Cheesy Chive Spoonbread

March 18, 2018
12 Ratings
Photo by Ty Mecham
  • Prep time 15 minutes
  • Cook time 45 minutes
  • Makes 1 9-inch (or comparably-sized) dish
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

What You'll Need
  • 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)
  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.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Runner Girl
    Runner Girl
  • Millicent
  • Maya Retzlaff
    Maya Retzlaff
  • Lori Callahan Bolte
    Lori Callahan Bolte
  • EmilyNunn

39 Reviews

shankarr February 4, 2023
Have seen this recipe on youtube revanced app and it was great. Thanks for sharing
MikeBraun54 May 1, 2022
First time effort. And it came out really pretty good. My kids ate it with no complaints except it might need a touch more salt.
MikeBraun54 May 1, 2022
We had turkey kielbasa and fresh green beans to go with.
I’m going to try reheating the remainder in the morning.
I consider ANY meal my kids eat without complaining as a win!!
MikeBraun54 May 1, 2022
Mine was quite thick as well (reminded me of the baked semolina cake my Austrian mom used to make). But it came out fluffy and raised pretty well.
susie April 28, 2022
I never had spoon bread but was curious. Followed the recipe precisely but was concerned that the batter was very dense prior to adding the egg whites. I did fold everything together and the recipe said to "pour" the batter into the pan. Mine was like a very very soft dough but it really didn't pour. It did rise somewhat. What is the texture supposed to be like when its done? I was thinking it should be a little softer on the inside and perhaps I should have added more milk or less cornmeal to achieve the proper result. What is the correct texture on the inside of the spoon bread?
Runner G. April 29, 2022
My batter was really thick and dense too, so I added a little water and another tablespoon of butter, mixing them in until I had a smoother consistency. Then added other ingredients and folded in egg whites. When reheating, it still tasted really good but not as fluffy as the original.
Runner G. April 25, 2022
What a fun and delicious recipe to make! I was contemplating new ideas for a tri-tip side-dish - lo and behold, the email sharing this spoon-bread recipe came through. I ended up adding 1/2 cup corn kernels and 4 oz can of chilis to the batter before folding in the egg whites. Turned out great! Will make this again, for sure.
Betty April 24, 2022
Oh my goodness, thank you for doing this article. I thought spoon bread was forgotten, but not by me :) My mom would fry fish and have spoon bread on the side. While I'm not crazy about fish, spoon bread is good anytime. The next day, if we had spoon bread leftover, I'd heat the spoon bread in the microwave and top with a bit of butter or margarine. I've never tried putting the leftovers in the freezer because there was none.
Sugarlove April 24, 2022
Love spoon bread! I have a recipe that calls for adding a jigger of bourbon to help the rise. Absolutely delicious! Serve it hot as soon as you can because it is a soufflé and will deflate. Still tastes good cold or reheated, but the glorious, soft texture has changed. We often had it with thin slices of Smithfield ham.
charity April 21, 2022
Does anyone know how far in advance of serving you can cook this? Would it hold it's texture for an hour while I bake other things? Thanks all!
susan May 14, 2020
Can I make this with non-dairy milk? Does the milk serve a purpose other than moisture? I am considering making it with oat milk.
Millicent May 15, 2020
I have never cooked with oat milk, but I've seen recipes that use water instead of dairy milk so oat should be ok. Overall, though, this recipe is really about dairy: milk, eggs, cheese, and butter. If you're avoiding this category, another recipe altogether might lead to better results than adapting this one.
susan May 15, 2020
Thanks! I am fine with butter and cheese and I dont consider eggs to be dairy. Cows milk is something I dont have any use for so dont keep it in the house. I might give it a try with water or the oat milk. But, I was hoping this recipe would be about the corn instead of the add ons so you are right there might be a better corn focused recipe out there for me. I am not familiar with spoon breads or corn puddings, but I love corn so they all sound delicious.
Jeffrey B. April 24, 2022
Oh it’s plenty corn forward. Give it a try with the oat milk but leave out the cheese and chives and add the extra salt and sugar she suggests for plain spoon bread before you move on.
Millicent May 5, 2020
I made this last night using cheddar and scapes instead of the chives -- it was delicious and easy. There are two of us in this lockdown household, so I halved the recipe: 3 eggs and half of everything else. Between the cheese and whole milk, I didn't think it needed extra butter when served, but that's your call :) We had it as a main course with a vegetable side of steamed artichokes. It could certainly work as a side dish along with a protein and vegetable as well. I'll definitely make this again and play around with different flavorings -- the cornmeal is sturdy enough to carry stronger flavors and other additions, such as chopped greens, chilies, bits of ham or smoked meat.
Maya R. March 9, 2019
What would you eat with this? (Non American)
Lori C. March 9, 2019
Maya, I can see this paired with Ham, Turkey, Fish or just in it's own with some braised greens or other vegetables. My opinion only of course.
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?
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.
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.)

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?
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.
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.