This vegan loaded cornbread is rich and moist with a hint of heat from pickled jalapeños.
A few years ago, I was on a plane from New York to Chicago in mid-November. Two women seated behind me were talking about what they were most excited to eat on Thanksgiving. One of them described a family recipe for cornbread pudding.
“It’s a box of Jiffy, a block of cream cheese, a thing of sour cream, cream of mushroom soup, and a can of corn. Then you bake it with cheddar on top.”
Eavesdropping on this conversation, I felt my chest tighten (which I assumed was my cholesterol rising). Personally, the idea of putting so many processed ingredients into a single dish makes me uneasy. And I always find it fascinating that recipes like these (looking at you, gloopy green bean casserole) make up much of the Thanksgiving tradition.
This loaded cornbread is the opposite of what the person on the plane described. Made from scratch (no Jiffy mix here!) with good-for-you ingredients, this sweet-savory bread is studded with black pepper, cilantro, corn kernels, pickled jalapeños, and red onion. The bread is light, moist, and a bit spicy, with little bits of crunch from the cornmeal. It’s so, so good!
I wish I could take credit for this brilliant combo of add-ins, but this recipe is actually inspired by Ottolenghi’s Simple. His rich sour cream batter calls for feta, cheddar, jalapeños, and red onion as toppers, which give the cornbread a sort of Mexican flair. I loved his recipe but wanted to re-create my own vegan version and I’m so happy with the results.
About the Ingredients
Instead of eggs, this vegan cornbread relies on “flax eggs” – a mixture of ground flaxseeds and water. This combo acts as a binder in the batter. For the leavener, I use baking powder. Four teaspoons may seem like a lot, but it’s what makes this cornbread so light and fluffy.
A lot of cornbread recipes call for as much as a cup of sugar. This loaded cornbread is on the savory side and calls for just a few tablespoons of maple syrup. The corn kernels in the batter also contribute to the bread’s sweetness.
Fresh Jalapeños vs. Pickled
The way I see it, the pickled jalapeños make this recipe. (They’re the type you typically find atop nachos). Whereas fresh jalapeños are super spicy, pickled ones have just a hint of heat. They’re more mellowed out, savory, and briny, which adds a nice contrast to the sweetness of the bread.
I use La Morena brand, which I find in the canned vegetables aisle or in the international foods aisle (next to Goya). Feel free to use whichever brand you can find.
Instead of canned corn, feel free to use 1 ½ cups fresh corn kernels cut off the cob. You can also use frozen corn.
The cilantro flavor is quite mild here, but if you’re not a fan, use a chopped scallion instead. You can also use scallions instead of the red onion.
- 2 tablespoons flaxseed meal (ground flaxseeds)
- 1 ½ cups fine- or medium-grind cornmeal
- 1 ¼ cups whole wheat pastry flour (all-purpose also works)
- 4 teaspoons baking powder
- ¾ teaspoon fine sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 ¼ cups unsweetened unflavored non-dairy milk
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for greasing the baking dish
- 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
- One 14-ounce can corn, drained and rinsed
- 1 heaping tablespoon minced cilantro
- ⅓ cup sliced pickled jalapeños, roughly chopped
- 1 small or ½ medium red onion, half finely diced and half thinly sliced
- Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly grease a square 9-inch baking dish (a pie plate will work, too) with oil. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, combine the flaxseed meal with 6 tablespoons of water. Let stand while you prep the rest of the ingredients, 5 to 10 minutes. It should thicken and become a bit gelatinous – this mixture is known as a “flax egg”.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, salt, and pepper.
- To the flaxseed mixture, add the milk, oil, maple syrup, corn, cilantro, half of the jalapenos, and the diced onion. Stir to combine. Pour this mixture into the cornmeal mixture and fold to combine, just until the batter comes together – do not overmix.
- Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish and scatter the remaining jalapenos and sliced onions over the top.
- Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the edges are lightly golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean or with a few crumbs.
- Remove from the oven and cool for at least 20 minutes. (If you slice the bread too early, it will crumble). This cornbread is best eaten day-of. Leftovers can be stored in the fridge and reheated on the stove or in a toaster oven.
- Serving Size: 1 piece
- Calories: 165
- Carbohydrates: 23.2 g
- Fiber: 2.5 g
- Protein: 2.8 g
Keywords: vegan, cornbread, cornmeal, jalapeno, corn