The Best Vegan Cornbread You’ll Ever Eat

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This crispy-crusted, buttery, and moist vegan cornbread is truly the best cornbread you'll ever eat. A must-make, whether paired with vegan chili or on your holiday table! No one will know it's vegan (easy to make GF).
Prep 20 mins
Cook 25 mins
Total 45 mins
5 from 117 votes

The first time I nailed this Vegan Cornbread recipe, my jaw was on the floor.

You see, there are a lot of of mediocre cornbreads out there that taste like mild-flavored corn cakes.

I’m proud to report this vegan cornbread is anything but mediocre. It has the coveted crispy crust and edges, a buttery richness, tons of corn flavor, the perfect amount of crumble, and just the right amount of sweetness.

Table of Contents
1. Why this recipe works
2. Ingredient notes
3. Step-by-step instructions
4. Tips for making this recipe
5. Frequently Asked Questions
6. Recipe card with notes

vegan cornbread in a cast iron skillet with a slice taken out and vegan butter on top

Why this recipe works

After doing a serious deep dive on cornbread—including days of research on traditional Southern cornbread, watching endless Youtube videos, and testing this recipe 20 times—here’s what I learned about making an epic vegan cornbread.

Crispy crust and edges

Cornbread is all about the crispy crust, and IMO, it’s non-negotiable. To achieve this, I do three things.

(1) Pour the batter into a sizzling hot skillet to kickstart the crunchy crust;

(2) Add vegan butter to the hot pan + a dusting of cornmeal to enhance the crispy edges (and for that buttery taste);

(3) Bake in a cast iron skillet for deeply golden edges and a caramelized crust.

If you don’t have a cast iron skillet, check out the FAQ section.

Buttery and moist, not dry

To avoid the dry texture common in many vegan cornbreads (the kind that makes it difficult to swallow), this recipe does a few things.

(1) Adds a fair amount of vegan “buttermilk” (full-fat oat milk mixed with apple cider vinegar);

(2) Mixes agave nectar and brown sugar, which have more moisture than white sugar;

(3) Mixes olive oil (adds lots of moisture) and vegan butter (which brings that essential buttery taste).

Cornbread, not corn cake

Many popular cornbread recipes that show up in Google use about a 1:1 cornmeal:flour ratio. But, most traditional Southern cornbread recipes use significantly more cornmeal than flour.

In my tests, I found that the popular recipes which used more flour than cornmeal resulted in cornbread with (1) a diluted corn flavor and (2) a cakey texture (e.g., they felt like corn cake).

So this recipe uses a 2:1 ratio of cornmeal to flour, which (a) helps the corn flavor shine and (b) produces the classic cornbread texture: it crumbles a little but still holds together; it’s moist but has a slightly grain texture from the corn grits.

vegan cornbread in cast iron skillet with one slice turned up

Ingredient notes

ingredients labeled for vegan cornbread

Vegan butter. Traditional cornbread has a rich buttery flavor. Luckily, that can be easily replicated with vegan butter. I like using Earth Balance buttery sticks, but they also make a soy-free version if you need that.

Substitute? The vegan butter takes this cornbread over the top in a way that oil alone cannot, so please don’t just use oil instead!

Olive oil. Oil brings more moisture than butter alone, so I use a mix of olive oil and vegan butter here. The combo makes this cornbread perfectly moist.

Substitute: You can sub olive oil with a neutral-flavored oil if you prefer.

Oat milk. Oat milk does a great job at browning baked goods, and the fat content helps compensate for the generous amount of fat used in classic cornbread. I like using full-fat oat milk (Oatly brand or Califia extra creamy oat milk) for the best texture.

Substitute: Soy milk or cashew milk would probably work too, but I haven’t tested those.

Apple cider vinegar. When mixed into plant milk, it acts as a vegan buttermilk substitute. The acidity helps tenderize the cornmeal.

Brown sugar + Agave. These add subtle sweetness to complement the corn flavor and moisture.

Substitute: You can try coconut sugar or cane sugar for brown sugar, but it may have a tad less moisture.

Flour. You need some flour to bring structure to vegan cornbread, as eggs can’t do the heavy lifting. But not too much.

Substitute: This cornbread works great with gluten-free flour (check out the FAQ section for details).

Stone-ground cornmeal. Stone-ground cornmeal is ground between slowly moving stones, so it retains the corn hull and germ. This makes for cornmeal with excellent texture: tender with pleasant crunchy bits of corn grit throughout.

I do not recommend using standard supermarket boxed cornmeal, which is industrially processed in steel mills. The degermination process makes the kernels lose some of their fat content and moisture, leaving you with cornbread with a uniform texture, muted corn flavor, and a less moist crumb.

Tip: A widely available option is Bob’s Red Mill medium-grind stone-ground cornmeal.

comparison of fine cornmeal and stone-ground cornmeal

Step-by-step instructions

In a large bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, salt, and baking powder. Make a well in the dry mix.

Add the buttermilk, olive oil, melted vegan butter, brown sugar, and agave nectar.

Gently mix with a whisk, and do not over mix. The batter will have some lumps. Fold in the chopped fresh rosemary. Allow the batter to rest for 10 minutes (or up to an hour).

While the batter rests, heat a 9 or 10-inch cast iron skillet in the oven at 400ºF/204ºC for 10 minutes. Remove the hot pan from the oven and 2 tablespoons of vegan butter.

Once it melts, dust lightly with cornmeal. Slowly pour the batter into the hot pan (avoid pouring it quickly all at once).

Bake for 25-28 minutes, until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 15-20 minutes, then slice and serve warm.

Tips for making the best vegan cornbread

Hydrate the batter.

Allow the cornbread batter to rest for just 10 minutes (while the skillet heats up in the oven), or up to an hour. This hydrates the cornmeal, making the crumb more moist and tender. This is important because cornmeal, especially larger-grained cornmeal made with stone-ground grains, needs more hydration than flour.

Don’t skimp on the fat.

For cornbread that is perfectly moist, slightly dense and incredibly buttery, you need a decent amount of fat (otherwise, you end up with dry cakey cornbread that’s hard to swallow).

Here, I us a combo of vegan butter, olive oil, and oat milk. I can’t vouch for this recipe if you alter those ingredients.

Just a little sweet.

This cornbread is subtly sweet and is meant to be eaten as a side dish, either plain with a pat of vegan butter, or alongside savory foods.

It’s not a cake or dessert. But, if you want additional sweetness, there’s a recipe for a maple butter topping in the recipe card. Or, you could spread some jam on top!

A rustic batter + patience

When mixing the batter, use a whisk and don’t be worried that the batter has lumps. The bread won’t be lumpy.

And try to pour the batter fairly slowly; if you pour the batter quickly, it will cause the hot butter to pool up at the surface.

Rosemary or not.

I add fresh rosemary to the batter, which adds so much interesting flavor. Many of my taste testers particularly loved this addition. If you prefer a classic flavored cornbread, just omit the rosemary.

If you love the corn-rosemary flavor combo as much as I do, be sure to try the Sweet Corn Rosemary Cake in my cookbook, The Vegan Instant Pot Cookbook.

sliced vegan cornbread in cast iron skillet

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I make this cornbread gluten-free?

Yes! We tested this with King Arthur’s measure-for-measure gluten-free flour (affiliate link) and it worked great. I recommend a brand of GF flour that has xanthan gum, which helps with binding and structure.

Changes to make
(1) Use the same amount of flour in the recipe card.
(2) Since GF flour absorbs more liquid, add an extra 1/4 cup (60 mL) oat milk.
(3) Given the extra moisture, let the cornbread to rest for a bit longer (30 minutes) before slicing.

The GF version is slightly more moist and more crumbly than the original, but still the best vegan and gluten-free cornbread I could imagine.

Should I use white or yellow cornmeal?

Short answer: Either, as long as it’s stone-ground cornmeal.

Longer answer: Many Southern cooks insist on using only white cornmeal based on tradition. It has a slightly more subtle corn flavor than yellow cornmeal. But, it’s pretty difficult to find a stone-ground white cornmeal here in California, so I stick with yellow. I did order this white cornmeal online and it worked great in this recipe if you’re a stickler for tradition.

What brands of cornmeal do you recommend?

Here are the brands I’ve tried in this recipe with delicious results (affiliate links). Bob’s Red Mill is the most widely available, found at several grocery stores (Whole Foods, Vons/Safeway, Ralph’s, and health grocery stores). I had to order the other cornmeals online.

Bob’s Red Mill stone-ground yellow cornmeal (medium-grind)
Marsh Hen Mill stone-ground yellow cornmeal (finer texture than Bob’s Red Mill)
Marsh Hen Mill stone-ground white cornmeal (previously known as Geechie Boy Mill)
Anson Mills stone-ground yellow cornmeal (coarse ground)
Palmetto Farms stone-ground white cornmeal (this same brand’s yellow cornmeal did not work as well; wouldn’t recommend).

How can I make this recipe without a cast iron skillet?

Use a 9×9 metal baking pan instead. The crust doesn’t get as crispy or crunchy, but it is still very good.

If using this method, add only 1 tablespoon of butter to the hot cast iron skillet (instead of 2). And it may need an extra 5 minutes bake time to get nicely golden.

Can I make this recipe oil-free?

Sorry, no. For cornbread that is perfectly moist, slightly dense, and buttery in flavor, you need a decent amount of fat.

I don’t like my cornbread sweet. Can I omit the sugar?

This cornbread is only mildly sweet. I did try making vegan cornbread without sugar, but it was not great, so some sugar is needed. You can try scaling it down by 1/4 to 1/3 but we haven’t tried this ourselves.

PS: Here’s a fascinating read on why Southern cornbread doesn’t have sugar.

How long does cornbread last? How should I store and reheat it?

Cornbread is the best on day 1, but leftovers will stay good up to 3 days (the texture will be a bit softer). Store in an airtight container, not in a reusable bag (it will get soggy), for up to 3 days.

To reheat cornbread, reheat in the oven at 375ºF/190ºC. Reheat for 10-15 minutes, either (1) unwrapped on a baking sheet – this returns some of the crispiness; or (2) wrapped in foil – this makes it softer and moister.

slice of vegan cornbread with a pat of butter on a plate

What to serve cornbread with

You can serve cornbread plain or with a pat of softened vegan butter (we eat it for breakfast like this all the time). Or, if you like it sweeter, with some jam or maple butter (maple butter recipe is in the recipe card).

Cornbread is also excellent served with savory dishes. Some favorite ideas:

That’s everything you need to know about how to make *incredible* vegan cornbread! I hope you’ll love this recipe as much as we do. If you do, please rate and review the recipe below :)

How to Make INCREDIBLE Cornbread at Home
How to Make INCREDIBLE Cornbread at Home

The Best Vegan Cornbread

5 from 117 votes
This crispy-crusted, buttery, and moist vegan cornbread is truly the best cornbread you'll ever eat. A must-make, whether paired with vegan chili or on your holiday table! No one will know it's vegan (easy to make GF).
Prep Time: 20 mins
Cook Time: 25 mins
Total Time: 45 mins
Course: Bread, Side Dish
Cuisine: Southern
Diet Vegan, Vegetarian
Serving size: 8 to 12

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups (360 mL) full-fat oat milk
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 ½ cups (195g) stone-ground yellow or white cornmeal (medium-grind is my preference)**
  • 3/4 cup (94g) all-purpose flour***
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Heaping 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 4 tablespoons (56g) vegan butter, melted + 2 tablespoons for greasing the skillet
  • ¼ cup (56g) extra virgin olive oil or neutral-flavored oil of choice
  • 1/4 cup (40g) organic brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup (84g) agave nectar
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of finely chopped rosemary (4g)

For serving (optional)

  • Softened vegan butter; OR
  • Maple Butter: 2 tablespoons vegan butter + 2 teaspoons maple syrup

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 400ºF/204ºC and arrange a middle rack in the oven. Stir the vinegar into the oat milk and set aside for 5-10 minutes to slightly curdle.
  • In a large bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt. Whisk well to break up any clumps.
  • Make a well in the center and pour in the 4 tablespoons melted vegan butter, oil, brown sugar, agave, and buttermilk. Gently mix with a whisk until just smooth, taking care to not overmix – there will be lumps, that’s okay!
  • Fold in the rosemary using a silicone spatula. Allow the batter to rest for 10 minutes, or up to 1 hour. It should look somewhat like a pancake batter.
  • Meanwhile, transfer a 9- or 10-inch cast iron skillet to the pre-heated oven to heat up for 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven (use oven mitts!) and add the 2 tablespoons of vegan butter. It will start melting almost immediately. Dust the pan lightly with a sprinkle of cornmeal, about 1 teaspoon.
  • Pour the cornbread batter into the hot skillet (but not too quickly or the butter will pool up to the top). Bake for 25 to 28 minutes (check at 25 minutes), until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the top is golden brown.
  • Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool for 15 to 20 minutes before slicing. Serve warm, or with a pat of softened vegan butter on top of each slice, if desired.
    Store leftovers in an airtight container for up to 3 days on the counter.
  • If making the maple butter, add the softened butter to a small bowl and whisk vigorously until it starts to get fluffy. Add the maple syrup and whisk until well combined and smooth.

Notes

*If you don’t have a cast iron skillet, use a 9×9 metal baking pan. In step 5, add only 1 TBSP butter to the bottom of the pan (instead of 2 tbsp). It may need an extra 5 minutes bake time to get nicely golden.
** I strongly recommend stone-ground cornmeal, either yellow or white is fine. I’ve included brands I’ve tested this recipe with in the FAQ section in the post. Bob’s Red Mill stone-ground medium-cornmeal is widely available and works great. 
*** To make gluten-free, make three changes
(1) use 3/4 cup gluten-free flour (ideally, one that has xanthan gum in it; we used King Arthur’s measure-for-measure GF flour);
(2) Add an extra 1/4 cup (60 mL) oat milk, or a total of 1 3/4 cups (420 mL) oat milk.
(3) Allow the cornbread to rest for 30 minutes before slicing. 
 

Calories: 330kcal | Carbohydrates: 48g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 7g | Trans Fat: 0.03g | Sodium: 375mg | Potassium: 145mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 15g | Vitamin A: 367IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 163mg | Iron: 2mg

Sources referenced in writing this post:

I referenced a number of posts in writing this post. If you’re interested in learning more, please do give them a read:

Happy baking!

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242 comments on The Best Vegan Cornbread You’ll Ever Eat

  1. Pooja

    5 stars
    Great recipe! I made it for thansgiving. Could I use blue cornmeal? Would I have to do any other adjustments?

  2. Rose S. Williams

    5 stars
    I am literally about to bake my third batch😋! And as my husband sleeps I’m already three pieces into the second batch, feeling a little guilty because I might just eat this whole thing by myself. It’s so incredible I love what the rosemary does and ugh the crispy crust keeps me coming back for another piece. I never thought Cornbread would become a staple for me but definitely will be now because of your recipe Nisha! Thanks a bunch🙌🏾
    Xoxo💕

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Aw, that’s amazing to hear, Rose! So great you’re loving the cornbread. Thanks for the awesome review!

  3. Maureen

    5 stars
    So easy and so good that my son requested I make it to take to his Friendsgiving.

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Yay, Maureen! That’s a win, thanks for sharing!

  4. Ozden

    5 stars
    Made this for the second time for Thanksgiving and it was a huge success! Nisha’s recipes are so methodical that they turn out exactly the same every time! Thanks Nisha!

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Wonderful, Ozden! We’re so happy to hear you can rely on our recipes :) Hope you had an awesome Thanksgiving!

  5. Bethany

    5 stars
    This was fantastic! I made it today for Thanksgiving and was pleasantly surprised by how moist and subtly sweet it was! I left out the rosemary since my hubby is picky but it was still fantastic.

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Thanks for the lovely feedback, Bethany!

  6. Gira

    5 stars
    I have made this recipe twice.
    The first time I used all-purpose flour as written but I skipped the rosemary because I didn’t have any. It was great!
    The second time was for thanksgiving, but I used gluten-free flour blend and added the rosemary, and OMG it is amazing! I think the rosemary really takes this cornbread to next-level!
    I made this recipe both times in my 12-inch cast iron skillet and it works fine without any adjustments.
    Thank you so much for the detailed instructions that even a rookie like me can follow!

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi Gira, thanks for sharing your experience! We agree the rosemary is such a lovely addition as well :) Happy Thanksgiving!

  7. Kathy Julien

    5 stars
    Best Cornbread (vegan or not) EVAH!!!!

    I’ve made this several times for my family and my book club, all non vegans. Everyone raves about it and always battle over who gets leftovers!

    Last night I added a some sweet corn kernels to the batter and it was a hit. Added to the texture and was a nice surprise in your mouth when taking a bite.

    Love your stuff.
    Much gratitude on this Thanksgiving (a challenging one for my family as we lost our beloved Son earlier this year). Thanks for helping me comfort my loved ones with yummy vegan food.

    Blue skies…
    Kathy J

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Thank you, Kathy! So good to hear the cornbread’s a hit with everyone!

      We are so grateful for YOU and our hearts are with you. <3 Losing a loved one is never easy.

      It makes us so happy to be able to provide delicious recipes for you :) Have a good Thanksgiving <3

  8. Genevieve P.

    5 stars
    Ever since I met my now husband, he was looking for a good piece of cornbread. I live in a Canada and it might not be such a thing around where I live. I saw your recipe and gave it a try as I know all your recipes are just so amazing. I have to say that your recipe is another winner ! :) My husband liked it a lot (enough to take another piece after eating his first one) ! I now am a cornbread fan too, with your recipe of course ! :) It was really easy to do and I love the idea of cooking it in a cast iron pan.

    I used maple syrup instead of agave, soy milk instead of oat milk, canola oil and no rosemary! I used Bob’s red mill Stone Ground Whole Grain Cornmeal Medium ground.

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Thanks for sharing your experience, Genevieve! We’re thrilled this recipe made you into a cornbread lover and that you’re a fan of the other recipes :)

  9. Cora

    5 stars
    Everything by Nisha is a knockout. Absolutely incredible. I’ve made it 3 times and nailed it 3 times. Even made it for my non-vegan family (who usually don’t try my vegan food because it’s ‘weird’) and they legit ate the whole thing. Thank you, Nisha!! Your recipes are the best. Please always keep them coming! ❤️

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Aw, so happy to read this, Cora! This cornbread is the perfect thing to make for vegan skeptics, thanks for making and sharing it! The recipe sharing definitely won’t be stopping anytime soon :)

  10. Shah Family

    5 stars
    Can you replace the agave with maple syrup? Don’t have time to go to back to the store :-O!

    1. Genevieve P.

      That’s what I used and it was really good ! :)

    2. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi there, sorry if this reply is too late but yes!

  11. Liana Chen

    5 stars
    Just made this vegan cornbread today and it is AMAZING! I also added some vegan shredded cheese and corn kernels. It is moist, fragrant, not too sweet, and goes very nicely with chili. The best part is its crusty edge. Thank you Nisha for this wonderful recipe!

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      How lovely, Liana :) Thank you for sharing that with us!

  12. Pooja

    Could I make this in a Loaf tin? or a casserole dish?

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi Pooja, yes you could make it in either. Cook time varies based on the width and depth of the pan/dish you cook it in. We love the cast iron pan because it gives the cornbread a lovely crispy crust.

  13. Maureen

    I am planning on making this for Thanksgiving. Can you make ahead and freeze?

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi Maureen, I think that should work! Just cut into single serving portions, wrap in foil and put into an airtight bag or tupperware container.

  14. Doug

    Just tried this and it was wonderful! Was a bit unsure about the rosemary but it really takes it to that next level of fun and different. Making it for Thanksgiving.

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      That’s so great to hear, Doug! Next time, would you mind leaving a rating alongside your review? Star ratings are big help to readers who are thinking of making the recipe. Thanks!

  15. Sylvia Bailey

    Made this cornbread to go with leftover bean dish. Outstanding ⚡️
    Rosemary perfect herb🌟. Your my favorite vegan chef Nisha. Your vitality and carefully tested recipes are a delight. I’ve tried so many. I have your Instant Pot Cookbook. Waiting for that cookbook your working on. A six month 80 year old vegan. ❤️

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      That’s so great to hear, Sylvia! We’re so glad you enjoy the recipes :) Thank you so much for the review!

      Next time, would you mind leaving a rating alongside your review? Star ratings are big help to readers who are thinking of making the recipe. Thanks!

  16. Rebecca

    Can I used date or maple syrup instead of agave?

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi Rebecca, yes you can! Enjoy!

  17. Coleene

    5 stars
    I made this and it’s so moist and delicious, I didn’t have oats milk so I use coconut milk instead. I love this recipe, thank you.

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Thanks for sharing, Coleene! Wonderful to hear you’re a fan of the recipe!

  18. Leigh

    Was excited to try this but I really do not care for any sweet in my cornbread and I am from the deep south. Believe me the cornbread down there could pass as desert….everyone puts sweetener in it there, to go with their sweet tea, lol. Personally I think cornbread should be savory. I would still like to try this recipe and leave the sweeteners out, but I dont know if that will effect the moisture of the batter.

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi Leigh, this cornbread isn’t too sweet but you can try reducing the amount of sugar by maybe 1/4 and seeing how it goes from there.

  19. Linda

    5 stars
    My go to cornbread for our annual 🎃 Halloween Block party!! Yum!

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Awesome, Linda! Thanks for sharing!

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