One of my family’s favorite Thanksgiving traditions is debating whether we should make cornbread. If your menu includes a cornbread recipe every year, you’re probably wondering why its inclusion is up for debate. And I get it, when certain recipes are considered holiday classics, it’s hard to imagine the table without them. But for us, cornbread is always on the chopping block in favor of a pillowy soft Parker House-style roll or a biscuit. This year however, my brother’s argument for having cornbread on the table won out.
This meant that I immediately dove into research mode to find the best cornbread recipe (one that would make everyone excited about the addition). So in classic bake-off fashion, I set out to scour the internet in search of the best cornbread recipe—and put the contenders to the taste test.
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Rules of the Road for the Best Cornbread Recipe Bake-Off
As always, all recipes are followed exactly as written without any adjustments for personal taste or flavor preferences.
I had to poll some cornbread-loving friends for their official opinion on what makes good cornbread. The consensus gave us the below guidelines for testing our recipes. We chose a selection of cornbread recipes, spanning plain to sweet to jalapeño cheddar, but all were ranked in comparison to each other on the below:
- Texture. What our cornbread-lovers liked from a cornbread compared to a plain roll or biscuit was a bit of that bite and chew that gives cornbread more texture. A moist texture was also a must—no dry or crumbly cornbread here.
- Flavor. While there were variations in the recipes we tested, they had some things in common that we had to compare. Ideally, we wanted the corn’s sweetness to come through regardless of whether the recipe leaned more sweet or savory. With savory varieties, we wanted a little spice from the jalapeños and saltiness from the cheddar. From the sweeter cornbreads, we wanted a recipe that would be just as delicious on the Thanksgiving table as it would be with coffee for breakfast.
- Is this a Thanksgiving second-helping recipe? This was a make-or-break question that’s key for Thanksgiving recipes: When there are so many options on the buffet for seconds, will I be adding this to my plate?
Keep scrolling to find out which recipe passed all three tests with flying colors!
This cornbread had a medley of ideas that in theory could have put it at the top. Between cream cheese chunks, whole corn kernels, jalapeños, and a purely cornmeal-based batter, this cornbread was texturally the most interesting. However, many tasters thought it was a little too crumbly in texture because of its entirely cornmeal batter. Plus, there was a little too much going on for it to be Thanksgiving-appropriate. We’ll be saving this one for chili nights instead.
Our taste-testing team enjoyed this cornbread on its own, but compared to some of the others, it ranked lower based on texture. Flavor-wise, this cornbread is delicious. The extra step of toasting the cornmeal and the balanced portions of jalapeños and sharp cheddar gave this cornbread a tasty, savory flavor that was super toasty. I would bake this one a little less when I make it again as it leaned just slightly on the drier side.
We’re big Smitten Kitchen fans here and this cornbread got some loud accolades. So you’re probably wondering why this recipe ranked where it did. Well, when our tasters were comparing this one to more flavored varieties (i.e. those that contained jalapeños and other additions), this recipe fell in the middle. If we were comparing this recipe to other classic and plain cornbreads, it would certainly be at the top. The texture is very moist and corn-forward thanks to the addition of whole kernels in the batter. It also has a nice bite from the cornmeal. We’d for sure go back for seconds on this one.
This was one of my personal faves of the bunch. The most savory recipe of the group, this cornbread uses chopped green onions to add an extra layer of flavor that many tasters enjoyed. Others thought it was also zesty in flavor thanks to the jalapeños. Ina Garten never leads us astray, and almost everyone who loves savory cornbread said they would go back to the buffet for seconds on this one.
I know, another jalapeño cheddar cornbread recipe. But this was the BEST of the group of jalapeño-cheddar varieties. Adrianna has created a stunning recipe that everyone adored. It was savory and spicy in all the best ways, with a slightly nutty flavor, in addition to having a moist texture. Everyone was a fan and would absolutely go back for seconds on Thanksgiving. If you’re craving a cornbread recipe that melds tradition with a modern spin, include this one in your repertoire.
Consider this cornbread a permanent addition to our Thanksgiving menu. Even my skeptic-self was so obsessed with this recipe that I had to accept some humble pie. I’ll admit, if all cornbread could be like this one, then yes, I get the hype. Jessie Sheehan’s recipe leans slightly on the sweeter side of cornbread, but still fits the bill for a dinner side. It’s extra moist in texture thanks to the butter-honey glaze poured over top when it comes out of the oven. This recipe is classic cornbread, elevated and made even more delicious. Jessie, we’re joining for dinner.
Did we try your favorite cornbread recipe? Let us know in the comments.