Canned Ingredients That Will Take Your Cornbread To The Next Level

Whether you make cornbread from scratch or use one of those handy boxed mixes, there are numerous things you can do to take it from ordinary to exceptional. You've probably heard of enhancing flavor with things like caramelized onions, spices, herbs, and shredded cheese — but there are a ton of other options, too, especially if you consider canned ingredients. Not only are canned enhancements simple to add to cornbread, but they are inexpensive, convenient, and won't go bad if you don't get around to using them right away.

Even if you love classic cornbread, adding an array of canned ingredients helps you customize flavor, texture, and more — so that it can perfectly complement almost any meal. Extra ingredients help you transform bland or dry cornbread into something truly remarkable. I've experimented with many of the ingredients listed below and also considered reputable chef recommendations online to compile a list of canned ingredients that will take your cornbread to the next level. Keep reading to discover what I learned so you never have to suffer through dry or dull cornbread again.

1. Add corn for authentic taste and added texture

Corn is probably the most obvious canned ingredient you can add to cornbread, but that is for good reason. Kernels of corn have the perfect texture to give the bread a bite without taking it too far from its natural consistency. Of course, cornbread is already made with corn, too, so it amplifies the pre-existing flavor to perfection. It also has a slight element of sweetness, but not so much that your bread becomes sweet.

Whether you're making cornbread from scratch or using a boxed mix, simply combine 1 cup of canned sweet corn kernels with your cornbread recipe and proceed like normal. In addition to the typical can of sweet corn kernels, fire-roasted corn and creamed corn also make an exceptional addition to cornbread. Fire-roasted kernels lend a smoky flavor that goes great with other savory seasonings and spicy elements like hot peppers. Creamed corn is the perfect addition if you prefer a sweeter cornbread but don't want to go too far. True Southerners don't put sugar in cornbread, but in the North, many recipes call for sugar. Creamed corn is a great alternative if you want a mix of savory and sweet. It still makes the bread sweeter overall, but it isn't overpowering. In addition, creamed corn makes the texture moist and, well, creamy. Yum!

2. Spice things up with jalapeños

Arguably, the second most popular ingredient to add to cornbread is jalapeños. Their heat and potent flavor balance out the sweetness of corn in a way that can only be described as drool-worthy. In fact, cornbread and jalapeños are considered a classic duo, so don't be surprised if you see it on restaurant menus, in bakeries, and in traditional recipes. When trying this canned addition at home, we recommend dicing your jalapeños into tiny pieces. This helps distribute the heat evenly and also ensures you don't get an enormous chunk all at once. How much you add depends on your spice level preference. If you like extra spicy foods, feel free to add as much as a cup of chopped jalapeños to your batter. If mild is more your style, start by adding ¼ cup and see how it goes. Then, you can add or subtract more moving forward based on what you discover.

In general, canned jalapeños tend to be a bit more mild than fresh jalapeños. Even so, if that's still too much heat for you, extract as many seeds and membrane linings as possible before tossing them into your cornbread mix. This helps cut back on some of the heat while still adding lots of tangy flavor. In addition, canned jalapeños should be thoroughly drained before adding them to your batter. If not, the extra moisture can alter the baking results, and not in a good way.

3. Add green chilis for a mild heat

If you don't think you can handle the heat of jalapeños — seeds or not — green chilis are the perfect solution. They still lend a touch of heat and lots of flavor to cornbread. However, they are typically much more mild, making them palatable for more people. Even less spicy still, pimiento peppers also make a delicious choice. They add a touch of sweetness to cornbread while still adding more texture than other sweeter ingredients like creamed corn.

Canned hatch green chilis are the easiest to find in stores. You may be able to locate other spicy canned peppers, like poblano, but hatch chilis are perfect. They are slightly hot with a sweetness that expertly blends into cornbread. In most grocery stores, a small can of hatch green chilis can be found in the Hispanic section. It won't be as large as other canned foods, but one or two small cans should be more than enough to give your cornbread an ample boost in flavor.

4. Use tomatoes to enhance flavor and color

Tomatoes add a bright, acidic taste to cornbread that perfectly balances out its inherent sweetness. Tomatoes also go with just about every type of cuisine and dish, so tomato cornbread easily pairs with a broad range of meals. Petite diced tomatoes are typically best because they are already the appropriate size for adding to your cornbread mix, but really, any kind works as long as you chop them. Fire-roasted tomatoes also make a phenomenal choice because they add a deep, smoky flavor and a touch of char. Either way, you can add ½ to 1 cup of diced tomatoes to your batter, stir, and proceed like normal.

An array of other ingredients also go great with tomato cornbread. For example, you can add olives and basil for a Mediterranean twist. Some cans of petite diced tomatoes even come marinated in seasonings like basil, garlic, and oregano, giving you an outstanding head start. Or, you can add Latin flavors like cumin, cilantro, onion, corn, and spicy peppers.

Sun-dried tomatoes also make a wonderful addition to cornbread. Admittedly, they are not typically canned. Instead, they generally come in a jar, but that doesn't make them any less delicious in cornbread. They have a sweet, rich flavor and aren't as wet as diced tomatoes, so they often lead to a better cornbread consistency overall. If you opt to go this route, soften them in water for approximately 15 minutes before tossing them into your cornbread batter.

5. Toss in blueberries for a sweet twist

Whether you're craving a sweet snack, a unique dish for brunch, or a savory dessert, blueberry cornbread fits the bill. If you've never had it before, prepare to be wowed because it is truly amazing. While you could use fresh blueberries, canned blueberries have a sweet sauce that spreads throughout the batter, bringing enhanced flavor to every bite. The additional liquid means you will have to reduce the other liquids in the recipe by a small amount but trust us, it is 100% worth the extra calculations. When adding blueberries, you can make a whole sheet or cast iron pan, but cornbread blueberry muffins are also an incredible choice.

Blueberries are probably cornbread's most well-known fruit addition, but you don't have to stop there. Other canned fruits, like strawberry, raspberry, and blackberry, also taste exceptional when added to cornbread. Generally, any berries or fruits you find in the canned pie filling section will take your cornbread to the next level. Cherry wouldn't be our first pick, but something tells us it'd work, too.

6. Chopped carrots add sweetness and texture

Canned carrots have a sweet taste that blends well with the sweet elements of cornbread. Even if you prefer a savory cornbread without sugar, carrot contributes a touch of sweetness that is undeniably tasty. Plus, carrots are really good for you, so they add lots of healthy nutrients to your cornbread. Most canned carrots come as baby carrots, at least when not combined with other veggies. To help it mix into your cornbread, you'll want to chop the baby carrots into small pieces. Once drained and chopped, you can simply mix them in and follow the recipe like normal.

You can also puree carrots before adding them to cornbread batter for a smoother texture. Like other softer ingredient additions, pureed carrots give your cornbread a silky, moist consistency. To puree carrots, you will likely have to add a bit of moisture, so use one that already goes in cornbread, like oil or milk, so the flavors stay perfectly aligned. Using the other cornbread recipe ingredients also lets you precisely monitor the moisture levels and effortlessly make accurate adjustments without any trial and error. If you are trying to sneak some veggies in for a picky kid, pureed carrots may even go unnoticed. Discerning adults will instantly notice the enhanced flavor, though, so make sure to give it a try. You won't regret it.

7. Add cheddar cheese sauce

Cheese makes most food taste better, and cornbread is no exception to the rule. While most people add shredded cheese to cornbread, the canned version might be better. Instead of shredded cheese, it has a rich, creamy texture that instantly lends moisture and a silky smooth texture to cornbread. Be careful, though. Similar to other wet ingredients, you don't want to add too much without reducing the quantities of the other liquids in the recipe. If you add ½ cup of cheese sauce, we recommend reducing the other liquids by ¼ cup in total. If you like it extra cheesy, you can also pour some additional cheese sauce over the top when serving. When heated, it also warms the bread so it tastes freshly baked, even if it is not.

Canned cheese sauce comes in several formats. You can easily find canned nacho cheese sauces, like Fritos Mild Cheddar Cheese Dip and Pace Nacho Cheese Sauce. Some may even have a touch of spiciness, which we now know also lends itself well to cornbread. Campbell's makes several canned cheese sauces, such as their basic Condensed Cheddar Cheese Soup and Condensed Fiesta Nacho Cheese Soup. Or if you're feeling feisty, try adding their Condensed Broccoli Cheese Soup as a way to sneak in some added veggies.

8. Slather with BBQ sauce

Most of us buy our BBQ sauce in a plastic squeeze bottle, so you may be surprised to learn that it is also available in the canned aisle. Whether you've spotted the canned versions before or not, most of them taste pretty good, and they have a really long shelf life. If you don't eat BBQ sauce on a regular basis, buying it canned is a great way to prevent spoilage. Regardless, cornbread and BBQ sauce are another iconic pair. Many BBQ joints serve cornbread alongside their meats, which, of course, are slathered with BBQ sauce. So why not eliminate the middleman and combine the two from the start?

We have yet to try adding BBQ sauce to cornbread batter, but we are reasonably sure it can be done. Even so, our top recommendation is to simply spread BBQ sauce on top of your cornbread after baking. Similar to cake, if you try to spread the sauce on top when the bread is still hot, it will thin out and slide right off the top. Make sure to give the bread time to cool first, and you won't encounter any issues. If you can find a canned BBQ sauce with honey in it, that's our first pick because it is the perfect mix of sweet and savory, just like cornbread.

9. Use pumpkin to get tasty warming notes

Adding canned pumpkin puree to your cornbread mix results in a decadently soft, moist texture you have to try to believe. It also adds lots of seasonal flavors that pair wonderfully with various dishes. From soup to stew to chili to BBQ'd meats, you don't want to pass this one up. You can also add more warming spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove to the mix to amplify flavor to the max. Or, you could opt for canned pumpkin pie filling, which generally has some of these spices already blended in. Whichever option you choose, adding pureed pumpkin is exceptionally easy. Fold in about 1 cup of pumpkin with a slightly reduced amount of the other liquid ingredients, mix, bake, and you're all set.

You can also top this incredible combination with a pat of cinnamon honey butter for even more Autumnal flavor. We all know butter tastes fantastic with cornbread, but adding honey and cinnamon takes it to the next level. Or, you could substitute maple syrup for honey. This dish could even be considered a dessert with the right amount of seasoning and a dollop of whipped cream. It is so yummy you'll probably want to try it immediately, regardless of the season.

10. Add black beans to the mix

Corn and beans make the ideal pair. So, while it isn't as normal as other combinations on our list, adding black beans to cornbread is not only acceptable but also delicious. When trying this, use anywhere from ⅓ to ⅔ cup of black beans. Just make sure to drain and rinse the beans thoroughly first. This washes off the slimy juice in the can and eliminates as much extra liquid as possible. Even so, slightly reducing the amount of fluid in the overall recipe ensures the consistency stays on track and doesn't become overly mushy.

Pinto beans and kidney beans also make a yummy addition to cornbread. They taste similar to black beans, and they all complement cornbread. If you want to get extra creative, you can also experiment with mashing or pureeing the beans. Either method helps integrate the beans into the bread in a more cohesive fashion. Really though, it all comes down to your personal preference. No matter what kind or form of beans you use, adding them to your cornbread increases fiber and nutritional value. So, you have nothing to lose by giving it a try.

11. Top with a hearty chili

Everyone knows chili and cornbread make an iconic duo. All of the savory spices and hearty ingredients complement each other to perfection. Actually, many chilis have corn in them already, and beans and cornbread are a no-brainer. Conveniently, there are lots of yummy canned chili options at every grocery store, too. From white chilis to spicy chilis to beef chilis to vegetarian chilis, there's no shortage of tasty options to choose from.

While you've probably dunked a piece of cornbread in a bowl of chili before, there may be a better way to combine the pair. Instead of serving them separately, try putting a piece of cornbread in the bottom of a large bowl and then topping it with a big ladle of chili. This way, the entire piece of cornbread soaks up the hearty stew broth and an array of spices. It is also soft enough that you can still eat the pair with a spoon. No knife is required. While not technically canned, there's another creamy hack that amplifies boxed cornbread and goes great with chili: Sour cream. Simply add ⅓ cup to the batter before baking, and you won't believe how amazing the results are, especially when enjoyed with chili.

12. Add chopped hot dogs

Okay, we know. Canned hot dogs are not considered a delicacy by any means. Still, they make a pretty good addition to cornbread. This may sound kind of strange initially, but bacon is a common cornbread addition, and hot dogs are not too far off from this. In fact, when you add hot dogs to cornbread, you wind up with a dish much like corndogs, just less portable. So, when you think about it, it's already a winning combination. Before now, you've just had it in a different format.

In addition to your typical hot dogs, Vienna sausages and frankfurters are also available in cans, and guess what? They taste good when added to cornbread, too. Regardless of the exact meat product you choose, we recommend slicing it into thin rounds for the best use in cornbread. Smaller pieces lead to a better distribution of flavor and a more consistent texture throughout. Like other canned goods, you will also want to ensure the franks or sausages are well-drained and dry before you toss them into your cornbread batter.

13. Substitute evaporated milk for regular milk

Dry cornbread is the worst. It crumbles too quickly and makes eating it much more difficult than it needs to be. It also becomes less appealing after only a day or two. One of the best ways to avoid dry cornbread is to use evaporated milk in place of regular milk. Evaporated milk has a thicker, creamier consistency that helps cornbread mix retain its moisture while baking. As a result, your cornbread will be silky and soft beyond belief.

Evaporated milk has a neutral taste, similar to regular milk, so you can still enhance your cornbread with any additional flavors you like. It may be pretty similar to sweetened condensed milk regarding texture, but its thickness isn't caused by adding sugar. Instead, evaporated milk is cooked until more than half of its moisture evaporates. The thick, creamy texture goes well with sweet elements, savory spices, heat, fruit, and more without adding a new, conflicting flavor. So, whether you prefer sweet or savory cornbread, evaporated milk makes a phenomenal canned addition to your mix.

14. Use sweetened condensed milk instead of regular milk

Canned sweetened condensed milk adds a sweet touch to cornbread mix, undeniably taking it to the next level. Sure, many Southerners scoff at sweet cornbread, but it is known and loved for its delectable flavor in the North. Substituting sweetened condensed milk for regular milk in a recipe won't make the cornbread taste like cake, but it contributes a drool-worthy sweet flavor throughout. While cooking, the sugar in sweetened condensed milk also starts to caramelize, lending the soft bread a decadent flavor. Aside from the actual taste, substituting sweetened condensed milk results in a super moist texture, so you can say goodbye to dry cornbread forever.

If you're making a vegan version of cornbread, canned coconut cream can be used to create a similar effect as sweetened condensed milk. It is sweet and rich, and the noticeable coconut flavor tastes excellent with cornmeal. Of course, you'll have to substitute the egg for a vegan alternative, too, but there are plenty of options for that as well.