I grew up on my mother’s and grandmothers’ Southern buttermilk cornbread, and I’m devoted to it. Southern cornbread has no sugar and is cooked in a cast iron skillet, which renders a lovely crunchy crust. You can eat it by itself with butter or apple butter, or you can eat it with beans or chili and spoon either on top of a slice.
This is another recipe that I’ve played around with. Many cornbread recipes call for 1 cup cornmeal and 1 cup all-purpose flour. However, all that extra flour seems to detract from the corn flavor in my opinion. So I split the difference and I like the results.
If you do not keep buttermilk on hand (I usually don’t), you can make your own using white vinegar and milk. The ratio is 1 tablespoon of vinegar to 1 cup of skim milk (minus 1 tablespoon). So for this recipe, I use about 1 tablespoon plus ½ teaspoon of lemon juice. About 10 to 15 minutes before you make the cornbread, put the lemon juice in a liquid measuring cup. Add milk to the 1-¼ cup line and allow it to sit at room temperature.
[Updated January 2011.]
Southern Buttermilk Cornbread
- mixing bowl
- 9 or 10-inch cast iron skillet
- 1½ cup cornmeal
- ½ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1½ teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 egg (beaten)
- 1¼ cups buttermilk
- 4 tablespoons vegetable oil (or bacon drippings if you happen to have any)
- Preheat oven to 400° F.
- Stir together cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in mixing bowl. Add the beaten eggs and the buttermilk, stirring just until all the dry ingredients are wet. Do not overmix.
- Add vegetable oil to the cast iron skillet and place in the hot oven for 3 to 4 minutes. You want the skillet hot, but you don’t want the oil to start smoking.
- Remove hot pan from oven. Make sure that the pan is thoroughly coated with the oil, bottom and sides, then pour the excess oil into the batter and stir. Pour batter into the hot pan.
- Bake for 25 minutes or until lightly browned.
Now this is REAL cornbread!!! This is exactly the way my grandmother taught me to make it way back when... I always use a cast iron skillet and bacon drippings. I put a dollop of bacon drippings in a 10" cast iron skillet and place in the oven while it preheats. When the oven is preheated I pull the skillet out, roll the grease around to coat the inside well and pour the extra into the batter and stir in before put the batter into the skillet. You know the skillet is right if you hear sizzling when the batter hits the hot skillet. Hmm good stuff!!!
Barbara Putnam says
You are soooooo right . . . Southern corn bread does not have sugar! Only the yankees could do such an awful thing as sweeten it - yuck. Your recipe is wonderful and I recommend it to all my friends. I love corn bread for dessert with Alaga syrup warmed and poured over it. DEElicious. Alaga syrup is good old pure corn syrup with a real southern flavor. I think it's a little too thick for pancakes, but it sure is good for soppin biscuits and cornbread!
I am SOOO excited!!!! After years of looking I finally found a recipe that tastes exactly like the cornbread my grandma used to make!!!! This is the best cornbread ever. Thank you for ending my search.
I love this cornbread, and so does my husband. I am so tired of "cornbread" that smells and tastes like cake. Thank you for posting it.
Thanks Georgia! It's always good to hear from others who feel the same way about their cornbread. 🙂
Thank you sooo much! my Texas Grandma made this cornbread but the I was too young to remember exactly what went in (of course it was never written down!). Now i can share with my first grandbaby!
Andi Burdick says
This mix was very dry when I made it. I added another 1 or 11/2 c buttermilk??? Haven't tasted it yet. When I use the aweful cornbread mixes, with sugar YUCK, the masa is much wetter when you put it in the baking dish. It's hard to remember, as I am now 62, but it seemed like my granmma's was a little thicker than pancake mix & she cooked it on top of the stove & flipped it. Everyone says to put it in the oven, sooo..
It also seems like she said half flour & half corn meal & "a little" baking soda, a little salt, some bakon grease, & buttermilk to the right consistancy. As you can see, no real recipe, & nobody in the family has been able to duplicate hers.
A.E. Ray says
Try crumbling up your cornbread and pouring buttermilk over it, this can't be beat!
Yes, you are right grandma's cornbread and some buttermilk oh how I remember eating that as a kid.
All good here... like this recipe. but my grandma's (one Southern Miss and one Southern Ala) did not believe in baking powder. got in the way of the corn, they said. Instead, the mixed the whole thing, as above-- with a pinch MORE baking soda-- and then let the 'buttermilk and the soda' rise, sitting on top of a warm stove, for half an hour or so...(covered with some towels) and then, once you see bubbles in the batter and it raises a bit, they gently poured that batter into the skillet, and then turned up heat on the stove and baked that in their skillets.
so there is the tradition from here. Now, , here is my own tip from our days. replace that half a cup of 'regular unbleached flour'-- since you want to taste the corn-- replace that with fine ground yellow grits....(Ok, I admit, I use a bag marked 'fine ground Polenta grits'.) If you wanna go a little more fusion be sure to use olive oil, not veg oil, and throw in some fresh thyme... Hey, my granma's boys from Miss married Southern Italian here in New Orleans!
Transplanted Southerner says
My family hailing from the Carolinas, I have tried LOTS of cornbread recipes. This is by far the best! I followed Tom's suggestions and they were spot on! Now I live in Maryland, and around here, Marylanders think cornbread should taste as sweet as cake. I'm glad to find a recipe that is true to Southern tradition.
As a transplanted southerner I always told people that sweet, yellow, cake-like cornbread is NOT real cornbread. My mother always made authentic southern cornbread without a recipe, relying on experience and the consistency of the batter (I never learned the knack). Also, she used self-rising corn meal, which I can't find where I live. Thank you, Andrea, for providing the amounts of each ingredient.
If you don't have a cast iron skillet I've found that a shallow Corningware casserole dish is a decent substitute. My mother says that egg is optional, but I suspect she added more leavening when she didn't use egg. Also, my mother always sprinkled a little cornmeal into the oil when pre-heating the skillet. She said that browning a little cornmeal before adding the batter made a crispier crust.
James Westmoreland says
This recipe sounds like the "real" cornbread my mom made just about ever day when I was growing up. I selected this one since it doesn't call for a lot of flour and definitely no sugar. My favorite "one dish" meal is a bowl of good southern style cornbread and cold buttermilk mixed in the bowl. What do you think about adding a small amount of real mayonnaise to the mix? If so, how much? I ask this because my mom and my sister has continued doing this with her cornbread mix which I really like. I would appreciate your opinion in response. Thank you and keep up the good work. Regards, Jim Westmoreland.
Hi James. It sounds like your mom was a good cook. I've never added mayonnaise to cornbread, but I imagine adding a couple tablespoons, or even up to 1/4 cup, would make it more moist. Let me know how it works for you.
Thank you for this recipe. I grew up eating this and can't stand the sweet stuff served everywhere these days. I couldn't remember the proportions so this is great!
This cornbread was great! Thank you!
Every Thanksgiving this is my go to cornbread recipe for my dressing. As a true Southern California gal I didn’t grow up eating traditional, true southern cornbread. I grew up on Jiffy. Over the years as I strive to be a better cook, I’ve learned that dressing is best from true unsweetened, homemade cornbread made from scratch. Thank you for a recipe that never fails me...no matter what baking dish I use. Today I am using a cast iron skillet and I’m excited. Thanks again!
I’m 76 and finally found a recipe my Mamaw and mother made. The sweet cornbread is called desert. Too sweet! I’m making the real recipe tonight with homemade green pea and ham soup. Probably won’t have sweet tea though.
Joyce Sligh Stephenson Augustson Originally Nashville, AR says
I am 80 and find it necessary to serve my mother's original cornbread dressing to my grown children this year. Thank you immensly for sharing this great recipe.