Soul Food Inspired – Spicy Masala Cornbread

Soul Food Inspired – Spicy Masala Cornbread

As a teen, I discovered the wonder of books with recipes included. I remember reading about soul food and traditional cornbread was always a crucial part of the meal. Depicted as the backdrop for family bonding, soul food was a metaphor connecting generations together and recipes for items like cornbread were held to hushed secrecy. Really, it’s not hard to associate cornbread to warmth, love, and family. Despite knowing cornbread requires no yeast and is simple to execute, I was intimidated. This mindset is typical of me: give me a task that is difficult and I will find it easy. Give me something easy and I find it a challenge.

For many years, I forgot about wanting to try cornbread. I think I stashed the idea in the back of my mind because I assumed I could never master it. Like seriously?

Last year, after coming home during a cold wintery day, I smelled makki di rotis (corn flour rotis) being made. It had been snowing and I was chilled to the bone. Entering my parent’s house, the smell and sound of corn flour dough sizzling on the cast iron thava (pan), made for a heady experience. It was almost hypnotic, because the air was filled with a sweet roasted corn aroma. It brought back a flurry of  unfulfilled desires about   attempting to make cornbread.

Like any dish I am trying to master, I take it seriously. For the next few weeks, I tried many variations. Sugar, no sugar, white cornmeal, yellow cornmeal, flour, no flour, milk, buttermilk, and trying different flavour profiles. The final result – a mouth-watering cornbread that has layers of flavours. It’s equally delicious hot out of the oven with giant dabs of butter, a drizzle of honey, or at room temperature to be eaten with a cup of hot tea or coffee. If you happen to have leftovers, this cornbread can be transformed into scrumptious stuffing (sometimes I make it just for this purpose).

Spicy Masala Cornbread  

 2 ¼ cups flour

2 cups yellow cornmeal

3 tablespoons white sugar

4 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

4 eggs

2 2/3 cups buttermilk

2/3 cup melted butter


1 onion, chopped

6 garlic cloves, minced

4 green onions, chopped

2 tablespoons rosemary, chopped

½ cup cilantro, chopped

2 jalapeno peppers, chopped

2 chipotle peppers, chopped (from a can)

1 tablespoon masala

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 cup of cheddar cheese


Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, take the melted butter and combine with the sugar. Whisk in the egg. Whisk in the baking soda, baking powder, baking soda, and buttermilk. Add salt, cornmeal, and flour.

Mix in all the additions. Mix well but do not overdo it. Add batter to a greased 8-inch baking dish take your spatula to smooth out the mixture.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until top is golden brown. Prick the center with a toothpick. It should come out clean. If not clean, continue to bake a couple of minutes at a time until the toothpick comes out clean.

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  1. Susan
    Posted Thursday February 11, 2016 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    When you say 1 tablespoon masala, what do you mean? What kind of masala is it?

    • jessie
      Posted Wednesday February 24, 2016 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

      Hi, Thanks for the question. I am referring to Garam Masala, which is the Indian equivalent of French herbes de Provence or Chinese five-spice powder. The recipe changes from region to region within northern India. The Garam Masala I use (my mom’s creation) is heavy handed with coriander seeds, red dry chilies, little bit of cinnamon sticks. Dry roast these and then grind in a spice grinder. It can be used in many different dishes.

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