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Bacon Cornbread

A large rectangular pan with bacon cornbread, and 3 square slices.
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.
Peter Reinhart

Prep 35 mins
Cook 35 mins
Soak 12 hrs
Total 13 hrs 10 mins
Sides
Southern
12
319 kcal

Ingredients 

  • 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

Directions 

  • 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.