Food & Nutrition
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Tennessee Cornbread Recipe: A Healthier Spin on a Southern Staple

cornbread in cast iron

Cornbread is a southern favorite and also the state bread of Tennessee. While it’s not unusual for a cornbread recipe to taste more like cake than bread, it doesn’t have to be high in calories, sugar or fat.

Try lightening up your next baking adventure with this healthier take on a southern classic — we think you and your guests will approve.

The Southern Cornbread Tradition

“Cornbread is the heart, soul and community bread for breaking in the South,” notes Kristina McLean, author of the Tennessee Locavore blog. “We’re as passionate about it as we are about religion and football.”

While McLean goes on to say that family cornbread recipes are often guarded like heirlooms, she does enjoy experimenting.

A New Cornbread

McLean has lightened up her cornbread recipe with some tangy buttermilk, vegetable oil and stone ground yellow cornmeal (augmented by white flour to give it a fluffier texture). Buttermilk is a great source of calcium, protein and riboflavin — which is used to activate enzymes in your cells, helping to drive energy production.

Tricks of the Trade

McLean also suggests a hot oven — set at 375 degrees Fahrenheit — to give you the crisp crust that’s the hallmark of any good southern cornbread.

Also, try using freshly ground cornmeal to reduce the need for additional sugar. If you’re stuck with bagged cornmeal, consider swapping out refined white sugar for honey. You may find you need less than you think, as Americans tend to consume more sugar than we need.

She also advises not to over-mix the ingredients in your batter. Just mix it long enough until the large pockets of dry flour are combined with the batter. Having small lumps in your batter is okay, as excessive stirring can make your cornbread tougher than you’d like.

Bake in a hot, butter-brushed skillet and enjoy warm with a drizzle of local, wildflower honey or a good bowl of your favorite chili.

Mary Luz Mejia

Mary Luz Mejia

Mary Luz Mejia is a NATJA nominated freelance food/travel journalist, Gemini-nominated former food TV producer and food communications professional. When not on the road, you’ll find her testing and developing recipes or in front of her laptop. You can read some of her work here and follow her culinary escapades @MaryLuzOnFood.

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Mary Luz Mejia

Mary Luz Mejia is a NATJA nominated freelance food/travel journalist, Gemini-nominated former food TV producer and food communications professional. When not on the road, you’ll find her testing and developing recipes or in front of her laptop. You can read some of her work here and follow her culinary escapades @MaryLuzOnFood.

1 Comment

  1. Donald Shull says

    What on earth! This is Yankee cornbread! As is said in Dinner in the Diner recipes from the L&N passenger railroad, ” No sugar and no wheat products go into our cornbread.” White corn meal. If you want to use butter instead of bacon grease, it’s surely no healthier, but go ahead. You are correct: if you heat the seasoned cast iron skillet right, you need hardly any fat. Buttermilk? Sure a traditional alternative.

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