Fried Cornbread

January 25, 2011

The first time I ate fried cornbread was two years ago at the John Blue Cotton Festival in North Carolina. I stood in a line on the baking hot fair grounds waiting for one of Shirley’s famous collard sandwiches for what seemed like ages. And I’d do it again in a heartbeat. The sandwich is genius. It’s a heap of seasoned collards piled high on a piece of crispy, deep fried southern cornbread with a side of pork fat. Needless to say, I flicked the pork to the side and dug in. The collards were great, but the cornbread stole the show. It was so crispy and salty and really, really good.

Awhile back I met with Shirley to get the scoop on her famous collard sandwich and she told me she made the cornbread using only a handful of ingredients- cornmeal, water, oil, and salt. She didn’t give me the exact measurements but after a bit of tinkering in the kitchen, I think I worked it out.

Depending on how much you want to make, you’ll need to keep the ratio equal parts cornmeal to liquid. You can either add the oil to the batter, or save it all for the frying pan. I used oil for both.

I took about 1 cup of yellow cornmeal with 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup oil. I added a bit of salt.

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Then, put about a quarter inch of canola oil in a frying pan and crank up the heat. 

The batter should be the consistency of pancake batter, not too thin. If it’s too runny, add a bit more cornmeal to thicken it right up.

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Pour about a silver dollar pancake’s worth of batter into the hot oil and let it sizzle. Drop as many into the pan as you can fit. Allow the cornmeal to fry for a few minutes.

When the edges get slightly brown, flip and cook for another minute or two. Remember, oil heats up quickly and gets hotter the longer you cook with it. So keep a close eye on the skillet!

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Remove the crispy fried cornmeal from the pan and place on a paper towel (or five) to allow the oil to drain off.

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The edges should be crispy and the middle slightly soft. It’s a beautiful thing.

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Serve hot with a bowl of chili, soup, or a bowl of spicy vinegar collards.

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Gene November 2, 2015 at 3:50 pm

I just googled a dozen or so fried cornbread recipes and not a dang one mentioned LARD or BUTTERMILK. Those two things and some self-rising cornmeal are all you need for great cornbread—that and a cast iron skillet.

Diane Smith April 13, 2015 at 2:03 pm

Just wanted to thank you for this wonderful recipe. I have searched high and low for a vegan cornbread recipe that was crispy, and delicious, matching the corn bread of my TN. born mother. Skipped the maple syrup. Used a cast iron skillet. Heated half the oil in that and added the rest to hot skillet. This is a keeper.

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Jamie Walters-Heller April 19, 2014 at 8:25 pm

I was looking at pictures, trying to find fried cornbread that looked like my great aunts. Since she passed away just recently, I’ve been craving them. And it’s hard to find exact recipes that make it taste just like the ones our grandmas used to make. I randomly clicked on you picture from the google search engine and was amazed with the first sentence. I am from Laurinburg, and was happy to see that this is a recipe from my home town. I’m trying this recipe for Easter, and I hope that it’s just like my aunts.

Jen @ Keepitsimplefoods June 10, 2014 at 7:25 am

Hope it worked for you!

wren February 14, 2012 at 5:04 pm

I was teethed on fired cornbread and didn’t know there was any other kind until I was in my teens. I also didn’t know there was any other kind of corn but white for a long time. (Yellow corn was for hogs; white was for eating. A hour or two in any direction, that rule seems to flip-flop.) Anyway, my grandmother taught me to make cornbread when I was very young. You are correct that there are no more ingredients in it that that, although most central NC cooks use self-rising white cornmeal and will add a bit of Crisco to the skillet with the oil to minimize any sticking. Some people use buttermilk instead of water, but most “purists” drink the buttermilk and eat the cornbread on the side.

And now I want some!.

Penny Obando March 9, 2011 at 10:30 pm

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David February 5, 2011 at 10:30 pm

Fried cornbreat is the best with anything! A real southern treat.

Jen @ Keepitsimplefoods February 5, 2011 at 11:45 pm

I agree. Nothing reminds me of the South more than some good cornbread, especially when it’s deep fried!

Lisa {Smart Food and Fit} January 26, 2011 at 6:40 pm

This looks good, I’m going to make this tonight. I’m making lime dijon chicken and think this will be perfect to dip into our black bean corn salsa. I think my picky four year old will like this recipe, I’ll let you know how it turns out!

Suzanne @ continuingmyeducation January 26, 2011 at 10:18 am

Wow, this looks fantastic! I am planning on making chili tonight, I will have to try these!

How many does this one batch make?

Jennifer January 26, 2011 at 1:07 pm


Depending on the thickness of your batter and the size you go with, the recipe should make about a dozen, give or take. Good luck and please let me know how they turn out!

Baking 'n' Books January 25, 2011 at 10:10 pm

Hi :) I just read a comment you left on HTP about being a Lawyer but writing at night. That is so inspiring to me. I think (?) I want to write…working full-time at a job I don’t love makes that very difficult. I don’t know how you have the energy AFTER work! My job drains my energy, mentally and physically…I am close to giving up the dream. My finances require me to work at my job too – otherwise I’d be living on the street.

Other than that – I like your recipe :)

Jennifer January 26, 2011 at 1:01 pm

I completely understand where you’re coming from. It’s definitely a challenge to spend a full day working at a job you don’t love, but have to have in order to survive. I think that sums up a lot of us perfectly, me included.

I use creative writing as a way to recharge my batteries and get back some of the energy I lost during the day. Usually, I’ll think of a story idea on my way home from work and then, when I have quiet time later in the evening, I’ll spend an hour or two (or four) writing it all out.

Sometimes, I’m so tired from the long work day it can be hard to get started, but once I do, I typically feel rejuvenated and inspired. It’s not work after all-it’s all for me.

Keep up your writing! Use your passion to get through those tough work days.

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