Gluten-Free Cornbread and a Story

Gluten-Free Cornbread

When I was growing up, some type of bread was served with every meal. With my time split between a half dozen southern kitchens, I had a glimpse of the “old way” and the “new way” of the emerging South. At the time, it was just my life, but looking back, I realize that exposure to so many wonderful southern cooks and their ways with food laid the foundation for a lifelong passion. Not for any particular type of food, but for all food. Even the foods I’m not crazy about, I’m interested in and want (need?) to learn more about them. Sometimes, the simplest, least-fancy foods intrigue me most.

Cornbread is certainly not fancy, but it is arguably the quintessential food of the South. Like many old-time Southern recipes, cornbread uses only a few low-cost and easy to find ingredients, most of which any home cook would already have in their pantry. It’s easy to put together and absolutely delicious, piping hot from the oven on its own, or paired with a soup, stew or brimming bowl of spicy chili.

At my godmother’s house, a smoking cast iron skillet of cornbread was a must-have with pinto beans, cole slaw and sliced garden ripe tomatoes. My grandmother ate hers with nothing but a mug of buttermilk. Cornbread could stand in as dessert, with a pat of butter and a drizzle of honey or molasses, or as my sweet daddy ate it at night, crumbled in “sweet milk” (the way old timers distinguished “regular” milk from buttermilk).

Back then, I didn’t like cornbread at all. It was coarse and corn-y tasting (I know, it’s supposed to be) and I didn’t eat butter or honey or beans, so there weren’t many reasons for me to dig in. I preferred store-bought Bunny bread (if you have a clue what that is, leave me a comment below!).

But, as with most things in life, our food preferences tend to gravitate back to the mean. For me, that meant back to my deep Southern roots. Back to cornbread.

I’m not even sure when it happened, I just know one day I made a batch for some love-of-the-moment and maybe I was desperately hungry, or maybe I just wised up, but either way I grabbed a wedge of piping hot, golden cornbread and that’s all she wrote.

Of course, every cook has her way with this simple bread, and my way includes some sugar. Growing up, I heard this called “Yankee cornbread”, but I’ve read in food history books that we Southerners added sugar to our cornbread in the 1800s. Regardless of which side started doing it, I’m grateful because I think a bit of sugar makes this savory cake lighter and smoother tasting.

My recipe, one handed down over the years, then adapted by me to be gluten-free after I learned I have celiac disease back in 2007, is as good as, if not better than, any gluten-full version I’ve ever had. It’s also super-easy to make – just add your ingredients, stir until smooth, and in about half an hour, you’ve got a nice pan of cornbread to serve alongside your favorite meal. Or on its own. Or with butter and honey. If you love a great sandwich, save your leftover cornbread and slice it cold, then insert your favorite fillings… goat cheese, thin sliced baked ham, roasted chicken, mustard, sliced tomatoes…. endless possibilities.

Gluten-Free Cornbread

 Total time:  35 mins

 This recipe is free from: gluten, dairy/casein, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, with an egg-free option, too!
  • 1 cup certified gluten-free cornmeal (Buy organic cornmeal for GMO-free.)
  • ½ cup white (or brown) rice flour
  • ½ cup cornstarch (Non-GMO cornstarch is available in many markets or online.)
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup sugar (You can substitute your favorite sweetener here, decrease the amount, or omit the sugar entirely.)
  • 1 cup milk (Plant- or dairy-based will work. I use unsweetened coconut milk.)
  • ⅓ cup oil
  • Egg replacer (prepared according to package directions) to equal 2 large eggs (or you may use 2 large eggs OR ½ cup egg substitute, like Egg Beaters, if you prefer.)
  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. Grease an 8-inch square glass baking dish (or similar sized dish of your choice, or a cast iron skillet, if you have one.)
  3. Place the baking dish or skillet in the oven as the oven preheats while you mix the bread. A hot skillet before you pour in the batter ensures a crisp outer crust, which is a must with cornbread!)
  4. In a mixing bowl, whisk dry ingredients to blend.
  5. Add milk, oil, and eggs; stir until batter is completely smooth.
  6. Carefully remove hot pan from the oven using an oven mitt, and pour the batter into the hot pan (this seals a crisp edge on your cornbread).
  7. Return the pan to oven and bake 20-25 minutes, or until cornbread is golden brown on top and deep golden brown around the edges.
  8. Cut into squares and serve hot from the oven either on its own or with a drizzle of honey.

Thought you’d like to know…

  • You may add 1/2 cup grated Cheddar cheese (or dairy-free “cheese” substitute like Daiya Foods vegan Cheddar shreds) and up to 1 Tablespoon of diced jalapeno peppers for Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread.
  • You may add 1/2 cup dried cranberries and 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese (if you eat dairy products) for a marvelous Cranberry Feta Cornbread.

This recipe originally appeared at


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