The History of Spoonbread

October 12, 2008

Discover where sweet, airy spoonbread originated and bake one of our three heavenly variations.

Mark Boughton Photography / styling: Teresa Blackburn

Spoonbread, a heavenly cross between polenta and a cornmeal soufflé, is a sweet, airy puff of smooth corn flavor in your mouth. Part of its marvel is that the texture is so delicate, and the taste combination of egg, corn and sugar is so flavorful, that it wakes up your taste buds. Even though it’s called a bread, spoonbread is so pleasantly sweet it can served as dessert for any occasion.

Although Native Americans had probably been making the dish for centuries before, Sarah Routledge published a few versions of spoonbread in her 1847 cookbook, The Carolina Housewife. She links spoonbread’s roots directly to Native Americans, with a traditional Carolina Low Country rendition called Awandaw named for a Native American settlement outside of Charleston.

Another historical mention of spoonbread is in Jeff Smith’s The Frugal Gourmet Cooks American (William Morrow & Co, 1987). Noting that Virginia Spoonbread was a home staple during the Revolutionary War, he writes, “Spoonbread is simply a very rich and dense cornbread, a dish so dense that it must be served up with a spoon. General Washington loved this dish, and it was apparently served quite often at Mount Vernon (Washington’s plantation).”

Some culinary authorities maintain that spoonbread can be traced back to the Indian porridge called suppone or suppawn. Others say that the butter, milk and eggs, which made spoonbread such a special dish, probably came after the Civil War. Whatever the answer, spoonbread makes for a delicious mystery.

—By Mollie Bryan


Mrs. Rowe's Spoon Bread

Rich and creamy, spoon bread is a Southern favorite.

Buttermilk Spoonbread

Buttermilk Spoonbread

Light, savory and soufflé-like, this spoonbread is made with buttermilk, which gives it a sweet-tangy flavor.

Pimiento Cheese Spoon Bread

Two Southern favorites—pimiento cheese and spoon bread—meet in one dish.


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