2 Ingredient Hot Water Cornbread



Hot Water Cornbread is a recipe as old as the Tennessee Hills.

Speaking of which, do you know how you can tell if a cow is from Tennessee? The legs on one side ae shorter than the other..hehe. That’s an old one, referencing how hilly the state is. So if cows are grazing, it is most likely on the side of a hill...ok explaining jokes takes the wind out of their sails, doesn’t it?


This is a basic recipe that can be gussied up any number of ways. I’m gonna go plain and straightforward with you today so you have the basic recipe and can work from there.

I wanted to show you the plain version to let you know that you don’t HAVE To gussy it up, it will still be delicious, while at the same time encouraging you to really have fun with it. The simpler versions are what were most often made in the old days when ingredients were scarce and we had to make do in order to put food in our bellies.

You know, these days, a lot of people are too far removed from hunger to be able to appreciate food. I’m not talking about enjoying a meal at a fancy restaurant or being able to sniff a glass of rotted grape juice and tell someone where it came from or what kind it is, I’m talking about appreciating the fact that you have food to eat. Appreciating being able to sit down to a meal and truly feel grateful that your stomach will be full when you get up.

I’m talking about having an attitude where, if the pot of stew is a little salty, you eat it anyway and be glad to have it regardless.

So many people don’t have that gratutude, instead there is a snooty, almost callous, attitude towards food. This concerns me because if a body can’t sit down to something made by any random grandmother and express real and sincere gratitude for the meal, regardless of whether or not it tastes good to them or is cooked as they would like it to be, something is just flat out off.

I think a lot of people forget that, when looking at these simple recipes, they were invented out of necessity in order to survive and based on what folks had on hand or could easily acquire. For me, that inspires a reverence for them, and a respect for the wisdom of the old ways. It also makes me want to make them just like they did, if only to feel a little closer to the wisdom and life of my ancestors.

So…lets get started.

For the basic recipe for this, you’ll need: Self rising corn meal and hot water.

You can use your favorite self rising cornmeal mix. Martha White has all sorts of different ones and I like the white best but that is because it’s what my great grandmother used.

 The recipe calls for boiling water to get it hot but I’m just going to use my coffee pot to dispense me some. Because that is what it does…I’m still respecting the old ways with the recipe but there is no sense in adding unnecessary work. Back in the day folks were plum tired and had far too much common sense to go around the block to get to the mailbox. 

Y’all remember that cute little photo of the new addition to my kitchen in my Confessions of A Pyrex Hoarder post?

This is what that area looks like on a daily basis – it’s my coffee station. I have it set up like this so folks can go make a cup of coffee and grab a snack without having to intrude into my cooking domain area while I’m working :)

And sometimes I step over there to get hot water when working on a post…

 Add your corn meal into the water.

Stir that together until there are no lumps left and it’s formed a good old batter. If you need to add a tablespoon or so of water you can. If you need to add a little more corn meal, you can do that too. 

Heat 1/4 inch of oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.

 Once that is hot, carefully drop your batter by spoonfuls into the hot oil and lightly press it flat with the back of a spoon.

Cook until browned on that side, then flip it and cook it until it is browned on the other.

Remove to paper towel lined plate, basket, or bowl. Serve warm :)

It’s that easy!

 These are great on their own or with butter, maple syrup, molasses, etc.

2 Ingredient Hot Water Cornbread
  • 2 Cups Self Rising Cornmeal
  • 1 Cup HOT Water
  1. Stir together cornmeal and water until completely smooth. Heat ¼ inch vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. When oil is hot, carefully drop batter from a spoon into the oil and lightly press flat with back of spoon.
  2. Cook until browned on the bottom, then flip and cook until browned on the other side. Remove to paper towel lined plate. Serve hot.
Makes about 15.
The following add ins are excellent in this.
Stir them in after the corn meal and water have been stirred together:
Chopped onions, ½ tsp garlic powder, ½ tsp pepper, ½ cup drained corn kernels, ½ cup shredded cheddar cheese, finely diced jalapeños, 1 tsp parsley or basil, etc.

I’m really looking forward to the National Cornbread Festival this weekend in South Pittsburg, Tennessee and I hope to see some of y’all there! If you’re going to be around and have time for me to give you a hug, just drop by the Judges tent at the cornbread cookoff stage anytime between 12:30-3:00. I’ll be inside the tent judging, but if you tell someonee working around there that you’re there to see me, they’ll give me a holler so I can come out. Don’t you dare think you’re being a bother, either! I’d be offended if you didn’t give me a chance to say hi! If I’m in the middle of judging, it may take me a minute or two but I’ll hop right on out there as soon as I can because I don’t wanna miss seeing you!


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    • Cheryl says

      I’m fixin’ta make some right now to go with my usual New Year’s Day dinner of blackeye peas cooked w/collard greens & smoked turkey sausage and newly-added this year..some pan-sauteed cabbage with green apple wedges.

    • Jackie Marino says

      You must be from North Carolina. I have never heard of hot water cornbread until I moved to northwest Louisiana. My mom and her family were from North Carolina and we had fried cornbread a lot of times.

      • Ellen Siler says

        My mother was born and raised around Emerson, AR and this was on the table many times. My maw maw and my mama make it in larger pieces, like in little mini loaves and don’t brown it as much. Still to this day, I eat it with ketchup! They always used plain white cornmeal and salt and boiling water, with a small bowl of cold water on the side to cool your hands while you form the mini loaves.

        • Jo woodiel says

          Regarding hot water cornbread: My mother made that a few times for us usually when we had no milk available, as her mother and grandmother made before her, I am sure. In the old days, people primarily lived on the farm, and “off the land.” They raised their own corn, white, yellow, red or sometimes “Indian Corn.” (I remember having some blue cornmeal.) Mom used only cornmeal, salt, and boiling hot water. The hot water basically cooked the cornmeal. Then, she shaped a big spoonful of hot meal mixture by hand and dropped the corn pone into the hot shortning, usually home rendered lard and fried then on both sides until done. They were not flat. There was no baking powder, soda, nor milk used. Hot fried corn pones made with homegrown cornmeal, salt and boiling water was very good, something farm families had on hand that made a good hot bread. I believe corn was the mainstay for families and animals from early times through the mid 1950’s along with their homegrown meats, vegetables and fruits. Mothers used to “cook supper”, now we “make dinner” by pulling tabs, strings, or peeling back plastic and microwaving. Gotta make some hotwater cornbread tomorrow to have with pinto beans cooked with sliced New Orleans style sausage in my 6 qt. pressure cooker, collard greens or maybe some quick cornbread waffles in my waffle iron with homemade chili. Yummy. I enjoy your receipes and homey southern wit.

        • Mary Helen Smith says

          I’ll bet you know where Haynesville, La. is. My mother made Hot Water Cornbread almost every day of the week. It is still one of our family favorites even though I don’t fry nearly as much as I used to.
          I always added salt to mine and in later years switched from plain white cornmeal to yellow, but Mother always said your water must be boiling. There was nothing better than fried cornbread with Black-eyed Peas, new potatoes and fresh tomatoes.

      • Eliza More says

        My family and husbands are from TX and we all make hotwater cornbread, have for generations. We normally have it with Granny’s stew, chili, black-eyed peas or just whatever you normally might eat cornbread with :) my husband likes to put is in a glass and pour buttermilk over it and then eat it with a fork.

        • Katrelda Voigt says

          Eliza, the way your husband eats it is just how I grow up eating it, yum yum, I love hot water cornbread and buttermilk. I grew up with my parents in TN and my grandparents in MS and hot water cornbread brings back so many memories.

  1. Susan Kramer says

    My family is from south AL and I learned to make cornbread with water ground white cornmeal and water. Sometimes we add just a little self rising flour and a wee bit of salt and a tad of sugar. Then fry it up. Mmmmm! Mmmmm! MUST have some to go with peas or greens!! THE BEST!

  2. Carol Faver says

    Hey Y’all…I’ve been making these for about 45 years. Don’t bother with boiling water – I throw some cornmeal mix in a bowl, put enough tap water in to mix to the consistency you want and proceed from there with the frying. Makes exactly the same little cornmeal puffs and they are the best with homemade soup (I put a dot of butter on each one) an there’s nothing better.

  3. Shyanna Waters says

    Christy this is a bit off topic but do you like that Keurig coffee maker? My husband and I are thinking about splurging on one for our 30th anniversary and I would love to have your honest thoughts on it. Thanks!!

    • says

      Hey Shyanna! I’m happy to tell you my opinion on it.
      First of all, I was against it to begin with. I thought it was incredibly overpriced. But my husband got me one for my birthday and wow – he still says it is the best thing that has ever happened in our marriage! lol. There are three coffee drinkers in our house and we all rise at different times. Also, I am here working all day long and occasionally want some coffee at an odd time. The Keurig is perfect for that. Everyone can have a cup of coffee whenever they want with no guilt of a pot going to waste.
      I think it is perfect for a household with one or two coffee drinkers or folks who just like a cup or two at a time. If you have a house where y’all drink a whole pot in the mornings, it might be a better decision to stick with traditional but it sounds like y’all are like us.
      I DEARLY love my keurig. I will tell you, though, that they tend to die after about two years but some other southern plate readers have given me a great hint on that: Only buy it from Bed Bath and Beyond because they will replace it free of charge when it kicks the bucket :)
      Also, I have found Sam’s club to be the best prices on coffee. My husband and son like Donut Shop from there. It is a mild coffee. I like a bolder coffee and I love the Sam’s club brand called Columbia Supremo.
      All in all, I gotta tell you that if it was up to me, I’d say get one. I think you’ll dearly love it.

  4. Lisa says

    I love southern food, but I live in the West. I know… Anyway I could not find self-rising cornmeal mix, so I made my own self-rising cornmeal mix from a recipe I found on the internet and the made the recipe.

    I have two questions- 1. what should the consistency of the batter be? Mine was like sand, like the moonsand kids play with and it would not stick together. I added more water just until it stuck a little better but it still fell apart a bit. I used a small scoop to mold it before I dropped into the oil- that helped, but what consistency am I look for?

    2. They turned out tasty, the family loved them, but did not look like your photos above. Is it really tender in the middle with a crunchy exterior? Mine was just a little tender in the middle, but mostly just crunchy. I see that your self-rising mix has buttermilk in it and the mix I made just had cornmeal, baking powder and salt. Does that make the difference?

    Never having made these before and not having access to the self rising mix…I just want to make sure I am doing it right. Any help you can give me would be appreciated. Thanks!

  5. Tina says

    Hello Everyone – My grandmother and great-aunt made these when I was a little girl. I made these today for lunch with a serving of pinto beans they were in the freezer. Wow, they were great! I can’t wait to try with onions, etc.

  6. kELLY says

    Grandma always made this only used white corn meal and ice water. She made it to go with purple hulls she got at the farmers market (that she & I shelled on the back porch that morning) for dinner. Oh how great it was and I often find myself making it just as a meal for me!

  7. Hogs'n'Quiches says

    I always heard, “How do you catch a Tennessee cow? Put ‘em on flat land and they run in circles.” lol

    I love hot water cornbread! It’s especially good with a bowl of hot pinto bean soup with a plop of chow-chow right in the middle. YUM!! Now I’m dadgum hungry!

  8. Carol Romeo says

    I was totally floored when I saw that darling photo of you stirring your cornbread ingredients. Why you ask – cause on your bottom shelf, left side (to me) are my mixing bowls from 60 yrs. or so ago. I wonder what I ever did with them. Are those mine Christy – hmmmmmm??? When you reach my age it seems that sooner or later same things just pop up here and there. Funny, but interesting too. Love your wit, comments and of course your wonderful recipes. God Bless.

  9. Janir says

    It’s better with an egg but if were out my Gram would make it like this, fried. Butter on top. And beans on top of that sometimes. We used three rivers but alas it is no longer. We use Marty white miw

  10. Linda C. says

    My mother-in-law Margaret very frequently got asked to make her Hot Water Cornbread!! What a treat with pinto beans and/or butter and honey while still hot! She would have liked your recipe with the self-rising cornmeal!

  11. Eva says

    Christy, I just got two of those Cinderella bowls at the thrift store, a large and medium one in a brown (cinnamon tones) with wheat stalk on them, very pretty! I have a couple of others a large bowl (no ears) with tiny blue flowers on, and a small green bowl that was part of a three bowl set, with the solid green with white design being the only one left of that, I was so mad when the others got broke! They were my only serving mixing bowls for a lot of years.

  12. Jo woodiel says

    Some are asking if you can make “hot water cornbreadf” using milk and eggs, then frying. I believe this would then be “Hoecakes”. These are more like fried cornbread, quick to cook in a skillet and are also good. There are receipes for these, too, much like regular cornbread from scratch or from a cornbread mix. I have read they got their Hoecake name because they were first actually cooked on a metal hoe held over hot coals in a fireplace. The cast iron dutch oven was also used in the fireplace and cornbread can be baked in them or in a hot cast iron skillet, covered, on low heat until dry on top. Turn over the cornbread and finish cooking without the lid. Great when the weather is hot for baking cornbread. Stoves and ovens were not often available in the old days.

  13. Marcia says

    I finally made these tonight with red beans and rice and smoked sausage.

    They were so easy and sooooo good! I don’t do much frying so I was a little tentative but it worked out great. I just browned them until they were the color of yours.

    Next time I cook greens these will be on the menu and I will add cheese and jalapeños. Thanks for this great old recipe, Christy!

  14. Don says

    This sure sounds interesting but what my dear mother in law used to make was skillet corn bread but served in a bowl on the dinner table, much like mashed potatoes and not as a biscuit. It was delicioous. I don’t know what the ingrediants was or the type of corn bread mix. Can any body help me? Thanks in advance for your help.

  15. Patty says

    I have made these hot water cakes for years and I used Aunt Jemima self rising cornmeal, and Hot water salt & pepper ,little garlic powder ,Fryed in Hot olive oil or corn oil fried like a pancake very good

  16. Cheryl Congleton says

    My grandmother used to make this and added fresh “cracklins” from when they rendered lard. Not the healthiest ingredient you could add, but was it ever delicious! I’ve made it throughout the years and have never had a complaint!

  17. Rick says

    I am not a cook even though I took homemaking in High School so I could be in a class full of girls. I have always wanted to make some hot water cornbread. I found this recipe and tried it. They turned out great. It is so easy that even a man can make it! Thank You Christy Jordan for the recipe! You have inspired this old man and I am going to subscribe to your blog and start learning to cook! You will one day be proud of my cooking skills!

  18. Sandra says

    My grandmother taught me to make this 65 years ago and I fry mine in bacon grease. However, the directions on your site are confusing – you say to use self-rising cornmeal (which I do), but you show a picture of self-rising corn meal MIX, which will not work because the mix includes dried milk and egg solids. Since the unacceptable, non-Southern cornmeal MIX is much more readily available in supermarkets than original self-rising cornmeal, it would be easy to pick up the wrong product, so you may want to clarify. For readers who aren’t familiar – the mix also includes some flour and produces a much more dense, heavier product than good, old-fashioned cornmeal.

    • says

      What a blessing to have been taught by such a wonderful person!I bet you make some fine cornbread! My self rising mix is made and packaged in Tennessee and I just double checked, no milk or egg products in it whatsoever. It may be another brand you are thinking of though.
      But now you done gone and made me wanna make cornbread. :)

  19. Sue Jackson says

    I am 83 years old and I grew up on hot water corn bread and pinto beans. Only we called them red beans. We use white corn meal, boiling water and 1/2 t salt to a cup of cornmeal. My mother in law made them the same way as my mother. They looked like yours with the crispy edges. My husband would slice it across and scrape the soft insides into his beans and eat the crispy outside separately. Thanks for the memories!

  20. Barbara Marona says

    Christy have read this before bu.t didn’t see the part about rotted grapes . That is a good discription of wine and it tastes like rotted grapes too. Why would anyone drink that with dinner. Yuk yuk.

  21. Betty Manley says

    Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!! I love this recipe. A couple of weeks ago I wanted some cornbread but had no eggs. I googled eggless cornbread and found a recipe but it was not to my taste. This recipe sounds delicious. I love crispy cornbread so I’m sure I will love this one. Can’t wait to make it.
    I love all your recipes, by the way. And I love your stories too. lol

    Thanks again!


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