What Goes Well with Cornbread?
Cornbread. When creativity and inspiration are lacking, it can seem dull and mundane. But I promise you, cornbread is the underestimated, unsung hero of the bread world.
It can do more than you ever imagined. It’s a workhorse, and has the potential to be a canvas for culinary art, or play the starring role in an easy, yet creative twist on a classic.
So what exactly can you do with it? Besides slathering it with butter, hot out of the oven (or even lightly reheated out of the microwave), drizzling it with local honey, and . . . ahem . . . inhaling?
What goes well with cornbread? Let’s break it down. Individual ingredients first.
1. Honey and Cornbread are Simply Dreamy
Like I said, hot out of the oven, melting butter, gooey honey. It’s a dream. And the best part is that you can call it dessert, or call it a side. It’s versatile that way.
When I make cornbread, my kids get just as excited as when I break out cookies or ice cream. Well, almost as excited. They feel like it’s dessert. So truly. When you make cornbread, put out the honey.
2. Hot Dogs: A Whole New Food with Cornbread
Do you have kids? Try these corn dog mini muffins.
If you’re a vegetarian, ok, skip this part. (Cornbread pairs beautifully with so many veggies and hearty meatless dishes, so you will NOT be left out).
Bacon. I think that when you take two foods that go with EVERYTHING, and put them together, you get culinary heaven. Need I say more?
Crumble in cooked-to-crispy bacon before baking as over-sized muffins. Serve with braised greens. Take leftover cornbread, toast it, and make breakfast sandwiches. Cornbread and bacon.
Read Little House on the Prairie with your kids and pretend you’re pioneers. No, seriously.
And then there’s ham. Same things apply. And I love cornbread on the side at Easter.
Pull together your greens however you like them, and you have a beautiful, tasty, and EASY holiday meal with just ham, green veggies, and cornbread. But don’t forget the honey.
4. Beans Call for Cornbread on the Side
Baked beans, bean chili, and black-eyed peas, oh my!
We all know that a meal with beans in it will probably also be a meal that could benefit from a side of cornbread. Right?
I can STILL taste my grandmother’s black-eyed peas, summer tomatoes, and cornbread. Heaven.
5. Any Veggie Works with Cornbread
Greens especially. There is just something about greens (spinach, kale, collard greens, take your pick) sautéed or braised with minced garlic and a side of cornbread. You almost don’t need the meat!
And if you’re vegetarian, add your favorite bean dish, and you have a complete meal.
But cornbread isn’t just for sautéed or braised greens. It’s equally amazing with roasted veggies of any variety.
One of my personal favorites is brussel sprouts, roasted with just oil, salt, and pepper. Make cornbread croutons and toss the two together. So good.
I really can’t think of a vegetable that doesn’t pair well with cornbread. But I can think of a vegetable that is out of this world with cornbread. It’s . . .
Can you hear the mariachi band? Yummmm. Tex-Mex.
Spike your cornbread with jalapeños before baking. Spicy or mild. You pick.
Dress it up a little more by mixing in some shredded pepper jack cheese and take it to that summer potluck. Or just serve it on Taco Tuesday. Or just eat it as a side to your TGIF margarita.
Out on the patio . . .under an umbrella . . .near some water . . .can you hear the lulling tropical strains of the ukulele as the waves roll gently in?
And then there was. . .
Ok Vegans, sorry again! You can skip this part (unless you’d like to play with some dairy-free cheeses). But there are plenty of cornbread pairings to go around.
Sharp cheddar would be my top pick. Mix it into the cornbread batter, and sprinkle a little on top, before baking. You want that extra bit on top, because it will crisp up and make you very, very happy.
This will go well with those chopped jalapeños, or those crispy bacon crumbles too.
Craving an Italian spin? Mix in grated parmigiano/reggiano, a hint of garlic powder, and some fresh chopped parsley for color(definitely go with a lower sugar cornbread here).
Cheese is going to play an important role in casseroles too. But before we go there, there’s another dairy spin that I need to mention. . .
8. Milk Cornbread?
This one isn’t my choice, BUT, there are a lot of people out there who love it. This is a thing! Since I can’t say it’s my thing, I’m going to direct you to google.
Just because it’s not my cup of tea doesn’t mean it isn’t part of this crazy world, and what makes it interesting.
I love that we all love different things, and while I won’t be reaching for crumbled cornbread in a glass of milk to stave off late-night munchies, I’m glad that I live in a world where this time honored tradition (for some) is still a thing. Culture people.
My grandaddy did the milk toast thing, which I also never got. But then, I’m not really a southerner . . .
But speaking of the South . . .
Let’s move from focusing on how cornbread plays with individual ingredients, to how it plays in full-on ensembles.
9. BBQ Loves Cornbread Pairing
Does it get much more southern than real, honest-to-goodness BBQ? Meaty ribs, cold and crisp cole slaw, baked beans, sweet and savory sauce with a kick. And cornbread.
Yup. It may not be the star here, but no star shines without an awesome supporting cast.
And while I love a good roll or garlic Texas Toast, there’s something just a bit more warm and fuzzy about cornbread. The Toast is yum yum, but the cornbread tastes like LOVE.
Just like a big bowl of:
10. Rich, Hearty Soups, Stews, and Chilies
This is where cornbread steps in with a partner to make you feel better, cozier, more grounded, safer. More hygge.
Let’s fly ourselves now from that summer, southern, BBQ potluck to northern Europe and the art of hygge.
If you haven’t explored the wonderful world of just plain feeling good, I urge you to read up.
And then make that pot of beef stew, chicken soup, seafood gumbo, or vegetarian or pumpkin/beef chili (I adore pumpkin in my meaty chili). And bake that basic cornbread. And set out the butter and honey.
And I promise you will feel better than you did before.
11. Stuffings and Dressings Are Built on Cornbread
Also falling into the category of hygge-inducing is Thanksgiving. Or any meal to do with roasted poultry and stuffings or dressings.
Cornbread dressing is my absolute favorite. Especially with pork sausage and plenty of sage.
My favorite hack is to add the seasonings to the cornbread batter, and then just a bit more to the dressing mixture. It infuses the whole dish with that herby goodness.
And the croutons you make before you get to the dressing stage are also so yummy! You could just make herb-laced cornbread, dice it up, and re-bake for an excellent crouton to top your leftover turkey soup.
12. Creative Cornbread Casseroles
Also on our comfort food list are casseroles.
There is SO much opportunity to get creative here, and spin all of the ingredients we’ve talked about so far. Here are a few noteworthy ideas.
It’s a holiday classic. A yummy blend of creamed corn, cornbread, and dairy, baked and served alongside your turkey and greens.
Great for the holiday potluck. Because it’s just that easy. Try this recipe
Cornbread Taco Casserole
Stir chopped jalapeños into your batter. Top with taco-seasoned, browned ground beef (or turkey, or tofu!), layer on shredded sharp cheddar, then sprinkle with more jalapeños.
Bake until center is done. Top with shredded cabbage, tomatoes, salsa, sour cream, guac. This could be a twist on Taco Tuesday.
Baked Beans Cornbread Casserole
Spread your favorite store-bought or homemade baked beans on the bottom of your casserole dish. Add sliced hot dogs to make this Franks and Beans Cornbread Casserole.
Italian Sausage Cornbread Casserole – Mix browned and crumbled italian pork sausage into your cornbread batter. Top with your favorite marinara and plenty of mozzarella and grated parmesan.
My Favorite Cornbread Recipe
Here’s my own basic cornbread recipe. I will never make it any other way.
1 cup buttermilk (or canned evaporated milk spiked with lemon juice)
⅓ cup oil
1 cup all-purpose flour (all-purpose gluten-free flour also works well)
1 cup yellow cornmeal
3 ½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
⅓-½ cup sugar*
Mix wet and dry ingredients just until combined. Bake at 350° for 15-30+ min, depending on the baking dish or muffin pan you’re using. If making muffins, I love these parchment muffin papers.
*A note on the use of sugar in cornbread (or a few notes):
First, sugar came along much later in the evolution of cornbread. If you’re interested in the fascinating (I’m serious, it really is interesting!) history of cornbread, read up.
If you have kids, this is a fun and yummy little history/geography lesson.
Second, my recipe above is more of the sweet variety, which I prefer (I’ll blame those Southern Roots). But, if you’re using cornbread in a more savory way – say in a casserole, or spiked with savory ingredients, you may want to lessen the amount of sugar.
Cornbread recipes are generally forgiving, and allow room for tweaking the sugar content. And now that you’re completely versed in what goes well with cornbread, experiment and find your perfect cornbread, or cornbreads. Bon apétit.