Recipe for Southern Cornbread Muffins

A kitchen without a good recipe for Southern cornbread muffins just isn’t complete if that kitchen happens to be below the Mason-Dixon Line. Southern cooks will show you yellow, dog-eared handwritten recipes passed down from one generation to another. Or, perhaps they don’t need a written cornbread muffin recipe at all. They’ve put it together so many times it’s now in permanent memory.

In tight economic times, cornbread muffins are inexpensive and quick. Occasionally, the Southern cook will cheat a little and use a mix, but most of the time the muffins are from scratch. The mix of choice when cutting corners? Jiffy cornbread muffins, of course, since there’s always a box in the pantry. But whether from scratch or a mix, served hot from the oven with real butter and sometimes honey, these muffins go with the black-eyed peas, pork barbecue, sweet potatoes and fried okra that are staples on the Southern table. Here’s an easy recipe for Southern cornbread muffins:

  • shortening
  • 1 cup yellow or white cornmeal
  • 1 tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • ¼ tsp. baking soda
  • 1 ½ tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 cup cold buttermilk
  • 1 large egg

Preheat the oven to 450 F. Grease a six cup muffin tin or use paper or foil liners. (If you have a cast iron muffin pan that’s been handed down and seasoned by many cooks, you’re in luck. These will be the best cornbread muffins ever.) Mix the cornmeal, flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt, and make a well in the center of the mixture. Add one slightly beaten egg to the cup of buttermilk, and then add this mixture to the dry ingredients. Stir only until combined; for the best cornbread muffins, don’t over mix. Let the mixture rest about five minutes, because this will give the muffins a higher crown. Spoon into the muffin tins.  Bake at 450 F for about 20 minutes or until the muffins are golden. Remove from oven. Let cool about five minutes, and then serve.

Southerners don’t mind changing things a bit when it comes to their favorite cornbread. To spice up your muffins, add some diced chili peppers, onions and green peppers. This gives the muffins a kick and goes well with vegetables that may be a bit bland. You can also add corn to the cornbread mixture. Just use about ½ cup of canned or frozen whole kernel corn. Try mixing in cheddar cheese. You can even make the muffins a breakfast entrée by stirring in crumbled bacon or bits of ham.

Years ago, cornbread muffins were made in a cast iron corn stick pan. You can still find these pans today, and they will give your muffins an unusual flare. The “sticks” look like small ears of yellow corn. They’re a bit crunchier than muffins, but just as good.

Your muffins will probably go fast, but if you have any left over, just crumble them and pop them in the freezer. Keep adding to this stash, and when you have about three cups, you can make cornbread dressing. It doesn’t need to be Thanksgiving to have cornbread dressing on the table. Add a cup of cooked and chopped chicken breast, a can of cream of anything soup and some chicken broth to the crumbled cornbread. Cook in a 350 F oven for about 30 minutes, and you have a delicious main dish.


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