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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This looks fabulous; I like to make cornbread with vegetarian chili, and this would be a good, hearty accompaniment. I'm also wondering whether I could use this cornbread in my cornbread stuffing for Thanksgiving ( or if it will be too "busy." I may have to make a test batch and taste it...such sacrifice.....


This looks yummy. I LOVE spicy cornbread. I just wanted to say also that last night I made your "Unfussy Apple Cake" with 2 cups of mashed strawberries that I needed to use up instead of apples. I guess since strawberries aren't in season mine weren't very sweet so I added 3 tbsp of maple syrup for flavor and extra sweetness (inspired by your huckleberry coffee cake). It was ready in no time flat and it came out great. I will definitely be holding on to this one to use for times when I have more fresh fruit on hand than I can eat. Thanks for the versatile and "unfussy" recipe.


this looks fantastic. i've been trying to decide what kind of bread to serve at thanksgiving dinner...this may be it! i love the whole kernels of corn and the red pepper flakes. texture sounds wonderful. thanks for sharing!


Looks delightful. I can never get enough of cornbread recipes and this one looks like it has a great texture. I'm thinking that some basil might also be nice infused into the butter.


This looks SO GOOD! Especially with the corn kernels.


One word: Yum. I used what I had on hand in the kitchen as I didn't have time to shop. With several substitutions this came out of the oven brown and beautiful. (I used whole milk - going to try it with buttermilk next time since I have had a lot of success with buttermilk in other recipes. The regular corn meal was fine; I also only had unbleached flour which also worked well.) It was moist and light and a perfect complement to our homemade chili. Thanks! This will be a regular in our house.


Ohh my goodness, this is wonderful, this is absolutely wonderful. It is cooling down on my stove right now! The red pepper adds a fantastic extra to what is already a wonderful cornbread.


Heidi, this recipe was great! I have never tried cornbread with whole corn kernels in it, and I went into cooking with trepidation. I am glad to say that the recipe pleasantly surprised me. The pepper flakes gave a kick to what could otherwise be a pretty bland recipe. I used the only cornmeal I could find at my local grocery store, which was a very finely ground cornmeal. It worked like a charm. Hayley, I am with you on the cranberry idea. Next attempt I will forgo the pepper flakes and corn kernels, and throw in some cranberries to get things all tarted up! ;)


You've got a winner here. I can usually spot a great recipe as I have been cooking for a few years now(55) and some of it professionally. Right now I am playing around with baking breads(all Types). Have found that the best tasting breads take about 3 to 4 days to have that flavor that is good enough to write home about. I'm talking about yeast breads(not Sourdough). Am planning on playing with sourdough and starters after the first of the year.


to Blue-Hearted Oakie, The best cornbread I ever made was in a wood stove in the Black Hills of SD. I don't know how high the temp was, but it must have been considerable, as it baked in 10 minutes and was oh, so tender.


I love sweet cornbreads...perhaps make it even sweeter by leaving out the red pepper flakes and substituting some of the corn kernels with fresh cranberries? Toasted walnuts would also be great.


This looks amazing! I love corn bread with corn kernels in it. Instead of the sugar, I'll try it with Splenda. (I'm diabetic.) While I don't have pepper flakes, I do have some fire oil to brush on the bottom of the cast iron skillet. I truly love your posts and just wanted to say thank you. You put a lot of hard work into helping us eat beautiful, healthy food.


This looks amazing. I'm going to try using regular polenta, since that is what I have on hand, and will let you know how it turns out. Thanks!

Ellie from Kitchen Caravan

quick question - can one substitute white whole wheat flour for the whole wheat pastry? thanks for any input.


this sounds fabulous. Do you have any suggestions for a gluten free substitute for the wheat flour? Do you think a specific flour or blend would work best? A combo of amaranth, tapioca, and quinoa, perhaps?


Hi Heidi, Just discovered your site and really love it. I think this looks like a great recipe. I have two thoughts: 1) on the sugar issue, I prefer less sweet also, but I do like that sugar makes a browner bread -- I'm wondering if you can get the golden crust with less sugar by baking differently, i.e., start out quite hot then lower the heat? and 2) on instant versus regular, I think you can reduce grit and still use regular by soaking the cornmeal in the buttermilk for 10 minutes or so before adding in the egg and corn, then folding in the dry. The great thing about cornbread is that there are endless varieties! Thanks for sharing and love your photos.

Blue-Hearted Oakie

This looks amazing - it reminds me of the jalapeno cornbread I used to get at Heaven on Seven in Chicago when I worked across the street. I'd have to leave the crushed red pepper out for my hubby, but I will definitely make this for me! Thanks Heidi!


i have been eating corn bread all my life--yours has too much sugar in it for me----but i have never used buttermilk without adding some baking soda + the baking powder--also i like to add heat in tiny pieces of pepper rather than in the fat so it is like a suprise rather than an all over flavor--i use a preheated square 80 yr old iron frying pan- slips out easily-- just a few thoughts-- leslie

leslie schupak

yes! I have been waiting, rather my newly seasoned cast iron skillet has been waiting for some cornbread. I am into agave for the touch of sweetness... thanks for the iseas!

Organic Goodness

I have a variation of this up my sleeve. It has a shredded onion, shredded cheese and diced jalapeno peppers as well as corn kernels. It is divine!


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