The prepared salad counter at my local grocery store is always filled with bowls and platters of lunchtime favorites. While most are your typical fare (chicken salad with grapes, potato salad with chopped up bits of celery), some bowls contain salads you might not have made before, including Southern cornbread salad. A hodgepodge of pinto beans, ranch dressing, veggies, bacon, and crumbled cornbread, this layered salad gets better the longer it sits.
Be The Star of the Potluck with Cornbread Salad
You should have seen my in-law's eyes when they realized I brought a large bowl of cornbread salad to their Thanksgiving lunch. While no one really knows where the salad recipe came from, Southerners and Texans alike can tell you how delicious it is. The salad mixture can vary depending on where you are in the States -- in New Mexico, cooks like to add a little bit of red onion, black beans, and jalapeno in their salad while some places like North Carolina make it milder with green bell pepper and diced hard boiled egg.
Texans serve it alongside their BBQ. In Tennessee, this go-to recipe includes sweet pickle and pickle juice, adding a salty tang to the recipe that's hard to resist. What every cornbread salad has in common is that it's a medley of seemingly random ingredients that somehow work amazingly together! If you want, you can layer your salad by ingredient to create an aesthetically pleasing dish that's (almost) too pretty to eat. Or, if you stand by the fact that the flavor is the most important part, simply put all of the ingredients in the bowl and dig in.
This delicious salad recipe can be changed to meet your preferences or those of your guests. Feel free to add any veggies you like to take out any that you could do without. For a vegetarian version, simply take out the bacon. Although it won't have the same delectable flavor and texture, it'll still be a magical combo of cornbread, beans, veggies, ranch and cheese. You can also switch it up with the type of beans you use, selecting whatever you have on hand or subbing out beans that you don't like.
The cornbread is of course the key to cornbread salad. For ease you could use a box of Jiffy cornbread mix. It gives this salad a sweetness which I like in contrast to the salty bacon and savory Ranch dressing. While Jiffy is the classic choice, those who want their salad to be less sweet can use the corn Kits brand of cornbread mix, which has a tasty flavor and gets deliciously crispy and brown.
However, many southerners prefer the contrast of sweet and savory that using Jiffy brings to the recipe. For mine, I make a quick homemade cornbread which has a fair amount of sweetness but not as much as Jiffy cornbread. Feel free to substitute your favorite buttermilk cornbread recipe.
How to Make Cornbread Salad
I can assume the original recipe came to be when cooks were left with leftover cornbread that needed to be used up. While it is easier to use leftovers, you can also make fresh homemade cornbread recipe or bake up a box of Jiffy cornbread mix specifically for this side dish. You can even add whole kernel corn into the cornbread.
Once the cornbread is cool, crumble it with your hands and set it aside.
Prepare the salad dressing by combining the mayonnaise, sour cream, and ranch dressing mix. Set aside.
In a small bowl combine the cut large tomatoes, green onions, and bell peppers.
In a glass bowl or trifle dish add half of the cornbread. Top with half of the kidney beans, cheddar cheese, bacon, and tomato mixture. Spoon half of the salad dressing mix. Repeat the layering and garnish with cut green onions. Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours for flavors to meld. The cornmeal in the bread stays crispy, adding a nice little crunch to every bite, so don't worry about it going soggy. Believe me, this salad is just as good on day three.
This post was originally published on November 29, 2021.
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- 1 9-inch cornbread, cooled
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 1 envelope ranch dressing mix
- 3 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
- 1/2 red pepper, chopped
- 1/2 green pepper, chopped
- 1 cup sliced green onions
- 2 cans pinto beans, drained and rinsed
- 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
- 8 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled
- Prepare the salad dressing by combining the mayonnaise, sour cream, and ranch dressing mix. Set aside.
- In a small bowl combine the cut large tomatoes, green onions, and bell peppers.
- In a glass bowl or trifle dish add half of the cornbread. Top with half of the kidney beans, cheddar cheese, bacon, and tomato mixture. Spoon half of the salad dressing mix. Repeat the layering and garnish with cut green onions. Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours for flavors to meld.