Spoon Bread Two Ways: mellow or spicy, you make the call

SpoonBread_450w

For a gal born and raised in New England, I often find myself enamored with traditional foods from the South rather than the North. Brace yourself Mabel, I’m about to cross the line…

The Mason-Dixon line, that is. Yes, it’s true. I would rather drink sweet tea than strong coffee.

Give me hummingbird cake over apple pie, and fried chicken over a boiled dinner any day of the week.

Sweet potato anything is music to my taste buds;and I’ve been known to eschew oatmeal for a hot bowl of grits on snowy mornings. Forgive me New England, forgive me, but Southern food is just plain good!

Wait, wait! Don’t string me up just yet. I still love Whoopie pies, maple syrup and more maple syrup, so I hope I can stay in Vermont for at least a few more years. But once you taste this recipe for a Southern staple, spoon bread, you just might want to join me next time I delve into Dixieland cooking.

Spoon bread is a glorious dish of  cornmeal mush lightened with eggs and baked to perfection. It’s soft and pillowy, quite different from traditional cornbread. No chunky slices here; you’ll need a spoon to serve and eat this dish.

Plain spoon bread is comfort in a bowl, and can be endlessly varied to suit every taste and every meal and menu. Today we’ll make two different versions. First, a spicy red-pepper spoon bread; and then a milder cream cheese and chive version. Both recipes will begin with cooking the cornmeal in milk on the stovetop; the variety comes with the ingredients added later.

Let’s get started making Spoon Bread Two Ways.

Begin by preheating the oven to 400°F. Heavily butter a 1-quart baking dish or 9″ square baking pan, and set aside. I prefer butter over cooking spray for this particular recipe, as it helps the bottom crust crisp up beautifully.

In a medium-sized saucepan whisk together:

1 cup milk
1/3 cup yellow or white cornmeal
¾ teaspoon salt

Cook over medium-high heat, using a silicone spatula to stir constantly – especially along the bottom of the pan.

Cook for about 5 minutes, until the mixture has thickened and the spatula leaves a clear trail.

Remove from the heat and let cool for about 5 minutes while you decide which version you want to make today.

I’m going to start with Spicy Red Pepper Jalapeño.

To easily and evenly dice an onion, start by making vertical lines across the whole peeled onion, nearly all the way through but not quite. Turn the onion halfway, and repeat so that the onion is now divided into little squares, but still attached together at the stem end.

Carefully slice the onion as you would for round slices. Because of the previous cuts, your slices will come out as a dice.

See?

To the warm cornmeal mush add:
1/3 cup diced onion
1/3 cup roasted red peppers (jarred are fine)
1/3 cup diced jalapeños, or to taste

Stir in 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese.

Gently whisk together 2 large eggs, and add to the batter. Stir well until everything is combined.

For a souffle-like spoon bread, separate the eggs and blend in the yolks. Whip the whites to soft peaks, and fold into the batter before spooning into the baking dish. It takes a little longer, but makes an ethereal spoon bread.

Pour the batter into your buttered baking dish. Sprinkle with another 1/2 cup shredded cheddar.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes at 400°F until the center is just set and the edges begin to brown. Spoon bread should remain soft and custard-like inside. It won’t set up as firm as regular cornbread (hence, the need to serve it with a spoon).

Serve the spoon bread right away; it’s best when hot. This would make a great side dish for grilled chicken, or a new addition to the regular ham and eggs routine at breakfast.

So, spicy isn’t your thing today? How about mellow Cream Cheese and Chive Spoon Bread?

Begin here, where you’ve just taken the cornmeal mush off of the heat.

Add 4 ounces softened cream cheese, stirring until it’s completely blended in.

Add 1/2 cup minced chives and 2 well-beaten large eggs.

Again, if you want a souffle-like spoon bread, you can separate the eggs and fold the beaten whites in separately.

Pour the batter into a buttered 1-quart baking dish,and dot with 1 tablespoon butter. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes at 400°F, until the center is just set and the edges begin to brown.

Doesn’t that look amazing? Wait until you spoon up a big bowl and taste the soft, warm, chive-y cheesiness. I really could eat this every single day.

Are you absolutely tied into these add-ins?

NO way! You could use mushrooms, asparagus, tomatoes, whatever garden bounty you have on hand. Keep the proportions roughly the same, totaling no more than 1 to 1 1/4 cups. Gently frying juicy veggies first will keep your spoon bread from being runny.

Try it with a big garden salad for a light, easy vegetarian dinner. Any time of day, it’s spoon-tacular!

Please bake, rate, and review our recipe for Spoon Bread Two Ways.

Print just the recipe.

MaryJane Robbins
About

MaryJane Robbins grew up in Massachusetts and moved to Vermont 20 years ago. After teaching young children for 15 years, she changed careers and joined King Arthur Flour in 2005. MaryJane began working on King Arthur Flour's baker’s hotline in 2006, and the blog team ...

comments

  1. Sarah

    I’m from Texas, and I’ve never heard it called “spoon bread” before, but my grandmother serves a variant at almost every family get-together. We’ve always called it “corn pudding” or “corn souffle”. What’s the difference?
    Basically they are all versions of the same thing. Corn puddings tend to have either fresh corn or creamed corn as part of the recipe. Happy baking! ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  2. juthurst

    Thanks for a simple recipe that yields the best Comfort Food EVER.
    There used to be a Spoon bread mix put out by Martha Washington, but I haven’t seen it on the store shelves in years :(

    I have to work late tonight, but we’ll be having spoon bread for dinner this week, thanks to you :)

    There is a really good article on Spoonbread from the NY Times:
    “FARE OF THE COUNTRY; Spoonbread, Virginia’s Choice”
    http://www.nytimes.com/1988/07/31/travel/fare-of-the-country-spoonbread-virginia-s-choice.html

    Reply
  3. viscountessastarte

    Interesting that you associate spoon bread with the south. My mom used to make the best spoon bread I have ever eaten and she was from Owl’s Head Maine! I’ve always thought of it as a New England dish. I’ve been in Virginia more than 40 years and I just don’t see it very often down here.
    That isinteresting. I’ve never seen it on any menu here in the North. Just goes to show what a small little world it really is. Happy baking! ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  4. bowenrd

    This recipe look terrific, but as I was adding it to my collection I noticed a little fix needs to be done. The cream cheese version doesn’t tell you to add the eggs. Also the souffle version from the blog makes it sooo good that I added it. I Here’s how I changed my copy:

    ________________________________________
    3a) Spicy red pepper version: Stir in 1/2 cup of the shredded cheddar cheese, the onion, red peppers and jalapenos.
    4a) Add the eggs* to the cornmeal mixture. Stir well (or not, if you are folding the whites into the batter, see below) and pour/spoon into the buttered baking dish. Top with the remaining 1/2 cup of shredded cheddar cheese. Pour into the buttered 1 quart baker.
    ________________________________________
    3b) Cream cheese and chive version: Stir the softened cream cheese into the warm cornmeal mush until completely blended. Stir in the chives.
    4b) Add the eggs* to the cornmeal mixture. Stir well (or not, if you are folding the whites into the batter, see below) and pour/spoon into the buttered baker. Dot with the tablespoon of butter.
    ________________________________________
    5) To bake: Bake either version in the pre-heated 400°F oven for 25 to 30 minutes. The top and sides will be browned and the center will be just set. Spoon bread is much softer than regular corn bread, so avoid over-baking.

    *For a soufflé-like spoon bread, separate the eggs and blend in the yolks. Whip the whites to soft peaks, and fold into the batter before spooning into the baking dish. It takes a little longer, but makes an ethereal spoon bread.

    Thanks much! I’ve corrected the recipe online to include the eggs in the cream cheese chive version. I appreciate the heads up! ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  5. xbaber

    I went to elementary school in Nebraska where spoonbread was on the lunch rotation. Ah, I miss those days when the food in the cafeteria was made from scratch including the bread. Not to say that I liked the food (what kid does?), but I wasn’t old enough to realize how good I had it.
    No kidding. School lunches aren’t what they used to be, but you got spoonbread?! Now I really feel like I got jipped. ~Jessica

    Reply
  6. MonkeyRyan

    Made this tonight for dinner with grilled chicken thighs. Cut back on the pickled jalapenos, as I wasn’t ready for a hot taste. Loved the spoon bread and as I am on WW it is a low point side dish. I will be making this again and again.
    Glad you liked it Monkey. I actually hadn’t done the WW points on it yet, I’m glad to know it is points friendly. Enjoy! ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  7. foodslut

    Good stuff – any problem adding other savouries to make it less vegetarian and more brunchy, like good sausage (pre-cooked before adding)?
    You could add about 1/2 cup crumbled cooked sausage or ham to the basic recipe. Not too much though, or it will weight the bread down. It’s supposed to be light and airy. Have fun! ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  8. juthurst

    Viscountesse & Mary Jane have touched on one of my favorite topics of interest: food traditions and where they come from.
    Inquiring minds (okay, maybe just me, lol) want to know…
    Corn pudding and spoon bread, which came first?
    Seems one is possibly a variation of the other…
    Was this perhaps a variation of a Native American dish (like succotash), because our forefathers certainly did not bring it with them from Europe.
    “Food History Detectives” would be a great addition to tv… ;)

    As to the modern lack of spoon bread in Virginia these days, I attribute it to the busy modern lifestyles, the (early 1990s) closing of the old tea rooms like Miller & Rhoads where such things could be enjoyed.
    Picadilly Cafeterias used to have spoon bread but those family style restaurants have closed here too.
    You can still enjoy spoon bread at the Hotel Roanoke- it’s one of their signature dishes.
    I love the idea of a food history show. I used to like those parts of Good Eats when Alton would talk to Deb, the nutritional anthropologist. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  9. Candace

    I used to work in eastern KY, down in the Appalachian mountains where the coal fields are. Spoon bread is the signature dish at the Berea Tavern, a very fine establishment that serves as the training facility for the hospitality school at Berea College. I have always used Richard Haughton’s recipe from the Tavern, but I will have to try yours too!
    I hope it fully meets your expectations! ~Amy

    Reply
  10. remalis56

    I have lived in northern Virginia x40+ years, and mostly see spoon bread in old inns or further south in the state. I have a few cookbooks from Virginia that always have at least 1 receipe. I am looking forward to trying the spicy one because my early years were in the southwest U.S so love spicy cooking.

    Reply

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