This Classic Southern Cornbread Recipe combines simple yellow cornmeal and buttermilk, bringing out the naturally sweet flavor of corn – without adding sugar. Cooked in a cast iron skillet with bacon drippings – it will please even the toughest critics.

Real Southern Cornbread is golden, sweet, moist, and delicious – without any sugar. Yellow cornmeal is combined with creamy buttermilk and baked in bacon grease – served with your favorite bowl of seafood gumbo, it is absolute perfection.

If you grew up adding sugar to your cornbread or using Jiffy corn muffin mix, I urge you to give true southern cornbread a try. You think you won’t like it, but I promise you will. Cornmeal has a natural hint of sweetness, and baking it with butter makes it taste even sweeter. (Southern Cornbread is not the same as old-fashioned cornbread with no flour, which is definitely an acquired taste/texture.)

I love a good sweetened cornbread, but I will agree with the southern cornbread purists that it is a bit like cake. This is why my husband loves it – an excuse to eat dessert with dinner! A true Southern cornbread is crumbly, delicious, and tastes like sweet Southern corn. Southern Style Cornbread is such a great addition to any Southern meal – we love to serve it with fried chicken and Instant Pot collard greens.

What Does Southern Cornbread Taste Like?

Traditional Southern Cornbread tastes like… well, corn. Sweet summer corn. It is naturally sweet, and the crispy golden crust tastes a bit like butter and bacon. The corn flavor is sweet but not too sweet – and dunked in some collard greens potlikker – it is so good.

What is the Ideal texture of Southern Cornbread?

The texture of this homemade cornbread is completely different than you would expect – it’s not completely crumbly, but it is not a fluffy cake either. It is the perfect in-between. It holds together enough so that you can slice it and remove it from the pan, but it crumbles as you bite into it, and you find little bits of cornbread in the butter on your knife after you spread it across a warm slice. (I highly recommend spreading honey butter on your cornbread!)

This recipe should produce a light cornbread that has an almost grainy texture that is soft, and so, so crumbly. The combination of all-purpose flour and cornmeal gives this cornbread recipe such a great flavor and texture. The crumbly texture is ideal for crumbling into chili, white beans, red beans, collard greens, or – the old southern snack, a glass of buttermilk. Southern Cornbread is meant to crumble.

A cast iron pie pan with baked golden brown southern cornbread in it with a slice on top.

🥘 Ingredients in this Southern Cornbread Recipe

The ingredients in Southern cornbread, laid out and labeled.
  • Bacon Drippings or Butter
  • Yellow Cornmeal – If you don’t have any cornmeal, here are some substitutes for cornmeal.
  • All-Purpose Flour
  • Buttermilk
  • Eggs
  • Melted Butter – Instead of vegetable oil, this recipe uses melted butter to really give even more flavor to this cornbread. Butter makes everything better.
  • Baking Powder
  • Baking Soda
  • Kosher Salt

Let the eggs and buttermilk come to room temperature before baking so that the melted butter doesn’t harden back up when the wet ingredients are combined.

🍽 Equipment Needed to Make Cornbread

  • A Cast Iron Pan, an 8×8 baking dish, 10 inch Cast Iron Skillet, or an Ovenproof Skillet
  • An Oven
  • Mixing Bowls – I like to use a small bowl and a large bowl.

🥣 How to Make Southern Cornbread

There are so many different ways to make cornbread, but this is our favorite way. It uses simple ingredients that we always have on hand, and it is a quick and easy cornbread recipe.

Recipe Tip

Make sure that the buttermilk and eggs are at room temperature so that the butter doesn’t harden when mixed with the cold egg and buttermilk mixture & make sure the melted butter has cooled off enough so that the butter doesn’t cook the eggs or curdle the buttermilk.

  • Preheat the oven to 425°F and make sure the rack is positioned in the middle. Place a 10-inch cast-iron skillet, a cast-iron pie pan, or an 8×8 square baking dish in the oven to preheat along with the oven.
  • While the oven is preheating, melt the butter in the microwave or in a small pan on the stove. Set it aside to cool.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. (Pictures 1 – 2)
  • Open the oven and pour bacon grease or butter into the preheating skillet to get it nice and hot and melty.
  • In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and buttermilk together. Add the cooled melted butter and mix well. (Picture 3)
  • Combine the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. (Pictures 4 – 5)
A collage of images showing how to mix up the batter for southern cornbread, steps 1 - 5.
  • Remove the hot skillet from the oven and swirl the bacon grease around to coat the pan. Tilt the skillet around to get some of the bacon grease up the sides, or use a paper towel to spread it around. Then, pour the batter into the hot skillet, and it should sizzle and crackle. The edges should crisp up right away – this crust that forms is what will keep the cornbread from sticking to the skillet, and it will also be so delicious.

Recipe Tip

Crispy edges are my favorite thing about cornbread. Preheating your skillet and adding bacon drippings or butter to it before adding the batter will not only prevent the cornbread from sticking to the skillet but it will also create such a flavorful crust on the cornbread. (Be sure to spread the drippings or butter up the sides of the skillet as well.)

  • Bake the cornbread for 18 to 24 minutes until it is golden brown. The cornbread is ready when it is slightly springy when you press on it and when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  • For best results, cool for 5-10 minutes before serving. If desired, you can spread butter over the top of the cornbread as soon as it comes out of the oven.
Southern cornbread in a cast iron pan, freshly baked, being removed from the oven.

Once cooled, slice and serve – yum! If you want to add a touch of sweetness, you can drizzle a little bit of honey on your cornbread or top it with a pat of honey butter.

A cast iron pie pan with baked golden brown southern cornbread in it.

Homemade Cornbread Variations

The awesome thing about cornbread is that it is so simple, and it is pretty much a blank slate. Because it is unsweetened, we like to serve warm cornbread with homemade honey butter. I also like to add things to cornbread to jazz it up – 

  • Cheddar Cheese
  • Diced Jalapenos – Pickled, Fresh, or Canned Chiles
  • Diced Cooked Bacon or Leftover Diced Ham

How to Store Homemade Cornbread

As a blogger giving instructions on how to properly do things, I should tell you to store your cornbread in an airtight container. As someone who knows you want to do things the easiest way possible – here’s how we do it. We leave the cornbread in the skillet with the same knife for 2 – 3 days until it is all gone. We loosely cover it with a piece of foil, and we use that same piece of foil the next time we make cornbread. That’s country-style.

Fresh cornbread has a tendency to grow mold pretty quickly if you live somewhere with a lot of humidity, which is basically all of the South, so it should be eaten or frozen pretty quickly. If we aren’t going to eat it right away, we will freeze half of the cornbread to save for later.

Can You Freeze Cornbread?

Yes! You can absolutely freeze cornbread. Once cooled, wrap leftover cornbread in plastic wrap, then aluminum foil, and place it in a freezer bag. It will keep in the freezer for 2-3 months.

Uses for Leftover Cornbread

  • Southern Cornbread Dressing
  • Cornbread Croutons – Cut up stale cornbread into cubes and bake until crispy. Toss into a salad.
  • Cornbread with Buttermilk – Pour buttermilk over cornbread and eat it with a spoon. It’s a Southern thing – you just have to try it.

🙋‍♀️ Frequently Asked Questions

What does buttermilk do for cornbread?

Buttermilk is such a great ingredient for making cornbread because it adds a subtle tanginess. It also makes the cornbread lighter when the acid in the buttermilk reacts with the baking powder – it causes a little bit of extra lift and rise in the bread. Be sure to shake the container of buttermilk before you pour it out of the container.

What is a good substitute for buttermilk?

If you don’t have buttermilk, pour 1 tablespoon of distilled white vinegar into a liquid 1 cup measuring cup, then fill the cup to the top with whole milk. Let it curdle and stir – it will take on the properties of buttermilk after about 5-10 minutes.

Can you add sugar to southern cornbread?

You can if you want, but then it will no longer be Southern cornbread. If you want a super sweet, fluffy cornbread, I have a recipe for that – it’s my Sweet Skillet Cornbread, and everyone loves it.

Can you use a self-rising cornmeal mix?

You can if you want, but it would be a different recipe because the proportions of flour and baking powder would be different.

Can you make Southern Cornbread Muffins?

Yes! This recipe makes great corn muffins. Corn Muffins are a great option to bring as a side dish to a picnic or if you are invited to a dinner party. They are much easier to share with a group! Simply grease muffin tins with butter or line them with paper liners, then bake corn muffins until golden. It should still take around 18 – 20 minutes.

✏️ Helpful Tips

  • Preheat Your Pan. To make the best southern-style cornbread, preheat your cast iron pan while prepping the cornbread batter – then, when it is ready, add bacon grease or butter to the pan and coat the pan. Dump the cornbread batter into the melted bacon grease. The edges fry up in the bacon grease and get crispy, and the cornbread doesn’t stick to the pan. It’s perfection. If you don’t have bacon grease, you can do the same thing with butter.
  • Do NOT overmix the cornbread batter. Fold the wet and dry ingredients together until they are just combined. If you overmix them, the cornbread won’t rise and will be very dense.
  • Let it Cool. Do not cut into the cornbread until it has had a few minutes to rest after coming out of the oven. It will rise in the oven and might come back down a little bit, so it needs a few minutes to cool down and settle. (If you cut into it immediately, it will just fall apart.)
Button linking to the Pinterest page for Southern Bytes.

What Do You Serve with Classic Southern Cornbread?

We eat cornbread with nearly everything. This is such a good cornbread recipe, and it is pretty much a staple side dish at our house. Dunk it in bowls of chili or chicken and sausage gumbo, or dip it in potlikker from your turnip greens or collard greens. No matter how you serve it, this cornbread is amazing. Some of my favorite recipes to serve with cornbread are:

A cast iron pie pan with baked golden brown southern cornbread in it with a slice in front of it.

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A cast iron pie pan with baked golden brown southern cornbread in it with a slice on top.

Southern Cornbread

4.88 from 31 votes
Made with cornmeal and buttermilk, this Classic Southern Cornbread Recipe brings out the naturally sweet flavor of corn without adding sugar. Cooked in a cast iron skillet with bacon drippings – it will please even the toughest critics.
Author: Kari
Servings: 8
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Total: 25 minutes

Ingredients  

Instructions 

  • Preheat your oven to 425°F and place a rack in the middle. Place a 10 inch cast iron skillet, a small pie pan, or an 8×8 square baking dish in the oven to preheat along with the oven. After a few minutes, add bacon grease or butter to the skillet to melt and swirl it around to make sure it gets up the sides of the skillet.
    1 tablespoon butter or bacon grease
  • While the oven is preheating, melt the butter in the microwave or in a small saucepan on the stove. Set it aside to cool.
    5 tablespoons butter
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
    ¾ cup all-purpose flour, ¾ cup yellow cornmeal, 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder, ½ teaspoon baking soda, ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and the eggs. Add the melted butter to the buttermilk mixture.
    1 cup buttermilk, 2 eggs, 5 tablespoons butter
  • Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir just until combined. Do not overmix.
  • Remove the skillet from the hot oven (carefully) and swirl the bacon grease up the sides. Pour the cornbread batter into the hot pan. (This will help you get a crispy edge.)
  • Bake cornbread until it begins to turn golden brown, especially around the edges. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean – about 18 – 24 minutes.
  • Allow the cornbread to cool for about 10 minutes before serving. Spread some honey butter over the top of the cornbread while it is still hot if desired.

Video

Notes

I like to use a cast iron skillet to make homemade cornbread that has a crispy crust from sizzling in butter or bacon grease before the cornbread starts to bake.

Cornbread Variations

We like to serve warm cornbread with honey butter. I also like to add things to cornbread to jazz it up –
  • Cheddar Cheese
  • Diced Jalapenos – Pickled, Fresh, or Canned Chiles
  • Diced Bacon or Leftover Diced Ham

How to Store Cornbread

Store your cornbread in an airtight container. (Or, you can do what we do and leave the cornbread in the skillet with the same knife for 2-3 days until it is all gone. We loosely cover it with a piece of foil, and we use that same piece of foil the next time we make cornbread. That’s southern-style.)
Fresh cornbread has a tendency to grow mold pretty quickly if you live somewhere with a lot of humidity, which is basically all of the South, so it should be eaten or frozen pretty quickly. 

Can You Freeze Cornbread?

If we aren’t going to eat our cornbread right away, we will freeze half of the cornbread to save for later. It will last for several months.

Uses for Leftover Cornbread

  • Southern Cornbread Dressing
  • Cornbread Croutons – Cut up stale cornbread into cubes and bake until crispy. Toss into a salad.
  • Cornbread with Buttermilk – Pour buttermilk over cornbread and eat it with a spoon. It’s a Southern thing – you just have to try it.

Special Equipment Needeed

  • a 10-inch cast iron skillet, 8×8 baking dish, or 9-inch pie pan

Nutrition

Serving: 1sliceCalories: 213kcalCarbohydrates: 22gProtein: 5gFat: 12gSaturated Fat: 6gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0.3gCholesterol: 65mgSodium: 321mgPotassium: 194mgFiber: 2gSugar: 2gVitamin A: 328IUCalcium: 78mgIron: 1mg

Nutrition information is approximate and is automatically calculated, so should only be used as a guide.

Course: Bread, Side Dish
Cuisine: American, Southern
Keyword: cornbread recipe, skillet cornbread, southern cornbread
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Hi, I'm Kari!

I am a newlywed, food blogger, health coach, and mama to a hot mess of a border collie. I love to put a new spin on old family recipes and I try to make as many meals as possible with an Instant Pot.

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  1. This is the exact cornbread recipe I’ve been looking for. I am never satisfied with the ones that call for white corn meal or added sugar. This recipe reminds me of my grandmother’s, growing up in the South. She would crumble the cornbread up in a glass and pour milk, salt and pepper over it and I loved it as a child. I’m doing that again and I still love it. Now the only problem with it will be my having to watch my waistline. Thanks for the recipe. It’s a keeper.