Cast Iron Skillet Blue Cornbread (Gluten & Dairy Free Options)
Updated: 1 day ago
This cast iron skillet cornbread is easy to whip together and gets it's unique color and flavor from an ancient superfood-- blue corn. It tastes heavenly with butter, honey or your favorite jam or compote. A nutrient-dense recipe perfect for a side at breakfast, brunch or any meal!
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Blue Corn is a Superfood
Blue corn, and all corn for that matter, is one of those foods that gets people all mixed up.
Is it a grain or veggie? Is it a heavy carb source? Is it really a superfood? Is it better to eat it on the cob or can I get a benefit from chips and tortillas? Please say yes to the last one!
Corn is classified as both a grain and a vegetable. It is primarily a starchy carbohydrate with a much lesser amount of protein and fat thrown in the mix. However, blue corn is less starchy and happens to have 20% more protein than white corn. You can reap certain health benefits eating different types of corn in various ways including fresh on the cob or processed into flour-- hello, chips, tortillas and cornbread! In this article we will get into some specifics on corn health benefits and what types of corn products to look for.
However, there are some considerations for those with blood sugar issues and those with food intolerances. More on that below.
First, we will zoom in on the amazing health benefits of the blue corn species.
Blue Corn Has Disease-Fighting Antioxidants
Blue corn is a very special form of this ancient grain/veggie.
It packs some powerful benefits. Like other deeply colored foods such as berries, red onions, purple cabbages and pink radishes, blue corn is rich in free-radical fighting antioxidants known as anthocyanins. Anthocyanins give certain fruits and veggies their blue, red and purple colors.
These colorful compounds have been heavily studied and are shown to be extremely potent against various diseases including heart disease, cancer and brain decline. Anthocyanins have also shown an ability to clean up free radical damage and repair damaged DNA. Sign me up!
Blue corn is no exception. Studies have shown awesome benefits of blue corn. The good news these studies have not only looked at blue corn extract, but also.... tortillas!
While corn processing does change the nutrient profile, the antioxidant activity of the anthocyanins in tortillas is still remarkable.
Most notably, blue corn and tortilla extracts were shown to help tumor suppression in several cancer cell lines with the most powerful effects shown against lung and cervical cancers as well as breast and prostate cancer lines.
How amazing is that!?
In an exciting animal study, blue corn tortillas were also shown to improve both short and long term memory as well as spatial memory in rats. While it's not a human study, it is encouraging to hear about the potential value of blue corn antioxidants on learning and memory!
Blue Corn & Blood Sugar Issues
Interestingly, blue corn has shown potential for helping to manage high blood sugar and obesity.
It has a lower glycemic index than white corn making it more appropriate for those with blood sugar issues. Scientists studying this superfood even believe that the lower glycemic index in combination with blue corn's antioxidant rich-profile may lower risks of metabolic issues like heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
This is good news for those with blood sugar issues whose cultural staples include corn. It's also pertinent for anyone who loves eating corn, but wants to avoid blood sugar problems.
Blue Corn & Food Sensitivities
To be sure, corn grain isn't for everyone.
Some find it causes bloating and inflammation and even cross-reacts with wheat proteins like gluten. This is important to keep in mind if you have avoided corn for a while or have ever noticed digestive distress from corn products or even wheat or grain products.
As always, all nutrition is bioindivdual. Just because something has great benefits doesn't mean it's right for YOU!
Listen to your body. Try things out, observe your reactions, take a break, try a again. If you are having trouble figuring it out, work with a nutrition professional to get to your root cause!
Why Non-GMO, Organic Corn Products are Critical
If you ARE feeling confident about trying some corn products, I strongly recommend you get high quality organic corn meal and flour sources. I can't emphasize enough to go organic or local (if you can verify your farmer is using non-GMO seeds) when it comes to corn products.
Around 90% or more of the corn produced in the U.S. is genetically modified. Monsanto's Roundup Ready® crops (genetically engineered to resist the spraying of the pesticide glyphosate) are widely used for massive corn production so the crops can be heavily sprayed with glyphosate while killing weeds.
The problems with these types of GMO crops and glyphosate spraying are endless, ranging from superweeds to multiple, massive cancer lawsuits.
The video on this page includes a farmer giving a great 1 minute summary on GMOs and why you would want to avoid these unnatural foods. This is easy to do if you buy USDA certified organic products, look for the non-GMO label or ask a trusted local farmer if he uses non-GMO corn seeds.
Here are some great mills who safely produce organic, non-GMO grains, including corn flours:
Anson Mills is South Carolina is my favorite (no affiliation) artisan grain milll. Their grains are heirloom and organic milled in small batches so they are extremely fresh, including their corn meals and flours. The Native Fine Blue Corn Meal ranges from shades of blue to deep purple from season to season. This and the Antebellum Coarse Yellow Corn Meal are what I often use in this recipe. Both are phenomenal!
War Eagle Mill in Arkansas is awesome. Their corn flours and meals both taste GREAT in this recipe. You can now get their corn meal products on Amazon which saves on shipping directly from the mill. I recommend the stone ground blue and yellow corn meals for this recipe. Very tasty!
Now grab your skillet and let's cook some crazy-good cornbread!
Cast Iron Skillet Blue Cornbread (Gluten Free + Dairy Free Options)
Prep: 15 minutes Cook: 20 minutes Total: 35 minutes Servings: 8
This recipe contains only corn flours/meals. If you or someone you will be serving it to has a gluten-sensitivity or other grain sensitivity, be sure to read labels about how the corn flour or corn meal is processed. Corn meals are coarser than flours so I usually make this recipe with one of each-- a soft corn flour and a coarse corn meal. I prefer my cornbread with some texture rather than smooth and fluffy like a cake (traditional cornbread). It's up to you, but I suggest giving the combo of both a corn meal AND a corn flour a try and see how you like it.
The links below are affiliate links chosen for product quality and purity.
Anson Mills in South Carolina is not an affiliate partner, but is my top choice for small farm, organic heritage grains and flours. Their flavors are phenomenal. War Eagle Mill in Arkansas (Amazon affiliate) is a fantastic mill with delicious, nutrient-dense stone ground grains.
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1/4 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
8 tablespoons of pastured butter (whole regular cube) or coconut oil (Yes, you read that right! *See side note on low fat diets below.)
1-1/3 cup of buttermilk (or 1 cup of yogurt + 1/3 cup of water) or dairy free milk of choice
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
*Side note: If you are concerned about the high fat content in this delicious cornbread, be sure to check out my article: Low-Fat Diets, Teeth & Heart Health: What's the Deal?
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
While your fat is melting, mix the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Keep an eye on your fat and turn it off when its almost entirely melted-- a teaspoon or so can be left to melt with the heat off. Allow it to cool slightly.
Beat the eggs in a medium mixing bowl. Whisk in buttermilk (or yogurt + water which I usually mix in a measuring cup to thin it out) or dairy free milk.
Swirl your butter or coconut oil around the sides of the cast iron pan to coat it. Dump the rest of the melted butter or coconut oil into the bowl of wet ingredients (egg + milk mix). Whisk in vanilla extract and honey or maple syrup.
Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and gently mix with a wooden spoon or silicon spatula. Mix evenly, but not wildly. If it's looking dry add a tad more milk of choice; if it's super runny add more corn meal or flour.
Pour entire batter into your greasy cast iron skillet and shake it into an even layer.
Bake for 20 minutes at 400 degrees or until the top begins to brown. You can also insert a fork or a toothpick into the center and see if it comes out clean and then you'll know it's done cooking.
Remove from oven and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes so it sets and doesn't crumble when serving.
Serve hot with more butter, your favorite raw honey or jam or my healthy dark berry compote like the one featured below. Enjoy as a snack or side dish with some huevos rancheros, a bowl of chili or even a salad with protein! I always eat a carbohydrate-heavy dish like this with extra protein like scrambled eggs or roasted chicken.
You can also slice and store in fridge for a few days. It reheats nicely!
Like your cornbread with some jam?
Check out this easy recipe for Dark Berry Chia Compote (No Added Sugar)
Let me know if you try out this heritage cornbread and how you like it! You can post in comments below or tag me in any photos on Instagram @nourishandcherish.ntp!
Aguirre López LO, Chávez Servia JL, Gómez Rodiles CC, Beltrán Ramírez JR, Bañuelos Pineda J. Blue Corn Tortillas: Effects on Learning and Spatial Memory in Rats. Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 2017;72(4):448-450. doi:10.1007/s11130-017-0642-1. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29098641/
Cohen, P. (2020, June 24). Roundup Maker to Pay $10 Billion to Settle Cancer Suits. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/24/business/roundup-settlement-lawsuits.html
Eatingwell.com. (n.d.). What Does Genetically Modified (GMO) Mean? Retrieved from http://www.eatingwell.com/video/6923/what-does-genetically-modified-mean/
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. (2019, November 14). Antioxidants. Retrieved from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/antioxidants/
Herrera-Sotero MY;Cruz-Hernández CD;Oliart-Ros RM;Chávez-Servia JL;Guzmán-Gerónimo RI;González-Covarrubias V;Cruz-Burgos M;Rodríguez-Dorantes M;. (n.d.). Anthocyanins of Blue Corn and Tortilla Arrest Cell Cycle and Induce Apoptosis on Breast and Prostate Cancer Cells. Retrieved July 17, 2020, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31448633/
Herrera-Sotero, M., Cruz-Hernández, C., Trujillo-Carretero, C., Rodríguez-Dorantes, M., García-Galindo, H., Chávez-Servia, J., . . . Guzmán-Gerónimo, R. (2017, October 30). Antioxidant and antiproliferative activity of blue corn and tortilla from native maize. Retrieved July 17, 2020, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5662526/
Ranilla, L., Huamán-Alvino, C., Flores-Báez, O., Aquino-Méndez, E., Chirinos, R., Campos, D., . . . Shetty, K. (2019, June). Evaluation of phenolic antioxidant-linked in vitro bioactivity of Peruvian corn (Zea mays L.) diversity targeting for potential management of hyperglycemia and obesity. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6542874/
Society of Chemical Industry. (2007, August 01). Blue Tortillas May Help Dieters And Diabetics. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/07/070730092559.htm
Wikipedia. (2020, June 18). Anthocyanin. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthocyanin
Wikipedia. (n.d.). Roundup Ready Crops. Retrieved July 17, 2020, from https://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Roundup_Ready_Crops
About the Author
Roxie Daggett is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (NTP) with a virtual holistic nutrition practice in Sedona, Arizona. Her passions include studying nutritional research pertaining to brain health, gut health, genetics and longevity. When she is not geeking out on nutrition she enjoys cooking, hiking, organic gardening and hanging out with her wonderful husband, and her adorable, energetic son who happens to have Down syndrome. Learn more on her About page and stay in touch by grabbing your FREE BRAIN HEALTH BREAKFAST GUIDE above or below!