If you haven’t discovered the joy of cornbread yet, you don’t know what you’re missing. Once you try it for the first time, you’ll find there is no going back.
Whether you use it for mopping up any extra sauce from your chili or for spreading with a dollop of delicious honey, it brings a whole new dimension to any food with which you pair it.
Cornbread is so versatile. It is superb on its own, simply slathered with butter. It goes great with hotdogs and partners brilliantly with pan-fried Meditteranean vegetables.
You can also use it to make a superb bread pudding. You can soak it in buttermilk for an indulgent treat, and you can top it with melted cheese for a great sweet and savory snack. The combinations are endless.
Taking cornbread beyond partnering with chili
Most people have their own ways of making this dish, so I will not attempt to change the recipe you have already developed for you and your family’s tastes.
Instead, I would like to give you some exciting new ideas for things with which you can eat cornbread.
Hopefully, when you’ve read through this article, you will be stimulated and motivated, and you will make this good old American classic a more regular feature in your weekly diet and pass the love on to those you feed.
If I can reinvigorate your passion for cornbread, it will also be useful for you to know how best to store it and how long it will remain fresh. Please click here for more information.
For those of you who have not acquainted yourselves with the delights of cornbread, here’s a little resume of what it is.
What is cornbread?
Cornbread is a quick and simple to make bread. It is a staple of Southern cuisine here in the States, where it was developed into the crumbly, soft, sweet variant of bread that is now popular all over America.
It originated centuries ago with America’s native Indian tribes, who created a concoction using maize (ground corn).
When the European settlers arrived, they used this basis to make bread that reminded them more of whence they came.
In the Northern states, the cornbread tends to be sweeter and more like cake than bread. The Southern state’s version is rougher in texture, uses less or no sugar, and is more savory than a dessert food.
Some people make both variants, depending on how and with what they will be serving it. My kids prefer the sweeter options (surprise, surprise) and love it with cream and/or milk.
My partner, however, loves the more savory variant, which he wolfs down with a bowl of chili.
Different types of cornbread
There are several popular varieties. To kick-off, let’s take a quick look at simple baked cornbread and corn pone.
1 Baked cornbread
Baked cornbread is a favorite with Americans in southern and southwestern states. It is made by combining cornmeal with buttermilk (or ordinary cows’ milk), eggs, and flour.
A leavening agent is then added, and after mixing, the batter/dough gets poured into a pre-heated, oiled, cast-iron skillet and fried to create a nice crispy outer and soft inner.
2 Indian or corn pone
This type of bread is made with thick dough without the addition of eggs or milk. Typically, an iron pan is used, adding bacon drippings, butter, cooking oil, or shortening.
Once the corn pone is melted, the dough is transferred to the pan, suspended over an open fire to cook.
Difference between cornbread and corn pone
Cornbread dough is made using cornmeal, baking powder, butter, eggs, and milk.
The eggs, milk, and sugar are omitted with corn pone, and salt, water, and bacon drippings or some other oil are added instead.
The consistency of corn pone is somewhat heavier and denser than that of cornbread which usually has a more open texture and is lighter.
3 Southern Cracklin Bread
A southern favorite, Cracklin bread combines cornbread with crunchy pork cracklings and rinds. These cracklings bring great flavor and help to create a moist inner with a crispy outer.
These are popular in the Midwest, New England, and the South. The origins of Johhnycake spring from indigenous Native Americans who called them “noehick.”
Because they are perfect as travel food, the early pioneers carried them in their saddlebags, and they became known as journey cakes.
Over the years, the “journey” got changed to johnny. The batter is poured into a pre-heated skillet, and the result is thin cornmeal flatbread. Recipe here.
How Johnnycake and cornbread differs
Cornbread is an “umbrella term” used to embrace a wide variety of quickly made bread based on cornmeal.
Many contain baking powder as a leavening agent, but Johnnycake does not and therefore is more of a cornmeal flatbread.
5 Crispy hushpuppies
Hushpuppies are a delightful, light, and fluffy fried cornbread dish made from a thick batter based on buttermilk that is quick, deep-fried.
Another southern favorite, the recipe for hushpuppies, changes from state to state. Then can include things like chopped onions, jalapenos, or onion powder.
The rapid, deep frying provides a deliciously moist inner and a gorgeous crispy golden brown outer.
6 Hot water cornbread
This is another recipe that owes its origins to the indigenous Indians of America.
To make these tasty little mouthfuls, small amounts of self-rising cornmeal batter, made using boiling water, are dropped into a pre-oiled, pre-heated skillet.
It creates a lovely crunchy crust giving way to a soft and crumbly inner.
What goes good with cornbread?
Having already acknowledged that millions of households across America have their own favorite recipes for making this dish.
I would not think of gainsaying or interfering, but what I would like to do is to put forward some different ideas with which a cornbread accompaniment is a real delight.
The top of the chart has to be chili. The hot and spicy notes of a good chili are taken to a new level when dipped into by a piece of sweet cornbread.
Other things that people love serving with include a bowl of spicy soup, a tasty stew, or a plate of beans. But let’s push the boundaries a bit with a few new ideas.
1 The ever-popular chili casserole
I did promise you some new ideas, and they will follow. However, we cannot ignore the ever-popular combination of chili soup and cornbread.
To enjoy it at its very best, you should serve it hot, topped with nice tasty Cheddar cheese and some sour cream. If you haven’t tried it yet, don’t knock it.
This combination is absolutely superb. You have the sweetness of the cornbread, a savory hit from the Cheddar, and a little tangy note from the sour cream.
Put together with the spicy heat of a chili; it is a marriage made in heaven.
2 Steamed and buttered veggies
Steamed vegetables with a liberal coating of melted butter are superb in their own right.
But when you add a few slices of cornbread on the side, it lifts those lovely veggies using a cornbread that isn’t overly sweet to an even higher level.
The bread works beautifully with that lovely silky texture of the vegetables, and whether or not you’re serving the veggies as a side dish to something else, the cornbread is just crying to be included.
Try it here, and you’ll soon see what I mean.
3 Roasted pork and chicken
If you agree that cornbread takes buttered veggies to a higher plane, wait until you try it with a crispy pork belly or two.
With pork, it doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about a roast joint, some pulled pork, or pork loin with a cornbread crust. It works well with them all.
Some people might frown at the thought of accompanying chicken with cornbread, but I promise you the two combine wonderfully.
Knock up a gorgeously creamy, savory chicken dish with plenty of sauce that is just dying to be mopped up with a few slices of cornbread.
Use both chicken and cornbread as ingredients in casseroles or pies. You can even use the two products to make some small but tasty chicken salad sandwiches.
These are just a few ideas. Please feel free to come up with some of your own.
4 Barbecue Delights
There is nothing better than dunking sweet cornbread slices into a lovely spicy and smoky barbecue sauce. The flavor combination is a delight to the tastebuds.
Okay, some cornbread connoisseurs might argue that you should only use cornbread with southern barbecue sauce.
Still, I can put up a pretty good argument that says it goes with all types of barbecue sauce, even ones imported from other countries.
The smoky, spicy hits of flavor from the barbecue sauce provide the perfect foil for cornbread’s sweet notes.
If you are thinking of throwing a barbecue party, having plenty of cornbread around for your guests to try with the meats and veggies from the griddle will go down a storm. Check out my pork spare ribs recipe here.
5 Jam Butties
When smeared with butter and jam, any bread works wonderfully, none more so than when that bread is cornbread.
Just bear in mind that with the inherent sweetness of the cornbread, you don’t need so sweet a jam, so going for something a little more tart works really well and highlights the taste of the cornbread.
Apricots, berry, fig, and orange jams all work well but choose low sugar varieties where you can.
6 Try cornbread and ice cream
I mentioned earlier that my sons love cornbread with milk and cream, so taking a tip from them, I decided to try it with ice cream - and guess what? - It works superbly well.
I understand that this is something that the Mexicans have already discovered. They take the notion even further by producing corn ice cream.
Try as I might, I’m yet to find any in my local grocery stores, but I never tire of looking. Please let me know if you come across any, and if you do, please tip me the wink.
In the meantime, I will soldier on pairing it with ordinary vanilla ice cream, and believe me; it’s a great match. Why not try it and see?
7 The delights of cornbread with barbeque chicken
I already mentioned that cornbread is great when dipped into barbecue sauce. I also touched on the fact that it works brilliantly with any cooked chicken.
Combine the two, and by that, I mean barbecued chicken, and it’s a culinary delight.
You can serve it with barbecued chicken instead of veggies or even with them.
Try it out at your next barbecue party and watch the smiles appear on your guests’ faces.
Introducing friends and family to new ideas is such great fun and so rewarding.
8 Chicken Soup or Stew Cornbread dipper
If you get a nice crunchy outer crust of your cornbread, not only does the flavor of the bread work well with any chicken soup or stew, but the crispy crust makes for a great introduction of texture.
But it’s not just chicken soup with which cornbread works so well. It works beautifully with all sorts of vegetable soups, especially with the swirl of sour cream.
9 Cornbread goes down a treat with pork and beans
Pork and beans seem to be one of those universal favorites of which most countries have their own version.
Here in the States, you can buy it ready, canned, or packaged ready for the microwave. Serve it up with a few slices of cornbread, and it takes this classic to gastronomic heaven.
10 The best accompaniment for stews
There is nothing more satisfying than sitting down to a nice bowl of hot, savory stew and dunking some cornbread into the gravy.
The comforting flavor of a hearty stew together with the fluffy texture and sweet hint of cornbread is unbeatable.
Why is it that stews and casseroles are always even better warmed up the next day?
Whatever the reason, their deliciousness is notched up even further with the addition of cornbread on the side.
11 Cornbread and milk
I know I’ve already mentioned this a couple of times and how my kids love it, but I felt it worth mentioning again because if you serve it to your own kids, you’ll be able to see just how much they like it.
It’s not just crumbling the cornbread into warm milk that is so nostalgic, yummy, and indulgent.
Still, when you add a smidgen of Vidalia onion into it, it also gives it a little hint of sophistication.
Super ingredients for cornbread add-ins
Cornbread is absolutely delicious in its own right, but with a little bit of flair and imagination, you can make it even better. It’s a bit like a blank canvas.
A good artist can turn it into a masterpiece, and you can do the same with the right ingredients.
Perhaps we discovered what put that mystic smile painted by Leonardo da Vinci on the Mona Lisa’s face - yes - cornbread!
It could have come from any one of these seven cornbread add-ins.
1 Jalapeños chilies and Cheddar cheese
If you like your cornbread with a hit of spice and cheese, adding a couple of tablespoons of chopped jalapeños chilis and some shredded mature cheddar cheese into your cornbread batter before baking will float your boat.
It’s right up there with peanut butter and jelly. It just can’t be beaten.
You can put your mixture into a cast-iron skillet or cake pan and then, for the hell of it, top with a little jalapeños salsa—way to go.
When the festive season comes along, you can add a mixture of red and green chilis to give your cornbread that festive look.
Of course, you don’t have to wait for the festive season - it’s good any time of year. Check out this recipe on acozykitchen.
2 Apple and sage cornbread
Folks down in the South like to pep up their leftover cornbread by mixing it with onions, sausage, and spices, to make a delicious stuffing that goes well with any holiday feast.
You can buy a tasty vegetarian sausage from Amy’s, which you can use to get that iconic festive stuffing flavor.
3 Cornbread with bacon and maple syrup
Bacon and maple syrup are two of the best flavors ever, and when you add them to a cornbread recipe, you will end up with a dish you could put before kings.
It’s perfect for breakfast or brunch, and it’s great on its own or to accompany chili and pork and beans and the like.
You can make it in a cast-iron skillet or bake it in a 9-inch square pan or round cake tin. If you like it with a lovely crispy crust, pre-heat the pan before adding the cornbread batter.
4 Moisten your cornbread by adding pumpkin spice
Cornbread has to have a lovely soft, moist inner. Crunchy outer yes, moist and fluffy inner, essential.
Pumpkin not only adds a gorgeous moistness, but it also adds its unique flavor, and if you want to serve it with whipped cinnamon honey butter - you will be in paradise.
If you want something for your holiday menu, this is a dead cert. Don’t try it before, though, because it will be all gone when the holiday comes round.
5 How about cornbread with corn kernels?
Strangely enough, if you were to search on Google under “cornbread recipes,” you will see that recipes including fresh corn are few and far between.
Because adding kernels tends to give the cornbread a softer texture, it’s not as good for mopping up chili; for example, as a denser, more substantial cornbread would be.
But having said that, this recipe with corn kernels makes it an absolute delight for slathering with butter and maybe even honey, too, for a great breakfast treat or a sumptuous dessert.
6 Cheesy, garlicky cornbread biscuits
Nothing beats a nice slice of cornbread, but sometimes it’s nice to have a change, and cheesy, garlicky, cornbread biscuits are just the ticket.
You can even spread them with a smear of butter and a drizzle of honey to make the perfect accompaniment to ham at Easter or roast chicken at any time of year.
7 Cornbread hot dog muffins
If you are hosting a party, whether it’s for kiddies or adults, corn dog muffins are a real crowdpleaser. Everybody loves them, and the great thing is that they are pretty easy to make, as all you need to start is a boxed cornbread mix.
You mix the cornbread mixture with chopped cheese and hot dogs.
You then bake these little beauties in an oven as per this recipe from the recipegirl.com website and serve them with various dipping sauces, including honey mustard, ketchup, and my favorite sour cream. Deelish.
I guarantee everyone will love them.