Buttermilk cornbread

30 October 2015

It’s Halloween tomorrow, and I have two recipes to share: the perfect cornbread (because chili and cornbread is such a perfect pre-trick-or-treating meal) and caramel dip for fall’s fresh apples. Cornbread first, because dinner before dessert.

Often cornbread has a slightly off taste, and it’s almost always because the baking soda or baking powder amount is not right. This recipe keeps it simple – just a bit of baking soda combined with the tangy magic of buttermilk to give a great moist lightness and flavor.

If you don’t have buttermilk, you can use a mix of plain yogurt and milk, as I do more often than not, or even regular milk with a teaspoon of vinegar to sour it.

Sugar in cornbread is one of those things, like beans in chili, that gets folks riled up. Yes, I make an inauthentically quick ground-meat-and-beans chili (I even make an all-veggie chili, horrors!). And though I don’t want my cornbread sweet like cake, I think a little sugar rounds out the cornbread flavor, just like a little salt does for every sweet thing I bake.

But cornbread is one of those recipes that can take infinite variations. Add cheese if you like, or corn kernels, or chopped chiles. Or extra sugar. Your cornbread, your rules.

For this one, I added a little extra sugar for the kids. Sugar in baking also adds moisture, a nice plus.

dry ingredients

Mix buttermilk and eggs.

wet ingredients

Add wet ingredients into dry. Stir until just mixed – cornbread is easy on the arms.

wet into dry

Melt butter in a cast iron pan, or in a baking dish in the oven. This is going to give the cornbread a crisp buttery crust.

melting butter

Mix excess butter into batter.

adding melted butter

Batter into pan for baking.

batter in skillet

Cornbread in its rightful home.

cornbread cast iron

I took a flying leap off my elimination diet and feasted on cornbread this week. I could have made it with all cornmeal and cut the flour and sugar. But when you’re tasting endless batches of caramel dip, you might as well go ahead and enjoy the cornbread. So I did.


Buttermilk Cornbread
This is perfect cornbread for me – substantial but not heavy, flavorful and moist. You can substitute plain yogurt mixed with milk or a combination of milk and vinegar if you don’t have buttermilk. Adapted from Allrecipes.


  • 1 cup cornmeal (fine grind is best; eg Albers)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (1/2 teaspoon if using unsalted butter)
  • 2 teaspoons sugar (just to round out flavor) OR 2 tablespoons (a bit sweet) OR 1/4 cup sugar (straight up sweet)
  • 1 cup buttermilk (or 1/2 cup plain yogurt mixed with 1/2 milk; or 1 cup milk mixed with 1 teaspoon white vinegar or lemon juice)
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 tablespoons butter (1/2 stick)


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, baking soda, salt and sugar. Stir to combine.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix buttermilk (or yogurt/milk, or milk/vinegar) and eggs, stirring until eggs are well beaten.
  4. Pour wet mixture into the dry ingredients, and mix until just combined.
  5. Heat butter in a 9- or 10-inch cast iron skillet on the stove or in an 8-inch square baking pan in the oven. Tilt pan to make sure butter coats bottom and sides of the pan, then pour excess butter into the cornbread batter. Mix melted butter into batter, then pour batter into hot pan. Bake for 20-22 minutes, until cornbread is golden and toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.


  • Bake cornbread until just done; it gets dry if overcooked.
  • If you like a more rustic cornbread, use 1 1/2 cups cornmeal with 1/2 cup flour. You can also make cornbread with all cornmeal and no flour, but it will be less soft and more crumbly.
  • Like beans in chili, sugar in cornbread can be a heated issue. Without adding sweetness, a bit of sugar rounds out the flavor, similar to a pinch of salt in sweets. And for those who prefer sweet, 1/4 cup gives a light sweetness without overwhelming the cornbread.
  • I’m a sucker for butter, but you can substitute bacon grease or oil if you prefer.

Here’s the link to a printable version.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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