Appalachian Food

Old Time Light Cornbread

corn lightbread in pan on stove

A few weeks back Emaline B. Winter emailed me to see if I had ever heard of light cornbread. She said her grandmother made it and she’d been trying to find a recipe for it. I replied back that I had never heard of it, but would check my Appalachian Cookbooks for recipes and see if Blind Pig readers knew about the recipe.

Emaline beat me to it and send me this email:

“So appreciate your prompt and thoughtful reply! My husband asked about my email this morning and I told him about your blog and that I had decided to send you an email in my continuing quest for the “light cornbread” (that was what my grandmother and mother called it) recipe. My husband of course had it many times when we’d go to my home in Wytheville (VA) and also knew I was looking for the recipe. He went to the basement and brought up the Foxfire book pictured below. Lo and behold there is this recipe and I think it might be it! Will make it in the next few days and report back to you. Anxious to hear the responses from your readers. Many many thanks again!”

—Emaline B Winter


After reading her email I got my copy of “The Foxfire Book of Appalachian Cookery” and made the recipe.

Good Old-Fashioned Corn Lightbread

  • 1 quart cornmeal mush
  • salt to taste
  • cold water
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup lard
  • cornmeal

Once cornmeal mush is cooked remove the pot from heat and add enough cold water to cool the mixture. I used 3/4 cup of water.

Next add sugar, lard, and enough cornmeal to make a thick batter.

The directions said to set the mixture aside overnight to allow it to ferment. I left mine overnight, but I don’t think it fermented.

The next day add enough cornmeal to mixture to make a stiff batter and bake in greased 8 inch pan at 350 degrees until done.

The light cornbread has a different texture than regular cornbread, it was moist and cake like.

While the bread tasted good, I don’t think I’d make it again. I’m so used to regular cornbread that I’d much rather have it with a slather of butter.

I’m anxious to see if you have ever heard of light cornbread that has to sit overnight.


hand holding apple

Come cook with me!

Location: John C. Campbell Folk School – Brasstown, NC
Date: Sunday, August 23 – Saturday, August 29, 2020
Instructors: Carolyn Anderson, Tipper Pressley

Experience the traditional Appalachian method of cooking, putting up, and preserving the bounty from nature’s garden. Receive hands-on training to make and process a variety of jellies, jams, and pickles for winter eating. You’ll also learn the importance of dessert in Appalachian culture and discover how to easily make the fanciest of traditional cakes. Completing this week of cultural foods, a day of bread making will produce biscuits and cornbread. All levels welcome.

Along with all that goodness Carolyn and I have planned a couple of field trips to allow students to see how local folks produce food for their families. The Folk School offers scholarships you can go here to find out more about them. For the rest of the class details go here.

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  • Reply
    Lois Tootle
    March 19, 2020 at 2:08 pm

    Speaking of sugar in cornbread…when I was growing up in Southwest Va. some people would put sugar in their Mac and Cheese. Another “sin” in my opinion. Has anyone else heard of this.

    • Reply
      November 10, 2020 at 5:55 pm

      I have a baked macaroni and cheese recipe from a dear woman from South Carolina that calls for a little sugar. By far, it is the best baked macaroni and cheese I’ve ever had.

  • Reply
    March 16, 2020 at 8:20 pm

    Well, I didn’t know what you called it but it sounds like it would taste like my Grannys cornbread it had a kinda grainy texture, didn’t care for it much I was used to Mamas cornbread that was what I liked.

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    March 16, 2020 at 7:32 pm

    This sounds like Popcorn Sutton Cornbread more than Light Cornbread! Like Ed inferred Sugar doesn’t belong in Cornbread!

  • Reply
    March 16, 2020 at 2:44 pm

    The Last Straw by Bryant Holsenbeck. She is an amazing artist from Durham, NC, making beautiful art from our garbage. She lives simply as the readers here and is such an inspiration. Should be required reading. Thanks for all you do for all of us. Wonder if she makes light cornbread? Sugar in cornbread is not of the Lord. Just having fun!

  • Reply
    March 16, 2020 at 2:20 pm

    Never heard of Light cornbread either. I have eaten cornbread with and without sugar ,and also flour . Pretty much because I love cornbread in general, if it’s hot out of the oven and I can slather it with butter ,I can enjoy it…I do have a preference though one over the other. I would like to try out the above recipe just to see what I thought.

  • Reply
    March 16, 2020 at 2:01 pm

    Here is the recipe Rick requested :
    Corn Light Bread
    1/2 c self rising corn meal
    2 c self rising flour
    1/2 c sugar
    1 pack yeast
    1 egg
    2 c buttermilk
    Mix. Bake in loaf pan at 360 for 45-50 minutes.

  • Reply
    March 16, 2020 at 1:36 pm

    I have never heard of light Cornbread. I love, love Cornbread . I could eat it just by it self.

  • Reply
    March 16, 2020 at 1:07 pm

    My granny aunt made white cornbread but she used white corn meal. Aunt Beulah sent me to the store for cornmeal and I came back with a sack of yellow cornmeal. Talk about on the job training. She said they only ate white corn and yellow corn was used to feed the cows and horses. In fact she called it horse corn. She used bacon drippings instead of lard though there certainly was lard in the house. Wish I had her recipe.

  • Reply
    March 16, 2020 at 11:47 am

    I have never heard of this type of cornbread. I find out about so many interesting things on this blog.

  • Reply
    March 16, 2020 at 11:26 am

    I’ve never heard of light cornbread but I know my mother put a little sugar in her cornbread (not as much as is shown in the recipe), green beans, etc., and that, of course, was because my father liked the taste. None of my Aunts put sugar in their cornbread and never heard of putting in cornmeal mash. I have used the cornbread mix that you find at Walmart at times and find that it is sweet but my cornbread looks exactly like the picture above, just maybe not so many cracks. I would like to see your recipe, Tipper, and try it. I sure do love cornbread!!!

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    March 16, 2020 at 11:03 am

    Several years ago I was at the Deli at Ingles and I decided to get to get a plate for Dinner. That was way before I got my own stove to fix my own Cornbread and tater soup. The waiter or person behind the counter wasn’t from around here and her Cornbread was too sweet for me, but the greens and mashed taters were fine.

    The next day I went back to tell that lady just how to fix Cornbread without Sweeten it to death. I said to leave off the sugar and it would be fine, no Southerner or Mountain Person expected Cornbread to taste sweet. I tried to tell her without making her mad, but in a few days, she was gone. …Ken

  • Reply
    aw griff
    March 16, 2020 at 9:39 am

    Nope, never heard of light cornbread. One time in Idaho I had cornbread that was full of sugar that was moist with the texture of cake. I don’t think that was light cornbread but was cornmeal cake. Idaho, a beautiful conservative state. They just put too much sugar in their cornbread.
    I wondered if Emaline used yellow or white cornmeal. For our cornbread we almost always used the white but I like yellow the best for fried okra.
    Yesterday, my Wife went to Walmart and they still had cornmeal but all the flour was gone.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    March 16, 2020 at 9:34 am

    In my opinion putting sugar in cornbread is a sin. If it ain’t in the Bible it might ought to be. Maybe “seek thou not after unnatural amalgamations nor alien combinations foisted upon thee from lands to the north”

    • Reply
      aw griff
      March 16, 2020 at 11:43 am

      ED. You mean that might not be in the bible? I thought I saw it. Mamaw, Mom, and Wife must have seen it.

    • Reply
      March 16, 2020 at 8:26 pm

      Is that like it’s a sin for a woman to make coffee, never seen in the Bible she-brews, it’s He-brews. HeHe

  • Reply
    March 16, 2020 at 9:24 am

    As far as I can remember, Mom never made cornbread that had to ferment overnight. Cornbread was only served for supper and wouldn’t have been hot and fresh if it was baked in the morning. I grew up eating cornbread baked without sugar and still do. My friend used to buy cornbread at the cafeteria at work and rave about the thick, pale and sweet piece of cake-like bread.

  • Reply
    March 16, 2020 at 9:11 am

    I am not familiar at all with this. I do know some areas like lots of sugar in cornbread, but we did not. I had a friend when I lived in New Orleans who put sugar in beans she cooked and in her cornbread, She was a wonderful cook, but that never seemed to work for me. The part of Appalachia I find most interesting is the pockets where there are unique recipes, sayings, and traditions that are not common elsewhere in the region. This post was extremely interesting, and thanks to you and Emaline.

  • Reply
    harry adams
    March 16, 2020 at 8:53 am

    I sent my wife your recipe for biscuits last week when some dough on a casserole was a failure. She tried it and said it was the easiest biscuits she ever made and would always use it in the future. They were also the best she ever made. This is after 60 years of cooking.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    March 16, 2020 at 8:39 am

    That is a new one on me. Any chance, I wonder, if there is a connection with the ‘sour mash’ from the whiskey still? Or maybe it came about because, as Miss Cindy said, an effort to make a sweet with corn?

    On a related note, I think I recall you posting once about ‘gritted’ or ‘grated’ bread, made with corn that is not yet entirely hard; that is with the ‘germ’ center still semi-soft? My Grandma talked about it being made when she was a girl in the early 1900’s.

  • Reply
    She.ryl Paul
    March 16, 2020 at 7:42 am

    Sounds like something my daughter in law makes. Hers is exactly like cake.

  • Reply
    March 16, 2020 at 7:14 am

    I have made corn light bread, made with cornmeal, flour, and more sugar than cornbread usually has. It is baked in a loaf pan. Seems like light cornbread is something completely different.

    • Reply
      Rick Shepherd
      March 16, 2020 at 8:23 am

      Ava……I’ve thought over the years to add flour to my cornbread but never did it…..Would you please post your recipe, I’d like to try it…..Thanks, Rick

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    March 16, 2020 at 7:00 am

    I’ve never heard of Light Cornbread, that I can recall, however I do have some thoughts on it. It seems like it may have been a lighter textured sweet bread made with corn. That is far more sugar than would ever be put in cornbread. Wheat flour would not have been as plentiful as cornmeal. Most folks grew their own corn but not wheat.
    Of course this is just a best guess on my part. I also don’t quite understand how it could ferment over night, but then remember, their cornmeal was very different than what we buy at the grocery store now.

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