I'm a southern girl: I grew up eating my granny's cornbread. And my auntie's cornbread. And my mom's cornbread. But, I don't remember there ever being a discussion about how it's made. It wasn't until I started cooking that I realized that people have strong opinions about their cornbread: Sugar or no sugar? Flour or no flour? Cornmeal mix or just cornmeal? Mix-ins or just plain?
I’m here to say there are no right or wrong answers; it all comes down to if you like a more cake-like cornbread, or a more grainy cornbread. A smoother cornbread batter—made with a finer-grain cornmeal, white flour, and sugar (in addition to all the usual suspects)—makes for one that’s more cake than bread. Coarse-grain cornmeal, on the other hand, and the addition of little—or no—sugar will yield a heartier, crumblier crumb that’s perfect for savory spreads or mix-ins (like this one here).
In this cheesy, spicy spin on my classic base recipe, chopped, fresh jalapeños, cubes of full-fat cream cheese, and freshly shorn corn kernels stud a grainy, hardy crumb that’s rounded out by slightly salty, tangy buttermilk. Leave the seeds in the jalapeños for some extra spice, if you like. Packed in an airtight container and left on the counter, cornbread will keep for about 2 days. For longer storage, stick in the fridge, or wrap tightly and freeze. I have some packed away in my freezer—ready to be transformed into an incredible cornbread dressing, or broken off and served alongside a hearty bowl of chili. —Renae E. Wilson
- Prep time 15 minutes
- Cook time 30 minutes
- Serves 6
2 to 3
medium jalapeños, depending on desired heat level
coarsely ground cornmeal
1 1/4 cups
large eggs, beaten
butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
corn kernels (fresh, frozen, or canned all work here)
full-fat cream cheese, cubed
- Blister the peppers under a broiler, or by turning them over a gas flame, until charred all over, 5-6 minutes. When peppers are cool enough to handle, chop and set aside. Heat the oven to 450°F.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, baking powder, salt, sugar, and baking soda. Add the buttermilk and eggs and stir until just combined. Fold in the corn kernels and jalapeños.
- Add the butter to a 10-inch cast-iron skillet, and slide into the oven to melt the butter. When the butter is melted, carefully remove the skillet, swirl the pan to coat, and pour in half of the cornbread batter. Disperse the cubes of cream cheese throughout the batter, and top with the remaining batter.
- Bake until the cornbread is browned on top and the edges pull away from the sides of the pan, 20-25 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.