Learning My Mama’s Cornbread Recipe

Growing up, my mom cooked dinner every night, while I admired her techniques from the dining room table. Now that I’m an adult, burdened with cooking my own food, I try to recreate some of those comforting meals from my childhood. I’ve been able to produce some of those meals with ease, but cornbread has been the hardest to replicate.

My mom’s cornbread is buttery and salty, with a perfectly moist crumb. Every attempt I made to recreate it yielded something dense, flavorless, and hugely disappointing. So I was desparate to know how she made hers.

There are hundreds of great cornbread recipes on the web. But, only my mama’s cornbread recipe could satisfy my need. So instead of consulting my favorite food bloggers, I called up my mom. I pryed for the recipe but only received the vague measurements she’s been using for years:

“Just use some cornmeal”

“Add a little bit of buttermilk”

The next time I visited my mom, I begged her to whip up a batch of cornbread so I could measure out the ingredients and document the recipe. We had a fun mother-daughter time baking this cornbread together and we learned that my mom’s definition of “one tablespoon” is actually 1/4 cup (equal to FOUR TABLESPOONS.)

The key ingredient

Self-rising corn meal is the key ingredient in my mom’s cornbread.

The main thing I was missing in my attempts to bake this cornbread was self-rising cornmeal. Some recipes call for cornmeal, flour, and baking powder individually. But my mom always uses self-rising cornmeal, which already contains those key ingredients. Needless to say, when I used plain cornmeal with no leavening agents…it did not go well.

The recipe that I documented is still sparse, needing a lot of judgment. So no, it’s not the easiest or most traditional cornbread recipe on the web. But it is the first of my mother’s recipes that I learned to make. And it is darn good!


1 1/2 cups Self-rising cornmeal
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup mayonaise (or sour cream)
1 egg
handy chef cornbread southern the best
Cornbread going into the oven.


  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Mix the cornmeal and egg together in a large bowl. Then add the mayo and buttermilk.
  3. Add a sprinkle of sugar.
  4. Mix until combined.
  5. To adjust the thickness of the batter: Add warm water one teablespoon at a time until the batter has the consistency of pancake/waffle batter. For thicker cornbread, go ahead and add less water.
  6. Pour into an oiled cast iron skillet and bake for 12-15 minutes.
  7. For the final minutes of baking, switch the oven to BROIL to brown the top of the cornbread.
  8. Remove from oven and top with butter.
handy chef lex henry cornbread
Just like my mama’s!

Have you learned any of your parents’ special recipes?

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