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A classic, old-fashioned, Southern cast iron cornbread — just like Grandma made it! With crisp, buttery edges from the cast iron skillet, and a moist, tangy flavor and texture, this easy side dish works well for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

Overhead shot of cast iron cornbread on a rustic wooden table
Table of Contents
  1. Why Cornbread is Better in a Cast Iron Skillet
  2. Ingredients
  3. How to Make Cornbread in a Cast Iron Skillet
  4. Serving Suggestions
  5. Preparation and Storage
  6. Recipe Variations
  7. Tips for the Best Cast Iron Skillet Cornbread Recipe
  8. Cast Iron Cornbread Recipe

My love for cornbread runs deep, and I’m not too particular when it comes to the style! While a sweet, cake-like northern cornbread recipe has its place on my table (it’s definitely my kids’ preference), this southern cast iron cornbread will always have my heart.

Nothing quite says “comfort” like a skillet of warm cornbread, only made better with a drizzle of honey or a slathering of extra butter and apple butter. It’s perfect for soaking up chili, beans, gravy, or anything else that might be lingering on your plate, and equally delicious for breakfast alongside a mug of hot coffee.

Side shot of a slice of skillet cornbread on a blue and white plate

Why Cornbread is Better in a Cast Iron Skillet

For the best cornbread, you’ve got to use a cast iron pan! I recommend a deep 8-inch cast iron skillet for this recipe, but corn stick pans are also fun. A 9-inch cast iron skillet will work — it just yields thinner slices of bread. And in a pinch, you can substitute with an 8-inch baking dish.

Baking cornbread in a preheated cast iron skillet creates extra-crispy edges, which you just can’t replicate with any other pan. The cast iron retains and distributes heat evenly, so that the cornbread cooks beautifully and comes out tender and moist on the inside, but crispy on the outside. That buttery, browned, sturdy crust is the best part of the cornbread — a total dream!

Drizzling honey on a wedge of cornbread

Does cornbread stick to cast iron?

No, the cornbread will not stick to your cast iron skillet. A properly seasoned cast iron pan is naturally nonstick. You will also melt butter all over the bottom and sides of the pan before pouring in the batter, which prevents the cornbread from sticking and adds great flavor to the crust.

Should I let cornbread cool before removing from cast iron?

Let the cornbread cool slightly in the skillet before slicing and serving. It will be a bit sturdier (and less crumbly), and the hot skillet will be a bit easier to handle as it cools slightly. The cornbread is great served warm or at room temperature.

Close overhead shot of a wedge of cast iron cornbread on a blue and white plate

Ingredients

This is just a quick overview of the ingredients that you’ll need for this easy cast iron cornbread. As always, specific measurements and step-by-step cooking instructions are included in the printable recipe box at the bottom of the post.

  • Buttermilk: use whole buttermilk for the best flavor and texture. The buttermilk adds moisture to the bread, yields a softer crumb, and provides a slightly tangy flavor and richness. The acid in the buttermilk also activates the leavening agents to help the cornbread rise.
  • Egg: gives the cornbread structure and lift.
  • Vegetable oil: keeps the cornbread moist.
  • Self-rising cornmeal mix: use either white or yellow self-rising cornmeal mix. I prefer White Lily brand. This is not plain yellow cornmeal! Instead, self-rising cornmeal mix is a convenient blend of cornmeal, all purpose flour, leavening agents (like baking soda), and salt.
  • Sugar: an optional ingredient! A traditional Southern cornbread recipe does not include any sugar, so feel free to leave this ingredient out if you like savory cornbread.
  • Butter: to grease the hot skillet and flavor the crust.
Overhead image of a skillet of Southern cornbread on a rustic turquoise wooden table

Why add buttermilk to cast iron cornbread?

Buttermilk is a classic Southern pantry staple that we always keep in the fridge! From fluffy pancakes to salad dressinghoe cakes and biscuits to fried chicken, it’s an important ingredient in so many of our favorite recipes — including this Southern cornbread. In fact, if you have any leftover buttermilk, check out this collection of more than 60 recipes with buttermilk. The buttermilk serves a couple of purposes in this recipe that you can’t achieve with regular milk:

  • Flavor: the buttermilk gives the cornbread a nice, subtle tanginess.
  • Acidity: the acid in buttermilk helps the cornbread rise, because the acid from the buttermilk reacts with the alkaline baking soda, causing it to give off carbon dioxide. Baking powder will also react with buttermilk’s acidity to a small degree.
  • Texture: the fat and acid in the buttermilk yields a lighter, more tender crumb.

I get my buttermilk at a local country market near our house — and this is the REAL stuff — the liquid that runs off a batch of fresh butter. It makes the most delicious biscuits and cornbread! The buttermilk that you buy in a grocery store is probably just cultured milk (check the label) — which is a far cry from the real thing. If you have access to a local dairy or similar small market, I highly recommend getting your hands on the ultra-thick, ultra-rich buttermilk that will truly make your Southern cornbread stand out.

Adding buttermilk to a large bowl

Buttermilk Substitutes

Don’t have buttermilk? No problem! In a pinch, you can make your own buttermilk at home to use in this recipe. To do so, pour either 1 ½ tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice or 1 ½ tablespoons of white vinegar into a large measuring cup. Add enough whole milk to equal 1 ½ cups of liquid. Give it a stir, let it sit for about 5 minutes, and then use it in the recipe as directed!

Stirring cornbread batter.

How to Make Cornbread in a Cast Iron Skillet

This easy cast iron skillet cornbread recipe is adapted from the original White Lily Flour recipe. It’s my go-to when we need a simple side dish to pair with supper multiple times per week! I’ve included the detailed baking instructions in the recipe card at the bottom of the post, but here’s the quick version:

  1. Preheat a cast iron skillet in the oven.
  2. Whisk together the wet ingredients.
  3. Stir in the dry ingredients.
  4. Butter the hot skillet, and then pour in the batter.
  5. Bake for 25 minutes, until beautiful and golden brown.
Hands serving a cast iron skillet cornbread

Serving Suggestions

Serve the cast-iron cornbread recipe with butter, honey, honey butterjamapple butter, or syrup. As a side dish, the cornbread goes well with any of these dinner entrées:

Side shot of skillet cornbread with honey drizzled on top

Preparation and Storage

Cornbread is best when freshly baked and warm from the oven, but you can bake it up to 8 hours in advance and leave it on your countertop until ready to serve. To extend the life of your homemade cornbread, store in an airtight container or cover with plastic wrap at room temperature for 1-2 days or in the fridge for up to 1 week.

How to Freeze

Wrapped tightly, you can store cornbread in the freezer for up to 3 months. Thaw on your countertop or in the refrigerator before enjoying.

How to Reheat

To reheat leftover cornbread, wrap in foil and warm in a 325°F oven for about 10 minutes. You can also microwave individual slices of cornbread just until warmed through — about 20-30 seconds.

Cast iron skillet cornbread on a table with buttermilk, honey, and butter

Recipe Variations

  • If you prefer a sweet cornbread, try this recipe. It’s like a cornbread skillet cake!
  • Omit the sugar for a savory cornbread.
  • Don’t have an 8-inch cast iron skillet? Use a 9-inch skillet or an 8-inch baking dish.
  • Make your own self-rising cornmeal mix with these directions, or stir together your own buttermilk substitute by following the instructions above.
  • Optional add-ins: 1-2 chopped jalapeño peppers, 1 cup fresh blueberries, 1 cup shredded cheddar or Pepper Jack cheese, or orange zest and dried cranberries.
  • For cornbread muffins, try this recipe.
Piece of cast iron cornbread with a pat of butter and drizzle of honey on a blue and white vintage plate

Tips for the Best Cast Iron Skillet Cornbread Recipe

  • Make sure that you’re using self-rising cornmeal mix — not plain cornmeal. The self-rising mix includes some flour, salt, and leavening agents in addition to the cornmeal.
  • Always preheat your cast iron skillet for cornbread. The hot skillet creates a crisp, sturdy crust on the cornbread, which is a flavorful, delicious contrast to the tender, delicate crumb.
  • Use full-fat buttermilk rather than a lower-fat alternative. The fat in the liquid adds richness to the batter and helps to keep the cornbread moist.
  • Let the batter rest for 5-10 minutes before baking, if you have the time. This allows the leavening agents to activate and incorporate more air.
  • Don’t over-mix the batter or it will become too dense, and you’ll end up with dry cornbread.
  • To check if the cornbread is done, insert a toothpick into the center and make sure it comes out clean. Don’t cook for too long, or it can dry out.
Slice of cast iron cornbread on a plate with butter and honey
Cornbread in a cast iron skillet on a table

Cast Iron Cornbread

5 from 1 vote
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 25 minutes
Total: 30 minutes
Servings 8 slices
Calories 208 kcal
A classic, old-fashioned, Southern cast iron cornbread has buttery, crisp edges and a moist, tender crumb!

Ingredients
  

Instructions

  • Heat an 8-inch cast iron skillet in the oven while you preheat the oven to 425°F.
  • Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, egg, and oil.
    Adding buttermilk to a large bowl
  • Add the cornmeal mix and sugar; stir just until combined. Do not overmix – the batter will be lumpy, which is fine.
    Stirring cornbread batter.
  • Once the oven comes to temperature, carefully remove the skillet. Place the butter in the skillet; use a knife or brush to spread the butter on the bottom and sides of the pan until it melts.
  • Pour the batter into the buttered skillet.
  • Bake for about 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
    Overhead shot of cast iron cornbread on a rustic wooden table

Notes

  • Make sure that you’re using self-rising cornmeal mix — not plain cornmeal. The self-rising mix includes some flour, salt, and leavening agents in addition to the cornmeal.
  • Always preheat your cast iron skillet for cornbread. The hot skillet creates a crisp, sturdy crust on the cornbread, which is a flavorful, delicious contrast to the tender, delicate crumb.
  • Use full-fat buttermilk rather than a lower-fat alternative. The fat in the liquid adds richness to the batter and helps to keep the cornbread moist.
  • Let the batter rest for 5-10 minutes before baking, if you have the time. This allows the leavening agents to activate and incorporate more air.
  • Don’t over-mix the batter or it will become too dense, and you’ll end up with dry cornbread.
  • To check if the cornbread is done, insert a toothpick into the center and make sure it comes out clean. Don’t cook for too long, or it can dry out.
  • Recipe adapted from White Lily Flour.

Nutrition

Serving: 1sliceCalories: 208kcalCarbohydrates: 36gProtein: 6gFat: 5gSaturated Fat: 2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0.1gCholesterol: 29mgSodium: 627mgPotassium: 157mgFiber: 3gSugar: 5gVitamin A: 270IUCalcium: 182mgIron: 2mg
Keyword: Cast Iron Cornbread, cast iron skillet cornbread, Skillet Cornbread
Course: bread, Side, Side Dish
Cuisine: American, Southern
Author: Blair Lonergan
blair

Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

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Comments

  1. Melissa says:

    5 stars
    I love your sweet cornbread recipe. I love sweet cornbread dressing, being from the South, plenty of people have told me, “Sugar doesn’t belong in cornbread dressing”, but I disagree. Dressing is savory and imo, there is nothing wrong with a little sweetness. Thank you.

    1. The Seasoned Mom says:

      We agree and are so glad you enjoy the recipe, Melissa!