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Cornbread Muffins Recipe

Why It Works

  • Adding all-purpose flour to the batter provides structure by incorporating gluten, which helps to create a light and tender cake-like texture.
  • Canned creamed corn contributes moisture and enhances the buttery, corn flavor.
  • Using sour cream adds moisture and a mild tanginess that balances out the overall flavor of the bread.
  • Mixing the wet and dry ingredients separately first ensures the ingredients are combined thoroughly without overmixing the batter.

There are a few things I look for when it comes to cornbread. It can’t be dry, it has to have a tender, non-gritty crumb, and I like it to actually taste like, well, corn. These cornbread muffins meet all of those requirements. They’re soft and almost cake-like, with a rich, buttery corn flavor, thanks to the addition of creamed corn—yup, straight from the can. 

To make this recipe, you’ll have to purchase fine- or medium-ground cornmeal, which is what yields that cake-like consistency; coarse cornmeal tends to produce a grittier and more crumbly cornbread. That being said, the cornmeal shouldn’t be a fine powder. Unfortunately, not all brands specify the grind size, which varies from brand to brand, although I’ve found Quaker and Bob’s Red Mill to be reliable mass-market options. To give the muffins a bit more structure and to further limit their tendency to crumble, I also stir some all-purpose flour into the mix. In addition to the creamed corn, I add a dollop of sour cream to the batter, which adds creaminess and offers a little welcome tang.

This recipe works well as-is, but it’s also a great base for add-ins. Feel free to stir in flavorings and mix-ins, as long as they’re low-moisture and low-acidity, as adding high-moisture or very acidic ingredients can negatively affect the muffins’ structure and texture. A few of my favorite additions are brown butter and sage, chopped pimientos and grated cheddar cheese, and thinly sliced scallions. Instructions for these variations can be found in the recipe’s notes section.

I tested a few batches of this recipe using paper cupcake liners and, while it wasn’t a total disaster, a significant amount of cornbread stuck to the liners when they were peeled off. I prefer to grease my nonstick or aluminum muffin pans and pour the batter straight in. The muffins still came out easily with the assistance of a small offset spatula, leaving the tins in pretty good shape for washing up.

I also ran some tests to dial in the best baking temperature. When baked at 425°F (220°C), the recipe produced muffins with golden brown bottoms and sides and a slightly taller rise. However, the tops were more cracked than muffins baked at 350°F (177°C). The lower temperature delivered a more tender crumb as well. I leave it to you to decide which temperature to use, as it’s a personal call that depends on whether you want to prioritize browning or tenderness more. When tasted by a group in the Serious Eats test kitchen, more people voted for the higher-temp batch, so that’s what the recipe below calls for. Also, don’t be alarmed by the amount of batter going into each mold. It should be pretty full, as the muffins will rise and puff but won’t spread laterally.

These cornbread muffins are at their best when served freshly baked and warm, slathered with softened butter (honey doesn’t hurt either). But if you have any left over, you can always freeze them for later. Place the muffins in an airtight, resealable plastic bag and store them in the freezer for up to three months. To reheat, let them thaw completely at room temperature, wrap them in aluminum foil (this will prevent them from drying out), and bake at 350°F until warm. Alternatively, wrap the muffins in a damp paper towel and microwave in 15-second intervals until warm.

I love serving these muffins with chili, barbecued meats, braised beans, and creamy chicken soup. Sunny yellow cornbread muffins are also great for breakfast, either all by themselves or with a larger meal like sausage and eggs.

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