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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, 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.
4.8 from 89 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

Bob Wells

Sunday 28th of February 2021

My Dad, God bless him, use to make ( what we CALLED cornbread, hoecakes or johnny cakes) only on the stovetop in a cast iron skillet. However, I’m relatively certain that no eggs were used. I’m also thinking that it included some flour. He’d cook one side then ‘expertly’ flip it over and cook the other side. None of my family members know exactly what the mix was and I’d love to be able to duplicate it. Any ideas? Oh, and NO sugar.

Sharon Thomas

Wednesday 3rd of March 2021

@Bob Wells, I make my cornbread with just three ingredients, like my grandmother did. I use cornmeal mix (white lily I think) 1 1/4 C, buttermilk 1 C and oil 2 TBS. Although I haven't tried it, I bet you could use this same recipe on the stovetop just making sure the skillet (and extra oil) is hot enough first. Maybe this is similar to what your Dad made?

Rachel Ballard

Sunday 28th of February 2021

Not without eggs in it Bob. I make lots of hoecakes with this same recipe just made a touch thicker. I wish I could be of help!

David Finan

Friday 12th of February 2021

How would I modify this recipe if I wanted to add shredded cheddar cheese or rotel to the mix to give it a kick? I am mainly looking at get the right amount of moisture in the batter as I know adding ingredients can affect that and cause problems. Thanks for any suggestions.

Rachel Ballard

Saturday 13th of February 2021

Well David, I haven't tried it with these additions but the cheese you should be able to add without much issue. A cup or so would be fine. For the rotel, you could sub some of the liquid from the can for some of the buttermilk or drain it and only add the tomatoes themselves. You'll likely have some sogginess around them in the finished bread. If you don't mind that then go for it or if you're after heat, use diced jalapeño's instead. --Rachel


Saturday 6th of February 2021

Recipe does not match video. Should say mid wet ingredients before adding to dry. Adds too much oil in batter. It pooled in my bread while baking. Into the garbage. First time in all my years baking and cooking I had to toss the entire recipe. ?


Sunday 28th of February 2021

@Rachel Ballard, I believe the recipes a little confusing because it says 1/4 cup of oil. It says add the oil. It doesn’t say add 2 teaspoons of oil. It also says add a quarter cup of oil to the pan. I’m glad I read this because I was confused about the amount of oil too. Thanks for clearing it up. Might want to adjust the recipe of top though? Have a great day.

Rachel Ballard

Sunday 7th of February 2021

Hi Cee, I'm sorry the recipe was frustrating. I'm not sure what you mean about the recipe not matching the video? You may have to help me with that. There is only 2 tablespoons of oil in the batter--did you add more than that? Maybe you flip flopped the amount for the pan with the amount for the batter? Even if you had, it would have still worked. I've never seen oil pool in any of my cornbread unless the pan was too cold when you poured in the batter and instead of sizzling it ran to the middle. Your pan should have been sizzling hot. --Rachel


Friday 29th of January 2021

Best cornbread since my dear West Virginian Mother passed away without leaving me her recipe!! First of all I am an Engineer guy who home cooks and can accurately follow a recipe. This recipe is easier than falling off a horse and makes the best, non-sweet cornbread ever!! I made this recipe yesterday with a batch of cornbread made with yellow Aunt Jemima cornmeal mix and when I ran out of that, I made another batch with the white Aunt Jemima cornmeal mix I had laying around. BTW. I liked the yellow cornmeal mix a bit better which added more of a corn taste to the bread. A few hints on how I made the cornbread that made me a Master Chef hero in my family. First of all, FOLLOW THE RECIPE and don't even think about trying to make it without a cast iron skillet!!! I had to swear to my Mexican wife, on pain of death, that I was not going to mess up her beloved cast iron skillet. A few tweaks I did was to add two tablespoons of melted bacon grease instead of the vegetable oil and I used whole milk instead of any of the lower fat versions of milk. Lastly, to mimic more of the filled cornbread from my childhood, I put in some bacon bits, shredded onion and very anemic diced jalapeno peppers, for taste, NOT HEAT. Lastly, a very important hint on baking the bread!! I made this bread for last Thanksgiving dinner and it came out very dry. The bake time in the recipe is stated as 25 to 30 minutes and I let my bread bake back then for 25 minutes before I began testing with the dry stick method. BIG MISTAKE!! But this time around I started testing every 2 minutes starting at 15 minutes. The second the stick comes out dry (for me after 20 minutes), pull the bread from the oven IMMEDIATELY and it will come out moist and perfect. This recipe is so easy and delicious, I plan to make cornbread every week for the duration. THANK YOU FOR POSTING THIS RECIPE!! BRAVO!!



Thursday 28th of January 2021

This is exactly how I was taught to make cornbread with plain milk. I think I'll try the buttermilk to go with a pot of beans tonight! I don't cook anything but cornbread in this one particular cast iron skillet. I'm from the south and sugar DOES NOT belong in

Renee Schmitz

Tuesday 2nd of February 2021

@Pam, I agree!! I made it Vegan