How to Make Cornbread

I think every Southern cook must have their own recipe for cornbread. I recently acquired a book of recipes by writers, and one of my favorite Southern writers, Fred Chappell (who lives just up the road in Greensboro), contributed a cornbread recipe. It goes like this:

Meanwhile, be making your batter — some buttermilk, about a full drinking glass of it, four handfuls white cornmeal, salt, plenty of red or black pepper, baking powder, about a spoonful, maybe less. Put all this into a quart Mason jar. Add an egg if you like but be careful breaking. Bits of shell add texture but alarm females. Screw the top on the jar and shimmy like a Ford truck with a shot wheel bushing.

And it continues like that, which illustrates the beauty of cornbread: You can make it a dozen different ways, using the ingredients you’ve got on hand, and it’s pretty hard to mess it up. Make it for breakfast or dinner — it’s an egalitarian bread.


Here’s the way I make cornbread (feel free to adapt as suits you):


  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Spray a 9-inch-square baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
  3. Melt 2 tbsp. butter and let cool.
  4. Combine 1 cup flour, 1 cup cornmeal, 4 tsp. sugar, 2 tsp. baking powder, ½ tsp. baking soda, ½ tsp. salt and ½ tsp. cayenne.
  5. Make a well and gently stir in 2 large eggs.
  6. Add 1 cup buttermilk (substitute milk or plain yogurt if you don’t have any buttermilk on hand).
  7. Fold the wet ingredients into the dry until barely combined.
  8. Add the butter.
  9. Continue folding until the mixture is barely moistened.
  10. Pour into the baking dish and bake until golden-brown, 25-35 minutes.

Notes: Cornbread is very accepting of add-ins. Stir any of these in with the butter:

  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 1 cup grated cheddar or other cheese
  • ¾ cup corn kernels
  • 1 chopped jalapeno
  • ½ cup sauteed onions
  • 2 tbsp. fresh herbs

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13 thoughts on “How to Make Cornbread

  1. GeorgeT 31 July 2007 at 7:01 pm

    In his novel Farewell, I’m Bound to Leave You, a delightful book which is among its many qualities a tribute to country women, Fred Chappell includes a recipe for apple pie. The dried apples the narrator refers to would have been home-grown and home-dried, probably of some local variety particularly suited to drying, maybe an old southern apple like Buckingham or Shockley. See if your mouth doesn’t water:

    “Her every pie was a wonder, especially her dried-apple pie, where she would soak the slices in hard cider to soften, and then pour off the cider and boil it down with brown sugar and cinnamon and nutmeg and maybe the tiniest pinch of mace, if I remember correctly, till it was a thin syrup and pour that over the slices into a crust that was as light as goose down and top it all off with a lattice. She would slide it into the oven and add one more stick of stove wood to the fire pit and then never open the oven door again except to take the pie out when it was the color of a field of ripe oats. She never looked at the clock, either. I suppose she must have judged by the perfume of it when it was done.”

  2. Shannon 2 August 2007 at 8:35 am

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful quote!

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  4. […] am a big fan of cornbread. This is a bread that’s hard for even anti-bakers like me to mess up. It comes together […]

  5. Danny 1 February 2009 at 4:38 pm

    cornbread rocks my sox !

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  8. punihele 26 April 2011 at 2:52 pm

    Thanks for this great recipe! It is now my go-to cornbread recipe. Tonight I followed your recipe, adding corn kernels and fresh rosemary as well as substituting milk and filmjölk (a sour milk product similar to yogurt) for the buttermilk. It was delicious! I’m living in Sweden and I’ve been trying a few different recipes online, trying to replicate the cornbread that you get at home in the US. I’ve found a winner! Thanks again 🙂

  9. Rip Aycock 31 December 2011 at 12:35 am

    I’m sure that there are a whole lot of people reading this who use and love this recipe, and I have actually used something similar to it myself. It makes a very good light dessert. Real Southern cornbread, however, the kind that is eaten as part of the meal, does NOT contain either flour or sugar. My dear sainted grandmother, who made undoubtedly the best cornbread in the world, would be absolutely appalled at the idea of eating her pinto beans with sweet cornbread.

    Call this recipe cornbread if you must, but DON’T call it SPOTHERN cornbread, because it simply isn’t the traditional, country style cornbread that real Southerners use and love.

    Putting sugar in cornbread is nothing but a d**n ankee plot to destroy one more Southern tradition.

  10. Glinda 19 September 2012 at 4:32 pm

    Awesome website you have here but I was wondering if you knew of any discussion boards that cover the same topics talked about in this article?
    I’d really love to be a part of group where I can get feed-back from other knowledgeable individuals that share the same interest. If you have any recommendations, please let me know. Thanks!

  11. Shannon 19 September 2012 at 5:08 pm

    Thanks. I don’t really know of any discussion boards, though — sorry.

  12. Deryl 5 October 2013 at 7:31 pm

    Thank you Shannon. I think I need to “…judge by the perfume of when it is done…” cause I have burned the bottom on my last two attempts.


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