Buttermilk Cornbread

This buttermilk cornbread isn’t typical. It’s moist and sweet, thanks to buttermilk, butter, olive oil, and honey. Although it’s decidedly not traditional Southern style, we love it. So will you.

A parchment-lined square pan of buttermilk cornbread cut into squares, with one square missing.

This buttermilk cornbread isn’t your typical cornbread. It’s unspeakably better. And it’s prompting folks who’ve tried it to say stuff like, “Wow!” “Heavenly.” “The best cornbread we’ve ever had.” “It is so worth the calories!” “Almost like eating cake.” “Stop me before I make another!”

A large part of the reason why it’s drawing such accolades, we suspect, is because it’s completely the opposite of your typical dry cornbread, explains author Zoe Nathan. So much so that it can stand on its own without needing to be slathered with butter, she continues. A word to the wise: This cornbread is sorta sinfully sweet. As such, it’s definitely not Southern. But it’s wildly versatile and pretty darn irresistible. And most everyone who we’ve shared it with has immediately asked for the recipe. Sorta makes you want to drop everything and run to the kitchen to try it, yeah? Originally published July 2, 2015.Renee Schettler Rossi

Buttermilk Cornbread

  • Quick Glance
  • (13)
  • 30 M
  • 1 H, 30 M
  • Makes 16 squares
4.9/5 - 13 reviews
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Preheat your oven to 350°F (180°C) and line an 8-by-8-inch (20-by-20 cm) metal pan with parchment paper.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, sugar, and salt on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Incorporate the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Be sure to scrape the sides of the bowl well.

Pause the machine and add the cornmeal, all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour, and baking powder. With the mixer on low speed, mix until incorporated. Then pour in the milk, buttermilk, oil, and honey and mix just until combined. This should yield a very loose, runny batter. (Small lumps of butter are no problem, but avoid any lumps of flour. If you see them, mix the batter just a little longer or work them out with your fingertips or the tines of a fork.)

Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. You’re going to want to start checking the cornbread after 30 minutes, and if the surface turns perfectly golden brown before the time is up, loosely cover the pan with aluminum foil. Let the cornbread cool ever so slightly in the pan on a wire rack prior to slicing. This buttermilk cornbread is best served the day it’s made but keeps for up to 2 days if wrapped well.

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    Tuxedo Variations

    • Cheddar and Jalapeño Cornbread
    • Tux variation

      Increase the salt to 2 teaspoons, omit the honey and in its place stir in 1/2 cup grated Cheddar, 2 seeded and finely chopped jalapeños, and 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro.

    • Fresh Corn Cornbread
    • Tux variation

      Stir 1 1/2 cups fresh corn kernels (from about 3 ears) into the batter just before scraping it into the pan. (Beware that the added moisture from the corn kernels has the tendency to turn the cornbread quite pudding-like.)

    Recipe Testers Reviews

    The recipe doesn't lie. It truly is insanely moist and delicious, maybe in part to the rather large amount of butter, oil, and sugar. But, hey, who am I to complain—it tastes pretty amazing. And anyways, the fresh corn hints at healthy decisions. This stuff is the end-all recipe for buttermilk cornbread in the sweet category.

    So far it has lent itself to a myriad of uses in my household: breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It accompanied red beans and rice one night, and a healthy slice was given a good sear and served with eggs and a healthy dose of Sriracha the next morning.

    I grew a tad bit nervous, as my baking time continued to increase, and the center of the bread just seemed to get soupier and soupier. I assume this was due to the oil and liquid content. After about 50 minutes at 350°F (180°C), the top was pretty browned, and the rest was clearly not done. I decreased the oven temp to 300°F (149°C), hoping to halt the top from burning while the inside caught up, and it took another 15 minutes at that temperature before the cornbread seemed sufficiently set. Mine turned out just fine with the extra time in the oven. It is so worth the calories! Tuck it away as a keeper.

    I've never understood how people can buy boxed mixes or pre-made cornbreads from the bakery department of their local market and be satisfied. Perhaps it's because they've never experienced a truly great hunk of cornbread and so can accept the overly sweet and bone-dry bread that it seems is the norm. Having had a few ethereal cornbreads at great Southern restaurants over the years, I knew there was so much more potential for cornbread than what can be made from the ubiquitous blue box mix. I have been searching for years for a "go-to" cornbread from scratch, and I'm pleased to say that my search is over...this buttermilk cornbread is THE ONE!

    This cornbread has it all. It's dense and moist with a perfect balance in texture and taste between the cornmeal and the fresh corn kernels. I found the sweet-salt balance of the bread to be perfect. In fact, I can't remember the last time I had a piece of cornbread that I didn't slather with an obscene amount of salted butter, both to combat the dryness and also the overly sweet flavor profile. But I enjoyed this au naturel and didn't miss the butter one bit.

    I was a little concerned with the stated baking time of the recipe, as it seemed high for an 8-inch pan at 350°F (180°C), but the batter is so liquid-y when poured into the pan that it took a full 45 minutes to cook to moist perfection. I ended up tenting the pan with foil around the 30-minute mark because the top of the cake was perfectly browned, and I feared it would burn. Aside from that caveat, I found the recipe well-written and the resulting bread to be absolutely ideal.

    This cornbread is so good that it could be dessert. It's super moist, surprisingly quick and simple to put together, and bursting with corn kernels and flavor. We ate it without butter. 

    I adhered to the recipe exactly, and my baking time was 50 minutes. The top of the cake, I mean bread, was a deep golden brown, but the inside was moist and dense.

    Cornbread is typically one of my least favorite quick breads because it's usually dry and mealy. This one is neither. I'm looking forward to trying the jalapeño Cheddar variation.

    Winner. I made this cornbread with olive oil and it was heavenly. It is definitely not your light Southern cornbread. It has a very thick consistency that is surprisingly pleasant but very filling. We had it with spaghetti and they went well together.  While it sounds like a long time, the 50-minute timing is spot on.

    I can’t decide. Is this cake or bread? Whatever it is, it’s pretty darn delicious. I made it plain (I didn’t add the corn) and cannot wait to try the variations. This cornbread is pretty sweet and has a lovely tender crumb, but it’s slightly greasy for my taste. I’m not sure it needs quite so much oil, but definitely don’t decrease the butter, as it gives the bread such a lovely flavor.

    Start checking the doneness of the cornbread after about 35 minutes. Due to all that sugar and honey, the bread will brown quickly and deeply, so keep an eye on it. Mine baked to perfection in 45 minutes. Serve it warm. It doesn’t even need butter.

    This could be the best cornbread we've ever had. Cornbread is usually a disappointment with its uninspired dryness. But this recipe completely goes in the opposite direction—moist, flavorful, and savory, especially if you go the jalapeño and Cheddar route. Seed and rib the jalapeños and use a couple, even if they are huge.

    I made a couple of batches. I used fresh corn in each (go for the best in-season corn or leave it out), a really nice Cheddar (I used a Somerdale), and a generous 1/3 to 1/2 cup roughly chopped cilantro. It was best when I extended the cooking time to just over an hour, checking with a thermometer, getting the center to about 190℉ (88°C) and the top an even golden brown with small cracks across the entire surface, resembling a dry lake crackle. Anything less and you will not have a pudding-like interior but an uncooked soupiness instead.

    This is a very wet batter, and the fresh corn adds even more moisture. I found the baking to be more even in a metal pan than a glass pan. I used a stone-ground cornmeal from Bob’s Red Mill. In the third batch, my prep took a little longer, and the butter was getting too soft, so I popped the mixer bowl in the fridge. I think that batch actually creamed fluffier, with the butter being a bit firmer than room temp. In version 4.0, I used a smoked Cheddar, chopped cilantro, and 2 chopped red Fresno chiles (which are slightly milder than jalapeños). It had a beautiful crumb and was finished at 50 minutes, registering ~197°F (92°C) in the center. And it was festive!

    I think the best version of this recipe is without the fresh corn. If using the fresh corn, I'd leave out the whole milk and just use the 1 cup buttermilk, but the overall result is better without the fresh corn. We are converts—cornbread could be a regular thing here. Stop me before I make another!

    I love cornbread, and this recipe was definitely excellent. I tested it both with fresh corn and then with jalapeño and Cheddar. I felt as though the fresh corn kernels made it almost too wet, but the sweetness was very nice.

    The jalapeño Cheddar, in contrast, was not as sweet (I chose not to add fresh corn), and it was perfectly moist and easily cut into squares.

    I certainly had my doubts when I looked at the very loose batter in the bowl, but those doubts are now completely gone! Wow! This is a fine cornbread recipe, especially for anyone who’s ever had dry crumbly cornbread and wished for a moist one instead. Here it is! Pudding-like is an apt description—rich and pudding-like is perfect! It was “almost like eating cake,” according to one of my happy testers.

    And mine was this rich despite using homemade buttermilk made with 1% milk and using 1% milk instead of the whole milk specified. I had a couple of the 16 squares on their own before I thought to slather one with butter, which was delicious but completely unnecessary. Then I drizzled a piece with a bit of honey just as a test, and that, too, was completely unnecessary. I used the full 3 ears corn, which amounted to a bit more than 1 1/2 cups. 

    A little confession: I skipped the stand mixer and hand mixer and mixed straight by hand instead, from start to finish, and it worked perfectly. I did pre-mix the dry ingredients, but even that doesn’t seem necessary at this point. I had no troubles with lumps of butter or flour. As previously noted, the batter was very loose, almost like pancake batter, and there was no scraping of batter into the pan, as it was pourable. I feared the volume would be too great and anticipated seeing a rising tower of cornbread in the oven, but this didn't occur. Instead, it rose perfectly, baked for the full 50 minutes, and could perhaps have even gone another 5 minutes beyond that. I'm eager to try the jalapeño Cheddar version next.

    I baked this in a Pyrex pan, and I’ll also be trying it in a cast-iron pan. I cooled the cornbread for 10 minutes, my idea of ever so slightly. In my house, we’ll never know if it keeps for up to 2 days, since I think it’ll be gone within the first hour of being set out for tasting. Warm cornbread on a cool evening...unbeatable!

    This buttermilk cornbread worked well and came out nice and moist. The recipe didn't specify the grind of cornmeal to use, so I went with an extra fine, which gave the cornbread a light, cake-like texture that worked really well. Using fresh corn brightened up the flavor.

    I found that in my oven, it only took about 40 minutes to cook fully. I'm looking forward to trying other variations.

    This cornbread is a winner. Gathering the ingredients took the most time. Aside from that, the cornbread came together in about the time it took to heat my oven. After 40 minutes in the oven, the edges were very brown but not burned.

    This is definitely a moist, sweet cornbread and does not need butter or honey in my opinion. If my husband would eat spicy, I would try the jalapeño version, but alas, he is not spicy sort. Sigh.

    This cornbread results in a very sweet, cake-like cornbread. When corn was in season, I froze some fresh corn and I used that in this recipe. I found it to be delicious and, as the author promises, very moist as well. Given the amount of oil, this is certainly a decadent cornbread.

    The flavor of this cornbread is good but a little sweet. I would definitely reduce the amount of sugar next time. The combination of buttermilk, whole milk, and oil with so many eggs makes this a very moist cornbread that stayed good and moist for a long time. I liked the added corn kernels, but it took a long time to get the corn off the cob.

    I made the fresh corn variation of this buttermilk cornbread for the Fourth of July, along with LC’s Fall-Off-the-Bone Baby Back Ribs, Classic Coleslaw, and Mashed Potatoes, and it was phenomenal—rich, sweet but not cloying, and with just the right amount of toothsome summer corn.

    I only added the kernels from 2 ears of corn because I was nervous that the cornbread would turn out mushy. I used 1/3 cup sugar, substituted all-purpose flour for the whole-wheat, and grapeseed oil instead of olive oil. I also used low-fat buttermilk because that was the only kind available at the market, and I don’t think the flavor or texture was any worse for the wear. I baked the cornbread in a 9-by-13-inch glass pan for about 45 minutes, so it was probably a bit thinner than the author intended, but it was still incredibly moist. The leftovers made a great breakfast, toasted and slathered with some salted butter. I can’t wait to try the Cheddar and jalapeño version!


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    1. I stumbled across this recipe while looking for a way to use leftover buttermilk and what a great find it was! This is absolutely the best cornbread I have ever made. We tried one batch of the original recipe and one batch of the cheddar & jalapeno for a weekend BBQ. Both were moist and delicious, not at all dry and crumbly like most others. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed them and I even had requests for the recipe! Definitely part of my go to recipe collection.

      1. Thanks, Debbie! We’re so glad you (and everyone else) enjoyed it so much and so appreciate you taking the time to let us know.

    2. “It is so worth the calories!” “Almost like eating cake.” “Stop me before I make another!” These comments that I read above from Leite’s Culinaria recipe testers prompted me to stop searching elsewhere for the perfect cornbread recipe and make this immediately. It’s insanely moist and delicious. And why wouldn’t it be with the addition of butter and olive oil? You’ll be forever spoiled and not be able to get this recipe out of your mind. If you need something to eat with your cornbread (but why would you?) I recommend another Leite’s recipe for Short Rib Chile that I made to go along with it. Twas a match made in heaven.

      1. Magnificent, Linda! Thanks so much for taking the time to share how much you love this cornbread. I, too, stopped searching for cornbread recipes the moment I tasted this cornbread. We had a house full of 40 guests for Thanksgiving and more than half of them requested this recipe.

    3. Great reviews from my guests! I made 3 versions of half batches in a 12-cup cupcake/muffin tin, baked for 30 minutes. Used all AP flour as I didn’t have wheat. Texture was cake-like.

      1ST BATCH – Original: Used less oil and sugar. Filled cups 1/2 full. Flavor was fine but seemed a bit boring to me. Also, the olive oil taste was too strong so I’d go for a lighter tasting oil, like corn or vegetable. I made honey butter to go with it and the guests liked it. Said it was like dessert.

      2ND BATCH – Jalapeño & Cheese: This was *very* well received! Made adjustments as suggested, and used less oil and sugar. Didn’t yet substitute olive oil for corn oil since I was already in the process of a second batch before trying the first. Couldn’t taste the olive oil with more salt and added ingredients.

      3RD BATCH – Cheese: No jalapeño on hand so I made the same recipe as last time without the jalapeño and it was also well received! Some guests spread honey butter over this and loved the salty sweet combo.

      Thanks for the recipe! Will try leftovers this morning.

      1. Cynthia, wow! We love your approach to trying a new recipe! Have you ever considered being a recipe tester for us?! Seriously. You’d fit in perfectly. If not, no pressure! But if so, kindly let me know! And regardless, so pleased to hear you love this recipe as much as we do! Looking forward to hearing which recipe on the site you try next…

    4. I made this Buttermilk Cornbread on Thanksgiving morning when I got a panicked call from my brother that there was a Cornbread Emergency—he was afraid we wouldn’t have enough to feed his kids’ insatiable Cornbread Appetites. I happened to have all the ingredients on hand—except for milk. So I substituted a little half-and-half (about 1/4 c) and used the greater amount of olive oil (3/4 c) to make up the liquid. Obviously, this recipe is really forgiving because it came out GREAT. Super moist and a little sweet. Not sure why the top cracked—my friend said it looked like an Angry Bird—ha! Did not affect the taste though. The folks who favored this version loved the sweetness of this recipe and thought that it could almost be served as dessert. But we went ahead and served it right alongside our turkey with our heads held high.

      Square pan with warm buttermilk cornbread inside

      1. Janet, first, your brother is incredibly fortunate that he can call his sis on Thanksgiving morning and know it will be fulfilled! Second, I’m thrilled to hear that you find this recipe to be as trustworthy and crowd-pleasing as we do! I, too, swoon to this recipe. (And I made multiple batches a couple Thanksgivings ago to feed 40 and everyone who tried it went back for seconds (and sometimes thirds) and nearly half requested the recipe. Glad it worked with your modifications. And yeah, it’s certainly rich enough for dessert, yet still perfectly respectable alongside something savory. Thank you for taking the time to share this with us. We GREATLY appreciate it! And we look forward to hearing which recipe on the site you try next…

    5. This recipe looks amazing and perfect, and I can’t wait to make it. How would you suggest scaling up the recipe? Do you think I could double it, and if so, what pan size would you suggest?

      1. Alex, so glad this recipe is as compelling for you as it is for us! I would actually recommend that you NOT double the recipe and baking it in a larger pan. This is an exceptionally dense batter that creates an insanely moist cornbread. As such, I worry that in a larger pan, the center wouldn’t get done before the edges got overdone. I actually made this cornbread for 60 guests a couple Thanksgivings ago and I made several different batches of the recipe, each baked in the appropriate size pan. Time-consuming? Sorta. Worth it? You should have seen the cornbread disappear…and heard people raving about it and requesting the recipe for weeks afterwards. I measured out the dry ingredients for each batch of cornbread the weekend before, and then all I had to do the morning of was mix and bake. Sorry to not have an easier solution but I really think you’ll be disappointed with the unevenly baked results if you start playing with the amount of batter and the pan size.

      1. Kathleen, we didn’t test it with self-rising flour nor did we double it. We don’t want to steer you wrong, so I’d suggest making the recipe as written for ultimate results.

            1. What kind of cornmeal is recommended for this recipe? I have Bob’s Red mill coarse ground cornmeal but not sure if this will alter the texture compared to a fine ground. Thanks!

    6. Made this to take to a friend’s house and it was well received! It was my first time making it so I really appreciated the clear instructions and all the tester tips. I used the convection setting on my oven which was a mistake because it was done long before the top browned. Lesson learned! I tried the cheddar jalapeño version but will try the original next time.

        1. Yep, my oven lowers the temp by 25 degrees automatically when using the convection setting. But maybe this has less to do with the convection setting and more to do with the general finicky-ness of my oven. Guess I’ll have to try again to find out!

    7. I followed the recipe with one small exception (added 1/2 cup golden raisins) and it turned out great! Since I was unfamiliar with buttermilk, I noticed that the container contained orange specks and when opened, had a sour smell. After chatting with some folks more knowledgeable than myself, I discovered that orange specks in buttermilk are normal and part of the fermentation process; and the sour smell is also normal. I especially prefer a cornbread with real corn kernels, and that variation is the one I made. Thank you for sharing!

    8. I was born, raised and still live in the deep south. I have NEVER heard of cornbread eaten by any true southerner with sugar in it’s ingredients. This recipe is something else, not true southern cornbread. No wheat flour, no milk, ONLY buttermilk. No honey in the ingredients and certainly NOT olive oil. OLIVE OIL! Kiss my grits! We use rendered oil from breakfast bacon. Wild honey and butter on the side. While this may turn out to be delicious anyway, it is disrespectful to broadcast it is from the south. Sounds like part Italian, part Yankee and from gosh knows where else.
      My advice is to enjoy what that is and begin again!

      1. Yes, thank you, we’re very aware that this is not traditional Southern cornbread, pat. We have tremendous respect for what you love as cornbread, but we also respect that different folks have different preferences. I hope you can understand.

    9. Made this to go with Red Beans and Rice tonight for 6 of us and everyone said it was the best cornbread they ever had. Very moist. Didn’t need butter. I went low with the oil and sugar amounts – outstanding.

    10. I have been disappointed in every cornbread recipe I’ve tried….UNTIL THIS ONE!!!! I used the low end of sugar and oil (and I used canola oil) and it was perfect. I made it today for a Memorial Day bbq and I will make this again and again. Such a lovely texture and I won’t use the “m” word, but let me just say it was not dry at all. I baked it in a convection oven and it cooked in 40 minutes at 350. Next time I might bump up the sugar and use corn kernels. Thank you for sharing!

    11. I love to bake. This is the best thing I have ever baked. Hands down. Every review on this site was correct! You definitely don’t need butter, this bread is stand alone. I used 1% milk and 1% buttermilk and it turned out great. I used a convection oven and the edges began to burn (just barely) at about 35 minutes, so keep an eye on it and cover if needed. 45 minutes cooked it to perfection. Whoever made this recipe is officially my idol.

      1. Zoe Nathan. That’s the name of your idol, Meredith. Crazy happy to hear that you love this cornbread as much as we do. We so appreciate you taking the time to let us know! Looking forward to hearing which recipe on the site you try next…

    12. I have two questions: First is if I want to make a larger batch to fit to fit a 9 x 13 pan would I just double the recipe? Second, on the flour would there be a difference if I used all AP flour (1 cup plus 2 tablespoons) or use 1/4 cup whole wheat flour as recommended ? Thank you in advance

      1. Hi Grace, I’m always reluctant to double baking recipes. I would suggest two batches if you are tying to have more servings. As far as the flour, the whole wheat flour will add a bit more texture but the recipe works equally as well with just all-purpose flour

    13. My daughter frequently asks for cornbread, and until I made this one, she was always disappointed. It’s pleasantly moist, and though definitely on the sweeter side, it stops short of the syrupy canned corn versions. No need to try anything else.

      1. I think your daughter and I have the exact same taste in cornbread, Becky. Love that you found this recipe and made it for her with such success! (I suspect she knows how lucky she is, but it’s okay to gently remind her now and again…)

    14. This is it! My favorite cornbread. I made it as written—the plain version—and baked it in a glass 9-by-9-inch pan for about 45 minutes. It was perfectly browned and not dense but moist and flavorful. My family, who is usually “meh” about cornbread, loved it and could not stop nibbling at the rest of it after dinner. Really easy to mix—I did it by hand since my butter was pretty soft. Thank you for a new, great recipe.

      1. That’s exactly the sorta response we love to hear, Judy! Incredibly glad to hear you and your family feel the same way we do about this cornbread. You are so very welcome. I’m already looking forward to hearing which recipe on the site you try and love next…

    15. I had a similar cornbread at a wedding 17 years ago and have searched for it since. It was a pig roast with fabulous sides….Everyone went through the line, sat down tasted the cornbread and got up and back in line for another piece. This is the recipe I’ve been looking for!!! Thank you so much! I used olive oil with a bit too much of an opinion the first time. But wow, it was still wonderful. Making it again tonight with a lighter oil. The soupiness is a bit scary but in 50 min …perfect!

    16. I love cornbread and it sounds so delish! What is your suggestion please, since I am new to being gluten-free, regarding which gluten-free flour to use in place of the all-purpose flour? I am also diabetic, do you have the carb amt per serving and what is considered a serving? Thanks so much :)

      1. Chris, each gluten-free flour blend is slightly different and will work slightly differently in each recipe. I’m sorry, I haven’t tried this with a gluten-free flour, although if we’re talking homemade gluten-free flour blends, I’m partial to this one as we’ve made it in several different recipes with terrific success. As for the carb amount, we don’t do the nutritional analysis on recipes but you can run the numbers for this—or any recipe—using an online nutritional analysis calculator. There are a number of free online calculators that can help you do this. I haven’t used any of these calculators myself so I can’t vouch for any one in particular, but I hear terrific things about the online calculator from Spark People found here.

    17. I made it tonight and it was excellent. I followed the recipe to the letter and baked it exactly 50 min – it turned out great. I can”t wait to try the other variations.

    18. OK..I’ve re-read this 5 times and I keep reading about the wonderful flavor of the corn kernels…where is the fresh corn in the recipe??? Am I losing it?

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