The Canned Ingredient That Adds A Sweet Touch To Cornbread Mix

What dairy do you use for your cornbread? Depending on your preference and family recipe, your answer could range from buttermilk to whole milk to sour cream. But have you considered a can of sweetened condensed milk? It might seem like an odd recommendation, but this canned good can greatly enhance your cornbread's texture and taste.

More commonly associated with desserts, sweetened condensed milk is simmered until considerably thickened, and spiked with plenty of sugar. Once added to a cornbread mix, sweetened condensed milk offers two delicious qualities. The first is a noticeable increase in sweetness, although it doesn't turn the side dish into a dessert. Plus, during baking, these sugars and milk solids will take on a sophisticated caramelized flavor. Secondly, it brings a much-needed dose of moisture to the cornbread. This texture transformation will vary from recipe to recipe, but either way, consider sweetened condensed milk as a boon to your cornbread.

Decide which textural direction to take

When adding sweetened condensed milk to your cornbread, decide which textural direction you want to take. Do you prefer a more classic cornbread, or a Mexican-style pan de elote? Use your sweetened condensed milk with a cornbread cornmeal mix for a traditional cornbread. This version will have a cakey, gritty texture similar to the original, but with an additional mild sweetness and delicate tenderness. For the pan de elote style, use all-purpose flour combined with corn kernels (canned or fresh). This type of cornbread can almost resemble a corn pudding, with a stodgy, rich texture.

Looking to balance out the sweetness from the condensed milk? Add in some green chiles or chopped, seeded jalapeños for heat, or some rendered bacon for a salty, savory note. Or, if you want to enhance its sweetness, add a dash of warm spices, like nutmeg and cinnamon. You could even serve it with a dollop of the caramelized version of sweetened condensed milk, dulce de leche.

More canned twists for cornbread

If you'd like to try upgrading your boxed cornbread with other canned goods, consider two more sweet options: creamed corn and evaporated milk. Think of creamed corn as a way to double down on the same custard-like texture that sweetened condensed milk brings to cornbread. Decadent and creamy, it can elevate your cornbread to almost spoonbread territory.

Meanwhile, evaporated milk is a more savory addition, as it doesn't add any additional sugar like the cans of creamed corn or sweetened condensed milk do. As the name suggests, evaporated milk has excess moisture removed through boiling, making it thicker than typical whole milk. Used in cornbread, it provides a richer flavor without excess sugar, making it a good option if you want to take your cornbread in a jalapeño- or bacon-filled direction. Alternatively, you can transform it into a substitute for creamed corn by pureeing a can of evaporated milk with a cup or so of fresh or canned corn kernels.

Whatever you choose, don't underestimate the power of canned goods, particularly sweetened condensed milk, when preparing your cornbread this year.