Advertisement

The Ultimate Ranking Of Boxed Cornbread Mixes

Cornbread on wooden cutting board
Cornbread on wooden cutting board - FotoHelin/Shutterstock

Very few people dislike cornbread, and for good reason -- it's one of the most delicious baked goods ever conceived. It's also never been easier to make, what with the proliferation of boxed cornbread mixes. Any given baking aisle is sure to have a number of options from a variety of brands. Some promise straightforward cornbread, while others offer variations packed with jalapeños, cheese, butter, and honey. A few require the baker to do nothing but add milk or water. Certain mixes can be used in an array of ways; you can make straightforward cornbread with them, or you can make corn muffins, a cornmeal crust, or even cornmeal donuts.

Having trouble choosing which mix to use? We're here to help, with this, the ultimate ranking of boxed cornbread mixes. We determined this list by combing through online reviews and using our own hands-on experience with these mixes. From the absolute best options available to the execrable worst -- we tackle it all.  Ready for the lowdown on this down-home classic? Then join us as we rank the delicious, the awful, and the merely mediocre cornbread mixes available in your local supermarket.

Read more: The 18 Unhealthiest Store-Bought Sliced Breads You Can Buy

15. Bob's Red Mill Cornbread & Muffin Mix

Bob's Red Mill Cornbread & Muffin Mix
Bob's Red Mill Cornbread & Muffin Mix - Bob's Red Mill

Bob's Red Mill has become a trusted brand to thousands of people. But while its vast array of flours, grains, meals, and mixes typically impresses through tip-top quality, Bob's Red Mill Cornbread & Muffin Mix falls flat. And we mean that literally: There is no fluffy, golden height to this dense and low-slung cornbread. It's more like a hockey puck than a beloved baked good.

That's not where the problems end, either. Reviewers repeatedly call out this cornbread's anemic hue; as Bon Appétit put it, "The baked cornbread had the muddy gray-brown color of recycled paper." Texturally, things might be even worse. This cornbread uses whole grain cornmeal and whole grain flour, which isn't inherently problematic. But the instructions don't call for enough moisture to compensate for such thick and absorbent ingredients. What results is an intensely dry cornbread -- by far the driest on this list.

Its only strength is its flavor, but even that isn't much to write home about. It's cornbread and, appropriately, tastes like corn, but very generically so. Some eaters might appreciate the homey, almost nutty taste of the whole wheat flour, which complements the taste of corn remarkably well. But it lacks the buttery richness of the best cornbread, and its sweetness is faint and uninteresting. Take it from us, Bob's Red Mill fans -- this is one product you're better off skipping.

14. Martha White Buttermilk Cornbread & Muffin Mix

Martha White Buttermilk Cornbread & Muffin Mix
Martha White Buttermilk Cornbread & Muffin Mix - Martha White

Martha White Buttermilk Cornbread & Muffin Mix promises expediency: As the box declares, you only need to add milk or water. This ease is tempting -- who doesn't love the idea of a fresh pan of cornbread whenever they want? But there's a cost to this laid-back approach. Martha White cornbread is a dull, shrunken, and dry excuse for the Southern staple.

First off, there's the color. Good cornbread is a bright golden shade; it should come out of the oven looking like a pan full of sunshine. Martha White cornbread is ... well, white. The edges that touch the pan tend to brown, but everything in the middle is ghostly. This echoes the flavor, which is only barely corn-like. Despite the fact that buttermilk is in the product's name, that ingredient's moist, dairy-rich depth is nowhere to be found. What can be detected, however, is a deeply off-putting chemical aftertaste. All of the mixes on this list are processed, but Martha White's is one of the few that really, truly tastes like it.

Finally, this cornbread is unpleasantly dry and prone to crumbling. Cutting it into squares is a serious challenge, and muffins made from the mix fall apart the moment they're taken out of their paper wrappers. All in all, just-add-water ease is not worth the toll Martha White cornbread extracts.

13. Fleischmann's Simply Homemade Cornbread Baking Mix

Fleischmann's Cornbread Baking Mix
Fleischmann's Cornbread Baking Mix - Fleischmann's

If you're an ardent baker, the name Fleischmann's might be ringing a bell. There's a reason for that: The yeast in your fridge probably came from this company. Wow, you're probably thinking -- a cornbread mix put out by such a pillar of the baking industry must be good. That's where you're wrong. Fleischmann's Simply Homemade Cornbread Baking Mix is as unpleasant as Fleischmann's yeast is excellent.

Cornbread devotees have debated the baked good's sweetness for decades. Some like it on the savory side, while others up the sugar to nigh-dessert levels. But notice the "nigh" in that sentence. Not even the biggest fans of sweet cornbread think it should be an actual dessert. But that's exactly what Fleischmann's cornbread is: a moist, sugary dessert. It'd probably be better to call it a cake, in all honesty.

This creates a profoundly weird eating experience. It's definitely tasty and akin to other corn-based sweets, like corn cookies and corn ice cream. But it's just not actual cornbread. There is no world in which you could serve this alongside a plate of barbecued pork, let alone use it to sop up drippings. If you'd like to surprise your next dinner party guests with a corn-based cake, go with Fleischmann's. If not, opt for another mix.

12. Zatarain's Cheddar Jalapeño Cornbread Mix

Zatarain's Cheddar Jalapeño Cornbread Mix
Zatarain's Cheddar Jalapeño Cornbread Mix - Zatarain's

Zatarain's Cheddar Jalapeño Cornbread Mix makes a whole lot of flavorful promises. The name alone implies three major tastes in play: sweet, earthy cornbread, tangy cheddar cheese, and spicy jalapeño peppers. We're happy to report it lives up to its name. The cornbread itself is honey sweet and full of off-the-cob flavor. The jalapeños bring a real kick to the whole affair. The cheddar is milky and sharp.

The problem lies in the relative strength of these flavors. The only one that feels totally right is the jalapeño; unlike so many middling salsas, these peppers have a genuinely spicy bite to them that doesn't fade after a day or two in a container. But the cornbread's sweetness is way too intense -- it's almost candy-like. This pairs very weirdly with the cheddar; you almost wish the cheese flavor was less detectable.

Texturally, this cornbread also suffers. Tenderness isn't a bad thing in cornbread, but reviewers ding this option for being outright soft, which should never be the case. Cornbread is crumbly, sure, but it needs to have some structural integrity to it, especially if it's incorporating multiple flavors. With a little tweaking, Zatarain's cornbread could be great. As it is, it's a pile of weirdly flavored yellow crumbs.

11. Marie Callender's Original Corn Bread Mix

Marie Callender's Original Corn Bread Mix
Marie Callender's Original Corn Bread Mix - Marie Callender's

Marie Callender's is famous for its pies. Cornbread, though? Not so much. There's a reason why -- this cornbread mix doesn't hold a candle to the company's other offerings. The first thing you notice is its incredibly easy recipe; all you need to do is add water, mix, and bake. There's real appeal to that simplicity, both because it promises fresh cornbread in a snap and because it allows for a whole lot of creativity. The Marie Callender's website is full of ideas of how to use this ultra-streamlined mix, ranging from chicken cornbread casserole to cinnamon cornbread cake with orange glaze. A skilled cook could come up with even more options.

But what if you just want to eat the cornbread as-is? Well ... that's where things get dicey. Reviewers praise its texture, and with reason: It's springy, plush, and pleasantly crumbly without being fall-apart soft. Many also point out its strong corn flavor. Indeed, this is cornbread with an emphasis on the "corn," which many diners will appreciate. Others, however, might be a little frustrated by it. There's a slightly unpleasant edge to this intense corn flavor, rather like the tinny, vegetal taste corn niblets get if they've been sitting in a can too long. It's not overwhelming -- plenty of eaters probably won't even notice it. If you can perceive it, though, more than a few bites are bound to frustrate you.

10. Kodiak Cakes Cornbread Mix

Kodiak Cakes Cornbread Mix
Kodiak Cakes Cornbread Mix - Kodiak Cakes

Kodiak Cakes specializes in whole grain, high-protein foods. Its cornbread mix is right in line with this ethos. This results in a complicated end product. On the one hand, the whole grains bring a hearty, rustic flavor which some eaters will love. Yes, decadent cornbread that borders on being cake is nice sometimes, but there's something to say for an earthy slab of down-home goodness. That's not to say this cornbread isn't at all sweet, mind you -- it's just sweet with earthy depth.

Texturally, however, there are problems. We can't say if it's because of the whole wheat content or the upped protein, but over and over again, people criticize this cornbread as being dry, tough, and hard to choke down. Some reviewers described it as straight-up rubbery -- an adjective that should never be anywhere near cornbread. There is also a consistent lack of fluffiness and rise, whether it's made as conventional cornbread or muffins. If you're serious about whole grains and getting as much protein into your diet as possible, you might be willing to deal with these flaws. Anyone else shouldn't bother.

9. Famous Dave's Original Recipe Corn Bread Mix

Famous Dave's Original Recipe Corn Bread Mix
Famous Dave's Original Recipe Corn Bread Mix - Famous Dave's

Midwestern Americans know Famous Dave's well: This popular chain of barbecue-centric restaurants has been slinging brisket, ribs, and pulled pork for years. A great barbecue joint absolutely needs great cornbread, which might make you optimistic about this mix. Is that feeling justified? Well ... sort of.

This cornbread is, in a word, sugary. Some reviewers love this, enthusiastically declaring that it's practically dessert. Interestingly, although honey isn't one of the listed ingredients, some diners can detect its distinct flavor. This cornbread is also incredibly moist. As reviewer Southern Shelle put it, "Dry is the last word I would use for this cornbread." If you're the kind of person who prefers their cornbread sweet, this is probably sounding like a sure thing -- superbly moist and full of honey-laden goodness? That's what you're talking about.

But Famous Dave's cornbread might be too much of a good thing. As Southern Shelle goes on to say, "I can't figure out how to best explain this -- but this cornbread feels wet. The toothpick came out clean after the allotted bake time, but when I cut the slices of cornbread, the bottoms felt wet." We all love a moist baked good, but this sounds positively swampy. That makes the upped sugar factor less appealing -- cornbread really shouldn't be bread pudding. If you absolutely must try it, consider doing as Southern Shelle suggests and baking it in a cast iron skillet.

8. Zatarain's Honey Butter Cornbread Mix

Zatarain's Honey Butter Cornbread Mix
Zatarain's Honey Butter Cornbread Mix - Zatarain's

Zatarain's Cheddar Jalapeño Cornbread Mix is pretty disappointing, but its Honey Butter Cornbread Mix is not. As you probably already suspect from the name, this is a decadent cornbread, best suited to people with a robust sweet tooth. It's not just sugary, though -- this sweetness has depth. Reviewers declare that they can really taste the honey in this mix, alongside bold corn flavor. Neither element overwhelms the other, which is often the case with lesser cornbread; they're in perfect, balanced harmony.

This cornbread is also distinguished by its fluffiness, tender crumb, and moist interior. That all sounds pretty good, right? Plenty of cornbread on this list suffers from dryness and toughness, after all. There is, however, such a thing as too much fluffiness. This cornbread isn't a total mess, but it's so tender that rough handling will reduce a well-cut square to a pile of crumbs. In fact, it's pretty difficult to cut a square out of the pan in the first place; anything less than a very sharp knife will only break the cornbread into coarse rubble. There's a bright side, though -- this tendency to fall apart makes Zatarain's Honey Butter Cornbread Mix a solid choice for cornbread stuffing.

7. Trader Joe's Cornbread Mix

Trader Joe's Cornbread Mix box
Trader Joe's Cornbread Mix box - Trader Joe's

There's a reason Trader Joe's has so many die-hard fans: It sells excellent food. Its cornbread mix is one of its oldest offerings, having been sold for nearly 20 years. Like the famously eccentric grocery chain that spawned it, this mix is unique in many ways. The most noticeable is that it contains actual, whole corn kernels. Many reviewers singled this out as one of the mix's greatest strengths, bringing toothsome interest and deep corn flavor to the finished product. This unique addition plays especially well with the cornbread's overall texture, which is repeatedly described as superlative. Crunchy kernels, tender bread, and crisp brown edges are all in play here -- in short, a Southern symphony.

Trader Joe's Cornbread Mix also uses vanilla powder, a decidedly dessert-y element. This is where things get a little murky. Some reviewers think this cornbread is sweet, but not overwhelmingly so. Others, however, find it unpleasantly sugary; one Bon Appétit tester specifically described it as "crunchy vanilla cake." The difference in reception is stark, to the point where it's hard not to wonder if different people somehow got their hands on different mixes. If you're up for anything, it's worth trying this mix -- but if you want a sure thing, look elsewhere.

6. Whole Foods Cornbread & Muffin Mix

Whole Foods Cornbread & Muffin Mix
Whole Foods Cornbread & Muffin Mix - Whole Foods

In stark contrast to many offerings on this list, Whole Foods' Cornbread & Muffin Mix leans more savory than sweet. What's more, this is only the beginning of its strengths. Whole Foods' take on the classic baked good is hailed by reviewers as substantial, corn-forward, and pleasantly versatile. This is cornbread you can enjoy with all manner of condiments, from honey butter to jalapeños. It's also right at home crumbled into stuffing, used to sop up barbecue sauce, or topping a tamale pie. Sure, it takes a tiny bit more work to make this cornbread than some mixes on this list require, especially those that only call for water. But most people would agree it's worth it.

There's really just one problem with Whole Foods' Cornbread Mix: saltiness. Not every box seems to have this problem, granted. Plenty of reviewers think this is one of the best mixes around, without any sort of caveat. But others end up with cornbread that tastes like the ocean. This is the inverse of the too-much-sugar problem so many other mixes suffer from, and it's just as irritating. However, the majority of reviewers have no issues.

5. Stonewall Kitchen Cornbread Mix

Stonewall Kitchen Cornbread Mix
Stonewall Kitchen Cornbread Mix - Stonewall Kitchen

Stonewall Kitchen keeps things simple when it comes to cornbread: Its mix consists solely of cornmeal, malted wheat flour, sugar, baking powder, and sea salt. That's a major gamble to take -- companies use stabilizers and preservatives for a reason. Moreover, the vast majority of other mixes bump things up flavor-wise by adding exotic sugar, vanilla powder, honey, extracts, whole corn kernels, and all manner of other ingredients. Relying entirely on sugar, salt, and malted wheat flour is a stark departure.

But it's worth it: Stonewall Kitchen's Cornbread Mix is as simple as it is delicious. Tons of reviewers love the depth of flavor brought by the malted flour and enjoy the lack of tooth-aching sweetness. This allows the corn flavor to come to the fore, which is tasty on its own and also complements foods like chili and barbecue extraordinarily well. Stonewall's mix also scores major points through its springy texture and excellent browning. The only issue is a faint fruity taste noticed by some eaters, which they compared to a blueberry muffin. This isn't exactly a problem -- who doesn't like the taste of blueberry muffins? -- but it is a distraction from the bread's corny goodness.

4. Betty Crocker Cornbread & Muffin Mix

Betty Crocker Cornbread & Muffin Mix
Betty Crocker Cornbread & Muffin Mix - Betty Crocker

Betty Crocker is a titan of the baking aisle. Does its cornbread mix live up to this reputation? Generally speaking, yes. Flavor-wise, this mix is very strong. Reviewers love its balance of savory corn flavor to bold sweetness; it rides that line better than almost any other cornbread mix on this list, resisting categorization as either a "sweet" or "non-sweet" cornbread. It's also strong in terms of texture. Each bite is bouncy, crumbly, tender, and full of cornmeal -- in short, just as well-balanced as the flavor. You could probably use this cornbread to complement just about anything, and in a variety of forms. While lots of mixes on this list can be used to make muffins, this one is especially well-suited to the task -- add in a few blueberries to really kick things up a notch.

But some reviewers feel this mix lacks oomph. Pretty much everyone agrees it's very good, mind you, and that there are no glaring issues. It just might not be the best option in the aisle. Reviewer Tami Dunn specifically said, "This is a good mix, but it's not as good as Jiffy." Your experience might vary, but we can safely say it's still worth trying this mix out.

3. Dolly Parton's Sweet Cornbread & Muffin Mix

Dolly Parton's Sweet Cornbread & Muffin Mix
Dolly Parton's Sweet Cornbread & Muffin Mix - Duncan Hines

There's one thing you have to understand about Dolly Parton's Cornbread Mix from Duncan Hines: It is seriously, majorly, and unabashedly sweet. If you're the kind of person who prefers your cornbread savory, you should never even bother with this mix -- you are 100% certain to have a bad time. But if you're into the idea of cornbread that can double as cake, listen up: This might be the mix you've been waiting for.

How much sugar are we talking about here, exactly? Reviewer Southern Shelle put it best: "When I poured the cornbread mix in the bowl, the sugar in the mix glittered like a grand ole opry costume." So, yeah -- a lot. This results in a truly decadent pan of golden bread. But its sugariness isn't one-note. There's a depth of sweetness here, with caramelized undertones and fresh corn flavor.

This complex taste is buoyed by a dreamily moist crumb and plush texture that browns well against the pan. Unlike many cornbreads, this one holds together marvelously well, allowing clean, even slices, even when it's hot out of the pan. Its ultra-sweet flavor means it can't be used as stuffing or crust, however. You can eat it alongside other foods, but some diners might find the contrast between, say, meaty brisket and sugary cornbread to be a bit odd. In short, this cornbread is like Dolly Parton herself: bold, bright, and unapologetic about being exactly what it is. You're either down with that or you're not.

2. Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix

Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix
Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix - Jiffy

Jiffy is the king of cornbread mixes. Even people who don't like it have to admit this is a fact. Did you know Jiffy makes other kinds of mixes? Probably not. All the brand needs is its killer cornbread to maintain its spot in the baking aisle.

It feels a little redundant, then, to state that Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix is seriously good stuff. But it's still worth saying so, because it's easy to lose sight of what made landmark foods such a big deal in the first place. Jiffy cornbread is hailed by people all over the nation as robustly flavored, excellently springy, and enduringly moist. It's definitely sweet, to the point that some will find it unpalatable. But it doesn't cross the line into being outright sugary, which means it works well in a variety of dishes.

Jiffy mix deserves particular attention for its ease of use. It's not actually the simplest mix on this list, as it requires you to add milk and egg, rather than milk (or water) alone. But that's not a major hardship -- especially when the results are this incredibly consistent. Every single time you make Jiffy cornbread, you can be sure you'll get the same result. It is this dependability that made Jiffy into an icon.

1. Krusteaz Southern Cornbread & Muffin Mix

Krusteaz Southern Cornbread & Muffin Mix
Krusteaz Southern Cornbread & Muffin Mix - Krusteaz

What makes Krusteaz's cornbread mix the absolute best of the lot? The answer isn't as flashy as you might expect. There is no avalanche of sugar, no exotic ingredients, no unique baking process. Krusteaz's cornbread is simply and straightforwardly excellent in every single respect. First and foremost, reviewers rave about its flavor. Sweetness can be detected -- though some seem to taste it more than others -- but it's balanced with savory depth and a luxurious foundation of butter. A hint of salt kicks things up a further notch and makes this cornbread an excellent accompaniment to the dinner table.

Texturally, things are just as strong. This is tall, fluffy cornbread, with a moist crumb that cuts well, even if you aren't using your best knife. It's airier than many cornbreads on this list but never insubstantial. It also browns well, leading to deliciously crisp edges your family will fight over. Finally, it simply looks good -- this is the kind of cornbread you bring to the potluck when you want to impress your friends. Krusteaz does cornbread right and manages to make it look easy.

Methodology

Cornbread in cast iron skillet
Cornbread in cast iron skillet - Candice Bell/Shutterstock

To create this ranking, we pored over dozens of online reviews of boxed cornbread mixes from a wide variety of sources, spanning YouTube, foodie blogs, and food-centric magazines. We kept a sharp eye out for repeatedly mentioned virtues and flaws until we developed an idea of where each mix should fall in the rankings. We also examined the mixes' ingredients, nutritional profiles, and baking processes to get a better idea of their places in the market.

We didn't just look at other people's experiences, however -- we also considered our own. We've made a whole lot of cornbread mixes and already hold many opinions on them. This hands-on experience often aligned with online opinions, but where it diverged, we carefully weighed the public's thoughts against our own. What resulted is the list you see before you.

Read the original article on Daily Meal.