My Favorite Buttermilk Cornbread Recipe

Definitely not Southern but this buttermilk cornbread recipe is bursting with corn flavor.

I love cornbread. It’s pure comfort food. One that I indulge in every once in a while. I especially love it with a big bowl of chili or piping hot from the oven smothered with butter and drizzled with organic honey served alongside a steaming mug of strong java. 

Oh, and leftovers? A good-sized square of lovely toasted cornbread the next day topped with soft scrambled eggs and melted sharp cheddar cheese is a breakfast worth getting out of bed for.

I've been hesitant to share this recipe. Cornbread can be a very controversial subject! So let me just get something out of the way right here and right now: I don't profess to be sharing the definitive cornbread recipe because I have no intention on stepping on anyone’s toesies. I’m not going to get into the sugar/no sugar debate because I’m not Southern and I have no intention of slighting anyone’s grandma. We are all allowed to have our preference and there is more than enough room at our communal table for more than one way to make cornbread.

I’ve had traditional Southern cornbread. You know the kind? The one with no wheat flour and no sugar made in a blazing hot cast iron skillet with bacon drippings to keep it from sticking? You know, the bacon almost had me. Almost. I've made this kind of cornbread. Several times trying to understand the love, even subbing out the typical bacon for the less in your face pancetta and adding flour to it. But I gotta say, not my cup of tea. Or should I say, not my slice of bread? Whatever. Point is, every time I’ve had it, I have found it overly crumbly and dry. Plus, I’m not a big fan of the crispy, brown top and bottom and even drier bacon-flavored edges. Yes, I did just say I don't like my cornbread tasting like bacon. 

For nearly 35 years, I’ve played with cornbread recipes. I’ve made cornbread from white cornmeal and I’ve made it from yellow. I’ve even made it without sugar and with. I’ve made it without added corn kernels and with so many that every bit had at least two kernels. I’ve made it using mixes (hellooooo! Jiffy!) and I’ve made it from scratch. But in the end, I gotta say, I prefer it with a little bit of sugar, a little bit of wheat flour, definitely with buttermilk and most definitely, with whole kernel corn for a bit of added texture and some real corn flavor.

So, this is my family’s favorite version of all my cornbread recipes. I hope you find a place for it on your family's dinner table, too, even if you have to call it dessert.

I don’t have buttermilk. What can I substitute it with?

You can make your own version of buttermilk very easily using regular whole or 2% milk and adding some acid to it.

For one cup of buttermilk, do one of the following:
  • Add 1 tablespoon vinegar to a measuring cup. Add enough milk to reach the 1 cup mark. Whisk well and let stand for 5 minutes before using.
  • Add 1 tablespoon of fresh squeezed lemon juice to a measuring cup. Add enough milk to reach the 1 cup mark. Whisk well and let stand for 5 minutes before using.
  • Add 1 ¾ teaspoons of cream of tartar to a measuring cup. Add enough milk to reach the 1 cup mark. Whisk well and let stand for 5 minutes before using.
  • Also, you can substitute an equal amount of plain yogurt for the buttermilk.  

A few tips for success

  1. Be sure to sift the dry ingredients well to make sure the baking powder and baking soda are fully incorporated.
  2. This recipe does need buttermilk to work properly. If you don’t have it, 
  3. Beat the wet ingredients well; once they go into the dry ingredients you don’t want to over mix.
  4. Mix the wet and dry ingredients together just until there is no dry flour left. 
  5. After the batter is mixed, allow it to rest for 10 minutes so that the cornmeal is fully hydrated. 

Buttermilk Cornbread

I use oil instead of butter as I find the oil makes a more tender crumb. Feel free to use butter if you prefer. Substitute it one-to-one. Also, don't skip letting the batter rest for 10 minutes before baking off. It really makes a difference by giving the cornmeal time to re-hydrate. 

Makes one 8x8 square pan

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
¼ cup sugar
¾ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon fine sea salt (or ¼ teaspoon regular salt)
1 cup cold buttermilk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
½ cup canola oil 
1 cup whole kernel corn

Line an 8x8 baking pan with parchment paper so that it hangs over on two sides These will be used as “handles" to lift out the cornbread later. Spray the pan and the parchment lightly with a coat of non-stick spray (I use high quality baker’s spray which has flour in it). Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Sift together the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Whisk together the wet ingredients. Add the corn to the flours. Fold in the wet ingredients using a silicon spatula, pulling the dry ingredients up from the bottom. Don’t over mix, just stir long enough so no dry flour is left. Pour into the prepared pan; let sit for 10 minutes to hydrate the cornmeal. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool for 5 minutes before lifting out and slicing. Store covered at room temperature for 2 days or refrigerated for up to 4 days (or if using butter, store in refrigerator once cooled).