Ready for an old school, traditional Southern recipe? This hot water cornbread recipe calls for cornmeal and hot water and makes a delicious side dish. Crispy edges and moist on the inside, it’s deep fried to absolute perfection and then slathered with a little butter and salt.

fried hot water cornbread

I love my classic skillet cornbread, but sometimes, I like to shake things up with this hot water cornbread recipe. It’s a very basic recipe that pairs beautifully with any Southern spread.

Why I Love This Recipe

This hot water cornbread is an old-fashioned, tried-and-true recipe that goes way down in the history books! It comes together with just cornmeal, hot water, and a touch of salt. Trust me, great food doesn’t have to be complicated.

Boiling water is combined with cornmeal before being fried, creating a unique texture that’s crispy on the exterior yet pillowy and soft as you bite through. It’s quick to prepare, budget-friendly, and makes an unbelievably versatile side dish.

All you need is a cast iron skillet and about 30 minutes of your time to create this traditional Southern side. Plus, it’s easy to customize with your favorite mix-ins!

Ingredient Notes

  • Self-rising cornmeal: This type of cornmeal contains leavening agents that help the bread puff up slightly during frying. Both white and yellow cornmeal work well here.
  • Vegetable oil: Used for frying, giving the cornbread its iconic crispy edges and golden-brown color. Use oils with high smoke points, like canola, soy, or peanut.
  • Butter: To serve with your hot water cornbread, adding richness and flavor.


  • Self-rising cornmeal: If you don’t have self-rising cornmeal, you can make your own by combining 2 cups of regular cornmeal with 3 teaspoons of baking powder and ½ teaspoon of salt.
  • Vegetable oil: Bacon grease is another traditional option that adds a smoky flavor to the cornbread.

How to Make Southern Hot Water Cornbread

With just 2 main ingredients, this hot water cornbread recipe couldn’t be easier to whip together. Follow my step-by-step instructions for the best results!


Make sure your water is already boiled – I like to use a kettle – and the cornmeal and vegetable oil are measured and ready to go.


Step 1
In an 8-inch cast-iron skillet, heat a ½-inch layer of vegetable oil over medium-high. You want the oil to reach 350 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the ideal temperature for frying cornbread. I recommend using a thermometer to check the oil’s temperature.

Step 2
In the meantime, combine the self-rising cornmeal with 1 ½ to 2 cups of boiling water in a mixing bowl. Start with the smaller amount of water and add more as needed until the batter reaches the consistency of thick pancake batter.

Step 3
Once the oil reaches the correct temperature, use a ¼ cup measuring cup to scoop and gently pour one portion of the batter into the hot skillet. Aim to cook 3-4 cakes at a time to avoid overcrowding.

frying hot water cornbread

Step 4
Monitor the edges of the cornbread for signs of browning and bubbles forming, much like cooking pancakes. This is when it’s time to flip, usually after about 2-3 minutes.

Step 5
After flipping, cook the other side for another 2-3 minutes until golden brown and crispy. Repeat the process with the remaining batter, adding more oil between batches if necessary.

crispy hot water cornbread frying in a cast iron skillet

Step 6
Once cooked, transfer the hot water cornbread cakes to a plate lined with paper towels to drain any excess oil. While they’re still hot, sprinkle them with salt. Serve them warm with butter!

fried hot water cornbread

Expert Tip

Achieving perfectly crispy yet tender hot water cornbread is all about heat management. First of all, the water needs to be hot (it’s in the name afterall). The heat of the water begins the cooking process, softening the cornmeal for a smoother final texture.

Another key aspect is the temperature of the oil. Maintain it at 350 degrees Fahrenheit, especially if you’re adding more between batches. A consistent oil temperature helps each cornbread cake cook evenly and turn that perfect golden-brown color without absorbing excess oil. You may need to reduce the heat after a few batches.

Cooking Tips

  • Preheat the Skillet: Heating cast-iron skillets before adding oil helps with even heat distribution and prevents sticking.
  • Test Fry: Before frying a batch, test a small amount of batter. This confirms the oil is at the right temperature and gives you an idea of the cooking time.
  • Avoid Overcrowding: Fry the cornbread in batches to ensure they have enough space to cook evenly and to prevent the oil temperature from dropping too much.
  • Salt After Frying: Sprinkle salt on the cornbread immediately after frying while they’re still hot to help the salt stick better.


  • Herbs & spices: Mix in finely chopped herbs such as chives, parsley, or dill. Or, add onion powder or garlic powder for a savory element.
  • Cheesy: Add shredded sharp cheddar or pepper jack cheese for a cheesy kick.
  • Sweet: For a sweeter version, add a tablespoon of sugar to the batter. Or, serve your cornbread with a drizzle of honey for a breakfast treat.
  • Spicy: Add diced jalapenos, drained chilis, Cajun or Creole seasoning, or a pinch of cayenne pepper for a little heat.

Serving Suggestions

This hot water cornbread is a great complement to red beans and rice or any Southern spread. It also goes well with a hearty, comforting bowl of vegetable soup, taco soup, beef stew, or chili.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I know when the oil is at the right temperature?

Use a thermometer to check the oil temperature. It should be around 350 degrees Fahrenheit. If you don’t have one, drop a small amount of batter into the oil. If it sizzles and rises quickly to the top, the oil is ready.

What’s the best way to flip the cornbread without breaking it?

Use a spatula with a broad surface to gently turn the cornbread, supporting the entire cake to prevent it from breaking apart. Be very careful not to splatter the hot oil!

Storing & Reheating

Hot water cornbread is best enjoyed fresh, but it can be frozen and reheated. Let it cool completely before storing it.

Room Temperature
You can store the cornbread at room temperature for a day or two. Place the cooled cornbread in an airtight container or wrap it tightly in plastic wrap. Keep it in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight.


Wrap each piece individually in plastic wrap followed by aluminum foil, or place them in a freezer-safe bag. Leftovers can be frozen for up to 2 months.


To reheat, place the cornbread on a baking sheet and warm in a preheated 350 degrees Fahrenheit oven for about 5-10 minutes until heated through and slightly crispy. Avoid microwaving, as it can make the cornbread soft and chewy rather than crisp.

More Comfort Foods

Hot Water Cornbread

Ready for an old school, traditional Southern recipe? This hot water cornbread recipe calls for cornmeal and hot water and makes a delicious side dish. Crispy edges and moist on the inside, it's deep fried to absolute perfection and then slathered with a little butter and salt.
Print Recipe Pin Recipe
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings 6


  • Internal meat thermometer
  • 8-inch Cast Iron Skillet
  • Spatula
  • Kettle


  • 2 cups self-rising cornmeal yellow or white
  • 1 ½ – 2 cups boiling water
  • vegetable oil
  • Kosher salt
  • butter


  • In an 8-inch cast iron skillet, heat a ½ inch of oil until 350 degrees, or until shimmering but not smoking.
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine the self-rising cornmeal and water. Stir until combined. The batter should resemble thick pancake batter – pourable, but not watery. Start with less water and add more as needed.
  • Once the oil is hot, use a ¼ cup measuring cup to portion out one cake at a time, carefully spoon the batter into the skillet. I was able to fit 3-4 cakes at a time.
  • When the edges begin to bubble and brown (just like pancakes), carefully flip the cakes and continue cooking – about 2-3 minutes per side. Work in batches, adding additional oil if necessary.
  • When the cakes are done, remove them to a plate lined with paper towels. Finish with a light sprinkling of kosher salt.
  • Serve warm with butter.


Nutrition Facts
Hot Water Cornbread
Amount per Serving
% Daily Value*
Saturated Fat
Polyunsaturated Fat
Monounsaturated Fat
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Nutritional values are estimates only. See full disclaimer here.
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