Meet an easy homemade cornbread that delivers a big flavor. It's cheesy, spicy, it has fresh corn, and can be made ahead and frozen. No beating is required, it comes together in 15 minutes and bakes to a golden, wonderfully textured top.
Originally posted in November 2012, this post has been updated with text and images to serve you better. The recipe remains the same.
There are many good reasons to make this jalapeño cheddar cornbread often. Moist, tender, full of corn kernels, with a bit of a kick from the peppers, and overall interesting flavor and crumb.
About this bread
- Easy to make: what makes this recipe so simple to put together is that you only need a large bowl and a spatula or whisk. No electric beater or stand mixer. It's very similar to these cornbread muffins.
- Adjust to your palate: make it as spicy as you want, choose another cheese if you don't have cheddar, or make a more sweet cornbread by adding some honey or maple syrup.
- Make ahead: though it qualifies as a last-minute Thanksgiving recipe that can be added to your menu, you can make it the day before and keep it refrigerated, or several weeks before and keep it frozen.
This cornbread recipe has all the ingredients we love: fresh corn kernels, polenta, jalapeños, and cheese.
- Corn: I use frozen corn because it's available year-round, but fresh corn can be used and even better if it's grilled or roasted.
- Cornmeal: or polenta, it gives a wonderful texture and is easy to buy. I even use it in cakes.
- Cheese: my favorites are white cheddar and fontina. Look for a semi-hard cheese that is sharp in flavor.
- Jalapeños: I like fresh peppers, but canned work just as well. I even used canned jalapeños in adobo once (a small amount as they are super spicy) and the cornbread was amazing.
- Sugar: white, granulated.
- Unsalted butter.
- Milk. Whole milk is better, but reduced in fat can also work.
- Eggs. Large, fresh.
- All purpose flour.
- Baking powder: make sure it's not expired.
- Salt and black pepper.
Cornmeal or polenta?
Cornmeal is a wonderful ingredient, so unique in color and texture (image above, center). It is ground maize, and it comes in different consistencies, finer (cornflour the most common one) to coarser.
Polenta is an Italian dish made with cornmeal, but in Spanish polenta is synonymous with cornmeal. So, many recipes calling for polenta refer to cornmeal, such as the Lemon Blueberry Polenta Cake, one of my favorites.
- Red peppers: I like to use red (as opposed to yellow or green) because I find they have a deeper flavor. But you can use your favorite.
- Jalapeños: I like to use the fresh red jalapeños. But again, use whatever color you like or find (image above). Remove seeds for a milder bread, or use them for a spicier one.
The corn and pepper mixture: begin by cooking the chopped onion, red pepper, and jalapeños in some butter. When they are softened, 3-4 minutes on medium heat, add the corn kernels and cook for a minute or two more (images 1 and 2). Transfer to a medium bowl and reserve.
Cornmeal and butter mixture: stir the flour mixture (flour, baking powder, salt, and pepper), the cornmeal or polenta, and sugar in a large bowl. The diced, cold butter is then scattered on top (image 3).
With your hands or a pastry cutter, start working the butter into the dry ingredients until it's incorporated. The mixture will be fine-grained (image 4), not lumpy as a crumble.
Binding cream: in a separate bowl, you have to stir the wet ingredients - milk and eggs - with the seasonings. Simply combine them well but don't beat, we don't want to incorporate air.
Final mixture: you'll have four different components: the cornmeal mixture, the binding cream, the chopped cheddar cheese, and the corn/pepper/onion mix (image below).
Simply add the cream to the cornmeal all at once and mix lightly with a spatula, fork, or wooden spoon. Dry spots will remain. Add diced or grated cheese and corn mixture (image 5). Mix until combined but do not beat or over mix (image 6). It's similar to a muffin.
- Preparing the pan: you have to butter it. I also line it with parchment paper so that it's easier to lift from the pan and remove it once it's baked. You take a piece of parchment paper (aluminum foil also works) wide as the longer side of the pan and line bottom and the two long sides with an overhang (image below).
- You can reserve some of the cheese and scatter it on top. I like to mix it all in the batter. Transfer cornbread mixture to the prepared pan. Smooth the top and it's ready to be baked!
- Oven: make sure the oven is preheated and at a medium/high temperature.
- When it's done it will be puffed and gloriously golden like the image below. Parts of the top will be cracked and some cheese might be bubbling here and there.
Frequently asked questions
It's a soft bread with lots of texture and flavor so it's perfect for soups, stews, grilled meat, and for the Thanksgiving table, of course.
Yes, you can! And it's a great way of baking it ahead. Wrap it well in plastic wrap and then in aluminum foil or an airtight bag. It lasts for a month.
Not for this recipe. You can use it directly and you will have a moist cornbread when you bite into it. But if you want a softer, less gritty crumb, you can soak it in the buttermilk for an hour or two. Then proceed with the recipe by adding the rest of the ingredients to the cornmeal mixture.
It keeps at room temperature for a day or two, wrapped. Then keep it in the fridge for 4-5 days or freeze it for a month. Always well wrapped or in a freezer bag so it doesn't dry out. I recommend warming it in the oven before eating.
- This is a great bread to eat warm while the cheese is still melty, so you might even consider using a pretty ceramic baking dish that goes straight to the table and serve it from there.
- Warm with a dollop of sour cream and chopped green onions is one of our favorite ways, especially when eating it with soup or a bowl of chili.
- Add a drizzle of honey or maple syrup before serving for a mix of sweet and spicy.
This is more of a please everyone kind of cornbread, with a spicy aftertaste. The kind that it's easily adaptable no matter what type of food you serve.
- Milk: you can use coconut or almond milk for a dairy-free cornbread.
- Sweetener: if you need a sugar-free bread (apt for diabetics for example) simply omit it and use some sweetener if you like an even more pronounced sweet and salty flavor, or add a few more tablespoons of polenta and check the seasonings. The lack of sugar might make the cornbread need a bit more salt.
- Spiciness: if you don't want to use fresh jalapeños, you can substitute them with the powdered version or use chili powder or Merken (smoked paprika from Chile). Or omit them all if you don't like spicy.
- Cheese: I think a sharp cheddar cheese is the best for this recipe, but you can use gruyere, fontina, even parmesan or reggianito. They all work well. And, you can also add part cheddar and part mozzarella, swiss or some other melty cheese that will create soft pools of gooey cheese as the cornbread bakes.
- Muffins: you can make this recipe in muffin form. It will probably yield approximately 24 regular muffins.
- Pan: if you have to serve many I think a rectangular pan is better but I have made this cornbread in a 9-inch (24cm.) round cake pan for many years. Or make individual loaf mini cakes, one for each person.
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- 2 tablespoons + 7 tablespoons unsalted butter (chilled and diced)
- 1 cup chopped onion (1 small-medium)
- 1 cup corn kernels
- ½ cup red pepper (seeded, deveined, and finely chopped)
- 2 tablespoons jalapenos (seeded and finely chopped)
- 1 ¾ cups yellow cornmeal
- 1 ¼ cups all purpose flour
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- Freshly ground pepper
- 1 ½ cups buttermilk or whole milk
- 3 large eggs
- 1 ½ cups grated white or yellow cheddar cheese, packed (don't use the orange slices for cheeseburgers)
- Preheat oven to 400ºF /200ºC
- Butter a round or square 9-inch springform pan, a rectangular 8x11-inch pan or ceramic baking dish.
- In a skillet over medium heat melt the 2 tablespoons of butter.
- Add the chopped onion and red pepper and cook for a few minutes until softened and a little browned.
- Add the corn kernels and minced jalapeños and cook for 1 more minute. Remove from heat and reserve.
- In a large mixing bowl stir together cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and soda, salt, and pepper.
- Add the cold butter in pieces and rub with your palms until the mixture resembles coarse sand. Or use a pastry cutter.
- In a medium bowl mix the buttermilk and eggs but don't beat them much.
- Add all at once to the dry mixture and mix just to combine.
- Add the grated cheese and sauteed vegetables and mix well. Alternatively, add 1 cup of grated cheddar and leave the ½ cup to sprinkle on top.
- Pour into the prepared pan and bake 30 to 40 minutes, until golden and a tester or toothpick comes out clean.
- Let cool on a wire rack.
- Store leftovers covered for a day at room temperature, or wrapped in the refrigerator for 4 days or frozen for a month.
Half recipe: you can make a smaller bread by halving this recipe, using 2 small eggs and an 8-inch pan.
Milk: you can use coconut or almond milk for a dairy-free cornbread.
Sweetener: if you need a sugar-free bread (apt for diabetics for example) simply omit it and use some sweetener if you like an even more pronounced sweet and salty flavor, or add a few more tablespoons of polenta and check the seasonings. The lack of sugar might make the cornbread need a bit more salt.
Spiciness: if you don't want to use fresh jalapeños, you can substitute them with the powdered version or use chili powder or Merken (smoked paprika from Chile). Or omit them all if you don't like spicy.
Muffins: you can make this recipe in muffin form. It will probably yield approximately 24 regular muffins.
Pan: if you have to serve many I think a rectangular pan is better but I have made this cornbread in a 9-inch (24cm.) round cake pan for many years. Or make individual loaf mini cakes, one for each person.
Corn: I use frozen corn because it's available year-round, but fresh corn can be used and even better if it's grilled or roasted.
Cheese: my favorites are white cheddar and fontina. Look for a semi-hard cheese that is sharp in flavor.
Jalapeños: I like fresh peppers, but canned work just as well. I even used jalapeños in adobo once (a very small amount as they are very spicy) and the cornbread was amazing.
- Prep Time: 20
- Cook Time: 40
- Category: Side dishes
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: American
- Serving Size: 1/12
- Calories: 335
- Sugar: 7.5 g
- Sodium: 777.3 mg
- Fat: 17 g
- Carbohydrates: 35.9 g
- Protein: 10.1 g
- Cholesterol: 89.1 mg
Keywords: jalapeño cheddar cornbread
Adapted from Bon Appetit