The more elemental a food, the more complex it tends to be. Cornbread is living proof: At its most primitive, cornbread’s nothing more than cornmeal and water, but the ingredients that follow (like flour, sugar, eggs, and leavener) determine a cornbread’s true character. Take a survey of styles, from cakelike Northern cornbread to the dense skillet cornbread of the South (and everything in between), and see if you can’t find a version that best suits you.
Photo and recipe for Zucchini Brown-Butter Cornbread from CHOW

1. Easy, Fluffy Cornbread

This very moist rendition of cornbread is more emblematic of what you’d find north of the Mason-Dixon Line; it’s baked in an oven dish and comes out fluffy, cakelike, and slightly sweet, thanks to the addition of flour, sugar, and milk. The bread’s airy texture also lends itself to use in stuffings and dressings.
Photo and recipe from CHOW

2. Classic Southern Cornbread

Many Southern cooks shun the use of flour or sugar and make their cornbread in a cast-iron skillet rather than a baking pan in order to achieve a darker, thicker crust. South Carolina chef Sean Brock makes a cornbread that’s cooked to order, with hot bacon grease that smokes and screeches when the batter hits the pan.
Photo and recipe from Food52

3. Moist Skillet Cornbread

In this Southern-inspired skillet recipe, buttermilk replaces regular milk to add tang rather than sweetness.
Photo and recipe from CHOW

4. Dry Skillet Cornbread

Like the moist skillet cornbread above, this version is made in a cast-iron pan, but its high ratio of flour and cornmeal achieves a dry-style cornbread that’s ideal for slathering and dipping—especially when chili or soup is involved.
Photo and recipe from CHOW

5. Jalapeño Cornbread Muffins

For built-in portioning, divide your cornbread batter evenly across a muffin pan. A bonus to this pickled-jalapeño-studded recipe: Muffins mean more surface area for crispier browned edges!
Photo and recipe from CHOW

6. Spicy Hominy Cornbread

Guests will think at first glance that they’ve been treated to a classic Southern cornbread, but the surprise additions of hominy and minced jalapeño are guaranteed to keep ’em guessing.
Photo and recipe from CHOW

7. Sweet Potato Cornbread

For a unique twist on cornbread, try a version that stars cooked, mashed sweet potatoes for extra moisture and a vibrant, inviting hue. Add even more seasonality to the mix with a pinch of pumpkin pie spice.
Photo and recipe from Leite’s Culinaria

8. Blueberry Cornbread Muffins

If you’re the type who’s already inclined to spread compote or jam on your cornbread, why not bake your fruit straight into cornbread muffins instead? We like juicy, ripe blueberries, but you could do the same with raspberries or blackberries instead.
Photo and recipe from CHOW

9. Caramelized Onion and Goat Cheese Cornbread

For something entirely nontraditional, give caramelized onion and goat cheese cornbread a try. Buttermilk and goat cheese add plenty of tang, while caramelized onions lend sweetness and whole corn kernels yield plenty of texture.
Photo and recipe from Smitten Kitchen

10. Cornbread Pancakes with Maple-Pecan Syrup

Combine two age-old comfort foods, cornbread and pancakes, for a truly satisfying start to the day. A bold, extra-rich topping—maple syrup flavored with brown butter and toasted pecans—is a nice foil to the pancakes’ hearty texture.
Photo and recipe from CHOW

11. Avocado Cornbread

Looking for cornbread with some skip in its step? This recipe—with its savory cumin and cayenne spice, studded with creamy avocado to contrast a coarse crumb—is most definitely it.
Photo and recipe from Food52

12. Zucchini Brown-Butter Cornbread

This recipe ingeniously merges two favorites, zucchini bread and cornbread, for the ultimate vegetable quick bread. Shredded cheddar, buttermilk, and fresh herbs add layers of intrigue.
Photo and recipe from CHOW

13. Mini Cornbread Crab Cakes

If you find yourself with the rare predicament of leftover cornbread, we recommend crumbling it into crabmeat to add extra heft and texture to bite-sized crab cakes.
Photo and recipe from CHOW

Susannah Chen is a San Francisco–based freelance writer. When she’s not cooking or writing, she’s on the hunt to find the world’s best chilaquiles. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.
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