Moist and Tender Brown Butter Cornbread Recipe

Moist and tender cornbread with lots of corn flavor.

Brown butter cornbread in a cast iron skillet.
Nutty brown butter gives this cornbread flavor. J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

Why It Works

  • Brown butter gives the cornbread a sweet, nutty flavor.
  • Baking cornbread in the same skillet used to brown the butter creates a crisp crust and a moist interior, and saves a pan.

I'm gonna come right out and tell you I'm a fan of Northern-style cornbread. Yankee cornbread. You know, the lightly sweetened, moist, tender, golden stuff that nearly everybody who knows cornbread thinks of when you say "cornbread?" If you're one of those Southern holdouts that thinks cornbread should be thin, sugar-free, and crunchy to a fault, you're welcome to go crunch on your bread in the corner over there for the remainder of this post, because we're all about the sweet stuff here.*

*I kid. I love that stuff too. But I just can't help trying to get a rise out of some of you cornbread hard-liners!

Whether you're serving it with chili or simply with a smear of butter and a drizzle of honey, good cornbread with a moist, tender crumb and and intense corn flavor is one of life's greatest pleasures. So how do you take one of life's greatest pleasures and make it even more, well, pleasurable? Simple: Add browned butter.

This cornbread recipe is nothing you haven't seen before if you're a regular on the site. The base is almost identical to the outstanding Sweet and Moist Northern Style Cornbread that Josh Bousel  developed, with a few small exceptions—some tricks I learned while working on my recipe for tamale pie.

A glass Pyrex measuring cup with browned butter.

Start by making browned butter. While Nila Jones recommends making it in a light colored pot on the stovetop (light pots make it easier to gauge color changes), in this case, since we're going to need to preheat a cast iron skillet in the oven anyway. I throw my butter (all 7 tablespoons of it) directly into the skillet and put the whole thing in the oven to melt and brown while I measure out my wet and dry ingredients.

The dry stuff is a basic mix of equal parts yellow cornmeal and flour (the wheat flour helps give it that light, moist texture while the corn gives it flavor), baking powder, baking soda, salt, and a touch of sugar—I use about half of what Josh uses, so the brown butter flavor stands out.

The wet ingredients are eggs, buttermilk, sour cream (it gives a more intense tang than plain buttermilk), and that browned butter.

Adding wet ingredients to dry ingredients for browned butter cornbread.

Once it's all whisked together, pour directly into the hot cast iron skillet coated with the remnants of the browned butter. Return it to the oven until cooked through and browned, 20 to 25 minutes. It comes out with a supremely crisp crust from the close contact with the cast iron, a nice burnished top, and a moist, rich, and intensely aromatic crumb that has a distinct nuttiness from the browned butter.

This isn't the easiest cornbread you'll ever make, but it isn't difficult and I'll be damned if it isn't tasty as heck. This is the kind of cornbread that haunts your dreams. If you're the type to dream of chili, that is.

Recipe Facts

4.5

(17)

Active: 15 mins
Total: 45 mins
Serves: 6 to 8 servings

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Ingredients

  • 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for serving

  • 1 cup (about 5 ounces) fine yellow cornmeal

  • 1 cup (about 5 ounces) all-purpose flour

  • 4 tablespoons sugar

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

  • 2 eggs

  • 6 ounces (about 3/4 cup) sour cream

  • 4 ounces (about 1/2 cup) cultured buttermilk

  • Honey, for serving

Directions

  1. Adjust oven rack to center position and preheat oven to 425°F. Place butter in a 10-inch cast iron skillet. Transfer skillet to oven and heat until butter is melted and well browned, 10 to 20 minutes (you can measure your wet and dry ingredients while waiting). Pour browned butter into a heatproof cup or bowl, leaving about 1 tablespoon remaining in skillet.

  2. Combine cornmeal, flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a large bowl. Add eggs, sour cream, and buttermilk to a second bowl and whisk together. Whisking constantly, slowly drizzle in reserved browned butter. Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients until just combined.

  3. Swirl the hot skillet to coat all surfaces with melted butter. Spoon batter into skillet, smooth top lightly, then return to oven. Bake until light golden brown on top and a wooden skewer inserted into cornbread comes out with no crumbs, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes, then serve with extra butter and honey at the table. Leftover cornbread can be stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Special equipment

10-inch cast iron skillet