Anytime you put the words “Southern” in front of a dish, it’s likely to stir up controversy, and cornbread is no exception. It seems like every person I’ve ever known from the South has their favorite way of making homemade cornbread, and every way is different.
What Makes a Southern Cornbread
The thing that distinguishes Southern cornbread from, say Yankee cornbread, or any other cornbread one is likely to eat outside of the southern states, is that it is savory, not sweet, and it is made mostly with cornmeal.
Northern cornbreads tend to be more cake-like, on the sweet side, with a finer crumb due to more flour in the mixture. Southern cornbread is flavored with bacon grease, and cooked in a cast iron skillet, a perfect side for barbecues, or chili. It also tends to be rather crumbly.
A Cornbread Experiment
With this cornbread recipe, we experimented both with all cornmeal, and with just three-quarters cornmeal and one-quarter flour. We also experimented with including or leaving out an egg.
Result: Either way works! Though the version with some of the cornmeal swapped out with flour, and including an egg, holds together better and is a little more tender.
About this Cornbread Recipe
If you are new to making southern cornbread, take note of the following:
Sugar is optional
Whether to include sugar or not in a southern cornbread recipe is an issue for debate. We’ve included as an option a tablespoon which just intensifies the flavor of the cornmeal; it doesn’t make the cornbread sweet.
The choice is yours as to whether or not to include it. (See this excellent article from Serious Eats on why traditional southern cornbread does not include sugar.)
“All cornmeal” versus “cornmeal and flour”
You can either use all cornmeal or a combination of cornmeal and flour to make this cornbread. If you go the all cornmeal route, note that the result will likely be very, very crumbly. That’s just how the Southern cornbread crumbles. If you would like cornbread with a little more structure, I recommend using a combination of cornmeal and flour.
Why use bacon drippings and butter
You’ll notice there are both bacon drippings and butter in this cornbread recipe. The butter adds needed richness to the bread itself, and the bacon drippings help brown the crust, keep it from sticking to the skillet, and add a lovely bacon flavor to the bread.
Make cornbread in a cast iron skillet
Finally, the method that works best with using a well-seasoned cast iron skillet is to preheat the skillet with the fat and then add the batter to the hot skillet. This helps brown the crust and with the pan already hot, the cornbread cooks more quickly.
Need to season your cast iron pan? Check out this guide to seasoning cast iron.
To our fine readers from our Southern states, how do you like your cornbread? Please let us know in the comments.
From the editors of Simply Recipes
- Cornbread will keep at room temperature for a day or two. After that, it tastes stale.
- Can you freeze cornbread? Yes, for up to two months if you wrap it well, though because it’s very crumbly, it’s best to freeze it only if you plan to use it as crumbs, or in cornbread dressing.
- Speaking of, leftover cornbread is excellent in cornbread stuffing.
Try These Other Cornbread Recipes, Too!
Updated November 6, 2020 : Some readers were noticing a metallic flavor in the cornbread, so we tinkered with the amount of baking soda to make sure this recipe was perfect. Updated ingredient amounts are reflected in the recipe.