We Tested 9 Boxed Cornbread Mixes, And This Was The Winner By Far

For when you absolutely, positively can't whip up a batch of homemade.

Cornbread is a dish that Southerners are willing to fight for—and fight over.

While we all have our own trusted cornbread recipes that we make time and time again, we can generally agree that the South has mastered cornbread—whether or not we can agree on the use of sugar.

We know that homemade cornbread is always the way to go with this staple bread, 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 the handful or more ingredients typically called for in recipes. So, for those desperate times, we turn to boxed cornbread mixes to get the job done.

Our staff taste-tested nine store-bought cornbread brands to find the one that gets you closest to homemade when you're in a pinch and need cornbread faster than you can make on your own.

Here, the best cornbread mixes according to Southern Living editors:

How We Tested

I made each cornbread mix according to the recipe instructions on the package. This included oven temperature, size of pan, and any additional ingredients (eggs, milk, water, or butter).

All cornbread mixes baked at 375°F or 400°F. Most also required an 8- x 8-inch pan; two specifically called for baking in muffin pans. A few packages went so far as to suggest different baking times based on the type of metal pan you're using or if you using a cast-iron skillet.

I cooked to the minimum bake time, and then used my skills as an experienced home baker to bake the cornbread to the right level of doneness. I did not go beyond the bake timeframe suggested by the package.

I then presented all nine cornbreads to the editors of Southern Living. Each editor scored the cornbread and provided written feedback. After all testers tried the cornbreads, I tallied scores and reviewed notes. I used this feedback to rank the cornbread mixes. Two rose to the top.

How We Judged

This was a "blind" taste test. I gave the testers a piece of each cornbread, but I did not tell them the brands. I asked them to rank the cornbread on a scale of 0 to 3, with 3 being the best rating and 0 being the lowest.

When they were tasting the cornbread, I asked each tester to consider four important elements of cornbread:

  1. Flavor: How sweet is this cornbread? Can you taste corn or cornmeal? What other flavors do you taste?
  2. Texture: Cornbread often ranges on a spectrum from crumbly to cakey. Where does this cornbread fall?
  3. Color: Does the color of this cornbread appeal to you? Or is it too light or too dark?
  4. Overall flavor: We recognize that some people don't like sweet cornbread, and some only eat sweet cornbread. Setting aside your own personal preferences, is this cornbread a good option in a pinch?

Boxed Cornbread Mixes We Tried

All of these cornbread mixes were relatively inexpensive. The most expensive option was just shy of $3, and the average price was $1.40. Most editors liked something about each of the cornbreads, 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 using cornbread mixes when you can't find your cast-iron skillet or you're just in too big of a hurry to measure flour and cornmeal.

Krusteaz Southern Cornbread Mix

To some of our boxed mix skeptics, the highlight of this cornbread was that it looks real, and it's the golden yellow color that all Southern cooks look for. It's also what you'd expect of classic cornbread: 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 quickly. A hint of saltiness balances out the butter, and the sweetness isn't as pronounced as some others.

Best review: "I like the lightness of it; it tastes a lot like the butter."

Martha White Cotton Country Cornbread

Although this Martha White cornbread (one of four in our taste test) didn't earn any first-place votes, reviewers said it was a great pick if you prefer your cornbread to play a supporting role to the soup or greens or chili you're serving it with. It's flavor is classic, without sweetness or too much saltiness, but it's a white cornbread. Don't expect it to turn golden yellow the way other cornbreads might.

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. This could be a good pick for camping, when you can't bring a whole kitchen fireside.

Famous Dave's Original Recipe Corn Bread Mix

This cornbread mix was a favorite of a few editors but it didn't get top scores because it was "too sweet" and "could be a cake." For lovers of sweet cornbread, however, it was "absolutely my favorite." One said it tasted more like corn cake, and honestly, pass us the butter, we could go for a slice right now.

Best review: "It tastes like my elementary school's cornbread."

Martha White Buttermilk Cornbread & Muffin Mix

Like the Martha White Cotton Country Cornbread, this bag of cornbread mix only requires water—or you could use milk. (We used milk for testing.) It doesn't produce a sweet cornbread, though there is just a hint of corn sweetness. It manages to have a good salt-forward flavor without being salty, so if you're looking for a fairly neutral cornbread, this is a good pick for you.

Jiffy Vegetarian Corn Muffin Mix

The vegetarian version of this popular corn bread mix was a surprise to us. (It doesn't have lard like the classic mix; it uses vegetable shortening.) We expected a good bit of Jiffy's savory flavor came from that lard, but surprisingly this wasn't all that different from the original mix. But it was a bit more crumbly, and several testers argued that texture difference makes it perfect for soups when you want it to crumble and soak up liquid.

Best review: "This tastes the most like cornbread to me. The texture isn't too cakey or moist, and it has a nice crumble."

Martha White Gluten-Free Sweet Yellow Cornbread & Muffin Mix

There are a few gluten-free cornbread mixes on the market, but almost all were flavored with honey, which means they didn't qualify for our taste test. (Mixes with additional flavorings like honey, jalapeño, or cheese were excluded.) In place of all-purpose or self-rising flour, this mix uses rice flour and potato starch, which accounts for its fluffy, airy texture. It wasn't a favorite of any tasters, but many said it had a good balance of sweetness and saltiness, which was a good point among many sweet options.

Fleischmann's Simply Homemade Baking Mix Cornbread

You may recognize this brand for its many baking essentials, including yeast. This was the first time for most testers to try this brand, and it ranked very well, earning several top-place points. What kept it from the first-place position, however, is its texture. Reviewers said it was more dense than they were used to, with some saying it was almost like a moist yellow corn cake. A few said they wouldn't serve it with soup or greens, but they would absolutely make it to eat as a treat.

Best review: "It wants to be a cupcake."

The Winners, Please!

We hear you! Our picks for the best boxed cornbread mix at last...

For people who prefer sweet cornbread: Martha White Sweet Yellow Cornbread & Muffin Mix

This mix calls for one egg and milk, so it has more color than the eggless Martha White mixes above. It also scored higher than all the other mixes on the list (save the one below), with reviewers saying it had a good corn flavor. It also had a just-right balance of sweetness and savoriness without being outright sugary, a common issue with many of the cornbreads on this list.

For people who prefer cornbread without much sugar: Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix

Before we explain what we loved about this cornbread mix, let's calm the waters: All of these mixes have sugar, so most had some sweetness, even if only a faint hint. Sugar provides color in baked foods, so food companies will almost always include it. Truly sugar-less cornbreads are often not as golden and brown as ones with some sugar. (I'm not saying they're colorless; I'm saying they are usually just a bit more pale.) So unless you're opposed to sugar even being in the kitchen when you make cornbread, this is the pick for the most savory boxed cornbread mix (yes, it does have some sugar):

Jiffy is a staple baking mix in many Southern households. This was also the most inexpensive mix out of the bunch, priced at just 60 cents at the local grocery store. And it earned the most points of any other mix in this taste test—by a lot.

Some editors said that they would call this a sweet cornbread, but they argued it was "corn sweetness" and not "sugar sweetness." Of course, a handful knew precisely what it was the moment they tried it, even with it being a blind taste test. Its taste and texture is fairly unique among the many cornbread mixes we tried (save the Vegetarian version, which is just a lard-free alternative).

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."

A Foolproof Way to Make Any Boxed Cornbread Better

If you want the best texture, cook any of these boxed cornbread mixes in a cast-iron skillet. It's an option on most of them, so just follow those directions. For smaller mixes (like the Martha White ones), use an 8-inch skillet. For larger mixes, use a 9- or 10-inch skillet. And heat the pan before you put the batter in it. The immediate batter-to-pan reaction caramelizes the sugars (there's that word again) in the batter and creates greater flavor and color.

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