This vegan and gluten-free cornbread has the perfect ratio of cornmeal to flour. It’s not too coarse-grained, but it still has the corn taste. It’s moist, tender, buttery, and only slightly sweet. It pairs perfectly with chili or stews.
Cornbread is considered a staple in many homes and everyone has an opinion on it. Is it sweet or is it savory? Do you add honey or molasses? Should you mix in actual corn kernels or leave them out? And what about flour? Can you use anything other than cornmeal?
Like any other dish made in several regions, the way you grew up eating it is the way you think it should be made. But the differences between Northern and Southern cornbread are dramatic. Southern cornbread is made with cornmeal only (no wheat), has very little or no sugar, and is cooked in a hot skillet on top of the stove and finished in the oven. Northern cornbread has a much higher percentage of flour, is very sweet, and baked in the oven.
Which do you prefer? Sweet cake-like northern cornbread or savory dense southern cornbread? What if you could have a little bit of both in one recipe? This cornbread recipe delivers exactly that – it’s slightly sweet, tender, and moist with a delicate crumb.
Tips for Making Vegan Cornbread
It wouldn’t be cornbread without cornmeal. If you’ve never heard of cornmeal, it’s essentially ground, dried corn. It may be white, yellow, or blue. It also varies by the grind – fine, medium, and coarse. The finer the grind, the lighter the texture, but also less apparent corn flavor. You may also see cornmeal labeled stone-ground. This is whole-grain cornmeal that’s been milled by traditional rather than modern methods. Modern, high-speed mills heat up the grain, deteriorating the taste and quality of the oily germ. So, for a more true corn flavor, look for stone-ground cornmeal.
I use flour in my cornbread to lighten the texture. I have tested several different flours and find that oat flour works the best here because it also acts as a binder. Another binder in this recipe is flax seed meal. The combination of medium-grind cornmeal, oat flour, and flaxseed meal yields cornbread that is crumbly only slightly, which is the texture I prefer. If you prefer coarser and crumblier texture, increase the ratio of cornmeal to oat flour.
Corn is stubbornly resistant to rising agents. Breads made from it will always be denser and heavier than yeast-raised wheat varieties. But that’s not to say you can’t make a bit of a difference with a little baking powder and baking soda.
Vegan buttermilk (almond milk + lemon juice) and vegan butter are my go-to liquid ingredients. I have tested this recipe with refined coconut oil, and it works. However, you won’t get the buttery flavor and beautiful yellow color if you substitute the vegan butter for refined coconut oil.
So, what about sugar? I used a little bit of coconut sugar because I find that it enhances the natural sweetness of the corn. However, you don’t have to use any sugar if you don’t want to. The best cornbread is the cornbread you like, no matter where you live.
You can cook your cornbread in a square pan, a cast-iron skillet, or even a 12-cup muffin pan. My favorite is a cast iron surface because it provides the best heat retention. Greasing your pan before adding the batter is a must. And if you want a crisp brown crust, which is the true mark of good southern cornbread, make sure you preheat the pan before adding the batter as well.
Tools You’ll Need
1. Mini Square Pan (10 oz, Lodge, Cast Iron) | 2. Mixing Bowls (Set of 3, Pyrex, Glass) | 3. Cooling Rack ( Stainless Steel) | 4. Measuring Cup (2 Cups, Pyrex, Glass) | 5. Measuring Cups (Set of 6, Bellemain, Stainless Steel) | 6. Measuring Spoons (Set of 6, 1Easylife, Stainless Steel)
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- Pour the milk into a medium mixing bowl, add the lemon juice, and give it a few stirs. Let it sit for 5 minutes.
- Add the corn meal, oat flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a large mixing bowl. Stir until well combined.
- Add all the other ingredients into the mixing bowl and mix until just combined.
- Grease an 8" x 8" (20 cm x 20 cm) baking dish****. Pour the batter in and bake the cornbread at 350°F (175°C) for 25 minutes (until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out with a few moist crumbs but no wet batter).
- Let the cornbread cool in the pan for at least 30 minutes. Then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Store leftover cornbread in an airtight container for 3 days. For longer term storage, freeze in an airtight container for up to 3 months.
**2 Tbsp. (14 g) flaxseed meal + 5 Tbsp. (75 ml) water. Whisk and let the mixture sit for 10 minutes. Then use as instructed.
***I make my own oat flour by grinding rolled oats in a Vitamix. A cup of rolled oats will yield approximately 1 cup of oat flour.
****You can also use a 9" (22.5 cm) cast iron pan, a 12-cup muffin pan, or two 10-oz (0.3 l) cast iron servers.