This healthy cornbread celebrates everything we love about classic bread while updating the old ingredients that don’t necessarily serve us anymore. Bursting with corn flavor, this bread is lightly sweetened (naturally), made with olive oil, and is finished with a sprinkle of sea salt. I’m telling you, this healthy version is as crave-worthy as the original. Except this time, you can feel good about it.
Table of Contents
How To Make Healthy Cornbread
First things first, we’ve got to analyze the ingredients we’re using and determine whether or not we can use something more nutritional.
- Instead of all-purpose flour, use a whole-grain flour. And since cornbread is more delicate than most “breads” opt for something that won’t weigh it down too much. The answer: whole-wheat pastry flour.
- Instead of butter, swap in heart-healthy olive oil. While we’re at it, do we need to use as much fat as classic recipes call for? The answer: use heart-healthy olive oil and decrease the saturated fat content and overall fat content by at least a quarter (here I decreased it by half).
- Swap refined sugar or a natural, more flavorful sweetener. Most cornbread recipes call for regular cane or brown sugar. You can easily swap either out for a natural sugar like sucanat or coconut sugar, however, here I opted to use honey (which posed to be a bit more challenging when it came to developing). I chose honey because the floral flavor of honey pairs well with both corn and olive oil.
- Use buttermilk instead of whole milk. Buttermilk is lower in fat, adds a nice tangy flavor, and is important for helping to activate the baking powder. This last characteristic is an important one! We are using cornmeal and whole wheat flour, two heavy ingredients. The more leavening we can encourage, the better.
Watch How to Make It
Getting That “Buttery” Flavor Without Butter
I wanted to find a way to create that quintessential butter flavor while using olive oil instead. Here are a few ways I did that:
- Baked the bread in a preheated cast-iron skillet: The moment the batter hits the hot cast-iron skillet, the maillard reaction occurs. What is that? It’s the reaction of food browning, aka flavor.Here, the milk (buttermilk) and sugar (honey) caramelizes and the grains (flour and cornmeal) toast. Together, these ingredients and the maillard reaction combine to create a flavor that’s very similar to butter.
- Finishing with flaky sea salt: even if you use unsalted butter, there’s a certain savory, salty flavor that butter adds to baked goods. To maintain that salty bite, I finish this cornbread with flaky sea salt. Why not just add it to the batter? Well I do that too, but finishing with a sprinkle of sea salt is a surefire way of bringing that flavor to the forefront.
Cornbread With Real Corn
Have you ever made a cornbread that lacks a certain oomph? Like there just isn’t much corn flavor happening? Me too, and it’s always a let down. That’s why I always add actual corn to my cornbread. The benefits are three-fold; fresh corn adds flavor, texture and moisture.
For this recipe I call for frozen and thawed corn. But you can definitely use fresh, just be sure to steam it before using.
What to Serve Cornbread With
Cornbread is a great go-to side here! Here are a few things I like to serve it with:
- Our Smoky Chipotle Chili is an easy pairing for cornbread!
- Serve a slice (or two) of our cornbread with this healthy Kale & Cherry Salad. Or for a heartier salad, try our Kale and Lentil Salad.
- Cornbread is a natural pairing for Roasted Pork Tenderloin and our recipe creates perfectly juice and spiced slices of pork!
- Use our cornbread to sop up the delicious sauce in our Tuscan Chicken Sausages with Stewed Beans & Kale.
- We love this Creamy Turkey Wild Rice Soup—and it’s begging for some cornbread!
- Serve it with our Lamb Tikka Masala—that creamy tikka sauce is begging to be sopped up with something!
- Serve up our Hungarian Mushroom Soup with this cornbread for a cozy, comforting dinner.
We recommend transferring the cooled cornbread from the cast-iron skillet to a plate and covering tightly with foil. Store at room temperature for 1 day. Or transfer to a zipper-lock bag and store in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
Absolutely! Simply swap it in for the frozen corn.
That amount is correct. Cornbread is made with a lot of heavy ingredients, first and foremost being cornmeal. The key to getting a nice lift and tender cornbread is to use quite a bit of baking powder.
- 1½ cups (160g) whole wheat pastry flour
- 1 cup (136 g) yellow cornmeal
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup buttermilk
- ¾ cup frozen corn kernels, thawed
- 2 large eggs
- ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons honey, divided
- ¼ cup + 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
- Flaky sea salt
- Set a 9-inch cast-iron skillet in the oven on the middle rack; heat oven to 400°F (204ºC).
- Whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
- In a food processor or blender, pulse together buttermilk, corn, eggs, ¼ cup honey, and ¼ cup oil until combined, 15–20 pulses (corn lumps will remain).
- Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in wet ingredients into well. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold mixture just to combine (small pockets of flour are OK.)
- Carefully remove cast-iron skillet from oven; pour remaining tablespoon oil into skillet, swirling to coat bottom of skillet.
- Pour batter into skillet and smooth top with spatula.
- Carefully return skillet to oven and bake cornbread until golden on top and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 24–25 minutes.
- Microwave remaining 2 tablespoons honey, in a microwave-safe bowl, for 30 seconds on medium power.
- Brush warm honey over surface of warm corn bread; sprinkle with sea salt. Let cool 15 minutes.
The perfect, easy to make cornbread! YUM!
Love cornbread in a skillet. This is an amazing recipe. My whole family loved it!
This was SO delicious and super simple to make. Will be making again ASAP! Thank you!
Hi! Perfect recipe. I love corn bread. What is the replacement for “pastry” whole wheat flour? I have regular whole wheat flour at home which is called “aatta”
Looking forward to trying your recipe.
You can use white whole wheat flour instead of the whole wheat pastry flour, though there is a risk the bread will be a bit more dense. You can also use all-purpose flour, if you do opt for that, I recommend decreasing the baking powder to 2 teaspoons. Enjoy!
Absolutely perfect recipe! Very easy for a novice baker and delicious – a big hit when entertaining. Thank you!
OMG the honey + flaky sea salt = perfection! Will make this again for sure.
A new favorite! This was so good.
This bread is seriously the best I have ever had – thank you so much!!!
Hi this was so delicious and easy receipe to follow. Thank you.
This was super delicious and easy receipe to follow. Thank you
We loooved this. the honey brushed over the top at the end is a game changer. Didn’t have flaky sea salt so I used kosher, but have ordered some flaky sea salt for next time!
The cornbread turned out beautifully!! A great display at the dinner table. My guests gobbled uo, ok new too!! Sea salt & honey made it truly special. I added rosemary which added additional flavors. Thank you so much!! I am so glad to have a healthy alternative which my boys love.
Hi Helen! I love the idea of adding Rosemary—I will definitely do that the next time I make this! So glad you and your guests loved this—thanks for trying it!
Do you have to make this in a skillet? I was hoping to put it in a one time use aluminum pan for easy storage.
Hi Annie! Great question—I haven’t tested this in an aluminum pan but it should work fine in an 8×8-inch aluminum pan! The cornbread will likely need a few more minutes in the oven since the pan won’t be preheated. Start checking it at 25 minutes, it may need 5-10 minutes more, but keep an eye on it! Let me know how it goes!
This is delicious, I was looking for a heart friendly recipe and this is it. So easy to make, I love the subtlety of the olive oil and the texture of the blended corn.. I did not have whole wheat pastry flour so I substituted Kamut flour.
Hi Dee! I’m so glad you enjoyed the recipe and am pleased to hear kamut flour worked out well. Thanks for sharing!!
OMG!! WOW!! Healthy really is good!! Thank you for sharing this recipe.
My go-to recipe now. I sour almond milk with apple cider vinegar. Sometimes I add a bit of almond pulp (from making the almond milk) as I’m always looking for a way to use it. I’ve used maple syrup, brown sugar- the recipe adapts well to what is in my pantry on any given day. Really terrific.
Hi Andi! I love that you’ve found the recipe adapts well. These are such great tips for other readers. Thanks for sharing!!
Hi, Well, I did make this recipe today and was looking forward to my own “taste test”…..which I just accomplished. I used all the ingredients as called for in the recipe and followed the directions provided. I have to say that it did not meet my expectations for two reasons……it was EXTREMELY dry to my taste…….and I also could not really detect much, if any, “corn flavor”……..The texture was fine…….I did use a medium grind corn meal (Bob’s Red Mill Medium Grind) and Bob’s Red Mill Whole Wheat Pastry Flour.
I am on a restricted sodium diet and, even though this recipe is not a “low sodium” recipe”, I thought I could use it as a better option to other recipes I’ve seen and might try due to the sodium nutrient level per serving).
I was also looking for a cornbread recipe that would go well with a spicy Instant Pot Chili Recipe I’ve made several times.
If anybody has a comment on how to at least make this recipe more ‘moist’, please post a reply. Thanks very much.
Hi Ron, I’m sorry to hear you found this cornbread to be dry. I’ve tested, and made, this multiple times and have never had an issue of it coming out too dry. I’m curious, did you weigh flour and cornmeal or measure by cup. The reason I ask is that we all measure by cup differently, but weight is always consistent. Depending on how the dry ingredients were measured, a bit too much flour could have been added which would cause it to become too dry. Additionally, I would recommend checking the temperature or your oven with an oven thermometer. Most ovens run about 25 degrees higher or lower than they say which could have contributed to it coming out too dry. Lastly, I would make sure you use eggs labeled and graded as large. I have updated the ingredient list to specify that.
I hope this helps!
This was very good! Love how the olive oil complemented the dish! Will definitely be adding this to my favorites! Thank you!
Hi Lindsey! So happy to hear you liked the cornbread! Thanks for giving it a try and leaving a review!
Wonderful recipe with great flavor!!! Used a little more corn (1 cup). Very moist. Love cooking with cast iron! Will definitely make again!
I’ll try this, but we eat gluten free. Do you think if I sub in gf all-purpose flour (Bob’s Red mill, mostly rice flour) for the wheat, the ratios would remain similar?
Hey Timothy, great question, I actually developed a gluten-free cornbread recipe using this same skillet technique (also has corn kernels in it like this one). It’s delicious!
Here is the recipe: https://zestfulkitchen.com/gluten-free-cornbread-recipe/
This was delicious! I’m not usually a cornbread fan but I had a craving, wanted a healthy version and am so glad I found this one. I’ve made it twice in the past two weeks XD
Hi Amanda, I’m so happy to hear you enjoyed this recipe! Love turning baked goods into healthier versions!
I prefer to use pure ground white self rising cornmeal, without eggs or flour or suger, also prefer buttermilk. Adjustments may need some modification in cooking. I start out with very hot oiled cast iron skillet, basically, just guess. But get lots of comme8. Thanks, Betty Modaff, Asheville, NC
I’m going to make this soon and was wondering if anyone has tried adding a can of green chilies? I’m a southwestern gal and we usually add them to our cornbread, especially when serving it with chili. This looks great and the reviews are all so positive. Just wondering how the extra liquid from the green chilies would alter the recipe. Thanks so much.
Oh I love this idea!
Here’s what I would recommend doing: drain the juice from the green chiles into a liquid measuring cup then add enough buttermilk to the measuring cup to measure 1 cup. Add the green chiles to the food processor with the corn, buttermilk (and other wet ingredients) and blend as directed. (Or you could fold the green chiles into the batter right before baking if you want large pieces.)
Let us all know how it goes!