Don’t mind me as I scooch in, this savory classic NEEDS a seat at your Thanksgiving table. No knives here – just a big serving spoon to pierce the crust, and right on in to the warm, custardy interior. Though it looks like cornbread when viewed from the top, this spoon bread is ALL PUDDING on the inside, and it’ll be one of the best dishes you’ll have all night.
My mom might be scratching her head right now. “Do I have a spoon bread recipe that I gave you?”, she’s probably thinking.
Nope, the “Mom” referred to in the recipe’s title is actually my paternal grandmother, as this was passed down to me by my dad’s sister, Adrienne. It’s not something that I remember growing up with, but sure was happy when I came across it.
So do you know spoon bread? It’s a classic southern dish, one that I haven’t come across too often in my research. And it’s a shame because comfort food doesn’t get more cozy than this.
And it will be one of the most sought-after dishes on your Thanksgiving table, because unlike cranberry sauce, brussels sprouts, or green beans, this one’s a multi-generational crowd pleaser.
That’s right! Kids and adults alike will swoon (so maybe you should double the batch!).
If you’re a longtime follower of my blog, you probably remember mention of my Beall family recipe box. Years ago my aunt gifted it to my sisters and me, containing cherished family recipes, all hand written on 3×5 index cards.
(In there are classics such as Mrs. LaPlant’s Shrimp with Feta Cheese, Toota’s Pepper Jelly, Granny’s Salmon Spread, and John Day’s Spiced Pecans).
When the occasion strikes, I pull out one of the ol’ faves and give it a whirl. Sometimes during recipe testing I decide to tweak and update the dish, but other times – as is the case with Mom’s Spoon Bread – I keep it *almost* exactly as written (save, in this case, a little added cracked black pepper).
It might look plain, but when you combine butter, corn, milk, and eggs in just the right way… something magical happens!
For those looking for additional zest, scroll down where I provide suggestions- However, on your first go, I suggest enjoying it the traditional way, it will not disappoint.
I wish you a happy holiday!!
Can I make this Spoon Bread ahead?
Yes! I was concerned about recommending this as a Thanksgiving dish because it needs to be served right after baking (I am a firm believer in all things do-ahead for the big night).
BUT, don’t fret, I came up with a do-ahead method and it works beautifully! Follow the recipe to make the batter and spread it in the prepared pan, then cover and pop in the fridge until go time. 30 minutes before dinner, simply uncover and bake it off. No fuss!
Are there substitutions?
Since baking is “chemistry”, for this this one to turn out you need to follow the recipe fairly precisely- you need cow’s milk, butter and eggs in correct proportions. You can’t, for example, sub in soy milk, or use an egg substitute. However, there are several add-ins or other adjustments that are “within bounds” and can bump up the flavor.
- Add ½ cup shredded cheese, such as cheddar, gruyere, or fontina to the batter.
- Add a teaspoon of chili powder to the batter.
- Add a cup of fresh or canned corn kernels.
- Add a tablespoon or so of chopped chives
- Top with sliced jalapenos before baking.
Any other tips for Mom’s Spoon Bread?
- I tested the recipe with fine cornmeal, and separately with a medium grind cornmeal. Everyone liked the fine cornmeal better- although there was some appreciation for the heartiness of the medium grind. I call for fine cornmeal as I believe it to be more of a crowd pleaser. Also, I found I needed to cook the medium grind longer on the stove to fully soften and cook the grains. If you DO choose to go with the coarser grind, make sure to add minutes onto the cooking time on the stove top so you don’t end up with grainy, uncooked cornmeal.
- I mention this in the recipe instructions, but be sure to cool off the cornmeal mixture BEFORE adding it to the eggs. If it is hot from the saucepan, it will scramble the eggs before it has a chance to combine with them, and will result in a poor texture.
- I listed milk twice in the ingredients, because it is used in two different places in the recipe and wanted to make sure you didn’t dump it all in the pot in the beginning.
- Any shape baking dish will work. The batter should come up about ⅔ up the side of the dish, which it should do in a 2-quart baking dish. If the dish is too large, the batter will be spread to think and you won’t get that thick, luscious spoon bread you deserve!
Watch me make this recipe
Mom's Spoon Bread
- 1 cup fine cornmeal
- 2 cups whole milk
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter plus more for buttering the dish
- 3 large eggs
- ½ cup whole milk
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- Freshly cracked black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 400 if baking this right away (see notes for do-ahead). Butter a 2 quart baking dish and set aside.
- Put 2 cups milk in a medium saucepan and bring to a low simmer. Slowly add the cornmeal, whisking constantly to avoid lumps. Cook for 3-4 minutes until thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter 1 tablespoon at a time. Set aside to cool completely. Note - it will cool faster if you transfer it out of the hot pot and into a large bowl (but then you have another bowl to clean, so your call).
- In a stand mixer, or using hand held electric beaters, beat the eggs for 4-5 minutes until thick and pale.
- In a small bowl, mix the remaining milk, baking powder, a generous amount of cracked black pepper, and salt. Stir in the honey, then pour into the eggs and mix until combined.
- Add the cooled cornmeal mixture a little at a time to the eggs, and beat to combine thoroughly. Pour into the prepared pan.
- At this point you can refrigerate the spoon bread until ready to bake.
- Place the baking dish in the preheated oven and bake for 30 minutes, until set but still jiggly. Serve warm.
Would Friends be Interested in this Recipe?
This looks fantastic. Can you make this using Lactaid (my wife is Lactose intolerant). I tastes like whole milk. Look forward to your reply.
Yes! Lactaid would work just fine in this recipe. Thanks for the comment and hope you enjoy!
My vintage Farm Journal Pie cookbook has an amazing recipe for chicken spoonbread pie –
similar to a potpie, but the crust is spoonbread. This spoonbread is made with boiling water poured over cornmeal and then mixed with eggs and other ingredients. So boiling water might also work for those with milk issues.
Thanks for the tip! I haven’t tried it with water – if anyone tests it out please post how it turns out. Thanks!
OMG sounds wonderful. I am alone, can I cut the recipe in 1/2 but uses 2 eggs? I’d love to make it but afraid the whole recipe would last too long..
Yes I agree, the whole recipe would be too much for one. If you cut it in half, I would suggest using small/medium size eggs if you use two, or if you only have large eggs use one whole egg and one egg white. Thanks for the comment, let me know how you enjoy it!
Sounds fabulous Lexi, definitely going to try this one!!!
Thanks Cindy, you’ll love it!
I am interested in your saying this was a Southern dish. My mom was a through and through Yankee, but she made spoon bread on special occasions. I loved it and will certainly try your recipe. I am glad to have it!
Thank you for the comment and am so glad you are going to try my recipe! I always knew the dish as having Southern origins, but my guess is that recipes for it made their way all around the U.S.!
Hi Lexi, this recipe is something I’d like to try. I just have a question about the milk.
When it says add the remaining milk what do you mean? It says 2 cups milk in the recipe then starts with 2 cups on the stove?? Should I reserve some of the milk before heating it ?
Hi Connie! Thanks for the question – a little lower in the recipe, there is another 1/2 cup milk listed below the eggs. I listed it as a separate ingredient so people wouldn’t get confused and add in 2 1/2 cups milk to the cornmeal in the beginning. Let me know if that makes sense and if you haven any other questions. You’ll love it!
What would you think about using buttermilk for the 1/2 cup portion?
I made this for Thanksgiving. Delicious and easy. I subbed half of the 2c milk with buttermilk to give it a little tang, but otherwise made as described. I left it in the fridge for about 3 hours before putting it in the oven and it still came out light and fluffy and smooth and unctuous. Thank you for sharing the perfect spoon bread recipe.
I’m so glad the buttermilk worked out for you in this recipe! I do love the tanginess it provides. I’ll have to try it next time. Thanks and hope you had a happy Thanksgiving!