Cornbread Vs. Hush Puppies—What's The Difference In These Favorite Southern Breads?

And what should you serve with them?

cornbread in skillet beside hush puppies on plate

As someone who was born and raised in New York City, I didn’t grow up eating lots of Southern food. It wasn't until I moved to Florida that I started to appreciate the hype not only over mashed potatoes and collard greens, but also cornbread and hush puppies.

A few weeks ago I was at Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’ at Disney Springs and saw both hush puppies and cornbread on the menu. To my knowledge, I thought they were the same, so I ordered hush puppies. However, when they arrived at my table, I quickly realized they weren’t. That’s what led me to think, well, “What’s the difference between cornbread and hush puppies?"

To find the answer to this question, I reached out to Scott Pizzo, a chef at Highball & Harvest at The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes and Shawn Matijevich, lead chef of online culinary arts and food operations at the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE). Here’s what they had to say.

Are Hush Puppies Just Fried Cornbread Balls?

The short answer is no—hush puppies and cornbread are not the same, although they might taste similar, and hush puppies are not fried cornbread balls.

The main difference is that cornbread is baked and hush puppies are fried, hence the difference in texture—though hush puppies can be air fryed, too.

"Typically hush puppy batter is a little thicker than cornbread batter, but that is just a matter of moisture. The basic ingredients are the same," Matijevich said.

Additionally, the process and techniques used to make hush puppies and cornbread are different. 

"When making hush puppies, I’m not worried about overmixing. I am however focused on how fluffy or dense [it is]. This comes from baking soda, baking powder, and the fat I am using, and also depends on what flavor profile and approach I am going for," Pizzo said. "Hush puppies are more built around the flour, whereas cornbread has a lot more to do with cornmeal and the quality of cornmeal really matters."

How Are They Prepared?

Hush puppies are generally placed in a fryer, whereas cornbread is typically baked in the oven in a cast-iron skillet.

Both cornbread and hush puppies can have variations in the ingredients for different flavor profiles.

As for fillings and enhancements, Matijevich said he's seen many variations with both cornbread and hush puppies from jalapeño, honey, bacon, corn chunks, red pepper, and more. "

Corn has such a delicate and mild flavor that you can pair it with so many different ingredients," he said. "The only thing I would stay away from are very harsh flavors like garlic and acid."

While one can add fillings and toppings, many like Pizzo, generally like cornbread to be served as is (and maybe with a few kernels mixed in.)

What To Eat With Cornbread and Hush Puppies

Cornbread is traditionally served with the typical Southern mains—chili, soup, collards, macaroni and cheese, ribs, pulled pork, and more.

"I think both items pair well with wet foods because of the propensity to soak up delicious sauces, gravies, soup, and chili," Matijevich said.

Additionally, both hush puppies and corn bread are typically served as appetizers or side dishes, but there are no strict rules about it.

"It is up to you as the cook to have fun with them and be creative in what you are trying to achieve," Pizzo said.

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