Firecracker Cornbread Recipe

A moist, tender buttermilk cornbread packed with corn kernels and flecked with red pepper flakes. Simple and delicious.

Firecracker Cornbread

If you think you might like a moist, tender buttermilk cornbread packed with corn kernels and flecked with red pepper flakes, this is the recipe to try. Last year I did yeast-raised cornbread for Thanksgiving, and I decided to head in the opposite direction this year. I was after a more traditional cornbread, but added a bit of a spicy twist. I infused a few tablespoons of butter with spicy red pepper flakes, heated them in the pan I would eventually bake the cornbread in, added the batter, baked it off, and ended up with a nice crusty, slightly sweet cornbread with the perfect amount of kick to it.

Firecracker Cornbread Recipe

I actually started thinking about doing a firecracker cornbread around the time I was writing about fire oil in the context of this hummus recipe. Good in lots of things - hummus, muffins....breads. I made a note to self to try it in my next batch of cornbread. I also considered (alternately) doing a spicy simple syrup and using that within the context of the cornbread batter. I decided on the infused butter route because it would help give the cornbread a bit of a butter crust (because it isn't incorporated into the batter)...but think of all the fun thinkings you could do with a spicy simple syrup.

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Firecracker Cornbread Recipe

If you don't stock whole wheat pastry flour, feel free to substitute unbleached all-purpose flour.

3 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 cup instant cornmeal (or instant polenta) or fine-grain cornmeal
1/4 cup natural cane sugar (or brown sugar)
1 tablespoon aluminum-free baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons fine grain sea salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 large egg
2 1/2 cups corn, fresh (or at room temperature if previously frozen)

more butter for drizzling (optional)

Preheat your oven to 350F degrees, with a rack in the middle.

Just before you make the batter, in a small saucepan, melt the butter, stir in the red pepper flakes, and pour into a 9-inch pie tin (I have an enameled cast-iron one that is perfect) or equivalent baking dish. Place in the hot oven.

In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl whisk together the buttermilk, egg, and corn. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry and stir until just combined. Now very carefully remove the hot pan with butter from the oven. Fill it with the cornbread batter, pushing the batter out to the sides if needed. Bake for 30 - 40 minutes or until the edges are golden and the center is just set. Remove and drizzle with a bit of melted butter (optional).

Makes 10 slices.

If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!

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I'm in need of a good homemade cornbread, yours looks wonderful. No butter goes into the actual cornbread? It's just used to crisp and spice up the bottom? Really interesting recipe, I may bring this to one of the three potlucks I have for over the next three weekends.


I love your recipes and your site so much that I created my own food blog: thank you Heidi

vini souza

Lots I like in this recipe, but I'll have to experiment to see if I can leave out the sugar. I'm from the deep South, and sugar or other sweeteners just don't fit in my family's idea of cornbread. The whole-wheat flour and the red-pepper flakes, those sound great!


adding smoked gouda!!! mmmmmm then it would be my perfect cornbread!!


I am in love with cornbread. It goes so well with stews or chilis- sort of. Here's the thing though... It always comes out so DRY. Maybe that's why it goes well with things that take some of the grit out of it. A friend recently suggested to me that it might be the cornmeal itself I am using and not so much the recipe. How does this recipe fair? Does it come out a bit more moist or kind of on the gritty side? HS: quite moist Karen. The instant cornmeal/polenta keeps the grit under control, and the buttermilk keeps things nice, moist and tender.


After years of doing (and not minding) the Jiffy box cornbread with a little doctoring here and there, this may be the welcome change. I like the contrast with the red pepper flake a lot.


This sounds great. I regularly add jalapenos in my cornbread because I like the kick.

Fit Bottomed Girls

I love a hint of heat and real corn in my cornbread -- there are so many possibilities with the stuff (and one of my favorite inspiration sources is Crescent Dragonwagon's Cornbread Gospels). Thanks for the veggie/vegan list -- I will make good use of it this holiday season.

becky and the beanstock

Yum. This looks delicious. Have you thought of adding a little chipolte or ancho chili powder into the bread?


Mmm...spice maple syrup. You've got me thinking, indeed! I think that may be a go for the next batch of chili or black bean soup, neither of which can be that far off. I awoke to flurries in Wisconsin this morning! This desert rat will need lots of soup and spicy-sweet cornbread to make it through the next week!

Laurel from Simple Spoonful

I'm wondering about the instant vs. regular cornmeal as well. What's the difference? I don't think I've ever seen instant. Could this recipe work with the regular kind?

Michelle @ What Does Your Body Good?

I have a cast iron skillet I keep around just for making cornbread in. The heavier weight works better than a lighter pie pan would. I make cornbread from scratch all the time and I must say I've never used instant corn meal. It's usually regular polenta, as that's what I can get here (as opposed to corn meal). My grandmother would spin in her grave if Iever bought the instant ;-) And really, I've tasted it, it's not worth the money.


yeast risen cornbread! I'd better dash off that post immediately.....

Dana McCauley

This is my first time responding! This recipe looks like just the thing for a day like today. Here in Delaware the skies are gray and we have snow flurries gently drifting down. I'll pair this with vegetarian chili. My family will be warm and toasty tonight! I just want to say that I enjoy this feed. There are very few people in my area that really cook and bake from scratch. I am proud to say that all my children (2 boys and 1 girl) are all tremendous cooks. I've been using vegetarian recipes since the mid-70's (Laurel's Kitchen) and we've been organic gardener's since that time. I will continue to enjoy your recipes.

Kaleo's Grammy

Can you use cornmeal flour in place of instant cornmeal? I never seen instant cornmeal. I buy it in the Italian section of various grocery stores. My sense is that you could substitute a very fine grain corn meal and it would be no problem - a bit different, but would still work. If you do the substitution please report back (even better if you can send me a picture), and I can update the post.


wow - this looks amazing! Cornbread that has some spice, can't wait to try it!!

Tabitha (From Single to Married)

Both my husband and father in law love cornbread with a kick! I will have to try your recipe (with gluten free flour of course). Thanks :)


This is an exciting the red peppers. I will definatly try this one soon, have always been a big fan of cornbread even though we don´t have a tradition for making them in iceland :-) ....but made them now an again. It´s nice to see that you have used whole corn to give a bit of texture. Thanx for this really cool recipe. best regards Gudmundur Palmason


This sounds SO good! Cornbread is a real favorite at this time of year - I always make a big batch and save half to crumble into a Thanksgiving-style dressing. Curious, though - is there really such a thing as 'instant' cornmeal?


{gasp}... oh... is it true...? am I first? do I really get to be first? wow, what an honor! I'm so excited about being first! I'm even more excited to try this cornbread! I love love love cornbread... being raised in KY. I love all things cornmeal: polenta, grits, cornbread, especially that sweet cornmeal mushy stuff that Chevy's and some mexican restaurants serve as a side called tamalito. Now that I live in Jersey, Amish country isn't too far away and there are several varieties of stone ground corn meal that are fantastic. A trick my mom used to use is to heat up a cast iron pan on the stove top for a min with some oil and throw in a handful of corn meal and let it cook until slightly brown; then add your batter. This will give a great sandy, crunchy crust to the bottom of the finished product. I've done this with the course ground meal and it's perfection!


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