Upgrade Boxed Cornbread With One Creamy Ingredient

Barbecue and chili just wouldn't be the same without a serving of cornbread on the side — and a generous smear of butter, of course. This Southern favorite enhances every meal, whether it's baked to crusty perfection in a cast iron skillet, or scooped into muffin tins and paired with honey and jam for breakfast.

While making cornbread from scratch is delicious, there are moments when reaching for a boxed cornbread mix is the quickest way to serve this beloved quick bread in under 20 minutes. Popular mixes like Jiffy and Krusteaz Honey Cornbread and Muffin Mix usually only require milk, an egg, and sometimes vegetable oil for the batter. However, introducing a few extra ingredients can elevate your boxed cornbread mixes, making the result taste almost homemade.

Cornbread is inherently dry and grainy due to the coarse cornmeal. For a creamier consistency in your skillet cornbread or muffins, follow the package instructions, but then incorporate mayonnaise into the batter. Trust us on this!

What does mayonnaise do to baked goods?

Mayonnaise consists of ingredients commonly found in cornbread recipes: egg yolks, lemon juice (or white vinegar), and a neutral-flavored oil. This condiment is primarily fat, which imparts richness and moisture to baked goods without changing their flavor. Mayonnaise can either replace the oil in a recipe or serve as a creamy hack to amplify your boxed cornbread, keeping it soft for a more extended period. No one will even know it's there. 

From a scientific perspective, mayonnaise acts as an emulsion, enveloping the flour and inhibiting gluten formation. While developing gluten is essential for producing chewy breads and pizza dough, for cakes, cookies, and quick breads, a tender texture is preferred. Shielding the flour with fat and avoiding overmixing are effective ways to achieve this.

Though skeptics might need persuading, even pastry chefs in Michelin-starred establishments use mayonnaise to create moist chocolate cakes. In the 1960s, a cake recipe using mayo even graced the backs of Hellmann's jars, showcasing the method to achieve a moister cake.

Additional upgrades to your cornbread mix

Unlike mayonnaise, which remains neutral in baked goods, certain fats can introduce tanginess while enhancing moisture. For an added burst of flavor, consider substituting half or the entirety of the milk in a recipe with buttermilk, yogurt, or sour cream. (Pro tip: While not every home cook keeps buttermilk on hand, you can easily transform milk into buttermilk by adding an acid, such as white vinegar or lemon juice, to your milk.)

Opting for one of these tangy substitutes can make your cornbread rise further, resulting in a lighter texture. Given that many cornbread recipes include baking soda, the introduction of an acidic ingredient — be it buttermilk, yogurt, or sour cream — triggers the production of carbon dioxide gas. This forms tiny bubbles that aerate the batter. As this chemical reaction starts immediately and loses strength as time passes, it's essential to bake the cornbread promptly to avoid ending up with a denser loaf.