A traditional Southern staple, cornbread is part bread, part biscuit, and part pastry. It’s made with cornmeal and flour and requires only minimal work. However, its humble appearance belies its versatility.
With countless ways to make, cook, bake, and fry, cornbread is a delicious, hearty bread that pairs well with just about any meal.
It’s also a cinch to make and only requires a few simple ingredients that you likely already have in your pantry. In this post, we’re going to explore these specific cornbread ingredients and their purpose in making this simple dish into the comfort food icon it is today.
This is the key ingredient in cornbread and what gives it its characteristic flavor and texture. There’s no other way to make cornbread than with cornmeal.
Cornmeal is a type of flour made from ground corn, and it’s been around since we first started growing maize.
Today, we use it to make everything from cornbread, muffins, and pancakes to coating deep-fried foods. It’s easy to find, cheap, and incredibly filling–all while being gluten-free.
Cornmeal’s neutral flavor makes it an ideal base for bread. The diverse array of available flavors makes it easy to personalize your cornbread. You can even try an orange-cranberry cornbread or a spicy jalapeño cornbread, then top it with honey, maple syrup, or brown sugar.
If you want to make delicious cornbread, you should use flour with cornmeal. The two flours work together to create a delicious cornbread.
The cornmeal adds a nice crunch to the bread, while the flour helps to bind the ingredients together and gives the cornbread a bit of structure.
Baking powder is a common ingredient in cornbread recipes, and for a good reason! Cornbread is traditionally an unleavened bread, but baking soda or powder can be used to make it leavened. This helps the cornbread to rise, creating a light and fluffy texture in the process.
When food was scarce, and most of the other ingredients on this list were a luxury, people used to make cornbread with only water and salt.
As simple as it is, salt not only gives flavor but also enhances and deepens it in an otherwise bland piece of bread.
Sugar adds a touch of sweetness to cornbread, making it perfect as a snack.
Using sugar to make cornbread has always been debated, but it all boils down to how and when you eat cornbread.
While savory cornbread is eaten as a side dish to accompany most Southern dishes, sweet cornbread is made to be eaten and enjoyed on its own.
One of the key ingredients in cornbread is milk. Milk adds a delicious richness and flavor to the cornbread that you just can’t get with water. Plus, it helps the cornbread to rise by working with baking soda.
Milk is also a good source of calcium, potassium, and vitamin D, along with its fat content that helps keep your cornbread moist.
Many southern recipes, including cornbread, call for buttermilk instead of milk.
Buttermilk is made by adding bacteria to milk and allowing it to sour. This process creates lactic acid, which gives buttermilk its distinctively tangy flavor. The acid also reacts with baking soda to help baked goods rise.
Butter adds a richness and depth of flavor to cornbread that cannot be replicated with any other ingredient—and you don’t need much to do it. A little bit of butter can go a long way with cornbread.
Butter plays its most important role in the skillet or baking pan. Melting the butter as you pre-heat is key to getting that crispy, flakey, golden-brown crust.
So, while you can use margarine or shortening in cornbread, butter is the best fat to use if you want the most out of your cornbread.
Eggs are one of the most versatile and delicious ingredients in the kitchen. They can be used to make everything from omelets to cake.
The eggs in cornbread help bind the ingredients together. Moreover, because cornbread is relatively dense, the eggs help to lighten and leaven the bread. This then results in a fluffy, moist final product.
What better way to learn about cornbread ingredients than to see them in action? For this reason, we’ve prepared a recipe for classic baked cornbread that you can try.
- 1 cup cornmeal
- 1 cup flour
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup milk
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- 2 eggs
- First and foremost, you have to pre-heat and get the oven to 400 °F.
- Then, mix your dry ingredients starting with our key player: cornmeal. Add baking powder to help it rise, salt to bring out the flavor, and flour to give it structure.
- Now get a separate bowl for your wet ingredients. Pour in the milk and melted butter for moisture and depth, some sugar to balance the acidity, and lastly, the eggs to bind it all together. Whisk away!
- Combine the two bowls and make sure everything’s incorporated well. Then, slowly pour your dough into a greased 9-inch baking pan.
- Pop your pan into the oven and set your timer for 20–25 minutes. You can poke into the center with a toothpick to see if it’s done. Once the toothpick comes out clean, your cornbread is done and ready to eat!
Of course, this is only one of the many ways you can make cornbread. Skillet cornbread, for example, features a beautifully browned crust and a soft interior when cooked in an oven. The cast iron pan also makes the cornbread edges extra crispy.
Cornmeal is made from dried corn kernels that have been ground up into a fine powder. You can use all kinds of corn to make cornmeal, but yellow corn is what gives cornbread its famous golden color and sweetness.
Yes, you can. Adding whole corn to your cornbread mix is quite easy. All you need to do is add a can of corn, along with the rest of the ingredients, to the bowl and mix everything. Then, simply bake the cornbread as you would usually.
If your cornbread is usually on the savory side, the sweetness from the corn really balances things out. Plus, the corn kernels add a nice chew and texture to the bread.
Cornbread is a delicious, classic dish that can be enjoyed in so many different ways. Some cornbread recipes do call for milk or butter, both of which are dairy products. However, there are plenty of recipes for dairy-free cornbread as well.
If you’re looking for a dairy-free cornbread recipe, there are plenty of options out there. You can simply omit the milk or butter from the recipe or substitute non-dairy alternatives like almond milk or coconut oil.
A few ingredients are as comforting as cornbread dressing. A traditional holiday dish with Southern heritage, cornbread dressing is usually made with a mix of cornbread, eggs, and vegetables.
There are many different recipes for cornbread dressing, but the following ingredients are typically used:
- Cornbread: This is the base of the dish and gives it its signature flavor.
- Eggs: Eggs bind the ingredients together and help to thicken the dressing.
- Vegetables: Vegetables, such as onions, celery, and green peppers, add flavor and texture to the dish.
- Chicken broth: Chicken broth is used to moisten the dressing and give it a flavorful liquid base.
- Seasonings: A variety of seasonings, such as salt, pepper, sage, and thyme, are used to flavor the dressing.
The dish is traditionally made with a cornbread base but can also be made with biscuits or even rice. Other ingredients may be added, such as chicken, turkey, or sausage.
Cornbread has been a staple food in the United States for centuries, all the way back to the Native Americans who first cultivated maize, grass, and grains.
The first recorded recipe for modern cornbread was in an 1824 cookbook, and it has cemented its place on our plates and tables since then.
Although there have been many variations and countless ways to make it over the years, the key cornbread ingredients and their purpose have more or less stayed the same.
The cornmeal and flour create the bread’s structure, while the sugar and baking powder add sweetness and the salt adds flavor. The vegetable oil helps to keep the bread moist, and the eggs bind everything together.
With these ingredients combined, they create a tender, moist, and delicious cornbread perfect for any occasion.
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.