Easy Moist Cornbread
This easy and moist cornbread recipe is a true southern treat made with tangy buttermilk and baked in a cast iron skillet to achieve the iconic crispy bottom. This one bowl recipe is incredibly versatile and is a great base recipe to create endless variations!
- Skill Level: Beginner
Let’s get this out of the way: I am not from the south. I am a Midwesterner who loves to bake and a student of baking things the “proper way.”
After testing many cornbread variations, I developed this recipe – one that I truly believe yields the best, most authentic southern-style cornbread. Using mostly cornmeal, a good amount of butter, a pinch of sugar, and buttermilk, this cornbread is exceptionally moist. To achieve that iconic crispy bottom, this cornbread bakes in a cast iron skillet.
What makes this cornbread easy, moist, and crispy
No special tools or equipment required for this one bowl, one skillet cornbread recipe.
For crispy-bottomed cornbread, bake the cornbread batter in a hot cast iron skillet. This is key and what makes this the best cornbread recipe.
Melted butter and thick buttermilk keep this cornbread moist. After baking, I like to run a stick of butter over the top of the hot cornbread so that it soaks right in and stays even more moist and buttery.
Ingredients and Substitutions
It’s no secret that cornmeal is the star in a cornbread recipe. White cornmeal is most commonly used in southern recipes, however the same amount of yellow cornmeal can be used as well. Yellow cornmeal tends to be a bit sweeter than white cornmeal.
For truly exceptional cornbread, use a high quality cornmeal. If you can find it, fresh stone ground cornmeal from a small mill gives the best results. I love using this Palmetto Farms Stone Ground White Cornmeal – you can really taste a difference!
If you don’t have access to fresh ground cornmeal, don’t fret. I’ve tested this recipe with generic store-bought cornmeal and it’s just as delicious. If you’re feeling adventurous, try your hand at making your own cornmeal and using that in this recipe.
Does flour belong in a cornbread recipe? I’ve tested several cornbread recipes with varying amounts of flour – some without any, some with a little, and some with a high percentage. In my opinion, a small amount of flour really does wonders for the texture of the cornbread (especially cornbread made with generic cornmeal). Even with a little bit of flour, cornmeal remains the star ingredient of this moist cornbread recipe.
For a gluten free cornbread, replace the all-purpose flour with the same amount of a gluten free flour blend.
I greatly prefer making cornbread with melted butter instead of oil. Oil gives cornbread a lighter, tender cornbread, white butter adds richness and incredible flavor. If you’d prefer, you can use vegetable oil or canola oil in place of the butter.
If using salted butter in this recipe, reduce the added salt to 1 1/2 teaspoons.
While this recipe calls for a little sugar, this is not a sweet cornbread recipe. Sugar simply balances the flavors. For a sweeter cornbread recipe, use 132 grams (⅔ cup) of sugar and 1 teaspoon of salt.
Buttermilk serves three purposes in this recipe: to give the bread flavor, tenderize the cornbread, and react with the baking soda to make the bread rise.
If you do not have buttermilk, make a substitute: add 1 ½ tablespoons of white vinegar (or lemon juice) to a glass measuring cup and add enough milk to equal 1 ½ cups. Stir and let this mixture sit for 5 minutes before using in the recipe.
Cornbread Muffins: Grease a 12-count muffin tin with non-stick spray and divide the batter between the muffin cups. (Muffin liners do not work well with cornbread recipes.) Reduce the oven temperature to 400°F/205°C and bake for 15-18 minutes or until cooked through.
Brown Butter Cornbread: Melt 10 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir frequently until the butter starts to smell nutty and turns a medium amber color. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly. Proceed with the recipe as written, but add an additional 2 tablespoons of buttermilk in step 3.
Jalapeño Cheddar Cornbread: Add 1 teaspoon garlic powder to the dry ingredients. After the wet and dry ingredients are combined, gently fold in 113 grams (4 ounces, 1 ¼ cups) shredded sharp cheddar cheese and 80 grams (⅔ cup) chopped fresh jalapeños.
Bacon Scallion Cornbread: Cook 4 slices of thick-cut bacon. Chop the slices into small pieces or crumbles. Gently add the bacon pieces and 8 thinly sliced scallions to the batter and combine.
How to make easy moist cornbread
This homemade cornbread recipe couldn’t be easier to make. It’s buttery, soft but crispy, and comes together in minutes.
Melt the butter
While the oven and cast iron skillet preheat, melt the butter in a saucepan on the stove set to medium-low heat or in the microwave. If using the microwave, microwave the butter at half power for 30 seconds and then in 15 second increments until almost completely melted. Stir the butter together for a few seconds until fully melted.
Set aside 2 tablespoons of the melted butter to use to grease the skillet. The remaining butter will go into the cornbread batter. Let it cool slightly while you gather the rest of the ingredients.
Mix the batter
Combine all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl: cornmeal, all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar. Whisk together until combined.
To the same bowl, add in the wet ingredients: buttermilk, eggs, and the larger amount of melted butter. Gently stir together until everything is incorporated. You don’t want to over-mix the batter or it will become dense.
Carefully remove the pre-heated cast iron skillet from the oven. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of melted butter to the skillet. Use an oven mitt to hold the skillet and swirl the butter around the bottom of the skillet, until completely coated. Pour the cornbread batter into the skillet and immediately place into the hot oven.
Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with moist crumbs.
Two Optional Extra Steps:
Crispy Cornbread Top: For a crispy top, place the skillet under the broiler for 1-2 minutes. Watch closely so the top doesn’t burn!
Extra Butter: To keep the cornbread moist and buttery, unwrap one end of a stick of butter and run it over the top of the baked cornbread while it is still hot. The butter will seep into the bread, adding extra moistness and flavor.
Serve warm with butter and a drizzle of honey.
Which pan is best for cornbread?
A cast iron skillet is the best pan to use for cornbread – it gives cornbread that signature crispy bottom crust and edges. Although a cast iron skillet is the traditional way to bake cornbread, there are other options if you don’t have one. Instead of a cast iron skillet, use a glass or metal baking pan (like a cake pan) for cornbread. Coat the bottom and sides of the pan with butter, but do not preheat this pan in the oven as you would if using a skillet.
Baking cornbread in a glass or metal pan yields a softer, more cake-like cornbread.
Is melted butter or oil better for cornbread?
For a rich, indulgent flavor, I prefer using melted butter. Oil works in a pinch, but cornbread made with oil is lighter, less dense, and less flavorful.
What goes well with cornbread?
Cornbread is such a great side dish and a delicious addition to any meal. Serve with soups, stews, pot roast, or barbecue. My very favorite way to serve cornbread, however, is topped with homemade chili and all of the toppings like sour cream and shredded cheese.
Prep and Storage
Room Temperature or Refrigerator: Wrap leftover cornbread in plastic wrap or aluminum foil and store at room temperature or in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Freezer: Tightly wrap a single layer of cornbread in plastic wrap. Place in a zipper bag (this will help prevent freezer burn) and freeze for up to 3 months.
Make Ahead: Make and bake cornbread up to 3 days before serving. When ready to serve, wrap it in aluminum foil (this will keep it from drying out) and bake at 350°F/175°C for 10-15 minutes until warmed through.
MORE RECIPES FROM BAKER BETTIE!
If you enjoyed this great recipe, you might like to try these other delicious savory quick bread recipes.
- 140 grams (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, divided
- 240 grams (2 cups) cornmeal (good quality stone ground cornmeal preferred)
- 60 grams (½ cup) all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 ¾ teaspoons kosher salt
- 25 grams (2 tablespoons) granulated sugar
- 360 grams (1 ½ cups, 360 milliliters) buttermilk, room temperature*
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- Position an oven rack to the center position and place a well seasoned 10 inch or 12 inch (25 or 30 cm) cast iron skillet inside. Preheat the oven to 450°F/230°C. (Preheating the skillet helps create cornbread with a crispy bottom.)
Make the cornbread
- While the oven and cast iron skillet preheat, melt the butter (140 grams/ 10 tablespoons) in a saucepan on the stove or slowly in the microwave. Once completely melted, set aside about 2 tablespoons to use to grease the skillet. The remaining butter will be used in the batter. Set both aside to cool slightly.
- In a large mixing bowl, add the cornmeal (240 grams/ 2 cups), all-purpose flour (60 grams/ ½ cup), baking powder (1 ½ teaspoons), baking soda (½ teaspoon), salt (1 ¾ teaspoons), and sugar (25 grams/ 2 tablespoons). Whisk together until combined.
- Add in the buttermilk (360 grams/ 1 ½ cups), eggs (2 large), and the larger amount of melted butter (8 tablespoons). Stir until everything is just incorporated- try not to over-mix.
- Carefully remove the hot cast iron skillet from the oven. Add the remaining melted butter (about 2 tablespoons) to the skillet and swirl it around until the bottom is coated. Pour the cornbread batter into the skillet and immediately place the skillet back into the hot oven.
- Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with moist crumbs. For a crispier top, put it under the broiler for 1-2 minutes, watching it very closely.
- Optional: Run a stick of butter over the top of the baked cornbread while it is still hot. The butter will seep into the bread and keep it extra moist and flavorfulnd keep it extra moist and delicious.
* See the post above for ingredient substitutions.
If you do not have a cast-iron skillet:
Use an 8 or 9 inch (20 or 23 cm) square or round baking pan. Do not preheat it. Pour 2 tablespoons of the melted butter directly in the pan, swirl it around, then add the batter. Bake at 400°F/205°C for about 23-28 minutes.