Cornbread in a cast iron skillet is the perfect cool-weather side dish for all of your favorite hearty soups, stews, and braises. Browning the butter takes this cornbread to the next level by adding a wonderfully rich, nutty, and deeply buttery flavor to this lightly sweetened quick bread. This simple cast iron cornbread is easily my favorite cornbread recipe ever.
Cornbread is an often overlooked and underrated side dish. But, it’s hard to beat a warm, buttery slice of this lightly sweetened quick bread alongside a big bowl of chili or beef stew in the fall or winter.
Making cornbread in a cast iron skillet is arguably the best way to make homemade cornbread. Not only is it super easy and quick, but it also creates the perfect combination of crispy edges and a soft, fluffy center.
To make this cornbread recipe extra special, I browned the butter before adding it to the batter. Brown butter has a deeper, richer flavor than melted butter does, which means the finished cornbread also has a deeper, nuttier, more delicious flavor.
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What is a Cast Iron Skillet?
A cast iron skillet is a handy and versatile piece of cookware that every home cook should have in their kitchen. Made from cast iron, as the name implies, cast iron skillets are known for their durability and exceptional heat retention.
Well-seasoned cast iron skillets are virtually non-stick and can be used for searing, sautéing, pan-frying, braising, broiling, baking, roasting, and more. I often use my cast iron skillet on the grill to sauté vegetables at high heat. If you’re a fan of camping, a good cast iron skillet will be your best friend when it comes to cooking over the campfire.
One of the biggest benefits of cast iron cookware is its ability to heat up evenly and stay hot. This means it’s fantastic for achieving a beautiful sear on a piece of steak or charring peppers and onions for fajitas. In the case of cast iron skillet cornbread, the heat retention helps us get that gorgeous golden brown crust we’re looking for.
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
- Rich, Nutty Flavor- Taking the extra 5 minutes to brown the butter gives this skillet cornbread a richer, nuttier, sweeter flavor that is just perfection.
- Lightly Sweetened- Depending on where you live, cornbread is either a sweet, dessert-like quick bread or a savory, corn-forward side dish. I tend to prefer my cornbread somewhere in the middle, which is why I add just a touch of sugar to this cornbread recipe.
- Crispy Edges with Soft, Fluffy Center- Making cornbread in a preheated cast iron skillet allows us to achieve a crispy, buttery, drool-worthy crust. At the same time, the center of the cornbread stays tender, fluffy, and moist.
Here are some notes on key ingredients. For a full list of ingredients, check out the recipe card below.
- Cornmeal- Cornmeal is corn that has been dried and ground. I prefer to use stone ground cornmeal or whole grain cornmeal because it provides the best corn flavor and has a coarse texture.
- All-Purpose Flour- Flour is added to cornbread to provide structure. Without it, you’d end up with a very crumbly quick bread.
- Brown Butter- Butter that has been browned is richer and nuttier in flavor than simple melted butter. The flavor of brown butter pairs beautifully with the lightly sweet corn flavor.
- Buttermilk- Buttermilk provides moisture and flavor to this brown butter skillet cornbread. The tangy flavor of the buttermilk balances the sweetness of the corn and the richness of the butter.
- Sugar- While some cornbread enthusiasts are entirely against sugar in cornbread, I prefer a sweet cornbread that has just a little sugar added. A ¼ cup of sugar is perfect, in my opinion.
Step by Step Instructions
Here is how to make this brown butter cornbread in a cast iron skillet.
Step 1: Brown the butter. Preheat oven to 425°F and place the empty 10-inch cast iron skillet inside the oven. Melt 8 tablespoons of butter over medium heat in a small, stainless steel skillet or another light-colored skillet. Once the butter begins to foam and sizzle, stir continuously until the milk solids darken and the butter turns golden brown, about 5-7 minutes. As soon as you see the milk solids changes to a toasty brown color, remove the pan from the heat and pour the butter into a heat-proof bowl to prevent it from burning. Set the brown butter aside to cool.
Step 2: Make the cornbread batter. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a smaller mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs and buttermilk. Slowly drizzle in the cooled brown butter, whisking continuously to incorporate it. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.
Step 3: Bake the cornbread. Reduce the oven temperature to 375°F. Carefully remove the preheated cast iron skillet from the oven and coat with 1 tablespoon of butter. Pour the batter into the buttered skillet and immediately return the skillet to the oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cornbread comes out clean.
Tips for the Best Skillet Cornbread
- Preheat your cast iron skillet. A searing hot cast iron skillet is what makes skillet cornbread seriously the best ever. When the cornbread batter is poured into a hot cast iron skillet coated in melted butter, you end up with a deliciously crispy, golden brown, buttery crust.
- Measure the cornmeal and flour by weight. To ensure you don’t end up with dry cornbread, measure the flour and cornmeal in grams with a food scale. If you only have measuring cups, make sure you carefully scoop and level the dry ingredients to prevent compaction.
- Don’t over-mix the batter. Like with all quick breads, over-mixing the batter will result in a tougher, more dense bread. To prevent this, gently fold the wet and dry ingredients together until just combined.
Substitutions and Variations
Here are a few ways you can customize this cast iron skillet cornbread recipe to fit your diet and taste preferences.
- Cornmeal- For a less gritty texture, opt for corn flour instead of cornmeal. Corn grits or polenta, which are more coarse than cornmeal, can also be used.
- All-Purpose Flour- If you want an extra boost of fiber, swap the all-purpose flour for white whole wheat flour. Alternatively, use a gluten-free 1-to-1 baking flour, if needed, to make a gluten-free cornbread.
- Butter- Replace the butter with melted margarine, dairy-free butter, or bacon fat.
- Granulated Sugar- An equal amount of maple syrup, honey, or brown sugar can be used in place of granulated sugar.
- Buttermilk- Milk plus an acidic ingredient, such as vinegar or lemon juice, can be used as a buttermilk substitute. For this recipe, add 1 ½ tablespoons of vinegar or lemon juice to a liquid measuring cup. Then, fill the remainder of the cup up with milk and stir. Alternatively, use ¾ cup of plain yogurt or sour cream mixed with ¼ cup of milk.
- Eggs- Both flaxseed and chia seeds can be used as egg replacers in baking. For this recipe, combine 2 tablespoons of flaxseed or chia seed with 5 tablespoons of water. All the mixture to sit for approximately 5 minutes before using. Commercial egg replacers can also be used if preferred.
- Gluten-Free- Replace the all-purpose flour with 1-to-1 gluten-free baking flour to make a gluten-free version of this cornbread.
- Dairy-Free- Swap the butter for an equal amount of dairy-free butter or use 6 tablespoons of olive oil instead. Additionally, use unsweetened dairy-free milk with a small amount of acid to replace the buttermilk. For this recipe, you’ll need 1 ½ tablespoons of vinegar or lemon juice mixed with a scant 1 ½ cups of dairy-free milk.
- Vegan- Use the same dairy-free swaps mentioned above. Additionally, use an egg substitute, like flaxseed or chia seed, in place of the eggs.
- Reduced-Sugar- You can reduce the sugar to 2 tablespoons for a reduced-sugar cornbread. For a refined sugar-free version, opt for honey or maple syrup instead of granulated sugar.
Mix-ins and Additions
- Fresh Corn
- Fresh, Pickled, or Roasted Jalapeños
- Roasted Red Peppers
- Cheddar Cheese or Parmesan Cheese
- Crumbled Bacon or Sausage
- Scallions or Green Onions
- Toasted Pecans or Walnuts
- Orange Zest and Fresh Cranberries
What to Serve With Cornbread in a Cast Iron Skillet
Brown butter skillet cornbread is the perfect side dish for all of your favorite cool-weather recipes. Chili and cornbread are a classic pairing, but what else can you serve with this soft, lightly-sweetened side dish? Here are a few ideas to help you get creative this fall and winter.
- Dutch Oven Chili
- Homestyle Chicken Noodle Soup
- Honey Lemon Pepper Chicken Wings
- Oven Roasted Chicken
- Tequila Lime Shrimp Tacos
- BBQ Pulled Pork
- Beef Stew, Pot Roast or Other Braised Beef Recipes
- Fried Chicken
- Baked Beans
- Pork Chops and Gravy
- Vegetable Soup
Storage and Reheating
How to Store
- Room Temperature- Stored in an airtight container or wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, cornbread will keep at room temperature for about 1-3 days.
- Refrigerator- Tightly wrapped cornbread can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week.
- Freezer- For longer storage, opt to store leftover cornbread in the freezer. It is recommended to double-wrap your cornbread to prevent freezer burn. Properly stored cornbread will last 3 months or longer in the freezer.
How to Reheat
You can enjoy a leftover slice of cornbread at room temperature or heat it up and smear some butter on top. If your cornbread is frozen, I recommend allowing it to thaw in the refrigerator or at room temperature prior to reheating.
- Stovetop- One of the tastiest ways to enjoy cornbread, in my opinion, is grilled in butter on the stovetop. This results in extra crispy, buttery pieces of leftover cornbread that are out-of-this-world good. For this method, melt 1-2 tablespoons of butter in a skillet over medium-low heat. Then, grill the bread until it’s crispy and golden brown on both sides.
- Oven- Place leftover cornbread on a baking sheet or in an oven-safe dish and cover with aluminum foil. Reheat in a 350°F oven for 10-15 minutes.
- Microwave- For a convenient reheating option, simply pop a slice of cornbread in the microwave and heat on high for 15-30 seconds. To help the cornbread retain moisture while reheating, drape a damp paper towel over it.
Frequently Asked Questions
Cornbread in a cast iron skillet is one of the best ways to make cornbread. Using a cast iron skillet to make cornbread allows you to achieve a crispy, buttery crust and a soft, tender center.
Certainly. If you don’t have a cast iron skillet, try using a pie plate, casserole dish, or even a muffin tin instead. Keep in mind, however, that the cooking time may change if using a different piece of cookware.
Yes! Not only does preheating the cast iron skillet create a beautiful golden brown crust on the cornbread, but it also prevents the cornbread from sticking to the pan.
While you technically can brown butter in a cast iron skillet, I don’t recommend it. Cast iron skillets are dark in color, making it hard to see the subtle and quick change in the color of the butter. I recommend using a stainless steel skillet or another lightly-colored skillet to brown the butter.
More Side Dish Recipes
- Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese
- Garlic Mashed Potatoes
- Herbed Potato Salad
- Crispy Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Cornbread in a Cast Iron Skillet
- 10-inch cast iron skillet
- Stainless steel skillet
- 8 + 1 tablespoons unsalted butter divided
- 1 ¼ cups (150 grams) cornmeal
- ¾ cup (90 grams) all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 ½ cups buttermilk
- 2 large eggs
- Preheat oven to 425°F and place the empty cast iron skillet inside the oven. Melt 8 tablespoons of butter over medium heat in a small, stainless steel skillet or another light-colored skillet. Once the butter begins to foam and sizzle, stir continuously until the milk solids darken and the butter turns golden brown, about 5-7 minutes. As soon as you see the milk solids changes to a toasty brown color, remove the pan from the heat and pour the butter into a heat-proof bowl to prevent it from burning. Set the brown butter aside to cool.8 + 1 tablespoons unsalted butter
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a smaller mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs and buttermilk. Slowly drizzle in the cooled brown butter, whisking continuously to incorporate it. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.1 ¼ cups (150 grams) cornmeal, ¾ cup (90 grams) all-purpose flour, ¼ cup granulated sugar, 2 teaspoons baking powder, ½ teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 1 ½ cups buttermilk, 2 large eggs
- Reduce the oven temperature to 375°F. Carefully remove the preheated cast iron skillet from the oven and coat with 1 tablespoon of butter. Pour the batter into the buttered skillet and immediately return the skillet to the oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cornbread comes out clean.8 + 1 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Store leftover cornbread in an airtight container or plastic wrap for 1-3 days at room temperature, for up to 1 week in the refrigerator, or for up to 3 months in the freezer.