The South is home to quite a few distinctive culinary delicacies. We're known for our fried okra, our pulled pork sandwiches, and—of course—our cornbread. Whether you like it savory or sweet, full of mix-ins or plain-Jane, there are so many ways to enjoy Southern-style cornbread. We've made it gluten-free and loaded it with brown butter. We get creative with the leftovers, frying up cornbread pieces to make croutons or baking them into cornbread dressing. Heck, we've even made cornbread ice cream. We firmly believe that cornbread should never go to waste—and neither should that bag of cornmeal.
Greg DuPree; Food Styling: Rishon Hanners; Prop Styling: Kathleen Varner
Cornmeal is the ingredient that gives cornbread its distinctive grit and slightly-sweet flavor, and is a staple in any Southern pantry. We always keep a bag of this stuff around for cornbread emergencies, but this naturally gluten-free ground corn is far more versatile than it may appear. Cornmeal can be yellow or white, fine or coarse-ground; when shopping for cornmeal, keep an eye out for locally-grown or artisanal varieties (we love the Fine Yellow Cornmeal from Anson Mills). The ways to use this specialty product extend far past traditional cornbread; here are a few of our favorite unconventional ways to utilize Southern-favorite cornmeal.
Laurey W. Glenn
Baking with Cornmeal
Cornmeal can be incorporated into a variety of pastries and baked goods to add a distinctive flavor and texture; it's the secret ingredient that brings an extra-Southern wow factor to any bread or dessert. Cornmeal can be incorporated into any dessert where you'd find flour. We love to add a touch of cornmeal to our pie or tart crust—you'll even find cornmeal in our Classic Chess Pie filling. Our cornmeal popovers are guaranteed to be the most interesting addition to your Thanksgiving bread basket, and cornmeal adds an extra-corny flavor to our elegant Corn Custards with Berry Compote.
Looking to incorporate cornmeal into a baked goods recipe? Substitute 1/3 to 1/2 of the amount of AP flour called for in a recipe for cornmeal. While this swap won't work in every scenario, it's fun to experiment with new flour combinations—keep adjusting the quantities until you strike a perfect balance.
Frying with Cornmeal
If there's one thing Southerners have certainly mastered, it's the art of frying. You'll find a cornmeal coating on plenty of Southern fried delicacies. Cornmeal is slightly coarser in texture than flour, giving your fried coating some lovely ridges, but it's more delicate than Panko or breadcrumbs, which tend to fall off the food's surface once it hits the oil. Cornmeal is ideal for frying, as the fine meal results in uniform browning and coverage.
Cornmeal clings to the outside of fried green tomatoes, forming a crispy, extra-crunchy crust. It forms the base of glorious fried Hush Puppies (if you know what's good for you, serve these with a full Fish Fry). It gets sprinkled over pan-frying okra to help the exterior crisp and turn a lovely golden-brown (you can even take a healthier route with our Air Fryer Okra). Next time you're getting ready to fry, swap the breadcrumbs for cornmeal.
Greg Dupree; Prop Styling: Heather Chadduck Hillegas; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall
Cornmeal for Breakfast
There's no better way to wake up a full house on Sunday morning than with the aroma of a home-cooked breakfast. Shake things up with new takes on the breakfast classics—we're talking cornmeal crepes and cornmeal waffles. In these recipes, cornmeal brings a just-subtle-enough twist to your favorite breakfast items. The coarse grain adds a lovely crust and a bit of bite to the soft, tender batter—no soggy waffles here.