This moist and fluffy skillet cornbread is made with instant polenta, and topped with jalapenos, cheddar and cotija cheese. It’s softer and quite different from traditional Southern cornbread but delicious nonetheless!
Note: This is NOT a super “flaky” cornbread like you might get from using a boxed mix or by using dry polenta. If you prefer that version, just look at recipe notes for cornmeal measurements!
The post contains helpful tips and tricks to make sure you’re successful in your first attempt. But if you’re in a rush, please use the link above to jump to the recipe card at the end!
I had a bunch of pre-cooked polenta (you know the type that comes as a log) in my house. Fast forward a week, I found that Ottolenghi has a cornbread recipe using polenta. His recipe didn’t seem like he used the kind of polenta I had, but I was inspired. I tweaked the recipe, and gave it a shot. The result was amazing. Fluffy, moist interior + crisp exterior. We’re in business, folks!
📋 Ingredients & variations
This recipe uses instant polenta as the base. I typically tend to use the pre-cooked version, which results in a softer consistency, but this works just as well with dry cornmeal (see recipe notes for weight substitutions). I top my cornbread with jalapenos, cheddar, and cotija cheese – but you can also add corn kernels, and red onions!
My cornbread is ovo-lacto vegetarian (it uses eggs and Greek yogurt). It also has regular flour in it, so it’s not gluten free. Here are some substitutions:
- Gluten free: use ¾ cup of cornmeal and ¼ cup of rice flour instead of all purpose flour; I’ve found rice flour helps make it more crumbly. The texture is not exactly the same, but it’s still darn delicious!
- Vegan: use 1.5 cups of soy milk +2 tsp of lemon juice instead of Greek yogurt or use vegan yogurt (the key is to make sure the batter is soft and fluid, so that the end result is moist and fluffy). Other non-dairy milk works, but soy is probably your best option. For eggs, just use a “flax” egg (1 tbsp of flax meal + 2.5 tbsp of water, rest for 15 minutes per flax egg – so you’ll need 2 tbsp of flax meal and 5 tbsp of water)
Here’s the best part – the recipe I’ve outlined above is perfect for making muffins! Prepare the batter exactly as described and then instead of dumping it in a skillet, fill a muffin tray about ⅔ of the way to make cornbread muffins instead. This batter should be perfect for 12 muffins.
🥘 How do you make moist & fluffy cornbread from scratch?
My recipe uses instant pre-cooked polenta (i.e. the log) instead of cornmeal or dry polenta. This was a game changer! I was inspired by Ottolenghi’s cornbread recipe in his book, “Simple” with cheddar, feta and jalapeno. I’ve found that using this, along with Greek yogurt makes the end result super flaky on top, but also fluffy and moist on the inside.
First, you mix all the dry ingredients together (i.e. all purpose flour, baking powder and soda, garlic powder and onion salt).
Then you mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients (i.e. finely chopped pre-cooked polenta, oil, eggs, and Greek yogurt). Then you fold in the scallions, jalapenos, and cheddar cheese. That’s the batter.
While all this is happening, your cast iron skillet is warming in the oven. So when you pour the batter in, the bottom will really crisp and get crumbly since it’ll cook faster. So, pour that batter in, and then top with remaining cheddar cheese, jalapenos, and cotija cheese, and pop back into the oven. In about 40 minutes, your cornbread is ready to go.
⚙️Why does my cornbread stick to my cast iron skillet?
It’s likely because the pan is not hot enough and the cornbread batter is wet and sticks to the bottom of the pan before it can cook. You can avoid this by doing two things: when you preheat the oven, pop cast iron skillet in there.
Then, before you add the batter into the skillet, smear 1 tbsp of vegetable oil on the skillet and evenly coat it. Be careful to use an oven mitt when you pull your cast iron skillet out!
⚙️Why has it cracked on top?
This typically happens because your oven is too hot. So, the crust will cook faster than the inside, but as the insides cook, they push the crust out, hence making it crack. Most ovens are slightly different from the temperature they display – this is not a deal breaker, so don’t worry too much about it.
⏲️ Storage, freezing & reheating
I highly recommend that you eat this cornbread the day it’s made, or the day after it’s made. Just cover with beeswax wrap and leave it at room temperature to store, and pop into the oven at 350F for 5 minutes to reheat (ideally still in the skillet).
You can also freeze the cornbread for a month. Make sure that you transfer to an airtight container, cool down and then pop in the freezer. When you want to eat it, thaw first for about 30 minutes then pop into the oven at 350 for 10 minutes. Top off with some extra cheese for some extra deliciousness.
🍴 Serving suggestions
The skillet cornbread is great to be had by itself or with some fresh avocados on top. It also goes great with any type of chili, stew or rich, hearty vegetable or meat dishes. The cornbread muffins, I’ve found to be perfect for a savory breakfast when you want something without refined sugar, and still delicious!
Did you love this brunch recipe? If so, check out these other delicious brunch ideas – like a delicious Moroccan shakshuka with perfect, runny yolks; these yummy pistachio muffins that can be glazed with matcha for a sweet option; or go a bit off-the-beaten path with crispy kimchi panckes!
Love this recipe? Check out some of these other recipes:
Dry ingredients to mix together first:
- 2 cups all purpose flour see post for gluten-free option
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 2 tsp onion salt
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp salt
Wet ingredients to add to dry ingredients:
- 2 large eggs
- 1/4 package of instant polenta slice into small cubes, as small as you can get
- 1 cup plain Greek yogurt see post for vegan substitution
- 1/2 cup oil olive oil or vegetable oil both work fine!
- 4 – 6 scallions ends cut off and chopped into small pieces
- 1 jalapeno chopped into small pieces (omit if too spicy)
- 1 tbsp cheddar cheese shredded or grated fresh
For the toppings:
- 2 jalapenos sliced into small rounds (adjust to spice tolerance)
- 1 cup cheddar cheese shredded or grated fresh
- 1 cup cotija cheese crumbled, can substitute with feta!
- 1 tsp fresh lemon juice The secret ingredient!
- Chop up scallions and jalapeno (1 into small pieces for batter, 2 into rounds for topping) – set aside
- Preheat the oven to 375F and pop the cast iron skillet in there to warm up
- Mix the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda, onion salt and garlic powder) together in a mixing bowl (or in the mixing bowl of a stand mixer)
- Chop the polenta into small cubes, and add that, eggs, Greek yogurt, and oil to the dry ingredients
- Either using a rubber spatula or the paddle attachment in the stand mixer, mix well to combine – the batter should be fluid and moist, and well combined
- Add scallions, jalapenos and cheddar – fold them into the batter
- Remove cast iron skillet using oven mitts – coat both base and sides evenly with some oil
- Dump the batter and spread it evenly across the skillet
- Line up the jalapenos evenly in a circle, add the cheddar and cotija or feta cheese on top, and finally squeeze a small bit of lemon juice (1 tsp) on top
- Pop in oven for 40 minutes (fork should come out clean when you insert into cornbread)
- Wait for 10 minutes and serve hot (or if you’re like me and can’t wait, dig right in!)
- Important note: this recipe is for a softer, almost quiche like polenta (if you use the “log” of polenta). For a more traditional flaky cornbread, measure about 1 cup of polenta and 1 cup of all purpose flour instead of the polenta log, and keep the rest of the ingredients the same.
- To make cornbread muffins: oil a muffin tray and spoon batter (before you add toppings) about 2/3 full – add the cheese and jalapenos on top and bake for 35 minutes in the oven at 375F. No need to preheat the muffin tray, of course!
- Make sure you pre-heat the skillet and oil the base and sides to prevent the cornbread from sticking to the sides or the base
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
If you try this recipe, let me know! Leave a comment, rate it, and tag #urbanfarmie on Instagram or @urbanfarmie on Pinterest! Don’t forget to join my Facebook Group where you can discuss these recipes and explore any and all questions related to vegan and vegetarian dishes from around the world.