I have been making this healthy cornbread recipe with whole-wheat flour and buttermilk for nearly twenty years and I am finally sharing it with you today here on Healthy Seasonal Recipes. It takes about 5 minutes to stir together and bakes up light, fluffy and nutritious! It is 100% whole-grain and lightly sweetened with honey.

close up of squares of cornbread in a white dish with parchment

This post contains affiliate links.

My Go-To Cornbread Recipe

This recipe came from my friend Mariana who developed it while we were both recipe testers at EatingWell. At the time we were working on The EatingWell Essentials Cookbook (2004 Countryman Press) and Mariana came up with this wholesome cornbread for the book. I immediately fell in love with it and have made it over and over (and over again) since then.

Plainly, it is one of my go-to recipes.

It is fluffy and lightly sweet in the style of a Yankee or New England cornbread. It is perfect with barbecue chicken, my favorite turkey pinto chili and as a side for Thanksgiving. I whip it up for busy weeknights (did I mention it only takes 5 minutes to get in the oven?) I also have scaled the recipe to bake in hotel pans for very large gatherings! This recipe is tried and tested!

Here at Healthy Seasonal, I have referenced it literally dozens of times over the years- added it to meal prep menu plans, photographed it with my White Chicken Chili… you get the idea! It is an all-time favorite recipe.

And now I am happy to share it with you today so you can have it as your go-to cornbread recipe too!

What Makes This Cornbread Healthy

  • 100% Whole Grain
  • Only 2 tablespoons added fat
  • Uses heart-healthy avocado oil instead of butter
  • This cornbread has about 1/3 the sugar of a traditional recipe.
  • Mixed with fat-free buttermilk to give it fluffy texture
  • Made with natural honey instead of refined white sugar

Ingredient Notes

Whole-Wheat Flour

As I mentioned this is a fluffy cornbread, and this being the case it contains a bit of flour. In the case of this recipe, it’s whole-wheat flour for added nutrition. The whole-wheat flour only adds a mildly nutty wheat flavor and is not overpowering.

If you have it, you can use white whole-wheat flour which has a milder flavor. This is a great ingredient for making whole-wheat bread and other healthy baking recipes that call for whole-wheat flour if you are not a fan of the strong taste of regular whole-wheat.

Cornmeal

To make this a 100% whole-grain recipe look for stone-ground whole-grain cornmeal. It gives the cornbread a rustic, lightly gritty texture. Note that the most coarse cornmeals will not be as fluffy and may darken quickly. Arrowhead Mills is my favorite because it is whole-grain but not too gritty. If you prefer cornbread with a more refined tooth, use enriched cornmeal, like Quaker brand.

Note: Keep stone-ground whole cornmeal in your freezer. Since it contains the bran and germ of the corn kernel it can go rancid when kept for lengths of time at room temperature.

Honey

The original version of this recipe used granulated sugar, but I tend toward natural sweeteners when I cook and bake. For this recipe, I prefer to use honey. Three tablespoons give it just the slightest bit of sweetness without making the cornbread seem dessert-like.

Feel free to use white sugar or adjust the amount up or down to suit your preferences. I have even made this without any sweetener for making cornbread stuffing and it comes out great!

How To Make Healthy Cornbread, Step-By-Step

spray pan and mix dry ingredients

Step 1: Preheat Oven and Prepare Pan

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat an 8 by 8-inch baking pan with cooking spray. You can also use a pie plate to make this if you like to cut the cornbread into wedges instead of squares.

Step 2: Mix Dry Ingredients

Whisk cornmeal, whole-wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Make a well in the center.

mix wet ingredients and then mixing the batter

Step 3: Mix Wet Ingredients

Whisk the egg in a medium bowl. Whisk in buttermilk, honey and oil thoroughly.

Step 4: Mix Batter

Pour wet mix into the well in the dry mix and stir together until evenly moistened. If you are using one of the optional cornbread mix-ins like corn kernels, cheese or scallions add them in now.

the cornbread before and after baking

Step 5: Spread Batter in Baking Dish

Scrape batter into the prepared pan.

Step 6: Bake

Bake until the top springs back when lightly touched and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Let cool about 20 minutes, slice and serve warm.

baked cornbread in the baking dish

FAQs and Expert Tips

Can this cornbread be made ahead?

Because this recipe is whole grain, lower in fat and sugar it gets dried out when made ahead. It can be reheated to help reverse the staling process, but I recommend instead baking it at the last minute.
If time allows, the best way to make this ahead is to prep the wet and dry ingredients and keep them separate. Then blend them together just before baking. Simply mix up the dry ingredients and keep at room temperature. Keep the buttermilk mixture in a resealable container in the refrigerator up to 1 day ahead. Then follow the steps of the recipe to mix the batter and bake.

How to reheat

Reheating leftover cornbread really helps the texture seem more fresh and moist. To do so wrap it in foil and bake at 325 for 20 minutes. Or place a serving on a plate and microwave for 20 seconds. Another delicious way to reheat it is to slice it in half and griddle it, cut-side down in a little butter. This crisps up the edges and the butter soaks into the cornbread.

Can it be frozen?

Yes. I have some in my freezer now! Keep it in a freezer gallon bag, sealed tightly shut with as little air as possible. You can also individually wrap each piece with plastic before freezing. Thaw in the microwave for about 35 seconds and eat warm. Or thaw on the countertop and reheat in the oven.

Can this be made gluten-free?

Indeed you can. You can swap a cup-for-cup gluten-free flour for the whole-wheat or follow the recipe for my Gluten-free Cornbread Recipe.

Can this be made in a skillet?

Yes. You will need additional fat for the skillet. Brush 1 tablespoon inside a medium cast iron skillet. It will be a generous amount. While you preheat your oven, place the skillet in the oven to preheat too. Then when the batter is mixed, pour it into the hot skillet and bake.

Why is cornbread crumbly?

Cornbread is naturally crumbly, but some can be too crumbly when they do not have enough flour added to the recipe. The gluten in the flour acts as a binder and holds the bread together. This healthy cornbread is best served still warm for the best texture.

Can I make this without buttermilk?

If you do not have buttermilk you can use plain yogurt instead. Or as a substitute for buttermilk add 1 tablespoon lemon juice or white vinegar to the bottom of a measuring cup. Pour in milk to the 1 1/4 cup line and let sit 5 minutes. You can do the same thing with oat milk to make this recipe dairy-free.

Variations To Try

Optional Mix-ins

  • Add 1 cup corn kernels to the batter.
  • Add ½ cup cooked crumbled bacon and ½ cup chopped scallions to the batter before baking.
  • Stir in 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese or pepper jack cheese.
  • Try our Maple Pumpkin Cornbread based on this recipe too.

To Bake As Muffins

Follow our instructions for cornbread muffins or do the following: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Coat wells of a standard muffin tin with cooking spray or line with paper liners. Scoop batter into the coated muffin tins, dividing evenly. Bake 18 to 22 minutes or until the muffins are domed and spring back when lightly touched.  

overhead of the cornbread with a sifter and bowl of cornmeal

What to Serve With Cornbread?

At Healthy Seasonal Recipes, we specialize in cooking with fresh veggies and creating weeknight meals. Sign up HERE to get more produce-forward dinner ideas for FREE! If you make this recipe, please come back and leave a star rating and review. I would love to hear what you thought! Happy Cooking! ~Katie

Print
clock clock iconcutlery cutlery iconflag flag iconfolder folder iconinstagram instagram iconpinterest pinterest iconfacebook facebook iconprint print iconsquares squares iconheart heart iconheart solid heart solid icon
overhead of the cornbread

Healthy Cornbread


5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star

5 from 7 reviews

  • Author: Katie Webster
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: 9 servings 1x

Description

This Healthy Cornbread Recipe takes about 5 minutes to stir together and bakes up light, fluffy and nutritious! It is 100% whole-grain and lightly sweetened with honey.


Ingredients

Units Scale
  • 1 1/4 cup cornmeal
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/4 cup buttermilk *see ingredient note
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons neutral cooking oil such as avocado oil or organic canola oil

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat an 8 by 8-inch baking pan with cooking spray.
  2. Whisk cornmeal, whole-wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Make a well in the center.
  3. Whisk egg in a medium bowl. Add buttermilk, honey and oil and whisk until thoroughly combined.
  4. Pour wet mix into the well in the dry mix and stir together until evenly moistened.
  5. Scrape batter into the prepared pan.
  6. Bake until the top springs back when lightly touched and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 28 to 30 minutes. Cool 20 minutes, slice and serve warm.

Notes

Buttermilk Ingredient Note

If you do not have buttermilk you can use plain yogurt (not Greek) instead. Or as a substitute for buttermilk add 1 tablespoon lemon juice or white vinegar to the bottom of a measuring cup. Pour in milk to the 1 1/4 cup line and let sit 5 minutes. You can also add lemon to oat milk to make this recipe dairy-free.

Make Ahead

The best way to make this ahead is to prep the wet and dry ingredients and keep them separate. Then blend them together just before baking. Simply mix up the dry ingredients and keep at room temperature. Keep the buttermilk mixture in a resealable container in the refrigerator up to 1 day ahead. Then follow the steps of the recipe to mix the batter and bake.

To Reheat

Reheating leftover cornbread really helps the texture seem more fresh and moist. To do so, wrap it in foil and bake at 325 for 20 minutes. Or place a serving on a plate and microwave for 20 seconds. Another delicious way to reheat it is to slice it in half and griddle it, cut side down in a little butter. This crisps up the edges and the butter soaks into the cornbread.

  • Prep Time: 5 mins
  • Cook Time: 30 mins
  • Category: Side Dish
  • Method: Oven
  • Cuisine: American

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1/9 batch
  • Calories: 164 cals
  • Sugar: 5.8 g
  • Sodium: 316 mg
  • Fat: 5 g
  • Saturated Fat: 0.6 g
  • Carbohydrates: 27 g
  • Fiber: 3 g
  • Protein: 5 g