Hot Water Cornbread

hot water cornbread with butter

Native Americans created hot water cornbread and it quickly found its way abroad through English trade routes. Today you find it in America’s deep south. Born of necessity, made with only corn, water and lard it may be the very first cornbread. This recipe is my homage to Shirley Mae Beard and my first taste at her cafe in Louisville, Kentucky.

Hot water cornbread pre-dates baking powder and self-rising corn meals, distilling the ingredients down to the bare essentials. Yellow or white corn work equally well and one cannot be said more authentic than the other. That, a pinch of salt and animal fat are all you need.

The result is a small golden pillow, crunchy on the outside and creamy on the inside, perfect to sop up the juices of those pig’s feet, chitlin’s greens and beans.

What I Did When Shirley Wasn’t Looking

Following tradition, using what’s available, I put a dollop of butter flavored shortening in the boiling water and used white corn meal!

Let’s Make Hot water Cornbread

water and shortening lard

dough patty

cornbread patties frying 2 hot water cornbread Print

Hot Water Cornbread

The first and most simple cornbread!

  • Author: Tim
  • Prep Time: 20
  • Cook Time: 10
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 12-15 1x


  • 1 cup yellow or white cornmeal
  • 1 scant cup boiling water
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp butter shortening
  • Lard – for frying


  1. Place the water on the stove with the shortening and heat until boiling, then turn the heat off until ready to use
  2. While waiting for the water to boil, place enough lard in a cast iron skillet to fill to about a half-inch depth and turn the heat to medium low
  3. Whisk together the dry ingredients in a bowl and when the water is ready add a little at a time and mix with a wooden spoon until it is all wet, but firm enough to mold into patties
  4. Portion the dough with the spoon, roll it into a ball and flatten into a thin patty using the palms of your hands and set aside. Repeat until the dough is used up
  5. Fry in the lard until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes per side, strain out and drain briefly on a paper towel covered rack
  6. Serve immediately with butter as a side to beans, greens or fried chicken!