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 116 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 116 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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241 comments on The Best Vegan Cornbread You’ll Ever Eat

  1. Mac

    Well done! This recipes is really good, easy to make, and flexible.

    I was able to use a hard-anodized aluminum pan instead of cast iron. This works great with a soy milk substitution, if you’re into soy. I substituted coconut oil for the butter in the batter but used cultured butter in the pan, which gave a really nicely browned outside.

    It’s so good that I forgot what I was gonna eat it with. I may eat the whole thing before I post this comment.

    Love the Serious Eats references btw! <3

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi Mac, we’re thrilled to hear you enjoyed this recipe! 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!

  2. Rebecca

    5 stars
    This was so good! Especially with the freshly chopped Rosemary! I replaced the all purpose flour 1:1 with cassava flour and also used cashew milk instead of the oat milk. It turned out absolutely amazing! Best cornbread I’ve had in a very long time!

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Thanks for sharing, Rebecca!

      1. Rebecca

        5 stars
        Just made it again and added a cup of whole corn this time!! Came out beautifully!

        1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

          thanks for sharing, Rebecca!

  3. janet or mike morton they/them

    5 stars
    Such a beautiful recipe, as so many of yours often are. I know my son will be tempted, but I can feel my granny within me, tensing up, taken aback by the thought of sugar (or any kind) and wheat flour in cornbread. I’m typing this with a smile on my face; it’s an old argument about whether sugar belongs in cornbread or not. Maybe not a big deal any more to most people, but the history is there, and people do identify closely with their food, how they were raised, and what granny used to make in her heavy, cast-iron pan. :-)

  4. Jenny

    5 stars
    Amazing! Some of the best cornbread I’ve ever had (and I’m Southern!). The rosemary was a perfect touch! Served this at a dinner party along with the vegan chili it and was a huge hit. Is there a calorie count somewhere for recipes on this site?

    1. Nisha

      Hi Jenny! I’m honored you loved it so much (we love the touch of rosemary too). We are in the process of adding nutritional information to our recipes. It’s a bit of a slow process because most of it’s manual so hang tight :)

  5. Juana

    5 stars
    It was delicious a little bit sweet trying to cut down on sugar & oil

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Juana, So glad to hear you loved this recipe!

  6. Lou

    I followed this precisely and it just turned into crumbly pudding :(

    Sure it must have been user error but I have no idea where it went wrong

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi Lou, Sorry to hear that! We tested it about 20 times and never had that kind of issue. Cornbread should be a little crumbly, but definitely not like a pudding (do you mean it was uncooked in the middle)?

      Let’s see… First, how are you measuring your ingredients? We always recommend using a digital scale for baking for the most precise results, as all measuring cups differ and personal methods of measuring ingredients also differs. For instance, accidentally using more liquid than the recipe called for, or using fewer dry ingredients than called for, could cause this.

      The other thing I suspect is that perhaps your baking powder has expired and is no longer fresh. When baking powder or baking soda are no longer fresh, they lose their ability to leaven and lift baked goods, so it can cause the baked goods to just collapse.

  7. Aubrey

    5 stars
    I didn’t use rosemary and I just baked it in a regular 9×9 glass pan. I used gf flour and added 2 extra tablespoons of oat milk. I used some polenta corn grits to coat the bottom of the pan to give it a bit of a crunch and wholy moly it was good. Thank you for the fun delicious recipe!

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Awesome, Aubrey. Thanks for your comment and for taking the time to review!

  8. Astro

    just one question . . . what is vegan butter?

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi there, plant-based butter, also referred to as vegan butter, is a nondairy butter substitute that’s typically made by combining water with a plant-derived oil, such as olive, avocado, coconut, palm kernel oil, or a combination of oils.

  9. Kim

    5 stars
    I have tried 2 other vegan cornbread recipes and have been very disappointed. One of them had brown sugar in it, so I was a little skeptical about using it but I followed the recipe as written and this will be my go-to cornbread recipe from now on. I did not find it too sweet at all, and the rosemary was subtle and delicious. Very excited to have found this! Thank you, Nisha!

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Thanks for sharing, Kim!

  10. Sue

    5 stars
    This is the second time I’ve made this. The first time, I followed the recipe exactly, except for the Agave…I used Maple Syrup and coconut sugar instead of brown sugar. It was good, but in my opinion, too sweet and I didn’t really care for the rosemary (or maybe I would have if it’d been less sweet). This time I skipped the rosemary and didn’t put any other sweetener besides the coconut sugar and I didn’t quite put all of that in it. Much better! Also, I used Almond milk (unsweetened) because that’s what I had…worked fine.

  11. JJ

    5 stars
    Best vegan cornbread recipe I’ve ever baked.

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Aww, thank you for the awesome review JJ! We are so happy to hear that.

  12. Lauren

    5 stars
    This was fabulous, really good balance between salty and sweet with great corn flavor. I made it without the rosemary. I only have a 12 inch cast iron skillet, but it cooked just fine in about 23 minutes.

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Thanks for sharing, Lauren!

  13. Patricia

    5 stars
    Nisha you’ve got a good scald on this cornbread Lol! I’m from Southeast Texas and I know a little about cornbread. Seriously though your recipe is fantastic. The trick is the step where you heat the cast iron skillet and sort of pre fry the batter. I left out most of the sweeteners and rosemary but I will definitely try it again and include those.

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Awesome, Patricia. Thanks for your comment and for taking the time to review!

  14. Melba Soliz

    5 stars
    Thank you this was so good! Success!! :D

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Thanks for the lovely feedback, Melba!

  15. Jackie

    Would maple syrup work in place of agave?

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi Jackie, yes it would!

  16. Nicole

    No because this was the best vegan cornbread I ever freaking made. Could literally eat it by itself. THANK YOU SO MUCH MRS PRETTY!😍

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi Nicole, we’re thrilled to hear you enjoyed this recipe! :) 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!

  17. Charlotte

    5 stars
    Absolute perfection!! The rosemary is a wonderful addition. Your tips are always so helpful in achieving successful dishes. I love the research that went into creating this amazing recipe, makes it taste even better!! From one passionate cook to another, my compliments to you Nisha. Thank you for all your work, greatly appreciated 😋

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Thanks for the lovely feedback, Charlotte! :)

  18. Trish

    5 stars
    Made this tonight to go with Nishas vegan chili (which I made yesterday and managed to not eat till day 2 as recommended (it was hard to resist!)

    Chili is amazing… Cornbread made this meal NEXT LEVEL!!!
    Thanks for the consistantly great recipes. Honestly I make something from RPL 2-3 times a week now and it takes the stress out of meal planning because if always know it’s going to be delicious! 🙂

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Awesome, Trish. Thanks for your comment and for taking the time to review!

  19. Mardi Morgan

    5 stars
    I made this cornbread today, substituting gluten free flour blend for the all purpose flour. It is a fantastic recipe. My parents, who are not vegans, preferred it to the gluten free cornbread I usually make. Love your channel!

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Thanks for the lovely feedback, Mardi!

  20. Jane Sagel

    5 stars
    I’m a Southern cook turned Vegan way back and cooked a lot of cornbread in my almost 77 years and this is the best cornbread recipe I’ve ever made. Hats off to you for coming up with such a delicious recipe. Follow recipe to the letter except being Southern we would never mess up our tradition with Rosemary ;) Many Thanks!!!!

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      So glad you loved the cornbread, Jane! Thank you for the wonderful review!

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