The Best Vegan Cornbread

by Ali | updated December 6, 2020

This is the best vegan cornbread recipe, crispy on the outside, sweet and tender on the inside.

Made with stone-ground cornmeal and homemade vegan buttermilk, it has a hearty texture and rich flavor that pairs perfectly with vegan chili. This vegan cornbread is a perfect side dish to bring to any potluck or barbeque.

How to Make Vegan Cornbread

Cornbread is my favorite side dish! I used to make those Jiffy corn muffins from the box all the time as a kid…actually I definitely made those throughout college as well. It’s cheap and easy, and there’s a vegan version with no lard.

Once I started baking for real, I tried making cornbread with stone-ground cornmeal, and now I know I can never go back to the box!

I’ve tried a bunch of different versions and finally settled on a recipe that makes the best vegan cornbread. It browns and crisps at the edges, while the inside is perfectly sweet and moist. It’s hearty, and a little crumbly. And most importantly, it tastes absolutely delicious.

This recipe has a couple of extra steps (you have to mix up a flax egg and curdle some non-dairy milk), but I promise you, they are easy and the end results are totally worth it.

Read on to find out how to make the best vegan cornbread.

Perfectly sweet and moist

This vegan cornbread is sweetened with brown sugar and maple syrup, which adds incredible flavor and moisture to the final result. Brown sugar gives hints of molasses, while the maple syrup pairs perfectly with some barbecue or vegan chili. And both sweeteners help to keep your cornbread soft and moist.

While cornbread should be a little crumbly, it shouldn’t be so crumbly that it falls apart before it gets to your mouth! When you’re baking without eggs, it can be especially difficult to achieve that balance.

That’s why this recipe uses ground flaxseed as an egg substitute. When you mix ground flax with water it thickens and gels into an egg-like binder that works wonderfully for holding a crumbly bread together. It’s an extra step in the baking process, but essential to make a tender cornbread.

And of course, lots of vegan butter helps to keep the cornbread rich and moist too!

Stone-ground cornmeal

The one ingredient that really makes an impact in your cornbread is the cornmeal. Cornmeal creates the flavor and the texture of your cornbread, so if you want a hearty cornbread that tastes delicious, you have to use the good stuff.

I recommend using stone-ground cornmeal for your cornbread. Stone-ground cornmeal is ground between two stones (duh!), and keeps the hull and germ of the corn kernels. The resulting cornmeal is a whole grain flour, with most of the flavor and nutrients of corn left intact.

In contrast, the regular cornmeal from your generic supermarket brand is made using metal grinders, and most of the hull and the germ is removed. You get a finer, more consistent texture, but it’s missing the flavor and nutrients of the whole grain stone-ground meal.

You definitely don’t want to use cornflour, which is the same stuff as cornmeal, just pulverized into a very fine powder. Corn flour will produce a bland cornbread, lacking in flavor and texture.

A medium grind is the best choice for cornbread, as it balances the flavor of coarser grinds, without being too gritty.

If you use a coarse grind cornmeal, I recommend soaking the cornmeal in the buttermilk for at least half an hour (or overnight in the fridge), to soften it up. Otherwise, you’ll end up with bread that is too grainy or has little hard bits in it.

Vegan Buttermilk

Vegan buttermilk is key for this recipe. You can’t find it in stores, but don’t worry! It’s really just a sour milk that you make by combining any plant-based milk with some lemon juice or vinegar.

When you add that acid, the proteins in the non-dairy milk will curdle, creating a rich and tangy product that is delicious for salad dressings, pancakes, biscuits, and quick breads.

Most often, the vinegar or lemon juice acts as extra leavening in your baked product. Like your 6th-grade science fair volcano, vinegar plus baking soda interact to make lots of foamy air bubbles that make your baked goods puff up.

Even though cornbread is a hearty bread, the extra lift from the baking soda helps to make sure you don’t end up with an inedible pancake.

To find out more, check out my full article on how to make vegan buttermilk.

Final Thoughts

So, scroll down to learn how to make vegan cornbread! This cornbread recipe is so tasty, I hope you love it. And if you, don’t forget to share it.

We’d love to hear from you, so if you make this recipe, have any questions, or try out any variations, drop us a line in the comments.

Q&A

What is cornmeal?

Cornmeal is a coarse flour made from grinding dried corn kernels. When it is ground very fine, it’s called corn flour.

Cornmeal is used in porridges (like grits and polenta), all sorts of quick breads (from corndogs to hushpuppies to cornbread), and tortillas. It’s super versatile, and the different grinds (from coarse to very fine) are suitable for making different sorts of dishes.

How to make gluten-free vegan cornbread

To make this recipe gluten-free, make sure to use gluten-free cornmeal, and substitute the all-purpose flour with a 1-to-1 gluten-free flour. Make sure the baking powder is gluten-free as well.

How to make whole grain vegan cornbread

Half of the flour used in this vegan cornbread recipe is whole grain cornmeal, so you’re almost there! To make whole-grain cornbread, just substitute the all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour, and you’re good to go!

The result will be a bit darker in color, and will be a little denser, but you shouldn’t have to make any other changes.

How to find stone-ground cornmeal?

Okay, so I’ve convinced you that you need to get some quality stone-ground corn meal, but where can you find it?

  • Buy directly from a mill. The best place to get quality flours and meals is from small mills, many of which can ship directly to you, anywhere in the US. Try one of the many mills listed in this article, or search google to find a mill local to you.
  • Bob’s Red Mill. This brand probably looks familiar to you, they sell lots of specialty flours and grains in regular grocery stores. You can probably find a medium grain cornmeal from Bob’s Red Mill, and it works great in cornbread.

Yield: 9

Vegan Cornbread

Vegan Cornbread

Made with stone-ground cornmeal and homemade non-dairy buttermilk, this is the best vegan cornbread you'll ever try. It's crispy on the outside, yet moist and tender on the inside. This vegan cornbread is a perfect hearty side dish to bring to any potluck or barbeque.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • Vegan buttermilk: 1 Tbsp lemon juice + 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • Flax egg: 1 Tbsp ground flax seed + 2 1/2 Tbsp water
  • 1 cup medium grind stone-ground cornmeal
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) salted vegan butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2 Tbsp maple syrup

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F and grease an 8x8 or 9x9 inch baking pan.
  2. Make the vegan buttermilk by combining the lemon juice and almond milk in a bowl or measuring cup. Set aside and let it curdle.
  3. Make the flax egg by combining the ground flax and water. Set aside to thicken and gel.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  5. In a medium bowl, whisk the melted butter, brown sugar, and maple syrup until creamy. Add the flax egg and vegan buttermilk and whisk until well combined.
  6. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Do not overmix.
  7. Pour the batter into the greased pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the top is golden brown and the edges look crispy. A toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean.
  8. Let the cornbread cool for at least 5 minutes before cutting.

Notes

  • For the vegan buttermilk, you can use white vinegar or apple cider vinegar instead of the lemon juice, and any kind of plant-based milk instead of almond milk.
  • It's okay if your buttermilk doesn't curdle. Some types of non-dairy milk don't have enough protein, or have stabilizers that prevent curdling. As long as you use lemon juice or vinegar, the batter will work out fine.
  • You can substitute ground chia for the ground flax.
  • Use stone-ground cornmeal for the best flavor, and a medium grind for the perfect texture.
  • If you use unsalted butter or coconut oil, then add another 1/4 tsp salt to the dry ingredients.
  • Storage and freezing. Store the cornbread wrapped up tightly at room temperature for up to a week. For longer storage, you can freeze it for up to 6 months. Let the cornbread cool entirely before freezing. Thaw overnight in the fridge, then reheat in the microwave or oven.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

9

Serving Size:

one square

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 260

Ali

CONTRIBUTOR

Ali is the former editor of Vegan HW and a graduate of L’Academie de Cuisine. She is the author of two cookbooks and her favorite vegetable is, believe it or not, the mighty pea. Check out her website to learn more about Ali!

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