In my day (the mid-to-late 90s), Thanksgiving for vegetarians meant a big ol’ plate of salty, grease-laden carbohydrates. My sister and I were thankful for one thing and one thing only on Thanksgiving: we could pile as much starch on our plates as we wanted, without so much as a side eye from the boss (aka mom). Mashed potatoes, mac n’ cheese, stuffing, dinner rolls, cranberry relish, yams, pies, the required (small) portion of green veggies like green bean casserole and brussels sprouts, and the almighty cornbread. Tofurky and other meat substitutes either weren’t around at the time, or we weren’t interested. Give us the fucking bread, mate. That’s all we needed. It was a simpler, malnourished time.
My relationship with cornbread–well, bread in general–is a lifelong, matrimonial one. Thanksgiving and other holiday dinners were punctuated by my uncle’s skillet cornbread, various corn puddings and soufflés, and this incredible creamed cornbread my friend’s mom made the couple times I had holiday meals with them (and many subsequent meals after my glowing review). Once I got to college and had the freedom to eat whatever I wanted, I decided that meant I was eating Zatarain’s beans & rice, Kraft shells & cheese, and Jiffy cornbread. All the time. Boxed food that had enough sodium to give me edema more times than I’d like to admit, but was always cheap enough to keep me coming back. Then I went vegan, and then I had healthier eating habits, so my usual cornbread supplies dried up. My body rejoiced. My heart and soul wept.
I started working on this cornbread a couple years ago, after another bout of melancholy at the Thanksgiving table when the vegan cornbread recipe I’d found online and made was a flop and my Uncle’s beautiful (dairy-filled) skillet cornbread taunted me into despondency. I sampled several more recipes I found online, played around with them, tried adding peculiar ingredients (silken tofu, for example) to inject some life into what amounted to corn meal bricks, and then threw it all away. I gave up for a while. I was aimless. I needed to start from the ground up. A year later I asked myself: what was I looking for in my fantasy cornbread? Sweet or savory? Coarse or creamy texture? A whisper of spice? A pudding or a bread? Salvation? All of the above, I realized.
Making a vegan cornbread that’s both moist and binds together proved difficult, but a little finagling with vegan mayo, creamed corn, and the magic of baking powder did the trick! This jalapeño creamed corn bread has just the right amount of sweetness, a nice bite from peppers and scallions, a touch of cheesiness from nutritional yeast, rich texture, and has that moist-on-the-inside-crisp-on-the-outside quality I love so much. On top of that, it’s super simple to make: mix the dry ingredients together, then the wet, then combine, and pop in the oven. Less mess and less time in the kitchen, which means more time eating and fighting with (and loving) your family at the Thanksgiving table. Happy Tofurky Day, chaps!
Serves 8-10 as a side dish
- 1 c yellow corn meal
- 3/4 c all-purpose flour
- 1 can (14.75 oz.) creamed corn
- 1 large jalapeño, minced (~1/4 c)
- 2-3 scallions, finely chopped (~1/4 c)
- 1/4 c Just Mayo
- 1/4 c soy milk (unsweetened, unflavored)
- 5 tbs nutritional yeast
- 3 tbs coconut sugar
- 1 tbs baking powder
- 1 tbs + 1 tsp Earth Balance butter
- 1 tsp salt
- 3/4 tsp garlic powder
Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease an 8 x 8 inch baking dish with 1 tsp of vegan butter. Mix all of the dry ingredients (flours, yeast, baking powder, sugar, salt, garlic powder) in a large bowl. Mince / chop your jalapeño and scallions, melt the remaining tbs of vegan butter, then combine in a medium bowl with the other wet ingredients (creamed corn, mayo, soy milk).
Now pour the wet ingredients into the bowl with the dry ingredients and mix everything until just combined. Pour the mixture into your greased baking dish and bake for 40-45 minutes, until the cornbread is golden brown and cracked on the top. Let the cornbread cool for ten minutes, then cut and serve!
- I haven’t yet, but try making this in a cast-iron skillet (instead of a baking dish) – it’ll probably turn out even crispier!
- You can use any unsweetened, non-dairy milk if you don’t have soy milk. Same goes for the Just Mayo and Earth Balance; there are a bajillion vegan mayo and buttery spread brands out there.
- If you use an unsalted vegan butter, add a pinch more salt to the cornbread mixture to make up for it.
- Some jalapeños are like bell peppers (zero spice), and some have a gnarly bite. Try a bit of your jalapeño and seed it (take the white pith and seeds out) before mincing if it proves too spicy for you.
- This cornbread keeps for a few days and reheats well, but it will lose some of its moistness after a couple days in the fridge. It’s really best served right out of the oven. If you do need to reheat, do so in the oven! Throw the baking dish of leftover cornbread in the oven at 350° for 8 minutes.