ll get wild and go Mexican style!

    5. 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.

      1. I never add sugar, my grandmother made hers with corn meal, salt, baking soda, water(not hot) no measurements. I have made it only a couple of times that it tasted like hers. I wish there was someone else that made it this way.

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