Corn Bread Frying blog
On Saturday I woke in a cold sweat having dreamed that I’d gotten one of the ratios completely wrong.  This kind of thing happens when you send something permanent out into the book world.  Even The Times couldn’t take my mind off it, so that morning, instead of fixing the garage roof or putting a tile backspash behind the kitchen sink or even replacing light bulbs I found myself making lemon-lime sponge cake, banana bread (because we had three black bananas in the fruit bowl) and cornbread because I wanted to retest a ratio variation.

One of the great all-purpose baseline ratios I discovered is for quickbread batter—and these can include any number of finished dishes.  Bake the batter in a loaf pan for a loaf, in a muffin tin for muffins, pour it on a griddle and you have a pancake, use it to bind fruit or vegetable and you have wonderful fritters.  The backbone of all these items is: equal parts liquid and flour and half as much egg.  They also usually contain butter for richness, sugar for sweetness, 1 part each depending on what you're doing with it (for instance you don’t need the butter if you’re making fritters—you cook fritters in fat, they don’t need more).  You also need some leavening—I prefer baking powder, about a teaspoon for every 5 ounces or cup of flour.  And a good pinch of salt.

Armed with this ratio 2 parts flour : 2 parts liquid : 1 part egg : 1 part butter and a little bit of technique, I made a cornbread simply by substituting cornmeal for 3/4s of the flour.  The amounts were based on large eggs (which are 2 ounces) and butter (4 ounces per stick).  I threw in fresh corn and some diced jalapeno for sweetness and heat.  I don’t like really sweet cornbread so I cut the sugar in half (for sweet muffins I include 1 part sugar).  Et voila, improvising using a ratio.

The next morning, I fried a slice in bacon fat—so good.  The day after that, realizing I wanted to write about it, I fried some in butter and asked donna to take the snapshot above.  What’s so great about cornbread is its versatility.  Great for breakfast with sweet butter, or with bacon, great for dinner with a bowl of chili.  The ratio is the backbone—the variations are up to you.

Jalapeno Cornbread

2 ounces flour (about 1/3 cup*)
6 ounces cornmeal (a heaping cup*)
1 teaspoon baking powder
3-fingered pinch of salt (a teaspoon if you must)
2 ounces sugar (about 4½ tablespoons*)
8 ounces  milk
2 large eggs
4 ounces butter, melted but cool
3 – 4 jalapeno peppers, seeded and diced
1 ½ cups fresh corn

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt and sugar in a mixing bowl.  Combine the milk and eggs and whisk to combine, add the butter, whisking.  Combine the wet and dry ingredients, stirring till all ingredients are well incorporated, stir in the jalapenos and corn.  Pour batter into a buttered or oiled loaf pan (or vessel of your choice, such as a cast iron skillet) and bake till the interior is no longer wet, about 30 minutes.

(*consider adding “buy a scale” to your to do list)


55 Wonderful responses to “Jalapeno Cornbread!”

  • Matthew Pennington

    After reading that previous comment, I think I came off sounding a little down on your cooking, Michael.

    The bread looks amazing, but my family never serves sweetened cornbread, saving it instead for savory preparations (one of my favorites is fresh cornbread from the skillet and buttermilk).

  • milo

    Usually the pictures on this blog are absolutely amazing.

    This time around, the cornbread looks wonderful…the pool of sludge it’s swimming in, not so much.

    And I’d have to agree that it sounds odd to put sugar in cornbread. If you want it sweet, put a little honey on it when you eat it.

  • Adriana Lopez

    Could you send measurements in grams for us poor souls down in Brazil?

  • ruhlman

    really? i like cornbread a little sweet, but agree you don’t have to.

    the “sludge” milo is butter, and it’s delicious when it’s browned like that and soaks into the cornbread.

    adriana, it’s in parts! that’s the beauty of ratios! weigh your eggs first. If they weigh 110 grams, you’ll need 110 grams of butter, and 220 grams of starch (25% flour, 75% cornmeal) and 220 grams of milk.

  • milo

    I know what it is. I’m just saying it looks like a grease spill on the freeway in that picture.

  • StumptownSavoury

    I like my cornbread ever-so-slightly sweet, so if I’m not using good white corn I’ll add honey or maple syrup, not sugar. But I’m a heretic. Hey, if you want an unsweetened version, leave out the sugar.

  • John Jezl

    Corn bread. Fried. In Butter. For Breakfast.

    Pass the “sludge”, I’m in.

    And I agree, a little sweetness to cornbread is nice.

    What about adding hot bacon fat directly into the batter instead of butter? Would that be a one-to-one substitution? Would that work at all?

  • JBL

    As per your Twitter request, I cannot abide savory cornbread. I’ll take mine sweet with extra butter (“sludge” was it?) please.

  • Claire K.

    I like a hint of sweetness in my cornbread too.

    Incidentally, my husband was speechless at the thought of frying cornbread in bacon fat. I think you are his new hero.

  • Hugging the Coast

    Alas, I’m not really a fan of sweetened cornbread (that’s not how it’s usually done down here in Charleston).

    I am originally from the North, but I prefer it on the savory side, like most Southerners do.

    Adriana, you might want to try using the free Culiverter blog tool at to help with cooking conversions. Hope that helps!

  • dadekian

    I’m completely split on sweet or savory. It really depends on what I’m having it with or, if having alone, my mood. For savory I like mixing in jalapenos and/or bacon. I usually like some corn in it too, but my wife rebels against that. She also insists on sweet.

  • Vivian

    I like cornbread just slightly sweet too and am constantly berated for it by the Texans and Okies that surround me.

    I stopped by Borders during my lunch today and thought I would just flip through Ratio for awhile. I found the one remaining copy they had in the store. I put it down when I went to get a refill and when I returned someone else had picked it up and was already purchasing it at the register! I would have been thoroughly pissed if I hadn’t already ordered a copy from you. I am glad that this doing well for you.

  • JPW

    Of course you need a little sweet with jalapenos.

    But then again, I can’t stand sweet tea, so YMMV

  • Kristin

    mmm… i have lots of fresh jalapenos in my fridge… i might make this only cutting back on the sugar… I do like it barely sweet. 1-2 tablespoons of sugar or honey usually does it.

  • Kate in the NW

    Coming from a southern family, cornbread and bacon fat are the staff of life. Stack some quick-carmelized green tomato slices (slightly blackened but still crisp on the inside) on there and some crumbled SHARP cheddar and a fried egg, bacon on the side, and well…THAT’s breakfast.

    If you haven’t already heard it, please download Dave Matthews’ song “Cornbread” (yeah I know he’s not *really* talking about cornbread, but for our purposes here we’ll pretend he is…) – “little bit of heaven and a little bit of HELL YEAH!”

  • Megan

    I definitely like a hint of sweetness in my cornbread. Goes nicely with salted butter.

    Wow… tough crowd.

  • Tana

    Brown sugar, 1 tablespoon. And some yogurt in place of some of the milk. Also good: red bell peppers sautéed in there, too.

    I pity the fool who has contempt for a smidge of sweetening in cornbread!

  • Ryan Adams

    As I mentioned on Twitter, cornbread should have a bit of sweetness to it. I’m from Texas though and we put sugar in everything, even the tea.

  • Elise

    This is jalapeno cornbread, not Southern cornbread. Adding some sugar is perfectly acceptable, what gives people? If you don’t want that little extra sweetness, leave the sugar out.

    There are so many ways to make cornbread. Are you going to eat it with chili? Then maybe you don’t want extra sugar and maybe you want to cook it in bacon fat. Planning to serve cornbread with breakfast eggs? Maybe you like yours sweet and not fried, but with a little pat of butter spread on it.

    Looks like a good recipe Michael, thank you. I love Donna’s photograph too, because that’s what it would look like, to cook the slice in a cast iron pan with some melted butter. I can just taste the butter now. Yum.

  • 19thandfolsom

    Armed with this ratio 2 parts flour : 2 parts liquid : 1 part egg : 1 part butter

    I’d always wondered how eggs figured into ratios, because their mass isn’t standard across all eggs. Now I know! All the more reason to love my kitchen scale 🙂

    My question is, how do baking powder, salt, and other ingredients that appear in small quantities figure into the ratio?

  • Gretchen

    All I know is I haven’t had cornbread in about a year and all this talk has me drooling. Cornbread will be baked in this house within the next 24 hrs. It will be ever so lightly sweet. And the whole fried in bacon thing…oh yeah!!!!

  • Charlotte

    Nice picture — sludge or no sludge… Not food porn (but then again I seem to remember Michael writing Donna had no interest in it), but nicely balanced with the blue of the flame. As always.

  • Kim in Traverse City

    May be a midwestern thing, but I prefer sugar in my cornbread as well.

  • Mike

    We put in around 1 TBSP sugar per 1.5 cups flour. So, yeah, your recipe wouldn’t fly at our house, but I’m not about get all doctrinaire and shit and say that your recipe is an abomination before The Lard.

  • lisadelrio

    I don’t usually like sweet cornbread. I’m a Texan and am just not used to it.

    I’ve never even heard of fried cornbread. It looks great – even if a little sweet.

    I have made jalapeno hushpuppies, which I also prefer savory. Is the ratio the same?

  • MessyONE

    Sigh. I HAD to look at that before dinner. It just knocks the c**p out of the leftover lamb stew, you know. I can picture that gorgeous cornbread with a nice soft poached egg on top and some….hmmmm….I have some good radishes in the fridge.

    That’s all I’d need to be a happy camper right this red-hot second.

  • Angry Brit

    I would not have thought that a post on cornbread could have provoked such acidic tones. I would say “it’s just cornbread” but I am given to understand that people tend to get kind of testy about it. I’m not a huge fan of cornbread myself, but yours looks great. I like the idea of cooking it in bacon fat. That is familiar to me, as fried bread is common back home with breakfast.

  • ruhlman

    19thandfolsom: huge, important point. in order to keep the ratios as clean and simple as possible, i’ve left these out, addressing them in notes. these small things that have uniform volumes, i recommend general rules for. For instance, a teaspoon of baking powder for every 5 ounces (cup or so) of flour, for most batters and some cookies, which need chemical leavening. This is ok for salt to a point but salt varies hugely in volume to weight ratios, so for larger quantities, in brines for instance, it’s best to use weights, and i give these for brines and in sausage mixtures. While there are some drawbacks to morton’s kosher, it does have nearly an equal weight-volume ratio (a tablespoon is about .5 ounces, a cup is 8), and that’s useful if you don’t have a scale.

    good question, more discussion required.

  • Paige Orloff

    The best cornbread I ever ate was in a bbq restaurant in Chattanooga in the 70s. I don’t remember the name of the place, but my family went there regularly, until the owner died and the place shut down. The cornbread was made in pancake form, cooked on a griddle with plenty of that delicious “sludge”, and contained white cornmeal only. Surprisingly, given that this was in Tennessee, it was not sweet. It’s like the redneck madeleine of my childhood, and armed with the golden ratio–I’m going to try to replicate it (and maybe some ‘cue, too, while I’m at it.) Thank you!

  • Cameron S.

    Some cornbread recipes have a cup or more of sugar, so this looks pretty good. Just a bit of sweetness.

  • limoncello

    Add sugar, don’t add sugar — who cares? Your own call.
    What I want to know is where the hell Ruhlman is finding “fresh corn” in April?? I’m here in San Francisco, and glad to see tomatoes just barely showing up at the farmers’ markets. Corn? Let’s spell J-u-l-y

  • Debbie Franco

    My grandmother made some jalapeno cornbread one time and used too many peppers, she said it was so hot she and my stepgrandfather couldn’t eat it. A neighbor had some chickens, and she gave the cornbread to them. She said when they started eating it, you’d hear bawk, bawk, BAWK!!

    While the grease in that picture doesn’t look so good, your cornbread looks amazing.

  • ruhlman

    limoncello, yes, sadly, florida corn–i was testing a recipe and needed. don’t normally buy corn this time of year.

  • Adriana Lopez

    Oh, like baker’s percentages. Now I get it. Thanks.

  • Natalie Sztern

    Ah Ha – ‘ratio’ so it doesn’t matter if its imperial or metric…it’s the ratios….(I have a hard time with ‘right’ and ‘left’)

  • Richard

    I love, love, love, cornbread. Even when I have it with chili, I like to slather on some butter. The added touch is to pour on some molasses. The sweetness and acidity of the molasses with the spicy chili is an excellent combination.

    Ruhlman, I just ordered Ratio and The Elements of Cooking. As soon as they come in, it will be time to make veal stock and chicken stock. After eating at Fleur de Lys in Vegas last weekend, I’m positive that veal stock is the backbone for the best sauces on Earth. Nothing else even comes close.

  • MichaelG

    I vote for a little sweet as well. I’ve long added jalapenos to cornbread. Corn and jalapeno is one of the great flavor combinations. They’re made for each other.

  • Chef Barb

    Sweet or savory? Evidently this is a personal decision.
    People, calm down, it’s not like it’s a cup of sugar! As for me, I love a little sweetness because it complements the corn flavors. My husband would pour agave nectar all over this,eat every last bite and then look for more crumbs. This looks fantastic with the fresh corn and the crispy texture, swimming in that butter!!

  • Jenni

    Your Ratio is genius! From the fringe, I’ve been trying to proclaim technique and method over by-the-letter recipes for some time now; it’s fantastic to see the idea taking shape and gaining momentum in “the center,” too!

    PS I am a fan of some sugar in the cornbread. I tire of hearing folks argue about the issue–make it how you like it, and live and let live, already. 😉

  • Matthew Pennington

    I had no idea that sugar in cornbread was A) so uniformly discouraged by readers of this web log (although there were some dissenting voices from the South) and B) a point argued often enough that people would be tired of reading about it. If I had known that yesterday, I doubt if I would have made the comment in the first place.

    My preference for savory cornbread (often with butter and honey or molasses) no doubt comes from eating it at home as a child, and then being served the gooey flour cakes (with just enough cornmeal to give it some grit) people call cornbread here in the Upper Midwest. There’s no comparison, in my opinion, between the two. Maybe if someone, such as Michael Ruhlman, made me a slightly-sweetened cornbread fried in bacon fat, I might change my opinion, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

  • 19thandfolsom

    a teaspoon of baking powder for every 5 ounces (cup or so) of flour, for most batters and some cookies, which need chemical leavening.

    Michael, thanks for the response and the info. Good to know, and I’ll stick with a scale for salt.

  • Joannah

    I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


  • Edward in Alabama

    I must admit that I lost faith with the recipe as soon as I read the sentence about sugar. Ruhlman’s phrasing took sugar as a given but I have never known any southern cook to use ANY sugar in cornbread — including jalepeno-style. Chef Frank Stitt writes that “Corn bread sweetened with sugar must be a Yankee invention, because corn bread in the South is always a savory staple.” I agree with that “always.”

    By the way, I think the best complement to any good (and unsweetened) cornbread is chow chow.

  • Dick Black

    In moderation, fried cornbread sounds like a great little indulgence.

    I am not sure how it would stack up against the Brits version of fried bread, where white sandwich bread is fried in the roast drippings of Sundays supper.

    I guess one would need to try it before they knocked it

  • Anna

    I have a scale, but measurements in cups and tablespoons sure help antipodeans like me who measure in the metric system, and have not a clue what an ounce is!

  • E.

    Of all the corn bread recipes with jalapeno that are out there..this is the one I’m going to make, knowing it will be the best too. Thanks for the post.

  • Lucia

    I’ve never understood the “rigids” – folks who will make absolutely no allowances for seasonal, regional, ethnic, or personal differences. Cornbread without sugar or chili without beans – no stone tablets engraved with these ‘rules’ I’m afraid.

  • Topaz

    This cornbread is very good and worth a try no matter what side of the sweet/not-sweet fence you are on. I like my cornbread sweet, being descended from New England settlers who were introduced to maize by the Algonquins, who had been growing and eating it since at least 1000 A.D. Not sure why southerners think cornbread is ‘their’ food. Yankees – don’t be intimidated by the food chauvinists – eat cornbread any way you like!