Naturally gluten free, Southern spoon bread is a delicious cross between bread pudding and a soufflé.
When you think of truly American dishes, what comes to mind? Maybe you think of apple pie or a turkey dinner or a juicy cheeseburger.
In light of President’s Day, I wanted to revisit another truly American dish, a dish that was a favorite food of many of the founding fathers: spoon bread.
I first encountered spoon bread at the Farnsworth House Inn in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania while on a family vacation. Interestingly, the Farnsworth House provided shelter for Confederate sharpshooters during the battle.
Over 100 bullets holes in the walls of the inn continue to remind visitors of the terrible conflict that took place there.
Harvey Sweeney, the owner of the house at the time of the battle, wrote of witnessing the parade of dignitaries pass by his house on November 19, 1863. They were on their way to a ceremony for the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery.
Prominent among them was President Abraham Lincoln who would soon deliver his Gettysburg Address.
Spoon bread is served with all dinners at the Farnsworth House. When it first arrived at our table, we weren’t sure what it was.
It was served in a small cup and meant to be eaten with a spoon. It had the appearance of a mix between bread pudding and a soufflé.
Of course, our first question was “is it gluten free?” Our server assured us that it was 100% stone ground cornmeal with no wheat added. Its other ingredients consisted of eggs, salt, water, butter, milk and baking soda.
I decided to take a chance and try it. Remember, dining out is always risky for someone who has gluten intolerance.
Even if the restaurant guarantees that the meal is 100% gluten free, there is still the risk that the food could be cross contaminated in the restaurant or that the ingredients are not 100% gluten free. They could have been contaminated in the processing.
As some have said, the best way to be 100% sure of no contamination of gluten when dining out is not to dine out at all. Of course, that’s not always possible.
However, the side dish was fantastic and everybody loved it.
John Egerton in his book Southern Food, quotes a lover of spoon bread, writing, ”A properly prepared dish of spoonbread can be taken as testimony to the perfectability of humankind.”
I may not go that far when describing it, but it definitely was delicious. And, best of all, I had no adverse reaction.
We later found out that it has a long history as a southern tradition, popular throughout Virginia, North Carolina, and Kentucky.
There is a pre-19th century recipe for it in The Williamsburg Cookbook: Traditional and Contemporary Recipes.
It was a particular favorite of President James Monroe, a Virginia native. It is believed that Elizabeth Monroe, the president’s wife, had a recipe for spoon bread in her kitchen.
Historians suggest that her recipe was influenced from Native American use of corn meal and African American cooking methods.
A recipe for spoon bread can also be found in Sarah Rutledge’s 1847 cookbook, The Carolina Housewife.
If you’re fond of truly American recipes, this side dish recipe should definitely be at the top of your list.
Even though today’s fast foods seem to be making traditional fare a lot less common, spoon bread can still be found in numerous restaurants throughout Virginia and North Carolina.
There is even an annual spoon bread festival held each year in Berea, Kentucky that attracts about 25,000 visitors.
It’s usually served as a side dish. Traditionally, it’s made without sugar. Adding it is taboo amongst some of the more hard core spoon bread lovers.
However, some chefs are getting more creative and are starting to add different ingredients like bacon and rice. Barbara hasn’t made it this way yet, but bacon always sounds good to me.
Topping it with butter seems to be a must.
Most spoon bread purists use white stone ground corn meal.
We used Arrowhead Mills gluten free organic yellow cornmeal. It’s certified gluten free. So there are no problems with gluten or cross contamination.
One note on corn. We’re not big corn eaters. We don’t have a lot of recipes which include corn on our site. Corn is still a grain and might not be the best food for those recovering from an inflamed gut.
But once in a while, you gotta make an exception and have some gluten free spoon bread.
Barbara’s amazing recipe for 100% gluten free Southern spoon bread is in the free printable recipe card available at the end of the post.
More recipes like this
Spoon Bread Recipe With Rosemary And Bacon When I wrote this post, Barbara hadn’t made it with bacon yet. But now she has! Here’s the recipe including tips to make it in individual ramekins.
Gluten Free Yorkshire Pudding While the name “pudding” conjures up images of a sweet, creamy dessert to Americans, puddings in British cuisine can refer to sausages, bread-like creations, or desserts. Serve smothered in gravy along with your favorite roast.
Cauliflower Flatbreads Enjoy these flatbreads warm from the skillet and piled with your favorite toppings.
Blueberry Muffin Get your ingredients together, and you’ll be taking these gluten-free coconut flour blueberry muffins out of the oven in just 25 minutes.
Gluten free clafoutis You’re going to love this gluten free clafoutis version of a very special rustic french treat.
Socca You’ll love naturally gluten-free socca, a flatbread made with chickpea flour that’s served by street vendors In the French city of Nice. Yum.
Gluten Free Southern Spoon Bread History And Easy Recipe
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 2 cups whole milk
- 5 eggs separated
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons butter melted
- 1 tablespoon gluten free baking powder
- 1 1/2 cups gluten free corn meal
- Preheat oven to 350 ℉ and grease your baking dish.
- Simmer milk and water in a large pot. Add cornmeal, salt and butter. Increase heat to medium. Continue stirring so that mixture does not get lumpy and until liquid is absorbed.The cornmeal mixture will begin to thicken, 5-10 minutes. Then remove from the heat.
- Separate your eggs into two different bowls.
- Beat egg yolks with a whisk and stir into cornmeal mixture.
- Next beat the egg whites until stiff. Stir in baking powder. Then fold into cornmeal mixture.
- Pour into a deep 9-inch (1 1/2 quart) baking dish and bake for 45 minutes until the top is golden brown.
- Doneness test: Insert a toothpick into the center. When it comes out clean, your gluten free Southern spoon bread is ready to eat.
- Top with a few pats of butter if you like and enjoy for breakfast or as a side dish at dinnertime.
- Toppings: I love butter melted over my spoon bread. The Farnsworth House always had apple butter on the table which I couldn’t resist spooning a dollop of on my spoon bread. You could also go with chopped chives and gravy if you’re serving beside a roast. Have fun. It’s up to you.
- Leftovers can be stored tightly covered in the fridge for up to 4 days.
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This looks so moist and delicious!
Thanks Bethany. The Farnsworth House serves it with a choice of apple butter or creamy butter on the side. It is sooo good. 🙂
Life Loving says
I’ve never heard of spoon bread, but then it may not have any heritage here in the UK. I really like the idea of it, whether it comes relatively plain or with a bit of sugar, bacon or anything else. Sounds like a really fun side dish and I love the heritage behind it.
Sally @ Life Loving
Thanks Sally. John’s mom was from the UK. I have a few favorites inspired by her recipes here on the blog: Yorkshire pudding, toad in the hole, absolutely delicious classic shepherd pie, meat pie and cottage pie. 🙂 They’re all gluten free so everyone at the table can enjoy them!
This looks delicious! Thanks for sharing! #SmallVictories
Thanks for taking the time to stop by and comment. Have a great weekend.:)
Brianna H says
I haven’t ever had spoon bread, but this looks delicious. Apparently I have been missing out!
I’m featuring it on Savoring Saturdays this weekend. Thanks for linking up!
Thanks so much Brianna. I appreciate that! 🙂
This looks so delicious, especially with the photo with butter. Yum! Thanks for sharing at Simply Natural Saturdays!
Ah Thank you Anya. You’re so sweet.
Emily @ Recipes to Nourish says
This looks so delicious! I love southern spoon bread! I featured it today at Savoring Saturdays linky party. Hope you’ll join us again.
Thanks Emily! I’ll be there.
Can this be made with a substitute milk? almond or coconut?
I haven’t tried using almond or coconut milk in this recipe, but I don’t see why not. I’ve used coconut milk in other recipes and it worked fine. I’d say go for it. 🙂 And I’d love to hear back from you how it turns out.
What size baking dish did you use?
I love and grew up with spoon bread on our southern table…cornbread was of course a staple, but spoon bread was a holiday treat! My son was introduced a few years ago to spoonbread at Williamsburg, VA and keeps begging me to make, so your recipe is timely! Thank you for sharing the recipe and history!
Barbara Bianchi says
Hi Amy, Terrific! I’m so glad to bring back happy food memories for you. The baking dish is a deep 9-inch (1 1/2 quart) dish. I’ll update the recipe card to reflect that. Sometimes I make this recipe: https://glutenfreehomestead.com/2021/07/spoon-bread-recipe/ in individual ramekins. I hope you enjoy your spoon bread. Have a great week! ❤️
Thank you so much, Barbara! I’ll definitely be looking here for other recipes! So happy to have stumbled upon your blog. 🙂
I appreciate you sourcing the cornmeal you used as well. We don’t often eat corn either and have just recently been able to reintroduce it into our diet. I was looking for a cornmeal that would be non-gmo as well as gluten-free. I noticed you referenced a different cornmeal in your other recipe with bacon and rosemary…would you happen to know if the Palmetta brand is non-gmo?
Thanks again for your reply! Blessings to you and yours!
Barbara Bianchi says
Thank you, Amy! Yes, the Palmetto Farms corn meal is non-gmo. I hope you find many new favorite recipes here. And please let me know if you ever have any more questions about a recipe.