Spoon bread blends the down-home familiarity of cornbread with the simple sophistication of soufflé

Served during both weekday meals and Holiday feasts, this quintessential Southern dish epitomizes comfort food

By Bibi Hutchings


Published April 21, 2023 1:30PM (EDT)

Close up of baked souffle (Getty Images/Shestock)
Close up of baked souffle (Getty Images/Shestock)

In "Bibi's Gulf Coast Kitchen," columnist Bibi Hutchings takes you on a culinary journey across the coastal south. Come for the great food writing, stay for the delicious recipes.

Spoon bread is not a bread, despite its name, but rather a classic Southern side dish. With cornmeal as its base, it is in the same family as cornbread, but it is baked into a soufflé, which makes it light, airy and custard-like in texture.  

I associate Spoon Bread (and soufflés in general) with a bygone era when food wasn't as fast and casual as it is today. That's not to say that this recipe is overly time-consuming, but it does require some thoughtfulness to go through the steps and do it right.

The first French settlement in America was in 1682 and these new colonists brought their distinctly French cooking techniques with them, forever changing the culinary landscape of the American South. They prepared the ingredients available in their new homeland using their own style. It was this confluence — French culture merging with
Native American and African cultures — that created Creole food, as well as this cornmeal soufflé!

Nowadays, it is more common for us to eat in shifts as family members file in at different times, reheating leftovers or standing at the kitchen counter rushing through a "meal" in order to get to the next thing. Sit-downs with all the family can be pretty rare, unless it's a holiday and someone is serving a dish like Spoon Bread, which makes you want a moment with your people.

There is a ta-da factor when you pull this out of the oven; you will hear the oooh's and ahhh's of mouth-watering amazement when everyone sees it, so make sure to serve it on an occasion when you can have folks at the table: ready, plates served, just waiting for it to come out. You might have to resist the urge to take a little bow as you walk it to the table, not only because of how it looks, but also because it is ridiculously delicious.

When made properly, Spoon Bread bakes to about double its size. The egg yolks add richness to the base of cornmeal and milk while the egg whites provide the height. Luckily, even the "ugly" ones (the ones that don't get a good rise) still taste amazing, so fear not! You're going to love everything about this ultimate comfort food

Want more great food writing and recipes? Subscribe to Salon Food's newsletter, The Bite.

Spoon Bread can be a little tricky and requires time and patience to really get right, but it is worth the extra effort. The saving grace is that regardless of whether you create a stunning work of art, you and your family are still going to love it. With a little practice, you'll get the hang of what goes in to making the egg whites do their job and you will easily turn out one gorgeous Spoon Bread after another.

It's nice that I got to watch people make Spoon Bread long before trying to do it myself because there are some things a recipe just can't convey. For instance, I was taught to whip the egg whites by hand to ensure they don't get over whipped, which would prevent them from continuing to rise during the baking, which would make your grand presentation a lot less grand. Specifically, I was told to move my whisk around the egg whites a few times in a figure-eight motion, then GO! GO! GO!, whipping as fast as I can for about 4-5 minutes. You want your egg whites stiff, but not dry. You can use an electric mixer on high setting for about 2-3 minutes for the same result. 

Sadly, even if you make the grandest, tallest, most beautiful Spoon Bread ever, it will still fall shortly after you take it out of the oven and definitely once you stick a serving spoon into it. So be sure to cherish that initial moment when it first comes out of the oven, gleaming, tall and proud. 

Spoon Bread
4 servings
Prep Time
 20 minutes
Cook Time
45 minutes


2 cups milk

1/2 cup corn meal

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

3 large eggs, separated

3 tablespoons butter



  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter a 2-quart casserole or soufflé dish. 

  2. In a saucepan over medium-high heat, scald milk (bring it to just before boiling — about 180 degrees)

  3. Slowly add the cornmeal, stirring constantly.

  4. Bring to a simmer and add salt, baking powder and butter.

  5. Continue to stir or whisk until thickened, about 5 minutes.

  6. Remove from heat. Allow to cool a bit.

  7. Add a tablespoon or two of the cornmeal mixture to well beaten egg yolks, then add all to the cornmeal mixture.

  8. Place egg whites in a small stainless steel bowl (or glass) with a tiny pinch of salt.

  9. Beat egg whites until stiff.

  10. Fold the beaten egg whites into the cornmeal mixture until almost smooth.

  11. Pour into prepared dish and bake 45 minutes or until golden on top and puffed up. Serve immediately. 

Cook's Notes

-Full disclosure: soufflés can definitely be fussy. But don't be scared of messing this up! It is delicious and easy once you get the hang of folding in your egg whites.

There are many variations to Spoon Bread, such as recipes adding zucchini, diced ham, cheese and lots of other things, but we keep ours simple. My husband likes having a savory helping with butter and black pepper with dinner, then a second serving with a heavy drizzle of honey for dessert. Some people use sugar and a bit of nutmeg in their recipes, but again, we don't. Our recipe is plain and simple — but we think it's the best.

-There is disagreement about whether baking powder should be used in Spoon Bread. The purists will tell you if you beat and fold in your egg whites properly, you do not need baking powder because the whites provide all the lift you need. I would say that of all the people I know, it is just as common to use baking powder as it is to eschew it. The recipe we use is my husband's family recipe — and it calls for baking powder.

-Take your time. Choose a day to make this when you aren't feeling rushed or stressed. After you make it a few times, there's nothing to it.

By Bibi Hutchings

Bibi Hutchings, a lifelong Southerner, lives along a quiet coastal Alabama bay with her cat, Zulu, and husband, Tom. She writes about the magical way food evokes memories, instantly bringing you back to the people, places and experiences of your life. Her stories take you all around the South and are accompanied with tried-and-true recipes that are destined to become a part of your memory-making as you share them with your friends and family.         

MORE FROM Bibi Hutchings

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Food Home Cooking Recipe Sides Southern Food Spoonbread