Granny Leona’s Cornbread

Cast Iron Cornbread - A great classic savory cornbread, based on an old family recipe, that's cooked in a cast iron skillet. This cornbread is delicious!


Granny Leona’s Cornbread

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I do not have a granny named Leona, but I do have a very good friend who has a granny named Leona.

Last weekend I was at a wedding with said friend (Hi Daniel and Lauren!) and he was talking about a delicious cornbread recipe. My ears perked up and I asked him if he would be willing to part with the family recipe.

I think he had to call Granny Leona and get it officially released, but eventually he emailed it to me and I’m very happy he did.

This Cast Iron Cornbread bread is savory and rich. It has ZERO sugar in it which is pretty rare for a cornbread recipe.

That doesn’t mean that it isn’t delicious drizzled with honey though.

Granny Leona's Cast Iron Cornbread

Serves 8-10
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A great classic savory cornbread, based on an old family recipe, that’s cooked in a cast iron skillet. This cornbread is delicious!


3 cups cornmeal, fine works best
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup wheat germ (opt.)
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
2 1/4 cups buttermilk, might need a bit more
1/4 cup olive oil


1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. Stir together well. Whisk together buttermilk and eggs in a smaller bowl.

2) Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Stir together.

3) In a large cast iron skillet, heat oil until almost smoking. Pour oil into cornbread batter and stir together.

4) If batter is really stiff, add a bit more buttermilk until it is like a thick pancake batter. Pour batter into oiled and hot cast iron skillet.

5) Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes.

6) Let cool for a minute, cut, and serve!

Cast Iron Cornbread

The Wet and the Dry

Reading is a skill that I thought I had down. After all, I went to college and majored in philosophy. That requires some serious critical reading skills.

That said, I frequently read recipes incorrectly.

For example, in this cornbread recipe, which is a family tradition, I used wheat bran instead of wheat germ.

Granny Leona, I apologize!

I didn’t even notice until I re-read the recipe later.

The good news is that the wheat germ in the recipe is optional and it turns out that wheat bran was also delicious in it. I have no doubt that the original is probably better but my version turned out just fine so no harm done!

dry stuff - Cast Iron Cornbread
Not wheat germ!

I always think it is a good idea to mix the dry and wet ingredients separately just to make sure they are mixed really well.

So stir together the dry stuff and then whisk together the buttermilk and eggs.

wet stuff - Cast Iron Cornbread
Just the basics.

Then you can pour the wet into the dry mixture and stir them together.

The original recipe said that you might need up to 2.5 cups of buttermilk. I used 2 1/4 cups and found that to be pretty good. Don’t be afraid to use a bit more though if your cornbread batter is very dry after mixing.

mixing the Cast Iron Cornbread
Mix it up!

What about the Oil?

There is 1/4 cup of oil in the recipe, but don’t mix it in with your wet ingredients.

Instead, pour it into your cast iron skillet. I think you could bake this in a baking dish, but you won’t get a really good crust on it that way. The crispy crust is my favorite part and I imagine it is Granny Leona’s favorite part as well.

So pour your oil into the skillet and heat it on high heat over the stove until it’s really hot and almost smoking.

Swirl it around to cover the bottom and sides of the pan.

It’s hard to see but that oil is hot!

heating oil - Cast Iron Cornbread
Hot stuff.

Then pour the hot oil into the batter.

This kind of sounds like a crazy step, but it totally works. Just stir it right in there!

oil - Cast Iron Cornbread
This surprisingly works.

Then pour your batter back into the cast iron skillet which will still have a good amount of oil in it.

This works great because the oil basically fries the bread as it bakes and creates a really wonderful crust on the outside of the bread.

batter in the pan - Cast Iron Cornbread
In the pan!

Baking and Serving

Bake the Cast Iron Cornbread at 400 degrees for 25 minutes. Make sure you preheat your oven since it’s really important to retain the heat in the pan from the stovetop. Putting the pan in a cold oven would be a big no-no.

After 25 minutes you’ll have a really wonderful bread.

Baked Cast Iron Cornbread
After some oven time.

Serving options are plentiful.

If you like it sweeter, drizzle a piece of the bread with a bit of honey.

Cast Iron Cornbread recipe - Macheesmo
The honey drizzle.

If you like it savory, spread some butter on it and serve it with almost any soup you can imagine.

On this specific day, I did something I rarely do which is cook a frozen soup. A few months ago, a company I had never heard of called Kettle Cuisine sent me a bunch of frozen soups and I stuck them in my freezer and promptly forgot about them.

Over the last month or two though, I have tried almost all of their flavors and they are good. My favorite thing about them though is that the soups have zero preservatives or additives. They are just water or stock, vegetables, and spices. The ingredient list looks the exact same as if I were to make the soup from scratch.

I get a lot of food for free and rarely mention stuff in posts, but I liked this soup quite a bit. Not as good as homemade, no doubt, but still good in a pinch.

savory soup with Cast Iron Cornbread
Or a savory version…

Savory or sweet, this Cast Iron Cornbread is a basic cornbread recipe that clearly has held up to the test of time.

Thanks Granny Leona for the delicious recipe!

11 Responses to “Granny Leona’s Cornbread” Leave a comment

  1. It’s good that you do not put sugar in this cornbread. I have been to a number of cafes and restaurants where the cornbread has more in common with frosted cake that cornbread that’s good with, say, chili or soup.

  2. Thanks for publishing this recipe; I’ve never heard of pouring the oil back into the mix, but I will have to try it. Generally when I make cornbread, I heat up the oil (but I don’t use as much – maybe 1 tbsp) on the stove top and pour the batter into the skillet and let it cook for about 5 minutes on medium heat. This method will also get you a nice crunchy crust as it essentially fries the bottom and sides of the bread.

    Anyway, love your site (that no-knead bread recipe changed my culinary life)!

    I’ve got two (almost three) degrees in philosophy under my belt and I also misread recipes.

  3. First off – love the site. Second, traditional (at least from my neck of the South) cornbread NEVER has sugar in it – is is a savory side bread so this recipe looks just like my Great-Grandmother’s. Finally, you have helped me make more vegetarian dinners than I ever thought possible, (and my husband said my cooking has never been better!) Thanks for all the help :-)

  4. This sounds so good! I’m not a big fan of the SWEET cornbread that is so popular in my neck of the woods. Can hardly wait to try it with a big bowl of soup. YUM

  5. I will definitely have to try this; my cornbread recipe is almost identical to this one except for it has sugar, but I’d love to get something equally good that doesn’t use it.

  6. Yep — just like my Alabama mother in law used to make, hot oil poured into the batter and all. Down there, sugar in cornbread is an abomination. Though that’s not the word she would have used; she was more colorful than that. ;-)

  7. We don’t use sugar in it in the south; but if you like it sweet try stirring a little of that honey before you cook it. And since you like that crust, just before you add the batter to the skillet, sprinkle a big pinch of corn meal to the hot oil first.

  8. We saw Granny this past weekend showed her the post! She gave a big thumbs! Thanks for the shout out. :-)

  9. I know it isn’t as healthy . . . but it’s oh so good . . . . basically the exact same recipe as here, but instead of olive oil use bacon grease!!! I’ve done it both ways – pour the bascon grease into the cornbread batter and also just poured the batter on top of the smokin’ hot bacon grease . . . .both are great. I think pouring the batter on the bacon grease creates more of a crunchy crust on the cornbread. NO SUGAR!!!

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