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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 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

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  1. 5 stars
    I got some fresh milled cornmeal and made self rising cornmeal from your recipe and then made the cornbread from your recipe, and it was so delicious I can hardly believe it. The second time I made it I sprinkled some sea salt on top before putting it in the oven. The other thing I did the second time around was to get an oven thermometer and make sure the oven was up to 400° before I put in the cornbread. It’s amazing how far off my oven was. I didn’t have to raise the oven temperature, I just had to wait 15 minutes after the readout said it was 400° until it was actually 400°. Huge difference. Thanks so much for the recipe!

    1. Oh great tip on the oven! They are all usually very, very inaccurate. I check mine regularly because writing recipes requires accuracy. I’m so glad you enjoyed your cornbread! –Rachel

  2. I am from Alabama. Born and raised here. I do the looks right method. cornmeal, egg and milk. To change it up add a can of whole kernel corn and some green chilies. Also you can add some shredded cheeses. This will make great Mexican style cornbread. 3tbsp oil and 2 tbsp meal in a skillet. Heat on high till meal browns then add mixture. Bake in preheated oven on 450. Time will vary depending on how much and how thick.

  3. 4 stars
    I also like this recipe but I added about 1/2 cup cottage cheese and I like how it turned out.
    No sugar! I’m going to try the sour cream.

  4. well I was born and raised south of the Ohio River in South eastern Ky. and we didn’t and still don’t put sugar in our cornbread. it’s not a cake it’s bread as mom would say, but everyone has different taste. I reside in VA.now and you find places here that do use sugar and some don’t,so enjoy what ever your taste buds desire. Mine No sugar plz.

    1. I’m from south Louisiana and I add 1 table of sugar to my cornbread batter, I find it is not sweet and adds lightness to the texture. Try it

  5. 5 stars
    I have lived in the south for almost 60 years now and we have always put sugar in the cornbread but not enough to make the bread sweet(milk or buttermilk will make it sweet enough) but to help it turn golden brown.

  6. 5 stars
    great recipe! i add a dollop of mayo to the batter and heat oven to 450 with my cast iron skillet and a stick of butter- when butter is melted and pan is hot, i pour batter in and bake at 450 for 23 minutes- perfection!

  7. learned at the age of 9, no sugar A scorching hot skillet heat your oil / on broil, pour batter in 3 minutes in reduce heat to 425* F.

  8. 5 stars
    I am an OLD southern cook and learned to cook cornbread this way but instead of putting oil out of the bottle, we put all of the oil in the skillet then put the skillet into the oven while it is heating and then pour the hot oil directly into the cornmeal, milk, egg mixture, stir good then put it into the hot skillet and then back into the oven. Works well either way.

  9. No Sugar. not making a cake.
    I don’t measure anything go by the look of it. add 1/2 cup sour cream to it always turns out Awesome. Born and raised in the South. Save the sugar for sweet ice tea 😘

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About the Author

Rachel Ballard, RN, BSN brings more than 20 years of professional nursing expertise to Feast and Farm. With a love for nutrient dense foods that support wellness, she works to distill complex health information and current trends into recipes that fuel the best version of yourself. Read more about Rachel here.