Cornbread with Chili Butter

Serves 8-10 21 June 2020 Dairy Free Vegetarian Friendly
My cornbread hall of fame ranges far and wide. From the infamous Moosewood cookbook recipe made regularly in our house during the vegetarian era of the late 1970’s/early 1980’s to accompany chili sin carne, to the cheesy jalapeño versions consumed in mass quantity while gallivanting around the States in my University days, followed by the many versions discovered in bread baskets in every region of the Mediterranean while vacationing in the sun. All of these varieties provided the inspiration to create this cornbread recipe in all its nostalgia golden crunch glory.

To me, this recipe is cornbread nirvana. Inspired by Ottolenghi’s version (a staple at their London establishments – their recipe is under lock and key), I have borrowed the idea of colourful toasted aromatics and corn into a tangy buttermilk mixture.  

I love to slather my cornbread with a generous slab of chili butter. This takes it to another level, either straight out of the oven or on a toasted slice the next day.

The leftovers (if there are any) are fantastic either toasted in a slice, or crumbled and toasted into croutons to add a textured kick to salads or grilled fish.

Please do not judge my use of frozen corn here.  In Europe we are not blessed with that special North American seasonal availability of freshly picked sweet ears of corn that I grew up with and so wanted to include here.  Please feel free to use shucked kernels from a ready supply if you are so lucky, while the rest of us make do with the frozen variety which works amazingly well all year around. Plus there is no need to defrost or pre-cook.

This recipe was finessed for my first July 4th Supper Club where it was a complete hit.


  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 150g (3/4 cup) fresh or frozen corn kernels (if using frozen do not defrost)
  • 1 red chilli
  • 4 spring onions
  • 115g (1 cup) plain flour
  • 150g cornmeal or polenta (not quick cooking)
  • 50g (1/4 cup) sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tbsp melted butter
  • 2 cups buttermilk

Options / Flavour Variations

  • Feel free to add a generous handful or two of grated cheddar to the mixture for full on Americana (although I prefer it without).
  • For dairy free, replace the melted butter with olive oil and the buttermilk with one 400ml can coconut milk stirred together with the juice of 1 lime.
  • I completely forgot the eggs on one cornbread occasion.  The happy mistake resulted in slightly wetter, but still very good variation – and when made with coconut milk, also a vegan option and it makes great toast / croutons.
  • This also works with gluten free flour for those avoiding gluten (cornmeal is naturally gluten free).  I like Bobs Red Mill the best.  
  • If you are coriander averse, replace with either parsley or chives or any other herb of choice.
  • If you cannot find buttermilk, do not panic.  Either use 285g (1cup) natural or greek yoghurt  thinned with 250ml (1 cup) water, or 500ml (1 cup) whole milk with 1 tbsp of either lemon juice or white vinegar, or 500ml (2 cups ) keffir.

Chili Butter

  • Preheat the oven to 190C (375F)
  • Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a frying pan or skillet on a medium to high heat and add the corn. If you are using frozen corn you can add it to the pan straight from the freezer. Heat the corn until it starts to brown all over (it will pop a little).
  • Meanwhile, slice the chilli and spring onion into thin rounds.
  • When the corn starts to brown all over add the aromatics to the pan and keep cooking for another minute or two until they release their scent and start to cook and brown around the edges. Take off the heat and put to one side while you make the cornbread.
  • Pour 1 tbsp olive oil into a 20cm (8 inch) caste iron skillet or other oven proof pan or cake tin, and pour the oil around to line the base and sides. Place in the oven to heat while you mix the ingredients.
  • In a medium sized bowl combine the flour, cornmeal or polenta, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  • Mix together the eggs, buttermilk (or any of the alternatives listed above) and melted butter (or olive oil).
  • Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and add the wet ingredients and stir well to combine.
  • Add 3/4 of the corn/chilli/spring onion mixture and stir through until evenly distributed.
  • Carefully remove your skillet from the oven and pour in the cornbread mixture. Sprinkle the remaining corn mixture over the top of the batter and quickly return the pan to the oven.
  • Cook for 18-20 minutes until lightly golden on top and the centre is just cooked through. Careful not to overcook or it will dry out.
  • Serve warm or room temperature. Cornbread is best eaten the day it is made, but also makes a delicious snack toasted the following day with lashings of butter.

Have you made this dish?

Let me know what you think, share your efforts and any tweaks you made to the recipe on Instagram, don’t forget to tag #BuildingFeasts or email me on