Converting Cornbread to Gluten Free/Dairy Free

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      Hi! This is primarily for BakerAunt, but if anyone else has something to share, I would love more input. We are trying to troubleshoot our recipe for cornbread.

      Will's girlfriend is GF and dairy-free and also allergic to peanuts and walnuts with a sensitivity to almonds. He has been working on adapting our cornbread recipe (he has made it twice). It tastes good but is very dense so he is trying to lighten it up.

      Our cornbread ingredients
      1 cup flour (AP)
      1 cup yellow cornmeal
      ½ cup sugar
      2 eggs
      ½ teaspoon salt
      ½ teaspoon baking soda
      2 tablespoons butter melted
      Basically mixing it all together and putting it in an 8x8 or 8" round pan

      So here are his adaptations for the second loaf which is better than the first.
      The first loaf he just used measure for measure GF flour and made "buttermilk" with oat milk and cream of tartar (as recommended on a GF site)

      Second loaf
      1 cup Measure for Measure flour (120g)
      1 cup yellow cornmeal (138g)
      1/3 cup sugar (60g)
      2 eggs
      8.5 ounces "buttermilk" made from
      4 ounces unsweetened coconut milk
      4.5 ounces oat milk
      1.5 tablespoons lemon juice
      (Mix and let sit for 10 minutes)
      ½ teaspoon salt
      ½ teaspoon baking soda
      1 tablespoon olive oil ((14g)
      And, Will's notes after the second loaf
      results: better. a little "lemony," still dry, definitely more moist. i think next i'll try 5oz of oat milk + only 1tbsp lemon (do i try white vinegar?), 45g sugar, a medium ground corn meal. mom suggested subbing the sugar for honey and maybe adding more oil.

      Will only baked it for 20 minutes this time, 25 was definitely too long. Also a possibility to reduce time a couple of more minutes. Baking time on original recipe is 30 minutes.

      I also just thought of possibly subbing water for the "buttermilk" but he thought that would do away with some flavor. The dairy free milks, even if they are unsweetened still add some sweetness.


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        Mike has a recipe for gluten-free cornbread which he says they prefer over the gluten varieties, even though they do not need to be gluten free. I'm unsure if it is posted here.

        CWCdesign--did you leave the milk out of the original recipe? If so, was it buttermilk or regular milk? You could probably reduce or eliminate the baking soda if it was regular milk. Too much baking soda can give a bitter taste.

        Dairy-free and gluten-free, with some nut allergies thrown in, is a difficult combination. I would definitely try it with water, especially since it includes 1/2 cup sugar. I use minimum sugar in mine (1 Tbs.), but I was raised on a more southern-style cornbread. A stone-ground cornmeal has a natural sweetness to it. I like the Bob's Red Mill medium grind (at least until the Indiana State Park at Spring Mill gets their grist meal repaired and can start selling their medium grind).

        Mike Nolan

          Here's a link to the GF cornbread recipe we like:

          I will say this cornbread has a short shelf life, but that's never been an issue here.


            Yes, BA, I did forget to include it - we use one cup buttermilk. I actually prefer using "real" buttermilk (the low-fat stuff I buy at the store) to using a cup of milk with lemon juice or vinegar to curdle it. The buttermilk does make a difference in the cornbread. BTW, I've been using this recipe for close to 40 years.

            I posted the original recipe so you could see what Will was adapting - right below is what he tried for the second loaf (which was better than the first) and also his notes on what he's thinking of trying on the next go round.

            I will pass along BA, that you also suggest trying water - he was hoping to mimic the buttermilk flavor - and what do you think of using honey in place of the sugar which would add a little more moisture? How much olive oil do you use in your recipe. I was wondering if he should up that a little bit to add more fat and/or moisture.

            One hand right now, we have Bob's Red Mill corn flour which I ended up with when they didn't have the coarser grind cornmeal. It works fine in the gluten recipe, but it probably adds to the denseness in the GF recipe. I much prefer a medium grind cornmeal myself, but it is hard to find here.

            Thanks for posting, Mike, it is pretty similar to ours and it includes dairy as well. I will say that Will is on a mission to create a GF DF version of our "family" recipe (it came from a Junior League cookbook from Tucson, AZ).

            Thanks for all your comments.


              I'm not sure oat milk is the way to go. When I was working out my Vegan Cinnamon Roll recipe, I tried oat milk and I thought that it made the rolls gummy and heavy. When I used hazelnut milk or almond milk, they came out lighter. It was also homemade hazelnut and almond milk, which meant it did not have all the additives.

              Buttermilk tenderizes, and I am not sure what can substitute for it. I have seen the idea of adding lemon juice or vinegar to it, as people do when they do not have buttermilk, but I am not sure that the chemistry would be the same. I also never liked the lemon juice or vinegar in milk as a substitute. The taste and texture are not the same.


                Your comment about the oat milk rings true to me - even though Will had reduce it by half, I thought the 2nd batch was still heavy.

                I think Will is going to try half water/half coconut milk - he's worried about it tasting too much of coconut. Do you think he has enough oil in it? Do you think honey or maple syrup would be better than sugar to add moisture?

                Thanks again


                  My recipe does call for 2 Tbs. of oil, and the fat in the oil does make for a softer texture. Since the original recipe was 2 Tbs. melted butter, 2 Tbs. of oil is a good substitution. If Will is worried that the olive oil would change the flavor, then using 2 Tbs. of avocado oil will give the fat but with a neutral taste.

                  Butter differs from oil in that butter contains some water, so adding oil does not necessarily increase moisture, but it does give a softer texture to baked goods and keeps them moist longer.

                  Will may need to accept that he can create a great cornbread recipe, but that it will not, in the end, be like that favorite family recipe. It will be different, but different is not necessarily negative if the product is good. My oil-based scones will never be the same as my beloved butter scones, but I enjoy them as an excellent bakery good in their own right.


                    CWCdesign: I recently bought Roxana Jullapat's Mother Grains. She says the following about corn flour:

                    "I don't recommend exchanging corn flour for corn meal in recipes, because corn flour is finer and more compact and therefore yields different results."

                    Alas, she does not specify what those results are.

                    You can order Bob's Red Mill medium cornmeal from Vitacost. They have some good deals on Bob's Red Mill products, as well as other food, and they often have discounts. It requires $49 to get free shipping, so I usually wait and stock up when I can.

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