Kentucky Spoon Bread Recipe photo by Taste of Home
Total Time
Prep: 20 min. Bake: 40 min.
Spoon bread is a centuries-old southern comfort food. Made of cornmeal and a few basic pantry ingredients, this soft, billowy classic can be prepared in just about an hour. Ready the spoons!

Updated: Feb. 09, 2024

Think of spoon bread as an easy-to-master souffle rather than a sliceable loaf. The base of spoon bread is cornmeal, which becomes airy as you fold in stiffened egg whites. This staple southern comfort food can be served alongside many meals. Its mild flavor and light texture pair particularly well with spicy recipes and hearty main dishes.

Spoon bread is best served hot, straight from the baking dish, so it’s ideal to serve when you’ve got a crowd to feed all at once. And no need to worry about any post-baking collapse. While a collapse isn’t something you want to see in a traditional souffle like our three-cheese souffle, it’s actually part of the quintessential texture of spoon bread.

What is spoon bread?

Like buttery cornbread, spoon bread uses cornmeal as its base. However, the center of spoon bread stays soft and moist, in contrast to cornbread’s crumbly interior. People from different parts of the South may give different answers when asked, “What is spoon bread?” They’ll likely reference a specific family recipe, and while variations exist, most people would agree that the dish’s name comes from the way it’s served and eaten: with a spoon.

Many sources trace the origins of spoon bread (sometimes written as “spoonbread”) back to 1847, when it appeared in Sarah Rutledge’s “The Carolina Housewife.” People in the Charleston area dubbed it “Awendaw,” a name linked to local Native Americans who likely shared the dish.

Today, spoon bread remains popular in South Carolina and nearby states, particularly Kentucky and Virginia. It’s also traveled across the country via family recipe boxes and has since been adapted to incorporate corn kernels, cheese, ham and vegetables, among numerous variations. For a less traditional version that’s loaded with fresh produce, check out this recipe for apple quinoa spoon bread.

Spoon Bread Ingredients

Cornmeal, eggs, milk placed on a tableTMB Studio

  • Milk: It takes a lot of liquid to fully cook the cornmeal into the soft pillow that it becomes in spoon bread. This recipe calls for 2% milk, but you can use whole milk for a richer filling, or even part buttermilk for a bit of tang (here are lots of tasty uses for buttermilk to help you use up the rest of the carton).
  • Cornmeal: Some spoon bread recipes include flour, but in this version, it’s left out. This lets the cornmeal thicken up consistently. (It also makes this a gluten-free dish if you use gluten-free baking powder.) Choose fine- or medium-ground cornmeal, rather than coarse cornmeal or polenta, so that it better absorbs the milk without a gritty texture. Yellow cornmeal will bring out the dish’s sunny color, especially if you use farm-fresh eggs with vivid orange yolks. White cornmeal will impart a more delicate color and flavor. Pick from any of our favorite cornmeal recipes to use up any leftovers in the bag.
  • Separated eggs: Egg yolks add richness to spoon bread, while whipped egg whites create extra loft. Take care when folding the egg whites into the batter so that it stays fluffy.


Step 1: Prepare the baking dish and milk

Heating Milk in a large panTMB Studio

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 2-1/2-quart baking dish, and set aside. In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat 3 cups milk over medium heat just until bubbles form around sides of pan.

Step 2: Thicken the cornmeal

Mixture of cornmeal, sugar, salt poured in milfTMB Studio

In a small bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, sugar, salt and remaining 1 cup milk until smooth. Slowly whisk the cornmeal mixture into the hot milk, cooking and whisking until it comes to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.

Step 3: Add the baking powder and butter

Cornmeal mixture with butter in a large panTMB Studio

Remove the cornmeal mixture from the heat. Sprinkle baking powder over it, then stir it in. Stir in the butter until it melts and is completely absorbed.

Step 4: Mix in the egg yolks

Mixing egg yolks in Cornmeal mixture in a large pan TMB Studio

In a small bowl, beat the egg yolks. Stir in a bit of the hot cornmeal mixture. Return the egg yolk mixture to the pan of the hot cornmeal mixture, and mix well.

Editor’s Tip: Be sure to temper eggs properly. Rather than adding the yolks to the hot cornmeal all at once, you want to add a little at first to thicken the mixture. If you don’t, the eggs will become scrambled and hard.

Step 5: Add the egg whites

Mixing egg whites in Cornmeal mixture in a large panTMB Studio

In a small bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold one-fourth of the egg whites into the cornmeal mixture until nearly smooth. Fold in the remaining egg whites until just blended.

Editor’s Tip: Here are some tips on how to fold ingredients for the best baking outcome.

Step 6: Bake the spoon bread

Cornmeal mixture in the greased baking dishTMB Studio

Pour the mixture into the greased baking dish, and smooth the top with a spatula. Bake, uncovered, 40 to 45 minutes, until puffed and golden brown. Serve immediately.

Editor’s Tip: To ensure the spoon bread rises, use the oven light with the door closed to check on its progress. Open the door only once the spoon bread is completely baked.

Kentucky Spoon Bread baking dish on a tableTMB Studio

Recipe Variations

  • Fresh corn: Add whole corn kernels to put a little pop in each bite. Mix in 1 cup kernels (fresh off the cob or frozen, defrosted and drained) when you add the butter, along with some fresh thyme or chopped chives or green onion.
  • Cheese and chile pepper: Stir about 1 cup grated cheddar cheese and some roasted, diced chile peppers into the cornmeal mixture along with the butter. Pick the variety and amount of peppers based on your preferred spice level. Just don’t use more than 1 cup, so the peppers won’t weigh down the batter.
  • Easy spoon bread: The baking powder in this recipe provides a little rise, so you could skip the step where you beat egg whites. Instead, simply beat the whole eggs, then temper them with the hot cornmeal. The spoon bread will stay flatter and custardy, which might not matter if you’re adding other ingredients.

Can you make spoon bread ahead of time?

Spoon bread has the best texture and loft when served hot, right out of the oven. We recommend you eat it freshly baked.

How to Store Spoon Bread

Any leftovers are best stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days. Just know that the spoon bread will become denser as it chills. To reheat, scoop portions into a hot, generously buttered skillet, and flatten them slightly. Fry over medium heat for about three minutes per side, until browned outside and heated through.

Freezing and thawing will make this dish flat and tasteless, so we don’t recommend it!

Spoon Bread Tips

Kentucky Spoon Bread ready to serveTMB Studio

Is spoon bread the same as cornbread?

Spoon bread and cornbread are related yet different dishes. Even moist, classic cornbread has a crumbly texture and can be cut with a knife. Spoon bread, on the other hand, should have a soft texture, an effect that comes from the higher ratio of milk and eggs to cornmeal. The folding technique that gently works stiff egg whites into the spoon bread batter shifts the consistency away from custard-like and towards souffle-like.

What can you serve with spoon bread?

Spoon bread is perfect alongside classic southern comfort foods, from black-eyed peas to fried chicken with gravy. It’s also popular with ham or pork chops. Serve it as breakfast-for-dinner with smoked kielbasa or your favorite breakfast sausage, with syrup and butter on the table. Make a meatless dinner by serving spoon bread alongside a portobello and chickpea sheet-pan supper, or go pescatarian with a spicy shrimp dish. If you have a favorite polenta topping, serve that over spoon bread instead.

Southern Spoon Bread

Prep Time 20 min
Cook Time 40 min
Yield 8 servings.


  • 4 cups 2% milk
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 3 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 large eggs, separated


  1. In a large saucepan, heat 3 cups milk over medium heat until bubbles form around side of pan.
  2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the cornmeal, sugar, salt and remaining milk until smooth. Slowly whisk cornmeal mixture into hot milk. Cook and stir until mixture comes to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
  3. Remove from the heat. Sprinkle baking powder over the cornmeal mixture, then stir it in with the butter. In a small bowl, beat egg yolks; stir in a small amount of hot cornmeal mixture. Return all to the pan and mix well.
  4. In a small bowl, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold a fourth of the egg whites into the cornmeal mixture. Fold in remaining egg whites until blended.
  5. Transfer to a greased 2-1/2-qt. baking dish. Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 40-45 minutes or until puffed and golden brown. Serve immediately.

Nutrition Facts

1 serving: 192 calories, 7g fat (4g saturated fat), 87mg cholesterol, 433mg sodium, 23g carbohydrate (8g sugars, 1g fiber), 8g protein.

This is a traditional Kentucky recipe. It’s a popular side dish served all year long. If you’ve never tried spoon bread before, I think you’ll find it’s tasty and comforting. —Caroline Brown, Lexington, Kentucky