The quest for the perfect skillet cornbread

February 10, 2007 at 5:47 pm (AMA, breakfast, Grains, Mom’s recipes, Quick weeknight recipe, Soymilk, To test on plan, unrated, Website / blog)

I have tried many cornbread recipes over the years, but have not yet settled on my favorite recipe. Below I’ve recorded some of the many recipes I’ve tried. All recipes are designed to be made in a 9-inch cast iron skillet, and cut into 12 pieces. Typically, rather than making plain cornbread, I pour the cornbread batter over beans to make tamale pie.

This is my mom’s vegan cornbread recipe:

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.


  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 cup white flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 2/3 tsp. baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1-3 Tbl. sugar

Whisk together in a separate bowl, then add to dry ingredients:

  • 1 cup soymilk or 1 1/3 cups plain yogurt + 3 Tbs. water
  • 2-3 Tbl. oil

Pour into cast iron pan or 9 inch square pan. Mix sparingly. Bake about 20 minutes, or until top is golden brown.

This is a non-vegan but relatively light recipe originally from the AMA cookbook:

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Coat an 8-inch-square baking pan or cast iron skillet with vegetable oil spray.
In a large bowl, mix together:

  • 3/4 cup cornmeal
  • 3/4 cup white flour
  • 1.5 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 Tbl. sugar

Whisk together in a separate bowl:

  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup nonfat plain yogurt
  • 2 Tbs skim milk
  • 3 Tbs oil

Pour the wet mixture into the dry ingredients and whisk gently, until the batter has no lumps. Pour into the pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Bake in the center of the oven until the corn bread is golden brown on top and beginning to pull away from the sides of the pan, about 20 minutes. Cut into 12 pieces and serve hot.

PER PIECE: About 112 cals, 37 cals from fat, 4g total fat, 1g sat fat, 18mg chol, 208mg sodium, 15g total carbs, 1g fiber, 3g protein

My Notes:

I had some yogurt I wanted to use up but no egg, so I tried to improvise by substituting 1 Tbs. oil and 3 Tbs. unsweetened soymilk for the egg. I also used stone ground cornmeal, and added 1/2 cup of frozen corn kernels and 1/2 small can of green chilis to the batter. I poured the batter over beans to make tamale pie. After 20 minutes the top was starting to brown nicely but the underside of the cornbread was totally raw. We left it in for another 20 minutes and it was still a bit underdone but very tasty. I’m not sure what caused it to take so long to cook–the missing egg, the stoneground cornmeal, or the chilis and corn?

Take two: I followed the recipe exactly this time, and used the stone ground cornmeal. It baked up just fine in the specified amount of time. So clearly the issue was the egg or the additions, not the cornmeal.

This is a flour-less, gluten-free, very buttery recipe:

This recipe was given to me by my friend Kathy. She found it posted on epicurious, but it was originally printed in Gourmet magazine, as the recipe of Susan Goss, chef at Zinfandel, in Chicago.

Chef Susan Gross says that the secret here is in her cast-iron skillet. Nonstick pans produce anemic, soft corn bread. This recipe also works well with corn-stick or muffin molds, as long as they’re well-seasoned cast iron. If your pan is hot enough, the batter will immediately rise and start to cook around the edges. (The restaurant’s skillets rarely leave the oven.) At Zinfandel, the corn bread is served with a wonderful spread. To make it, combine 1 stick of softened unsalted butter with 2 tablespoons buckwheat honey (another honey or pure maple syrup can be substituted).

  • 1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal (preferably stone-ground)
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 3/4 cups well-shaken buttermilk
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • Accompaniment: buckwheat honey butter

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Put a dry, well-seasoned 9- to 9 1/2-inch cast-iron skillet in middle of oven to heat. Stir together cornmeal, baking soda, and salt, crushing any small bits of baking soda. Whisk eggs in another bowl until blended and whisk in buttermilk.
  2. Remove hot skillet from oven carefully and add butter, swirling gently to coat bottom and sides of skillet. (If butter begins to sizzle and brown around edges, so much the better.)
  3. Whisk hot butter into buttermilk mixture and return skillet to oven. Stir cornmeal into buttermilk mixture just until moistened. (The batter doesn’t have to be smooth — a few small lumps are good.)
  4. Scrape batter into hot skillet and bake until golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Invert skillet over a platter and cool bread at least 3 minutes.

Active time: 10 min, total time: 30 min

My notes:

Kathy and Spoons served this at their gluten-free 2006 Spoons’ birthday extravaganza, and it was delicious. Airy but substantial, with great big pieces of stone ground cornmeal and corn kernels (they added this–it’s not in the original recipe). I tried making it with normal fine-ground cornmeal, and it wasn’t that great. The crumb was very fine and it needed more salt (although I might have mis-measured the salt). Definitely not worth all that butter. I’ll have to try it again with stone ground cornmeal and see if it tastes like Kathy’s.

Update Feb 2012:  I made this gluten-free cornbread again using half masa harina and half “polenta”–a much coarser grind than normal cornmeal.  I cut the butter down to two Tablespoons and didn’t mix it into the batter, just left it on the bottom of the pan.  Instead of buttermilk I used about 1.5 cups whole milk yogurt plus 1/4 cup of water.  I added 2/3 tsp. of Morton kosher salt.  The cornbread came out well.  It had a nice texture and was crisp on the outside.  The flavor was salty and eggy, but pleasantly so.  (I might go back to 1/2 tsp. salt next time though.)  I’ll also add fresh corn next time!


  1. Gluten Free Recipes - Mike said,

    If you like skillet cornbreads, perhaps you will also like a good cast-iron skillet type cornbread stuffing. I enjoy both. The cornbread stuffing is always a hit around the holidays, and goes well with turkey or chicken.

    If you are interested, here’s a link to the gluten-free and diary-free cornbread stuffing recipe I use.

  2. Katrina said,

    Your mom’s cornbread recipe is now my default recipe. I do sometimes add a bit of butter to the skillet before I pour the batter in, but it’s very nice either way… though now that we inherited Spoons & Kathy’s leftover cornmeal, maybe we should try their recipe.

  3. austingardener said,

    It just didn’t seem like enough liquid, so I used 1 1/4 cups instead of 1. Better I think.
    Though I tated the baking powder too much this time.

  4. snippets of media, anthropology, design, culture and politics. said,

    […] The quest for the perfect skillet cornbread « From the kitchen of a captious vegetarian […]

  5. Tamale pie (Cornbread pie) | The captious vegetarian said,

    […] was a pretty big success. Everyone liked it, including Alma (at almost 4.5 years). I followed this AMA cookbook cornbread recipe for the cornbread portion, but I didn’t follow a recipe for the bean portion. I first […]

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