Polenta Cornbread: A Happy Mistake

Tonight, I was planning to make chili for dinner. Usually we serve chili over rice (natch) but I had a quart of buttermilk in the fridge and thought… can I use that to make some cornbread?

I went over to Foodgawker (which I am in LOVE with these days!) and did a search for “buttermilk cornbread.” There were so many options, and many of them looked amazing, BUT I did not have the time or the ingredients to add special nifty stuff like fresh corn or bacon or chiles or whatnot. I just wanted yummy cornbread that included buttermilk.

Finally I settled on this recipe at The Hungry Mouse. It looked awesome! I love step-by-step photo recipes.

I looked in my pantry. Could not find cornmeal anywhere. I swore we’d had a big container of it. But my pantry is an overstuffed, disorganized MESS and I could not find it. I did, however, find a bag of polenta. Ahhh!

Isn’t polenta just … Italian cornmeal? I went to Twitter and asked, “Can I use polenta instead of cornmeal to make cornbread?” and I got a flurry of responses. Such as, “They’re really the same!” to “Grind it in a coffee grinder!” (what???) and “NO.” Yow! But at this point I was committed. I had all my ingredients out, including the buttermilk that started it all.

Then I could not find my metal 8 x 8 pan, only a glass one. Again I turned to Twitter. HELP! And got another round of enthusiastic yet conflicting advice. “Metal is better!” “Glass is more even!” “Try a cast iron skillet!” This all made me laugh in a confused way. Then I found the metal pan. Whew! But people were still touting the benefits of glass. Hmm! What to do?

I combined all the ingredients just as the recipe directed, EXCEPT for the polenta. The recipe indicated that it would be very stiff and hard to spread into the pan, but my batter was sort of wet and quite pourable. Oops? I fretted.

I had some grated cheddar cheese sitting in a Tupperware in the fridge, so I sprinkled some on top and hoped for the best.

I put it in the oven and then had to run off to pick up offspring from practice. I kept texting my husband while I waited for it. “Did you take out the cornbread?” “How is it?” “HOW IS IT?”

As it turned out, it was excellent. It definitely had a grainier, more crunchy consistency than “regular” cornbread, but that was what I really liked about it. It was super moist! and a little crumbly, but gooooooooooood. I think I’ll definitely make it again, and WITH the polenta. Yum! A happy mistake!

And it tasted wonderful with the chili. 🙂

Here’s the recipe. (thanks to The Hungry Mouse!)

Buttermilk Cornbread

  • 1 cup stone ground cornmeal (OR polenta!!)
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk
  • 2 eggs
  • spray oil or butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease or spray an 8 x 8 baking pan with butter or spray. Line the bottom with parchment.

Whisk together dry ingredients: cornmeal (or polenta!), flour, sugar, baking powder, salt.

Add the wet ingredients: olive oil, buttermilk, eggs. Whisk it together until it all comes together. (NOTE: Mine was really wet)

Either scrape (if it’s dry?) or pour (if it’s wet like mine) into pan. Bake at 400 for 20 minutes.  It’s done if it springs back when you press on it, or when a toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely before cutting.


55 responses to “Polenta Cornbread: A Happy Mistake

  1. So glad it turned out !

  2. I’m trying it now. All I had was polenta, so I googled and found your recipe. I’ve added a twist: we’re gluten free, so instead of flour I used Bob’s Redmill GF Flour mix, and instead of buttermilk (wish I had some) I tried making some w/1 Tablespoon vinegar in 2/3 C milk – let set for 5 mins, then add.
    We’ll see, it’s in the oven now. And boy, was it wet – liquidy, in fact…I will definitely add some cheese on top next time, too; that looks awesome.

    • awesome we’re newly gluten free so was thinking about the flour will look and see if I have any GF baking flour I know I have lots of red mill stuff….I know I have muffin/pancake mix may try that. LOL

  3. Add some chia seeds for extra crunch and nutrition!

  4. I made it using 1C Bobs Red Mill Brown Rice Flour and instead of buttermilk I used Almond Milk. (we are GF/CF) I blended the wet ingredients with a food processor to make the eggs fluffy- It came out absolutely delicious! And I used a cast iron pan instead. 20min was exactly right. The only thing I will do different next time is add a tsp of Xanthan Gum to avoid major crumbling….

  5. I’m an American living in Switzerland and cornbread is one of the many things I miss. Unfortunately, we haven’t not found cornbread mixes or cornmeal here. We tried your recipe with polenta- it was fantastic! Thanks for filling one of our voids- I can now check cornbread off our “missing in action” list!

  6. Im making it now! It looks so pretty! I ground up my polenta so that it wasn’t so runny and I had to use canola oil. Hopefully it’ll be great!

  7. Sooo good. I love it. Thanks!!

  8. I found myself in the same conundrum as you – wanting to make cornbread with polenta. Lucky for me, your blog post came up as I googled. It is baking now! Thanks again for the help!

  9. PS: Pinning to Pinterest!

  10. Fantastic, thanks!!!!

  11. I just looked in my sad little cabinet, knowing there wasn’t anything to make cornbread with. And then I saw a little yellow-fulled bad of bulk polenta — yes!!!


  12. Cornbread and Chili I also love. Hughs Cornbread.
    Heston Inspired Chili, I have not got time to do a full Heston chili, but some of his tips are always a great idea.
    I use Yogurt and milk in Soda bread sometimes, as butermilk is a cycle ride away.

  13. Definitely a lifesaver for those of us abroad without access to American stuff like cornbread! I had some polenta lurking and wondered if it were possible to use it like cornmeal…ahh, bless you internets! In the oven and smelling lovely. Thanks a bunch!

  14. Lifesaver! only had polenta and wasmaking white bean turkey chili…your recipe was just what I needed…substituted the sugar with a non-caloric sweetner!

  15. mines in the oven now, lookin good!

  16. Why don’t you include the recipe in an easily printable format?

  17. I used this recipe but substituted sour cream for the buttermilk. AWESOME!

  18. Tried it…worked it…loved it! Thanks for sharing

  19. South African maize meal works well in this recipe. Am going to try it with wholemeal flour. Excellent post!

  20. Thanks. I had the same problem. I had adifferent recipe, so combined mine w/t yours.

  21. I’m an American living in the Czech Republic and have chili craving also. You cannot have chili without corn bread those two go hand in hand its like cereal and milk or cookies and milk. I found a polenta cornbread recipes from another poster butI like that you added the cheese I think I will do that next time. But you are right polenta cornbread rocks

  22. Just what I was looking for….cornbread made with polenta! Wonderful, I enjoy mine with a little honey. Thanks for sharing!

  23. Made beans & ham hocks, but didn’t have cornmeal.
    Found your post & it’s a winner.
    I have finally found the only Cornbread (polenta) recipe I will use.
    No more searching for that “special” recipe. I have found it.
    Thank you!

  24. Pingback: Favorite Vineyard Recipes | Gantz Family Vineyards

  25. This is exactly what I needed! Same scenario. No cornmeal, only polenta and lots of buttermilk! Thanks so much!!!

  26. Well, thanks for this! I will be making it tomorrow for my 4th party! I love me some Polenta, and I think this will be the perfect addition to my big bad pot of chili.

  27. Thanx for the recipe I live in South Africa, and I was always curios about Corn bread. Tonight I decided to try it using your recipe. We don’t have cornmeal, so Polenta is the closest thing we have to cornmeal. I definitely make it again. I loved it my kids loved it and hubby is already hinting for another one!

  28. This was awesome. Used rice flour to make it wheat free. I don’t have a cast iron skillet glass worked great. I cooked mine for 10mins longer.

  29. Delicious!

  30. Can I use grits? They’re basically southern American polenta.

  31. I was surprised at how very few recipes for polenta cornbread are out there; yours is fantastic. I tried it out for dinner tonight and it was a big hit w/the family. Thank you!

  32. My wife buys “Golden Pheasant” Polenta and a on the back is a recipe called San Francisco Polenta bread. Only difference was 1 cup milk and 1 egg. I baked mine in muffin pan (made 16) Kind of fun since I’m about 10 miles North of the Golden Gate…..I may never buy cornmeal again!

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  34. I just have to say– I was looking for a polenta cornbread recipe (I’m another one of those living overseas) & think this was one of the best cornbreads I’ve ever had. Approval from the whole family! Thank you for sharing.

  35. Absolutely amazing! Didn’t change a thing. Topped with butter and honey. Thanks!!

  36. Amazingly happy, Lovely recipe

  37. Thank you so much! I’m in Italy and made chili so cornbread was a must. Thanks to Google, I found your recipe! Buttermilk isn’t something I have translated nor need on a regular basis, so I just added a squeeze of lemon. It turned out just the way I like it! Grazie!

  38. Thank you for this recipe – mine came out delicious. I am not living overseas, but someone gave me a bag of polenta, and I don’t really care for polenta.

  39. I’m going through the exact same mess. Craving chilli and have my heart set on making it for dinner tonight…and chilli and corn bread is a marriage made in heaven. On the look out for substitutes for cornmeal since it’s not a common ingredient you can buy at the super market. Polenta sounds like a good idea! Wish me luck! 🙂

  40. Recipe left out baking powder. You might want to add that for future readers.

  41. Thank you for posting this recipe! Tried it last night and it came out great. I was worried about my polenta being too coarse, so I soaked it in homemade buttermilk for 30min, and let the final batter sit for about 10min before loading into muffin cups. The result was perfect with just the right amount of crunch and sweetness!

  42. I live in Germany (from SC). I needed some cornbread for my oxtails and beans!
    lawd, I was out of cornmeal and found your recipe….a thousand thank you’s!
    As far as I’m concerned, I have a new recipe.
    I was also low on olive oil, so I used pork fat.
    I wish I could hug you!
    Troy Wilson

  43. Made this recipe about 15 times thus far, and it always turns out great. Add all the sugar for a sweet cornbread, or just a little with feta and peppers for a savory cornbread. Great recipe – thank you! Also, as buttermilk is hard to come by in Switzerland, I use a mix of yogurt and kefir which works well.

  44. All I had was corn grits or polenta and corn flour so I used 1/2 cup corn flour and 1/2 cup flour instead of 1 cup flour and the corn bread wasn’t as crumbly as I expected. The cornbread turned out really great! Thank you for the great recipe!

  45. I am making this for about the tenth time tonight…I just can’t thank you enough.
    A Southern Boy in Germany😊

  46. Your recipe sounds super yummy! I’m definitely going to try it one day 🙂

    I have a question : cornmeal is difficult to get where I live, they only sell polenta here. Can I make my own cornmeal by grinding the polenta in a mixer?

    Thanks for your help

  47. Pingback: Vegan Polenta Corn Muffins – Hopscotch Mom

  48. Thank you! Super recipe, which I made in France with a 5-minute polenta. I had no buttermilk so substituted semi-skimmed milk, mixed with a scant tablespoon of vinegar and left to stand 5 minutes.
    The batter poured well. The cornbread had a excellent crumb. I am very grateful to you.

  49. I have now made this recipe a half dozen times. It’s become my favorite cornbread recipe (and I’ve made a bunch). However, I thought there was way too much oil, so I completely swapped the oil out for applesauce. Thank you.

  50. Haven’t tried all-polenta, but added 1/4 C polenta and it gave a nice touch.

  51. Being an old southern girl…cut back just a tad on the sugar…forget olive oil! it’s bacon grease or don’t even bother…and bake in a cast iron skillet with a Tbsp or so of more melted bacon grease. You’ll thank me for this. Your heart won’t but you will. Oh, but thank YOU for trying it with polenta. Almost impossible to find coarse ground cornmeal in stores and I knew nothing about polenta which seems to be everywhere and apparently is just grits with a fancy name.

  52. I’m something of a cornbread fanatic, and I’ve made this recipe countless times. It is wonderful as is. That said, I rarely have all the right ingredients, and I’ve made this with gluten-free flour blends, cassava flour, Coconut oil, watered down half n half mixed with vinegar…it comes out great every time! The only thing I wouldn’t recommend is using almond milk, because that almond milky flavor comes through in the bread. Oh, and I always make it in a case iron skillet for a crispy brown crust. Thanks for this great recipe!

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