For when you absolutely, positively can't whip up a batch of Mama's homemade.
Cornbread is a dish that Southerners are willing to fight for. While we all have a specific recipe that we make time and time again, we can generally agree that the South has mastered cornbread–whether or not you believe we should add sugar to it. Homemade is always the way to go with this staple side, and it pairs well with just about any Southern dish you can get your hands on.
But, unfortunately, we don't always have time to pull out our cast-iron skillets and whisk together ingredients. So, for those desperate times, we turn to boxed cornbread mixes to get the job done. Although not as authentic as Memaw's, our staff taste-tested store-bought cornbread brands so that you're getting the closest thing to homemade possible. Here's what we thought:
#1: Zatarain's Cheddar Jalapeno Cornbread Mix
Yes, the cheddar-jalapeno factor played a part in the flavor (which was incredible!), but most folks picked this boxed cornbread mix as the winner for other reasons. Our editors described the flavor as "tasting homemade," which is one of the best compliments a boxed cornbread mix could get. The texture is perfect, being "a little crumbly but not at all dry." It also had the most corn flavor of the bunch – but did we expect anything less from a brand that claims "A New Orleans Tradition Since 1889"? This cornbread was thicker and denser, with a rustic look, and the hint of sweetness balanced out the spice. If you're not up for the Cheddar Jalapeno flavor, Zatarain's also makes a Honey Butter Cornbread that is perfect for eating with BBQ.
#2: Krusteaz Southern Cornbread Mix
In second place, by a very slim margin, was this Southern cornbread mix. To some of our boxed mix-skeptics, the remark on this cornbread was that it looks real, and it's the golden yellow color that all Southern cooks look for. One of our best quotes of the batch: "For a basic cornbread (that's still cheating on regular cornbread), this is the one I'd pick." This Southern cornbread mix is exactly what you'd expect classic cornbread to be: smooth, soft, and moist. It has a very buttery flavor – almost too buttery, some said – but the general consensus was that this would be a safe bet in a pinch if you needed something quckly.
#3: Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix
The whole staff was surprised when the little corn muffins that they'd ranked as third turned out to be Jiffy brand – a staple baking mix in many Southern households. This was the most inexpensive mix out of the bunch, priced at just 48 cents at the local grocery store. Some editors said that Jiffy was the sweetest of the bunch, but that it was also a little underwhelming. But, a handful of girls also mentioned that they knew right off the bat that it was Jiffy brand, even with it being a blind taste test. One editor really liked this boxed corn muffin mix (a cornbread mix, too, if you cook it in a skillet), saying that "it's the quintessential, most traditional cornbread" of the bunch. It's "a nice, sweet muffin, and would be good to crumble over some chili."
#4: Martha White's Cotton Country Cornbread
Although Martha White's cornbread came in fourth place in our blind taste test, it's worth mentioning that three people voted for this recipe as their favorite. A white cornbread, this recipe evoked feelings of nostalgia through the staff, particularly with one of our travel editors. "It reminds me of the cornbread my Mississippi relatives make," she said. Most folks placed this boxed (actually bagged!) cornbread mix last for texture. The cornbread was very dry, and didn't have much of a corn taste at all. "If you were making a TV dinner," one editor said, "this would be the cornbread you'd eat with it." This mix was fluffy and spongey. Our favorite quote of the bunch? "This is the white bread of cornbread." One interesting thing about this mix that sets it apart from the others is that it only called for water, while the rest called for eggs, butter, and/or milk.
All relatively inexpensive, there wasn't a boxed cornbread mix in the batch that wasn't chosen by at least one editor to win our taste test. So, whichever you've got a hankering for, we encourage you to pop on out to your local grocery store to give one a try. And, of course, we only recommend when you can't find your cast-iron skillet and Mama's away from the kitchen.