Spoon Bread

Edna Lewis was as spare with her words as she was her ingredients, choosing each with consideration and care so as to allow its essence to speak for itself. So although this simple, soulful recipe may seem remiss by today’s standards, seeing as it lacked any sort of preamble or rambling ode, in her mind, there wasn’t any need for that. I can’t say as I disagree.–Edna Lewis

LC Simple is as Simple Does Note

Spoon bread is so-called because it’s supposed to be so soft that you can’t cut it with a knife as you do corn bread, explains LC recipe tester and Southern food aficionado Karen Depp, who likens the consistency to that of a soft pudding as opposed to a sturdy corn bread. Ms. Lewis liked to serve this simple, creamy, satiating pudding of sorts for supper alongside whole scallions sweated in butter over a low flame in a covered pan. We won’t object to that. Nor will we object to serving this spoon bread at breakfast with eggs sunny-side up along with those scallions…or perhaps country ham and a generous drizzle of maple syrup…or, well, you tell us.

Spoon Bread

Spoon Bread
Edna Lewis

Prep 10 mins
Cook 35 mins
Total 45 mins
Breakfast
Southern
4 to 6 servings
5 / 2 votes
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Equipment

  • 1 1/2-quart souffle dish or a 8-inch square baking dish

Ingredients 

  • 1 cup white cornmeal
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 1/3 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder (Ms. Lewis preferred Royal brand, although chances are any kind will make do)
  • 3 large eggs lightly beaten
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter plus loads more for serving
  • 2 cups buttermilk (either low-fat or full-fat)

Directions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 400°F (204° C).
  • Sift the cornmeal, salt, sugar, baking soda, and baking powder into a large bowl and combine. Make a well in the center. Dump the beaten eggs into the well but do not incorporate them yet.
  • Place the butter in a 1 1/2-quart souffle dish or a 8-inch square baking dish and put it in the oven just until the butter melts. (You don’t want to preheat the dish as long as you would, say, a cast-iron skillet in which you intend to bake corn bread. Such a high heat could cause the spoon bread to separate.)
  • Now vigorously stir the eggs into the cornmeal mixture. Then add the buttermilk, stirring well. (You want to be certain to thoroughly incorporate everything or this, too, could cause the spoon bread to separate. This means you want to be certain that the beaters or spoon reaches all the way to the bottom of the bowl. Sometimes using a handheld beater as opposed to a stand mixer works better.)
  • Now carefully remove the hot dish from the oven and tilt it around to slick the entire surface with butter. Tip any excess butter from the dish into the batter and stir quickly to incorporate, then pour the batter into the hot baking dish.
  • Bake the spoon bread for 35 minutes. Spoon it hot from the dish with loads of fresh butter on the side.
Print RecipeBuy the The Taste of Country Cooking cookbook

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Recipe Testers’ Reviews

Spoon bread isn’t as well-known as cornbread outside the South, and that’s a shame—it would appeal to many non-Southerners who find traditional cornbread unappealing. Spoon bread is eggy, rich, and soft, and you scoop it right out of the pan with a spoon. This recipe from Edna Lewis is spot-on. Follow it as written, and you’ll have a perfect example of the Southern specialty. You may think that with the quantity of buttermilk called for, the end result would taste tangy, but it doesn’t—it actually has a surprising sweetness to it. While it’s intended as a side dish at the dinner table, I have to admit that I ate the leftovers for breakfast, with fruit and a drizzle of syrup. Delicious.

This is a light-as-air spoon bread, with a delicate flavor that could live on a breakfast, lunch, or dinner menu. The recipe itself is simple, straightforward, and easy to prepare. Living in the land of grits is a wonderful thing, and this is a nice permutation of the ground-corn offering. I’m not sure why white cornmeal is specified, though. The next time I make this, I’ll use yellow stone-ground cornmeal to see if there’s anything other than a color difference. Stay tuned…

I really enjoyed this dish. I can’t compare it to other spoon breads as this is the first one I’ve had, but I loved the soufflé-like quality and the ease with which this came together. I went with the suggested buttermilk (low-fat), and I recommend this instead of plain milk, as there was an extra dimension that the tanginess brought to the sweetness of the cornmeal and the richness of the eggs and butter. I had to bake this for 5 minutes longer than suggested. The spoon bread paired well with a mixed green salad and sausage. I’m tempted to throw in some sharp cheddar the next time I make this!

Lawd, I love this recipe, and bless Edna Lewis for sharing it. I like to use finely milled white cornmeal along with the best buttermilk for an airy, light, and spoon-tender “soufflé.” A dribble of melted butter is good, but a slight drizzle of maple syrup takes it to a new level. Be sure that you don’t overheat your baking dish—you want it just hot enough to melt the butter—otherwise the spoon bread might separate into layers.

Originally published April 13, 2011

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Comments

  1. I cannot wait to make this. Years ago my mom made it from a package, I want to say Mary Washington? I know it wasn’t Martha White. Well, I can’t find it anywhere, strange. So, of course, good old Google came to my rescue. I like this recipe and have saved it to my Copy Me That app. I can actually picture Ms. Edna saying in her voice the directions. Picturing her hands mixing it and how many times she made this for her family. Thanks for sharing.

  2. A friend turned me on to Edna Lewis in the late 1970s, and her books taught me American cooking at a very elemental, seasonal level.

    I made her spoon bread a number of times back then and found that the extra step of lightly beating the whites separately and folding them into the batter gave a much more reliable result. I also remember it being spectacular with roast duck for dinner and leftover the next morning with eggs fried in duck fat.

    1. Philip, I suspect you and I are kindred souls. Love to hear that you appreciate the beauty and soul in Edna’s prose and recipes.

      Appreciate you sharing your technique, that makes perfect sense. And what isn’t spectacular with anything fried in duck fat?!

      Looking forward to hear which recipe on the site catches your eye next…

  3. 5 stars
    Just took this out of the oven. Best I’ve made or eaten! I like that you don’t have to cook the cornmeal with water/milk. It has just the right amount of everything. The texture was perfect! So happy I found this recipe. Thank you.

  4. I grew up making and eating spoonbread in VA and hadn’t made it in years. The past 5 times I’ve made it using the old recipe we had written down in the family (nearly identical), it has separated. I even had my mother watch me make it last time I was in VA, and it turned out perfect like hers always did, but continues to separate when I cook it at home. Did anyone ever find out a solution to why this was happening?

  5. It may be running a bit high, or be a bit flaky, sometimes things over cook and sometimes they under cook. It is an old gas oven. I will definitely try again for less time, or with actual buttermilk because the taste and texture was great and its such an easy recipe. My Dad corrected me that it was Martha Washington brand spoon bread mix, not Jiffy, but in any case, it is no longer sold, at least in our area…

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