How to Make the Cowboy Bread Recipe from Your School Cafeteria

Updated: Mar. 03, 2023

This '90s cowboy bread recipe reminds us of all the good things about school lunch. Here's how to recreate the magic at home.

Block out memories of homework, awkward school dances and calculus. Instead, revel in the memories of cafeteria food, like this nostalgic cowboy bread recipe.

What Is Cowboy Bread?

This cowboy bread is essentially every school’s version of cinnamon streusel coffee cake.

With an interior that’s packed with brown sugar and cinnamon, plus a crumble topping, this old-school favorite from the ’90s is having somewhat of a renaissance. Like so many other TikTok recipes, this one has countless copycat versions going viral.

The recipe we’re putting to the test today comes from @nanajoe19, who recently shared her version of this popular school cafeteria-style cowboy bread.

How to Make Cowboy Bread

This recipe yields 9-12 servings and is made in a 9×9-in. pan.


Cowboy Bread ingredientsLauren Habermehl For Taste Of Home

  • 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups light brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup shortening
  • 1/4 cup butter, cold
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk

Editor’s Tip: You can use store-bought buttermilk or learn how to make buttermilk at home. Either works!


Step 1: Make the crumble mixture

Cowboy Bread combine ingredientsLauren Habermehl For Taste Of Home

In a large bowl, mix the flour, brown sugar, shortening, butter and salt with a fork (or clean hands) until it resembles coarse crumbs.

Step 2: Reserve part of the crumble mixture

Cowboy Bread 1Reserve 3/4 cup of the crumble mixture and set aside. Then stir in the nutmeg, cinnamon, baking soda, and baking powder into the remaining flour mixture.Lauren Habermehl For Taste Of Home

Reserve 3/4 cup of the crumble mixture and set aside. Then stir the nutmeg, cinnamon, baking soda and baking powder into the remaining flour mixture.

Step 3: Add the wet ingredients

Cowboy Bread wet ingredientsLauren Habermehl For Taste Of Home

In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs and buttermilk. Add to the dry ingredients and mix until a smooth batter forms.

Step 4: Assemble the cowboy cake

Cowboy Bread Lauren Habermehl For Taste Of Home

Transfer the batter to a greased 9×9-in. baking pan. Spread into an even layer, then top with the reserved crumble mixture.

Step 5: Bake

Cowboy Bread Lauren Habermehl For Taste Of Home

Bake in a preheated 375°F oven for 30-40 minutes until golden. A toothpick should come out clean when inserted in the center of the bread.

Step 6: Cool and serve

Cowboy Bread Lauren Habermehl For Taste Of Home

Let cool completely, then remove and slice into squares.

Tips for Making Cowboy Bread

Here are our top tips and tricks for making the perfect cowboy bread.

Use butter or coconut oil instead of shortening

If you don’t keep shortening stocked in your pantry, swap for an equal amount of butter or coconut oil. Both will yield cowboy bread with a moist and tender texture.

Bake in a 9×9-in. pan

We baked ours in a 9×9-in. pan to get tall slices of fluffy cowboy bread. If you would like thinner slices, this recipe can also be baked in a 9×13-in. pan. Just mind the baking time since it will likely bake faster.

Tent with foil to prevent overbrowning

This bread browns fast due to its high sugar content. If you feel like the top is getting too dark, tent it with foil after about 25 minutes in the oven.

Add extra baking spices

Adjust the spices to suit your tastes. Go for extra cinnamon, omit the nutmeg, add a dash of cloves or even a teaspoon or two of vanilla extract (here are our favorite brands). We love how versatile this easy cowboy bread recipe is.

Store in an airtight container

Cowboy bread can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for 3-4 days. Serve at room temperature or warm in the microwave for 10-15 seconds.

This bread can also be frozen for up to 3 months. Defrost it overnight in the refrigerator and then let it come to room temperature before serving.

Obsessed with cowboy recipes? Try out this cowboy butter next.