This bacon cornbread is made with corn kernels, bacon, and cornmeal that’s ingeniously soaked in milk overnight to produce an incredibly tender, cake-like, almost pudding-like texture. A little sweet, a little smoky, and just so lovely.
The crisp little pieces of turkey skin called ‘cracklings’ were an annual Thanksgiving treat of mine. They reminded me of bacon, and I could never get enough. My bacon cornbread—which is sweet and savory, moist inside, and crunchy outside—puts some real bacon into the feast. Start preparing this one day ahead.–Peter Reinhart
- 1 cup coarse cornmeal also labeled on packages as “polenta”
- 2 cups buttermilk either low-fat or full-fat
- 8 ounces (8 to 10 slices) bacon
- 1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter melted
- 2 1/2 cups (16 ounces) fresh or frozen corn
- 2 tablespoons bacon drippings or mild vegetable oil
- Several hours before baking (i.e., the night before or the morning of), grab a large bowl and stir together the cornmeal and buttermilk. Cover and let the cornmeal soak at room temperature for 8 to 12 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
- Place the bacon on 2 rimmed baking sheets. Bake until the bacon is crisp, 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the thickness of your bacon.
- Using tongs or a fork, place the bacon on a plate lined with paper towels. Drain the bacon drippings from the baking sheets into a bowl and reserve it. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F (175°C).
- When the bacon has cooled, crumble it into coarse pieces.
- In a large bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir in the granulated and brown sugars.
- In another bowl, lightly beat the eggs. In yet another bowl, stir the honey into the melted butter and then stir the warm honey butter into the eggs.
- Add the egg mixture to the soaked cornmeal mixture and stir to combine. Then, whisking or stirring by hand, add this to the flour mixture, combining it until all the ingredients are evenly distributed and the batter is blended and smooth. It should be the consistency of a thick pancake batter. Stir in the corn kernels until evenly distributed.
- Place 2 tablespoons of the reserved bacon drippings into a 10-inch round cake pan, a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, or a 12-inch square pan. Place the pan in the oven for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the fat gets quite hot.
- Using pot holders or oven mitts, remove the pan or dish from the oven and carefully tilt it to coat all the corners and sides. Scrape in the cornbread batter, spreading it from the center of the pan to the edges. Sprinkle the crumbled bacon pieces evenly over the batter, gently pressing them into the batter.
- Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the cornbread is firm and springy and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. The top will be a medium golden brown and the internal temperature at the center of the bacon cornbread should register at least 185°F (85°C).
- Let the bacon cornbread cool in the pan for at least 15 minutes before slicing it into squares or wedges. Serve warm.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
My husband and I thought this bacon cornbread was absolutely delicious. We had it for dinner one night—still warm—and that was all we had. And all we needed. I’m quite sure we could have eaten the whole thing. It was very moist, tender, and satisfying. It was hefty without being dense or soggy—just a delight.
The amount of corn was very appealing and not too much at all. The sweetness was just right. I guess you can tell that we loved this!
Sweet, salty, and smoky—this bacon cornbread is scrumptious! It’s not your typical cornbread, though. You’d want to use a fork to eat this super moist “cornbread.” It’s quite substantial. A side salad may be all you need for a lovely lunch or light dinner.
I started soaking the polenta first thing in the morning for baking the cornbread for dinner. The cornbread could not have come out more gorgeous or delicious.
Everyone thought this bacon cornbread was delicious. It’s like a cross between corn pudding (or spoon pudding) and cornbread. Much softer than cornbread but still very delicious. It’s also on the sweet side due to the 3 different types of sweeteners and the butter as well as the added corn. The only thing that’s a little difficult is the timing because the polenta needs to soak overnight.
I used a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. The baking time is accurate but this seems like a very forgiving recipe and if someone accidentally baked it a little longer, they might be ok.
I would make this again (and maybe see if I could push the soaking time to be less). I would also reduce the amount of sugar and brown sugar.
Cornbread can often suffer from being dry and flavorless, but not this bacon cornbread recipe! The texture was very soft and moist, which I liked, as cornbread can be so dry. The hint of sweetness from the batter balances nicely with the salty bacon and the corn creates an interesting texture and helps keep the cornbread moist. This recipe is a keeper and I am looking forward to trying it in muffin form.
I baked the cornbread for 35 minutes but I might have given it 2 more minutes in the oven. I cut this into 16 pieces but I would say it serves between 8 and 12 as you will probably go back for seconds. We paired this with chili for the perfect cold-weather dinner.
Many years ago, I lived in a townhouse community. Whenever it snowed, all the residents in my little corner of the world would come out with their shovels and clean sidewalks, cars, parking spaces, and even the street itself. Those who were unable to shovel, either because of recent illness or current pregnancy, stayed inside and made muffins, serving them to the shovelers with coffee and hot chocolate.
I made this recipe during the first snowstorm of the year and it reminded me of those days. Hot, with a perfect muffin top-like crust, and served with coffee, it almost made me glad to be out with my snow shovel. Almost. I’m forty years older now and understand the attraction of Florida in the winter.
The only drawback to this cornbread was that it was slightly too sweet for me. Simply a matter of taste and I do know the sugar contributes to the crusty edges, but the next time I make it I may play around with the sugary ingredients. Other than that, it is a successful snowy day dish.
I used a 12-inch square baking pan and got about 36 slices. Shoveling can give one a bit of an appetite.
This bacon cornbread had a fabulous flavor thanks to smoky bacon, sweet corn, and a not-too-sweet cornbread.
Overall, a very tasty dish with a nontraditional cornbread texture. The cornbread was a little too moist for my taste, making it something that would not pair quite as well with chilis and pulled meats as a drier cornbread would.
I’d suggest baking it in a 10-inch pan or something larger. I used a 9-inch-round baking pan and baked for a total of 1 hour and 5 minutes for a crisp crust. Using a larger pan would create a thinner cornbread, which I think would more evenly distribute the corn kernels and create a crisper result.
That said, the texture was wonderful.
Originally published August 9, 2001