Brown Butter Cornbread – Recipe

Brown Butter Cornbread
Cornbread flavored with brown butter

Since we talked about vegetarian chili last week, I’ve got to hook you up with the best cornbread recipe ever to go with it. It is moist without being cake-like with an intense corn flavor. The butter is browned before adding it to the batter, a genius trick I learned from The Recipe Girl. That contributes some of the umami flavor that some folks would get using bacon drippings.

For bonus points, you can add a tablespoon of non-fat milk powder to the butter as it is browning. The extra protein will boost the flavor further.

I know you’ll be shocked to hear I have opinions about cornbread recipes. I think there are two main axes of variation to be concerned with: the corn to wheat flour ratio and whether you prefer your cornbread plain or with lots of additions (like corn kernels, onions, jalapenos, cheddar, olives and so forth).

I’ve seen ratios anywhere from 100% corn to only 25% corn. I like anything 50% and above. I want to mostly taste corn, but if you go too far in that direction, the results can be tasty but very crumbly. 50% provides a good balance of moistness without turning into cake. Use the freshest, best quality organic stoneground cornmeal you can find to maximize the flavor. A coarse grind is preferable.

As far as inclusions go, I don’t have anything against them on principle. It is just that to me, the pure flavor and texture of cornbread with a big pat of sweet cream butter is so perfect, they seem an unnecessary distraction. But if that is what you like, feel free to fold them into the recipe below just before baking.

Best Cornbread Recipe Ever
Makes one 8×8″ pan, enough for 4 for dinner if you aren’t too greedy
Can also be used to make 10 muffins, reduce baking time
A double batch bakes up beautifully in my beloved 12″ cast iron skillet
Vegetarian; not vegan nor gluten-free

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
  • 1 tablespoon non-fat milk powder (optional)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk or 3/4 cup milk and 1 T. white vinegar (skim milk works ok; you might need a little more milk, but a full cup of milk is too liquid compared to buttermilk)
  • 1 cup coarse, stoneground cornmeal
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and butter an 8×8″ pan.
  2. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. If using, add the non-fat milk powder and whisk in. Continue cooking about 5-10 minutes until it is turning a light brown and has a delicious, nutty aroma. Do not skim, keep all those browned milk solids.
  3. Whisk together the eggs and buttermilk. Push the butter through a sieve (to break up any clumps of browned bits) into the buttermilk and stir.
  4. Whisk together the dry ingredients in a separate bowl.
  5. Combine the wet and dry ingredients and stir just enough to form a batter. It is ok if there are a few lumps. Avoid overbeating as this could make the cornbread tough.
  6. Pour into the pan and bake about 25 minutes until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry. (Muffins will take about 18 minutes.)
  7. Serve forth while still hot, with lots of good sweet butter.

 

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Posted by Michael Natkin on Monday, April 6th, 2009 in Baking, Favorites, Kid Friendly, Recipes, Side Dishes.

45 Responses to “Brown Butter Cornbread – Recipe”

  1. April 6, 2009 at 7:26 am #

    Guess what we’re having for dinner tonight?
    The cornbread recipe is a “must do” as far as I’m concerned! :)
    Thanks Michael.

  2. Anne
    April 6, 2009 at 8:42 am #

    I’m very partial to Mark Bittman’s cornbread recipe ( link to bitten.blogs.nytimes.com ), but yours sounds great too. I was able to find locally grown (Vermont) cornmeal and it knocks my socks off! I’d guess that just about any cornbread recipe would be ten times better with the good stuff in it.

    I also haven’t tried your chili recipe (my preferences are on the other side of the beans-to-veggies ratio), but thought I’d give a shout-out to the only Vegetarian Times recipe I’ve ever really loved: Chipotle Chili Non-Carne, link to vegetariantimes.com .

    Thanks, as ever, for spreading the gospel about vegetarian food for people who love food and don’t focus on the self-righteous stuff!

  3. April 6, 2009 at 9:18 am #

    I made cornbread just last night! Too bad I didn’t have your recipe ahead of time, otherwise they could have been a browned butter version. They look great!

    -Siri

  4. Susan
    April 6, 2009 at 2:39 pm #

    Here’s a tip from Cook’s Country Magazine: Try gently baking the cornmeal to bring out a deeper corn flavor. Just 3-4 minutes at 300 does it and take it out just before it starts browning, then cool to room temp. Continue with your recipe. It really does bring out the flavor.

    I’m with you on the corn to flour ratio. I prefer at least 50-50, or err on the side of the cornmeal. The big debate that I’ve witnessed is sugar or no sugar. It’s a southern vs northern thing, it seems, as is cakey vs course texture.
    I like it all, as long as it’s not too sweet! A couple of tablespoons sugar suits me perfectly. I like your browned butter idea. Next time!

  5. April 6, 2009 at 4:15 pm #

    It does look perfect! :) Will try it for weekend breakfast!

  6. April 7, 2009 at 9:38 am #

    I’m with you on the whole “no additions” to cornbread. Perfection needs no embellishment. Interestingly enough, just tried a recipe for chocolate chip cookies with brown butter, which was a fantastic enhancement, so I am eager to try it in a different type of recipe to compare!
    Thanks.

  7. April 7, 2009 at 9:46 am #

    that looks fantastic! I’ll have to try it with brown butter. I make cornbread in a cast iron skillet, and I put the skillet and a knob of butter in the oven while it is preheating, which makes for a really nice crust. I more or less follow my southern grandma’s recipe (link to flickr.com), which has hardly any flour. A good stone ground cornmeal is key.

  8. April 7, 2009 at 11:04 am #

    great recipe! i also love susan’s tip about baking the corn meal before using!

  9. April 8, 2009 at 2:30 am #

    because the little blue box of cornbread has lard

  10. April 8, 2009 at 4:22 am #

    Having made this recipe Monday evening, I can attest to its greatness!
    My hungry teenagers and a couple of friends found the cornbread before dinner and I was lamenting not making a second batch! – Mom and Dad got one small piece each – I suppose I can thank our daughters and their friends for thinking of my waistline! I would definitely have eaten more.
    This will now be my regular cornbread recipe.
    Thanks Michael.

  11. Michael Natkin
    April 8, 2009 at 7:32 am #

    Hey Barbara – I’m glad you liked it! And now I know the new equation
    cornbread – (4 * teenager portion) = none for the grownups :).

  12. April 8, 2009 at 12:03 pm #

    Um, more cornbread, yes please! This looks fantastic. I have been enjoying reading all your recipes and seeing some great photography. I probably shouldn’t read before dinner since I want to make everything now…

  13. Michael Natkin
    April 26, 2009 at 9:01 am #

    We just made this again today, only in muffin tins. The recipe above will make about 10 muffins and will take about 18-20 minutes to bake. Totally delicious – it is all about using a high quality stoneground cornmeal.

  14. May 5, 2009 at 8:59 pm #

    I know that’s going to be good, because it’s really close to my usual cornbread recipe (the one from Moosewood Restaurant New Classics) except they use brown sugar and less butter… which means there’s a fun and easy way to get the best of all possible worlds! Yum.

  15. May 7, 2009 at 11:28 am #

    I love baking cornbread in my cast iron pan. I’ll give this a try!

  16. August 3, 2009 at 11:58 pm #

    I work at a summer cooking camp for 8-12 year old kids and one day we made cornbread and gazpacho. I used your cornbread recipe and really it is the BEST EVER CORNBREAD! The kids went wild over this…they loved making it and even more they loved eating it! This browned butter thing really is magical…I made browned butter blueberry muffins over the weekend and woo were they good! Check them out on my blog: http://www.figsinmybelly.blogspot.com!

  17. Melissa.L.Magana@gmail.com
    August 11, 2009 at 9:51 am #

    Thanks for this recipe! IT’S AWESOME! I tried it with brown sugar too, which added a great flavor. (1/2 cup brown sugar instead of the 1/3 cup sugar) Served it with a native american veggie stew…mmmm, yum!

  18. Michael Natkin
    August 11, 2009 at 10:04 am #

    Thanks Melissa! The brown sugar sounds like a great idea too.

  19. October 12, 2009 at 3:59 pm #

    I used this recipe to make croutons for a panzanella, but the boyfriend’s dad liked it so much as is that it may be making an appearance at Christmas. Thanks for sharing the recipe!

  20. Michael Natkin
    October 13, 2009 at 8:49 am #

    I'm glad the corbread was a hit, and that panzanella sounds amazing!

  21. Tom
    October 13, 2009 at 2:05 pm #

    I added some red pepper flakes as the butter was browning -ala 101 Cookbooks- and some fresh-frozen sweet corn from the market.

    It was incredibly delicious and I was rather surprised at the depth of the flavor browning the butter adds to the cornbread!

  22. Kathy
    November 6, 2009 at 9:45 am #

    I made this cornbread last night and it was a HUGE hit with all the kids and my husband…. Thanks for the great recipe – I will be making it again, and again!!

  23. Bill
    March 5, 2010 at 3:38 pm #

    Thanks Michael, I tried this new recipe and it was fantastic i also use brown sugar but split it in half with regular white sugar and baked it in a cast iron corn bread pan …Thanks again

  24. Michael Natkin
    March 8, 2010 at 7:48 pm #

    Hey Bill – Thanks for taking the time to let me know you liked it! BTW, if you haven't already, I've got a facebook fan page up at link to facebook.com – a nice way to keep connected.

    Thanks,
    Michael

  25. March 24, 2010 at 11:18 am #

    i just made this and it was delicious!!!! Usually I’m an utter cornbread failure (at some point my husband begged me to stop trying) but this worked like a charm. I used kefir and Bob’s Red Mill corn grits instead of buttermilk and cornmeal because that’s what I had on hand, and I do believe it’s the best cornbread I’ve ever eaten. My kids agree.

  26. Cynthia
    March 28, 2010 at 6:51 pm #

    I have tried a lot of corn bread recipes and innovations of my own, this corn bread IS the best ever. Brown butter great in any kind of cookie, oatmeal esp and choc chip as someone commented. Every recipe on this website is sooooo good, the format, every thing about it.. enjoying it so much. It is so fun to read these blogs and websites, no matter how much we cook there is always something new to try..food is fun!

  27. Scott
    May 3, 2010 at 1:22 am #

    Sugar does NOT, now or ever, go in cornbread. Sugar in your bread is for rude Yankees, rich people and/or dessert. Cornbread is for none of the above. If you have been conditioned by corporate America to believe that everything you consume must be sugar-laden, then I’d suggest you mix some honey with your butter and spread it post-bake. And not let decent people see you do it.

  28. July 27, 2010 at 10:40 pm #

    This looks like a great recipe! Here’s another recipe I recently did and really liked.

    Cheddar Skillet Corn Bread link to wp.me

    It’s particularly nice because you bake it right in a cast iron skillet. Try it out and let me know what you think!

  29. January 10, 2011 at 10:29 am #

    This looks so tempting! I love the picture! Would be perfect with soup or I can even have it as a snack with a butter topping.

  30. January 10, 2011 at 10:34 am #

    just made corn muffins this week with %50 corn and no additions, great advice about the browned butter

  31. shar
    February 7, 2011 at 6:29 am #

    Definitely missed the boat here! Taste was nice because of browned butter but having to explain the appearance and brown flecks was a big distraction and made this a disaster at chili bowl party. OH well – so much for trying new recipes. Will stick with Grandmas. Thanks anyway.

  32. GreyFeather
    May 17, 2011 at 2:25 pm #

    Recently made this for a wedding party dinner BBQ for 50 people and it was a hit! Comments were great and several folks sought me out to say it was the best item on the serving table.
    I use Bob’s Red Mill medium corn meal and use their whole wheat pastry flour also which certainly adds to the flavor and color. The point about VERY minimal stirring of the batter is important, so make sure all dry ingredients are well mixed together before adding.

    If anyone is interested, I worked out the calorie content and it is about 145 calories per 2″ x 2″ piece as written (including the whole wheat flour variation).

  33. Mitzi
    April 3, 2012 at 8:53 am #

    I made this extraordinary cornbread last night for my aspiring chef son-in-law. It was every bit as good as everyone has said and he loved it.
    Thank you for a great recipe.

  34. janet
    October 21, 2012 at 2:27 pm #

    I’ve made this (more or less) three times now. I use 1 2/3 cup coarse ground cornmeal, and 1/3 cup barley or whole wheat flour, plus I use yogurt instead of butter milk. Great texture. I ‘m not sure the browned butter adds anything over just butter, but I do it.

    I find it quite a clash to come to this site for all the interesting careful recipes, then be met by spam about bananas. It’s jarring, and doesn’t have to be here.

    • October 21, 2012 at 2:32 pm #

      Are you seeing an ad for bananas in the sidebar? If so, that’s not spam, that is one of the ways I make a living that allows me to write the recipes for the site.

  35. janet
    October 21, 2012 at 3:55 pm #

    I guess we’ll have to disagree about what’s spam.

    Last visit.

  36. Dini
    November 6, 2012 at 7:37 am #

    Can anyone suggest which gluten free flour would be the best substitute for the wheat flour in this cornbread recipe? One of us is a strict vegetarian and the other gluten free in our household. Can be challenging!!

  37. November 19, 2012 at 7:21 pm #

    Hi Michael,
    I made this yesterday AND today..but failed!
    It was too crunchy. Maybe because I used Whole grain Cornmeal or what?
    I used “Bob’s Red Mill Coarse Grind Cornmeal Whole Grain”.
    I really want to like this recipe.
    Can anyone advise which Cornmeal would be good?

    • November 19, 2012 at 7:38 pm #

      That cornmeal should be fine; it does have a coarser texture, so if you prefer a finer texture you might want to try a different one. Other thoughts: if the crunch is from the brown butter crispies, you can just strain them out, pressing hard to get all the flavor out of them. Or you may have just overbaked it (or used too high a temp – have you used an oven thermometer lately?) and dried it out a bit?

    • November 19, 2012 at 7:39 pm #

      One more thought: if you prefer a cakier style, you can adjust the ratio of all-purpose flour to cornmeal – i.e. use 1/2 cup more flour and 1/2 cup less cornmeal. It will have less cornmeal flavor and more of a cakey texture.

  38. KerrieAnneM
    February 8, 2013 at 6:17 pm #

    I know it has been quite awhile since this recipe was first posted. But, I made this for my Dad’s birthday and it was the very best cornbread I have ever made and he loved it. I’m not sure I browned the butter to its fullest extent because I was nervous but it still turned out awesome.

  39. Lili
    September 21, 2013 at 1:24 pm #

    Just made this (it’s still in the oven!) i doubled the recipe and it’s baking in a 12” cast-iron skillet. Just a quick question about baking time — do you recommend increasing the baking time if you double the recipe? (sort of a baker novice here..)

    • September 21, 2013 at 1:27 pm #

      I’m sure it will take a bit longer, but hard to say exactly how long. If a toothpick poked in the middle comes out dry, and it is golden brown on top, you are all set!

  40. Jenn Travis
    October 6, 2013 at 8:15 am #

    I just made this as pancakes served with berries and warmed maple syrup. I used a finer ground polenta and raw sugar. So delicious!

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