When it comes to whipping up a simple side for hearty meals—I’m talking chili, some amazing barbecue and anything with a tasty gravy—I love to mix up a good cornbread. It’s the perfect vehicle for soaking up all those tasty leave-behinds like these homemade barbecue sauces. If I’ve got the time between marinading meats or stewing chili, I’ll make a pan from scratch using these 18 must-see recipes. But if I’m in a rush, I’ve got no problem grabbing a mix out of the cupboard and baking it in my cast iron skillet. I’m willing to bet that the classic brand I use is the one you opt for, too.
But just because there’s one big name in cornbread doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be questioned—and then tested by a panel of cornbread fanatics. See what we thought of these seven mixes: Betty Crocker Cornbread & Muffin Mix, Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Cornbread Mix, Duff Goldman Sweeter Than Honey Cornbread Mix, Hodgson Mill Stone Ground Cornbread Mix, Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix, King Arthur Gluten Free Cornbread Mix, Krusteaz Gluten Free Honey Cornbread Mix and Krusteaz Honey Cornbread Mix.
Runner-Up: Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix
Let’s just say none of us were surprised when Jiffy scored good marks in this test. Jiffy is the quintessential cornbread brand—it’s what every tester said they reached for at the store. So it wasn’t too surprising when most testers recognized this option in the test (though the brands are never unveiled until every brand is tried and scored).
From the outside, folks appreciated the even golden color and crumb when sliced into. Tasting it, everyone agreed: it’s a great basic recipe. It had that great cornmeal taste and texture that we crave. While this mix was perhaps a touch dry on its own, we weren’t too bothered. After all, most of us love to eat cornbread slathered in butter, topped with honey or dunked into our favorite chilis.
What makes us love this mix even more—it’s less than a dollar per box. That means for just a few bucks, you can serve a lot of people. Make them as a side with these recipes designed to feed a crowd.
$0.55 for a 8.5-ounce box; available at grocers nationwide.
Best in Show: King Arthur Gluten Free Cornbread Mix
Surprising everyone, a gluten-free mix took the crown in this test! We were truly shocked when this brand was revealed. How could a gluten-free baked good taste as good, and in this case, better, than its traditional counterpart?
Well, we have the sneaking suspicion that it’s because cornbread is mostly cornmeal; flour is just a supporting character in most recipes. In the case of King Arthur’s gluten-free mix, whole millet flour, whole sorghum flour and tapioca starch take flour’s place. Combined with cornmeal, cane sugar and leavening ingredients, we truly didn’t notice the difference.
The result was a fluffy, moist cornbread with all that cornmeal flavor we had been craving. On its own, this bread had a mild sweetness. That combined with its moist texture had one tester noting “this doesn’t need butter or honey.” That’s the highest sort of praise that cornbread can get in my book. Of course, we had to try it with butter and honey, too, and it was even better.
On taste alone, every tester preferred this brand. The only drawback, however, is that it costs a bit more—about $7 for a box (though the box is almost twice the size of Jiffy). But if you want to treat yourself or are gluten-free, I say it’s worth every penny.
When it came to cornbread mixes, testers (myself included) were pretty darn finicky. Only two of the seven options we tried were worth buying in our opinions. The others received relatively poor scores for a handful of reasons. Some honey-flavored breads struck us as overly sweet or artificial. Other mixes tasted more like dry yellow cake than cornbread—we were missing that corn flavor! And some, well, they didn’t have enough flavor of any kind for us. We were definitely shocked since a lot of these brands took top spots in previous tests, but we appreciated the eye-opening experience.
In the end, I highly recommend you go with the biggest name in cornbread or try King Arthur if you see it at your local supermarket.