I made cornbread using 5 celebrity chefs’ recipes, and there’s only one I wouldn’t eat again

I followed five cornbread recipes from famous chefs and compared the results. Paige Bennett for Insider
  • I made cornbread using recipes from Carla Hall, Trisha Yearwood, Alex Guarnaschelli, Alton Brown, and Nancy Fuller.
  • Although it was difficult to pick a favourite, Hall’s was the best by a small margin because it was perfectly golden and tasty.
  • Yearwood’s recipe was the least impressive in terms of taste, though it only called for three ingredients.
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Whether accompanying a hot bowl of chilli in the colder months or being served alongside your favourite summer barbecue dishes, cornbread is a crowd favourite.

Cornbread is a fairly simple staple to make at home — and if you’re tired of grabbing the premade mix at the store, you can rely on a celebrity-chef recipe to help you prepare the delicious side dish from scratch.

I tested five recipes from famous chefs Carla Hall, Trisha Yearwood, Alex Guarnaschelli, Alton Brown, and Nancy Fuller to find the best cornbread recipe.

Read on to see how each turned out.

Hall’s recipe is a simple and straightforward take on Southern cornbread

Carla Hall cornbread
The ingredients for Carla Hall’s cornbread recipe. Paige Bennett for Insider

Hall makes classic Southern cornbread following her grandmother’s recipe, which is more savoury than the sweeter Northern variations.

It calls for just seven ingredients, and you can either make your own creamed corn or use a canned alternative, which is the option I chose to save a bit of time and money.

My skillet didn’t seem to get hot enough, but I hoped for the best

Carla Hall cornbread
I mixed the dry and wet ingredients separately, then combined them. Paige Bennett for Insider

The process for making this cornbread was very easy. I mixed the dry and wet ingredients in different bowls, then combined them to create a thick batter.

Carla Hall cornbread
The batter was thick once combined. Paige Bennett for Insider

While preparing the batter, I heated a cast-iron skillet in the oven. Once the oven was to temperature, I removed the pan and added canola oil, then I poured in the batter.

The recipe explains that the batter should sizzle in the oil when it’s first poured — mine did not. I think I forgot to test if the oil was hot enough first.

The oil pooled around the top of the cornbread, but I hoped it would still turn out OK.

This cornbread was fluffy and delicious

Carla Hall cornbread
Carla Hall’s cornbread came out golden and cracked. Paige Bennett for Insider

After about 25 minutes in the oven, I could smell the cornbread and I was excited to dig in.

The top was much more golden than any of the other recipes I tested and had some cracking in the spots where oil had pooled. The bread also gained a lot of height while baking.

The flavour was incredible — despite there being no butter in this recipe, the cornbread was buttery and the flavour of the sweet corn really came through. The texture was soft and fluffy.

I enjoyed everything about this recipe: the easy-to-follow instructions, the texture, the flavour, and the versatility.

Although the bread is on the savoury side, it would go great with honey, butter, or my favourite chilli.

Yearwood’s buttermilk cornbread recipe requires just 3 ingredients

Trisha Yearwood cornbread
Trisha Yearwood’s recipe only required three ingredients. Paige Bennett for Insider

Yearwood, by far, has the simplest of all of the recipes.

Of the three ingredients it requires, one is self-rising cornmeal mix. I couldn’t find this at my neighbourhood grocery store, but a quick online search told me to add about 1 teaspoon of baking powder for each cup of cornmeal to make my own self-rising base.

The recipe also calls for corn oil or bacon drippings. I don’t eat bacon, so I opted for the first option.

The recipe came together in no time

Trisha Yearwood cornbread
Combining the three ingredients was hassle-free. Paige Bennett for Insider

The batter was as simple as mixing everything together in one bowl.

The recipe calls for 2 to 3 cups of buttermilk and says the consistency should be quite thick but still easily pourable — my only challenge was trying to strike that right balance.

I used 2 1/2 cups of buttermilk and it looked slightly too thin in the bowl.

Trisha Yearwood cornbread
Trisha Yearwood’s batter once combined. Paige Bennett for Insider

But when I poured it into the hot cast-iron skillet, I quickly realised it was too thick … but it was also too late to do anything about it since the batter was already sizzling in the pan.

Trisha Yearwood cornbread
When I poured it, the batter seemed much thicker. Paige Bennett for Insider

I cooked the cornbread batter on the stove for about a minute before transferring it into the oven for 22 more minutes.

As it turns out, looks can be deceiving

Trisha Yearwood cornbread
After it came out of the oven, Trisha Yearwood’s cornbread looked delicious. Paige Bennett for Insider

When I pulled it out of the oven, this cornbread looked and smelled delicious.

The top was slightly golden with a few darker brown areas and slightly crisp edges. But when I took a bite, I was underwhelmed.

Trisha Yearwood cornbread
The finished product was actually quite dry and too dense. Paige Bennett for Insider

This cornbread turned out dry and dense, and it tasted like eating plain cornmeal.

I checked the recipe reviews to pinpoint where I went wrong, but overall, many people who tried this recipe thought it needed eggs to improve the texture. I thought a bit of sugar might also help the flavour.

Guarnaschelli’s cornbread calls for butter instead of oil

Alex Guarnaschelli cornbread
The ingredients for Alex Guarnaschelli’s cornbread recipe. Paige Bennett for Insider

Almost every recipe I tested called for oil, but Guarnaschelli’s cornbread required butter.

I was nervous about the swap because butter has a lower smoking point than oil, and I definitely didn’t want to end up with burnt cornbread.

Aside from the potential butter debacle, I also couldn’t find the coarsely ground cornmeal this recipe asked for at the grocery store, so I used regular yellow cornmeal.

Although I didn’t burn the cornbread, I nearly burned myself with the butter

Alex Guarnaschelli cornbread
Alex Guarnaschelli’s cornbread mix should be easily pourable. Paige Bennett for Insider

Like the other recipes, this one was very simple overall. Leaving 1 tablespoon of melted butter on the side, I whisked the dry ingredients in one bowl and the wet ones in another, then combined.

The mixture was slightly thick and poured easily.

Alex Guarnaschelli cornbread
When I poured the mix, the butter popped and sizzled. Paige Bennett for Insider

The biggest issue, however, was how the butter started aggressively popping and sizzling when I poured it into the cast-iron skillet that I had heated in the oven.

I had to work quickly and keep my distance to avoid being scaled by the splattering butter.

Following the recipe, I then lowered the oven’s temperature to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and baked the cornbread for 25 minutes.

Unsurprisingly, this cornbread was super buttery

Alex Guarnaschelli cornbread
Alex Guarnaschelli’s cornbread turned out perfectly golden on top and nicely browned on the bottom. Paige Bennett for Insider

The cornbread came out with a golden top, and the bottom was browned and crispy without being burnt.

Alex Guarnaschelli cornbread
Alex Guarnaschelli’s cornbread was moist, and the butter gave it a great taste. Paige Bennett for Insider

The texture was spongy and soft, and the centre was as buttery as it tasted. This wasn’t surprising considering the recipe required an entire stick of butter.

With a little honey on top, this cornbread would be a complete knockout.

Brown’s recipe was surprisingly simple and it relied on pantry staples

Alton Brown cornbread
The ingredients for Alton Brown’s cornbread recipe. Paige Bennett for Insider

Brown is well-known for his interest and knowledge in the science of cooking. His recipes can sometimes be complex, but his cornbread recipe was surprisingly simple.

The nine ingredients needed are mostly pantry staples, including canned creamed corn.

This was another easy recipe to make

Alton Brown cornbread
I mixed the dry and wet ingredients in different bowls, then combined. Paige Bennett for Insider

To make Brown’s cornbread, I mixed the dry and wet ingredients separately, then poured the dry mixture into the wet one to combine.

Alton Brown cornbread
When combined, the ingredients mixed into a moderately thick batter. Paige Bennett for Insider

After I warmed the skillet in the preheating oven, I carefully swirled canola oil in the pan, then poured in the batter, which immediately sizzled. I put it in the oven for about 23 minutes.

Alton Brown cornbread
When I poured the batter into the skillet, it sizzled right away. Paige Bennett for Insider

As with all of the recipes, I didn’t turn the pan at all while it baked. For most of the recipes, that didn’t matter, but for this one, I definitely noticed that one side became more golden than the other.

Brown’s cornbread perfectly balances sweet and savoury

Alton Brown cornbread
One side of Alton Brown’s recipe came out more browned than the other. Paige Bennett for Insider

Aside from the uneven colouring on top, the cornbread looked great. The bottom was evenly browned but not burnt, and the texture was fluffy and pillowy but held together well thanks to the slightly crispy bottom.

Alton Brown cornbread
Alton Brown’s cornbread was fluffy and held together well. Paige Bennett for Insider

I tasted more savoury notes from the cornmeal that complemented the sweetness of the creamed corn and sugar.

Fuller’s recipe spices things up with a bit of jalapeño

Nancy Fuller cornbread
Nancy Fuller’s recipe called for a jalapeño. Paige Bennett for Insider

I loved that Fuller’s recipe added jalapeño to the mix. In total, it asked for 10 ingredients, including frozen corn and a lot of sour cream.

A food processor was my best friend for this recipe

Nancy Fuller cornbread
I used a food processor, which made making this batter much easier. Paige Bennett for Insider

Without a food processor, this recipe would probably be tricky — but with one, making this batter was easy.

I blended the corn and eggs together, added in the rest of the ingredients (minus the butter and jalapeño), and warmed the butter in the cast-iron skillet.

Once the butter had melted, I carefully poured it into the batter and folded in the chopped jalapeño.

Nancy Fuller cornbread
Once the batter was combined, I folded in the chopped jalapeño. Paige Bennett for Insider

Although there were more steps in this recipe than the others, it was still a simple process. I cooked the cornbread in the oven for about 25 minutes.

Fuller’s jalapeño cornbread tasted better than it looked

Nancy Fuller cornbread
Although Nancy Fuller’s cornbread didn’t get golden like some of the others, it tasted delicious. Paige Bennett for Insider

The cornbread didn’t get quite as golden on top as I would have liked, but it did smell good coming out of the oven.

Nancy Fuller cornbread
Although Nancy Fuller’s cornbread was dense, it was also soft and moist. Paige Bennett for Insider

Fuller’s recipe turned out excellent. It was a little dense, but it was still soft and moist.

There was a pretty strong corn flavour, but the jalapeño added a nice contrast and just a slight amount of heat.

I’d pair this cornbread with a little bit of butter and a generous drizzle of hot honey for an added kick.

I’d make nearly all of these recipes again

Celebrity chef cornbread
Most of the celebrity-chef cornbread recipes were winners in my book. Paige Bennett for Insider

It was hard to choose a favourite because all of the recipes were quick and easy, and most of them nailed both texture and flavour.

Just by the slightest margin, I’d say Hall’s cornbread took the cake for me. The texture was so fluffy, and it had a picturesque golden crust and slightly savoury flavour that could be dressed in honey, butter, or that last bit of soup or chilli.

For me, Yearwood’s recipe was just OK — it needed something else to help soften the texture and give it a little more flavour. Aside from that one, I would happily make the other recipes again.