Cheesy Chive Spoonbread

March 18, 2018

Test Kitchen-Approved

Author Notes: Spoonbread is a light, fluffy-but-somehow-gloriously-substantial, custardy concoction most often made with nothing more than cornmeal, eggs, milk. It is, quite simply, the dreamiest of cornmeal-based dishes. It’s not as delicate as a soufflé but it’s nowhere near as hearty and heavy as cornbread or corn pudding, which is what it often gets unjustly confused with; there’s no comparison. You could call it a bit of a culinary unicorn—a lot of people who liked the pretty picture had heard of it, but many of them had never actually eaten it.

A lot of recipes for spoonbread call for baking powder but my version uses stiffly beaten egg whites for lift. I have found that relying on baking powder gave me very iffy and inconsistent results: I often ended up with a dense cornbread layer on bottom with custard on top. You want these two things thoroughly incorporated, and egg whites do that beautifully.

Miraculously, to make the plain version of this recipe, all you have to do is leave out the cheese and chives, add mix an extra half teaspoon of salt and two teaspoons of sugar into the cornmeal-salt mixture.
EmilyNunn

Makes: 1 9-inch (or comparably-sized) dish
Prep time: 15 min
Cook time: 45 min

Ingredients

  • 1 1/3 cups cornmeal (I used Bob’s Red Mill Medium; you can use fine as well)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 5 large eggs, separated
  • 1 1/2 cups finely grated, sharp cheddar cheese (buy something decent)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped chives (or more, to taste)
In This Recipe

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease a large soufflé dish or 3-quart oval pan, or another similarly sized dish (I have also used a 9-inch square and a springform). In a large bowl, mix the cornmeal and salt with a fork.
  2. In a medium saucepan, bring the milk to a boil, reduce heat and simmer. Slowly stir in the cornmeal mixture, whisking until it begins to thicken. Cook for about 3 minutes—continuing to whisk!!—then remove from heat. Stir in the butter.
  3. In a small bowl, beat the egg yolks. In a larger bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Once the cornmeal mixture has cooled a bit, stir in the egg yolks. Stir in cheese and chives. Next, gently fold in the egg whites. (If you don’t know how to do this correctly, it’s worth it to go on Youtube and learn.) It makes a difference.
  4. Pour the mixture into the soufflé dish and bake for 40 minutes. The middle should be soft, but not loose and definitely not liquid. Serve immediately with lots of butter. This is good leftover, but nothing beats it hot.

More Great Recipes:
Bread|Pie|American|Milk/Cream|Chive|Cornmeal|Appetizer|Hors D'Oeuvre|Side|Snack|Entree

Reviews (21) Questions (1)

21 Reviews

Maureen July 15, 2018
Could I omit the cheese for my (unfortunately) cheese-averse husband?
 
Millie J. July 23, 2018
If you expand the Author Notes headnote, in the last paragraph of it she tells you how to do that.
 
Rosemary March 23, 2018
Dining at Georgiana Campbell's Tavern in Williamsburg, the waiter was busy bringing biscuits, muffins, but not the spoonbread yet. My mother was beginning to get agitated, asked "Where is the spoonbread? I really want the spoonbread." The waiter returned, spoonbread in hand, dished out a large portion, "Here you are ma'am, Williamsburg spoonbread. Loves buttah." He returned several times to see if she wanted more. Very happy mama.
 
Millie J. March 23, 2018
You can google Hotel Roanoke Spoon Bread Recipe and get lots of hits. They've been giving out the recipe for a long time.
 
Elizabeth March 23, 2018
WOW!!! This looks AMAZING! Do you think this could be adapted for an Instant Pot?
 
Author Comment
EmilyNunn March 23, 2018
No. It's so easy and the only bother is the egg whites, which you'd have to do before instant potting anyway!
 
Suzanne March 23, 2018
How would this recipe fare if some savory ingredients were added ie a meat and a veg - thinking sausage/ham and spinach/some other green? I am having a family brunch with a gluten sensitive individual and this recipe would be a perfect substitute for my savory strata.
 
Author Comment
EmilyNunn March 23, 2018
Why not just serve the meat and veg on the side? That would be wonderful, especially if the meat had a little gravy? But adding things that are heavy might cause the souffle effect to get too weighed down?? Opt for scallions? herbs? But if you want meat/protien I'd opt for slivered proscuitto or very small bits of cooked bacon--probably not chunks of sausage. (And you can make a strata gluten free easily, btw.)<br /><br />
 
Suzanne March 23, 2018
Thanks Emily - I have limited table space so the idea of an 'all in one' is always a plus. I agree re 'deflation' so if i do indeed add will most likely be prosciutto, possibly some herbs to keep it light. Re GF strata - I hear you but GF bread makes me gag a little. was that the idea or is there another way to mak it GF - potatoes?
 
Author Comment
EmilyNunn March 23, 2018
why can't you just use some cornbread in the strata? plenty of super easy cornbread recipes that use no flour at all. Make a cornbread and then used the leftovers for the strata? I don't know though: the corny flavor is pretty big. One of my favorite breakfast/brunch dishes is the smoked salmon and goat cheese frittata from Silver Palate. No bread at all. So good.
 
Nancy March 23, 2018
I grew up eating spoonbread. I didn't know you needed a recipe, it was just instinct and the love of one of the most luscious dishes ever. You must have lots of butter to serve. Oh, by the way, no sugar please. That is an artifact of commercial processing of the corn and the depression era. Prior to that time sugar was never added to cornbread or spoonbread. <br />
 
Author Comment
EmilyNunn March 23, 2018
Hi, Nancy: there's no sugar in this recipe. And I'd love to hear your non-recipe recipe! We didn't have it at home when I was growing up, but we did measure for regular cornbread, which I love!
 
Beth100 March 22, 2018
When I was a child, my parents and I would drive south for vacations, and we always took a detour through Berea, Kentucky, where Boone Tavern offered spoonbread on their menu. This was such a treat for three Northerners! I can attest to its delights. Thank you for posting this recipe.
 
cristina March 21, 2018
I assume the second sentence of step 3 is meant to say “stir* in the egg yolks.”? Or are you meant to whisk them in?
 
Nikkitha B. March 21, 2018
Stir, thank you!
 
Maya March 21, 2018
What about the eggs, chives, and cheese?
 
Nikkitha B. March 21, 2018
Sorry, that step was missing--it's back in now.
 
Nancy M. March 21, 2018
The picture looks good. Edit the recipe, please.
 
Nikkitha B. March 21, 2018
Done and thank you.
 
MJ March 21, 2018
The recipe does not specify what you are supposed to do with the eggs. They must be used, because otherwise the spoonbread would not cohere. When and how do you incorporate them? Perhaps you cool the cooked cornmeal-milk mush, and beat them in then?
 
Nikkitha B. March 21, 2018
That's my fault—a step got omitted! It's fixed now. Happy baking.