This crispy southern cornbread recipe is passed down 5 generations, so it’s tried and tested to say the least! It’s gluten free and simple to make, too. Quick, classic, mouthwatering comfort food you’ll make over and over again – kind of like easy buttermilk biscuits.
The humble skillet of cornbread. For me, it conjures up memories of childhood and my grandma’s house. Every time my sweet mom comes to visit, she whips up a skillet of crispy cornbread goodness.
The women in our family have been making it for 5 generations now, and it’s so special to us that I have it framed in my kitchen. The perfect quick side dish for any meal – you won’t be able to help feeling good after eating this country staple!
But… is cornbread healthy?
The short answer… yes! Here’s why:
Cornbread is a traditional food that has been eaten for centuries.
Cornbread was one of the main parts of the diet of many North American natives and settlers – for good reason. The ingredients (mainly ground corn, milk, and egg) were easy for them to obtain. It sustained many of our pioneer and traveling ancestors and it can keep you going strong too!
Cornbread is a nutrient-dense whole grain.
A whole grain is one that has not been separated and stripped of its nutrients. Cornbread contains many great elements like magnesium, calcium, iron, folate… the list goes on.
Corn bread contains all 10 of the essential amino acids, building blocks for proteins that control growth, cellular processes and organ function. A newer field of inquiry concerns antioxidants, chemicals that protect cells against damage by oxidation. (source)
Cornbread is a great complex carbohydrate.
The humble cornbread doesn’t get enough attention. The low-carb trend has caused many to miss out on this simple pleasure.
God created corn, among other complex carbs, with a purpose. Complex carbs are essential for energy, sleep, mood, and metabolism. One Green Planet says,
Without carbs you may become foggy-headed, feel light-headed, have a hard time concentrating, feel sad or depressed, or just not feel like yourself. You may also have a harder time retaining information. Don’t deprive your brain of carbs- it needs them!
Indeed, cornbread has some mighty benefits to boast of for a strong body!
How to Make a Gluten Free Cornbread Recipe Without Flour
Not all types of cornbread are created equal. I wouldn’t recommend buying a box of Jiffy and calling it good. The healthiest cornbread is made from scratch, preferably using simple, non-GMO and organic, stone ground cornmeal. And it’s stinkin’ delicious.
You may not realize this, but the traditional southern method is to make a cornbread recipe with cornmeal only. Cooks didn’t start using flour until later on, when corn grinding methods changed and the cornmeal was lower quality (they added wheat flour to restore the texture).
All you need for the perfect cornbread recipe is good quality cornmeal, a rising agent like baking powder, egg, buttermilk, and oil for the skillet.
The Cornbread Debate: Sugar or No Sugar?
Also, classic southern cornbread is made WITHOUT sugar! Yes, you heard me right.
This is an age-old debate, but sugar was also added later on to help with the taste and texture of lower quality cornmeal. When you have the good stuff, there’s no need to add anything else. And if you use the recipe below, you won’t want to! Plus, who needs added sugar anyway?
According to Serious Eats,
For all but the wealthiest Southerners, the daily bread was cornbread. “In the interior of the country,” a New York Times correspondent observed in an 1853 article about Texas, “cornbread forms the staple article of diet—anything composed of wheat flour being about as scarce as ice-cream in Sahara.” Biscuits made from wheat flour are very closely associated with the South, but for most Southerners they were rare treats reserved for special occasions like Sunday dinner.
What to Serve with this Crispy Southern Cornbread Recipe
Cornbread is the perfect accompaniment to pretty much any meal! Here are some great recipes to pair with it:
- Chuy’s Chicken Tortilla Soup
- Cheesy Crustless Chicken Pot Pie
- Easy Pan Fried Potatoes
- Cucumber Tomato Onion Salad
How to Make a Moist Cornbread Recipe That’s Full of Flavor
The absolute KEY to the perfect skillet of cornbread is the method. I’m going to share some tricks of the trade to help you achieve an old fashioned cornbread recipe that’s so good, you’ll forsake all others.
- Pour your batter into a HOT (almost smoking) skillet. Getting your skillet extremely hot creates that brown, crispy crust we all know and love. In fact, the crust is so good that my grandparents used to cut all the crusty edges off the cornbread and eat those first.
- Don’t overmix the batter. This is really important to ensure your cornbread is super moist and not dry (the hot skillet helps, too).
- Use real, quality buttermilk. The buttermilk imparts such a delectable flavor to this recipe and is key for a soft, spongy interior! But, if you don’t have any, there is a way to make this southern cornbread recipe without buttermilk. Just add a splash of white vinegar to regular milk and let it sit for a few minutes. It’s definitely not the same as real buttermilk, but it’ll do in a pinch.
- Use quality ingredients and tools. I recommend this cornmeal and either bacon grease (you can strain and save it in the fridge anytime you cook bacon) or this oil for the perfect skillet of cornbread. And of course, a quality cast-iron skillet is a must.
- Substitute wisely. In all honesty, this cornbread tastes best by staying true to the recipe. But if you have food sensitivities or preferences, try these ideas. If you want to try making this cornbread without eggs or milk, do the following: You may substitute the milk with non-dairy milk. You may also make egg free or vegan cornbread by grinding up 2 tablespoons chia seeds, mixing with water, and letting it sit for a few minutes. It will create a gelatinous compound that’s a great egg substitute! Here’s the full run-down from Whole New Mom on how to make a chia egg substitute.
Now I’m going to let you in on the most prized recipe in my family history. Even better, it is SO easy to make (it literally takes 5 minutes to whip up).
Note: This recipe is for use with a standard size 10” cast iron skillet.
Crispy Southern Cornbread Recipe (5th Generation Recipe & Gluten Free!)
The best southern cornbread recipe ever, passed down FIVE generations. This gluten free cornbread is quick, tasty, crispy, and healthy.
- 1 cup cornmeal
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 1 pinch baking soda
- 1 egg
- 1 ¼ cup buttermilk
- 2 tbsp high heat oil (like refined coconut), or bacon grease for extra flavor
- Preheat oven to 400 F. Heat a skillet on medium high heat until hot. Add oil to a cast iron skillet and allow to heat. Keep an eye on the skillet to make sure the oil doesn't start to smoke.
- While the pan/oil is heating, mix the dry ingredients in a bowl. In a large mug or small bowl, whisk egg and buttermilk together. If batter appears too thick, add a little more buttermilk.
- Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix until smooth.
- When the oil starts to dance (appears to be moving in the pan), pour batter into the hot skillet and transfer to the oven. You want a super hot skillet with plenty of oil to achieve the best crispy crust. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.
- No buttermilk on hand? Just add a splash of white vinegar to regular milk, let it sit for a few minutes. However, for best results, use real buttermilk.
- You can substitute the milk with non-dairy milk if you like.
- To make this recipe egg-free, you can grind up 2 tablespoons chia seeds, mix with water, and let it sit for a few minutes. It will create a gelatinous compound that's a good egg substitute!
As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Serving Size:8 Servings
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 116Total Fat: 6gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 25mgSodium: 426mgCarbohydrates: 14gFiber: 1gSugar: 2gProtein: 3g
Now, print the recipe card (or Pin this post) because you’re going to want to make this at least once a week!
Becky Bixler says
Love my homemade cornbread! It’s delicious the next day in a bowl with buttermilk over it as a nice lunch. Just had my homemade yogurt this morning with blueberries and blackberries. “Sour” flavors are a fav of mine.
Yes, I love sour flavors too! Believe it or not, I’ve never tried plain cornbread and buttermilk. It doesn’t sound appealing but I bet I’d like it if I gave it a chance! (Sorry for the delayed response. I had a glitch on my blog and it wasn’t displaying any comments).
I’d fix my Dad a glass of crumbled cornbread then filled w/buttermilk! He called it his Sunday Sundae 🍨.
What size skillet do you use?
I use a standard, 10-inch cast iron skillet for this recipe 🙂
This recipe is the best cornbread recipe I have ever tasted. I wanted crunchy and your technique did not disappoint. I am not really a commenter, but I just had to compliment this awesome family recipe of yours. Thank you so much for sharing, because I have been looking for this recipe and technique for decades. I knew of it from a childhood friend, who use to share with me, however, the coconut oil was different, and put this recipe waaay over the top delicious. Thanks again, for ending my search. 🙂
A true foodie
Well Carla, I have to say your comment truly made my day! I’m thrilled that you love this cornbread as much as we do! Enjoy!!
After attempting this twice and failing twice I’ve decided to leave a message. I scrolled down to leave a message and saw the 4th generation recipe and now I see why mine has failed twice. You have neglected to put the baking powder into your recipe!
Oh my goodness, I can’t believe this oversight! I’m so sorry! Thank you for letting me know.
Lillian Reynolds says
ok worst fail that turned out AMAZING. My mom didn’t have labels on her flour and sugar etc so I accidentally put fish batter instead of cornmeal. We were using the cornbread for dressing. When we figured out we found the cornmeal and added a pinch of fish batter to the rest. they turned out awesome! We mixed all of the cornbread batches together and tried it before we put it in the dressing. It was awesome! So that’s melt recommendation is adding like 1 tbsp zatarans fish batter. So good!
So happy you enjoyed the recipe!
Hi Mary. If I use self-rising corn meal, would I just omit the baking powder and baking soda ?
Yes, that should work!
I am so happy to have stumbled across this recipe. First attempt turned out perfect!!! I would recommend adding the skillet size to the instructions though. Thank you so much for sharing!!
Thanks for the tip Vicki! I will add it!
Okay, as a southern guy from Mississippi, I can say that buttermilk and cornbread is one of the best things ive enjoyed being from there.
John Wascom says
When doubling the recipe would I need to adjust the baking powder and baking soda?
Yes you would need to double it.
Is the cornbread mix supposed to be soupy? The recipes only calls for 1cup cornmeal and 1 1/2 cup buttermilk.
The batter is usually on the thinner side, like the consistency of a milkshake.
Linda Bb says
It calls for 1 and 1/4 cup buttermilk. Not 1 and1/2.😬
Mary…love your site and I’m looking forward to making this cornbread my 1st recipe. You brought back fond memories of my childhood. Being from South Texas, it was common for country folks to have a meal of pinto beans, cornbread, sweet onion and a cold glass of buttermilk or sweet milk. What your G’parents did reminded of my Mom and I switching our C’bread….I wanted the crunchy bottom, she….the top! She said it helped getting a crunchy crust by flipping the bread over onto a wire rack so it wouldn’t “steam” when waiting for dinner time. I believe like you in buttermilk and stoneground cornmeal, no flour, no sugar. Have a blessed day and taking time to listen.
I love hearing your family cornbread stories! You know, my mom always flips her cornbread over too and I never realized why until now. Yes, you don’t want the crispy part to steam! God bless you.
Made this today on a cold snowy day in Houston, go figure. Was great with jalapeño black eye peas onion diced tomatoes and sausage. Does a body good..
A Texas snow day, how cool!
Can i make this if i do not have an iron skillet?
You can bake it in any oven safe dish. However, it may not result in the same crispy crust.
Montana Lee says
Hi! How much water should I mix with the chia seeds to substitute for the egg?
Just a couple of tablespoons probably, enough to saturate the chia seeds and mix them around in
When my grandma made cornbread in an iron skillet, at the step where you mention the oil starts to dance, she would to toss some cornmeal into the oil and let it sizzle briefly before pouring in the batter. (as least that is what my mom told me.) Have you ever tried that or heard of the idea? I really miss her cornbread.
Yes, that’s a great way to check whether the oil is ready.
David Jonathan says
I just tried your recipe today. I was looking for a thinner, crisper all-cornmeal recipe and this one did not disappoint. I can see where I can improve my efforts by making adjustments for my stove and oven. Also see where the tip to flip onto a wire rack instead of a plate would help keep a crunchy crust.
Since I am using dried milk and apple cider vinegar instead of buttermilk, I may try replacing the tablespoon of baking powder with a teaspoon of baking soda. Also looking forward to trying chopped chilies in the bread. I can hardly wait to make another batch,
Anyway, thanks for sharing… this is absolutely the best cornbread recipe I have tried. God bless.
Thanks so much for the review! Glad you enjoyed it!!
Corn is the product of selective breeding. The Aztecs took a grass and selectively bread it until they ended up with corn. So corn is the product of evolution by artificial selection. Most modern plant foods are the product of selective breeding.
kevin R knight says
Just wanted to say thank you for posting A true recipe! I am now 50. My grandparents have past as well as one of my parents and never have I put flour in my cornbread. It is simple, good and good for you (in moderation :). I wont lie, I sometimes put a pinch of sugar and if I’m feeling frisky I will add some diced pickled jalapenos.
In your video, you show adding flour, but it does not show up anywhere in your recipe. What’s the deal?
It’s not flour – it’s white cornmeal. In the video I’m using a mix of yellow and white cornmeal and I made a bigger batch.