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Ranked: The Best Boxed Cornbread Mixes

The list of the best Southern side dishes is long — from collard greens to sweet potato casserole. But, we would be remiss if we didn’t mention the best side dish of them all: cornbread. Cornbread is deliciously moist, soft, and decadent, especially when it’s topped with a pat of butter and served along with homestyle entrees. 

Cornbread recipes vary, but the basic components are relatively standard: It’s made with all-purpose flour, yellow cornmeal (which gives the bread a slightly sweet taste), optional sugar, and some sort of leavening agent to help the quick bread rise. Store-bought cornbread mixes combine all of these ingredients in a convenient, easy-to-use package so that you can make this recipe at home without needing to buy the individual dry ingredients. The extra add-ins will depend on the brand; some will require butter, milk, and eggs, while others only require one or two of these ingredients. 

I baked and tested several different cornbread mix brands to see which one was the tastiest, moistest, and most reflective of the authentic cornbread recipes I’ve come to know and love. Although it may be optimal to make store-bought cornbread in a cast iron skillet or in a normal baking pan, I made them according to the package directions in a muffin tin, so each variety had a fun-sized opportunity to shine. 

10. Martha White Yellow Cornbread & Muffin Mix

Martha White cornbread mix

Martha White is a brand I was unfamiliar with when scouting items for this ranking. Like Marie Callender’s, this brand only requires water and the mix to whip up a batch of yellow cornbread or corn muffins. So, it was relatively easy to measure out a single ingredient, mix, and go. But it became clear that if Martha White had placed a little more emphasis on its ingredient list, this might be a little bit more of an appetizing product. 

These muffins came out so dry — to the point that if these muffins appeared on my table and I was told they were cornbread, I would laugh and exclaim, “No, really!” The cornbread mix was dry when it was prepared, and it was even more parched when it came out of the oven looking like a hockey puck. When I attempted to break off a piece, I watched the muffin crumble in my hands and onto the counter in front of me.

The other odd thing about these muffins was the taste. I could detect some buttermilk notes in the background, but there was also a chemical undertone — almost like the company had added just a pinch too much baking soda or baking powder into the dry mix. I wish this brand had some sort of redeeming factor to it … but I couldn’t find anything. So, it ranks at the bottom of my list. 

9. Old El Paso Cornbread Mix, Cinnamon Churro

Old El Paso cornbread mix

Old El Paso is the cornbread mix you should reach for when you’re tired of the same-old-same-old. It offers two varieties: Cinnamon Churro (which I sampled) and the mildly spiced Southwest Style. 

When I opened this box, I was immediately hit by an overwhelming aroma of cinnamon sugar. It wasn’t that herbaceous, light shiver of cinnamon that I know and love. It was the aroma of walking into a Cinnabon store. This mix was also noticeably clumpy, with a consistency of time-hardened brown sugar, and was hard to remove from the package. I combined this cornbread mixture with milk (though the package noted that you could also use water) and an egg. It had a watery consistency, but this was par for the course, based on the other brands that I had sampled. 

This cinnamon-infused cornbread came out of the oven looking like anything but cornbread. The texture on the top was oddly porous, and the color, combined with the cinnamon aroma wafting from the oven, made this batch seem more like cupcakes than classic cornbread. This muffin also had the same sponginess of an over-mixed cupcake batter, which was unpleasant and far too chewy. These major textural issues, combined with the fact that this cornbread was too sweet to be anything besides dessert, placed it far back in the rankings. Maybe Old El Paso should just stick with tacos. 

8. Marie Callender’s Original Corn Bread Mix

Marie Callender's cornbread mix

Should Marie Callender’s just stick with pies? It was a question I had to answer after I tried its original cornbread mix. The best thing about this brand was the simplicity of making it; this variety only requires water, while other brands called for milk, eggs, and melted butter. When I was stirring this cornbread mix, I was immediately puzzled by how gritty it was. It seemed like this brand had smaller, less discernable cornmeal pieces that made for a sandy texture. The mixture was also significantly drier than Krusteaz, Old El Paso, and Zatarain’s.

The grittiness of these cornbread muffins carried over to the post-baked goods, too. When I took a bite of the cornbread, I immediately found that the cornmeal dust, which resembled coarse sand, ground against my molars. It wasn’t like the cornbread I was used to, and it’s clear that this texture distracts from the overall eating experience. 

Meanwhile, the flavor was quite reserved, yet buttery, despite the fact that these muffins were only made with extra water. The color was more pale than the other cornbread varieties, but these Marie Callender’s muffins redeemed themselves by easily popping out of the tin and holding their shape well. Still, since Marie Callender’s wasn’t a showstopper in texture or in flavor, it was pushed toward the back of the pack.

7. Krusteaz Southern Cornbread & Muffin Mix

Krusteaz Southern cornbread mix

Sara Klimek/Look

Krusteaz is a notable name in the world of boxed pancake mixes. But how would its Southern-style cornbread mix stand up to the competition? 

A key ingredient that Krusteaz adds to its mix, which isn’t found in all of the other brands, is buttermilk. I expected that the dairy product would give this boxed mix a slightly tangy and soft edge, as it does when added to muffins, cakes, and the like. This cornbread mix required three ingredients: butter, eggs, and milk. The powder came out of the box without any noticeable clumps, and the add-in ingredients easily dispersed into the batter. Like several of the other brands, when I followed the recipe for Krusteaz, I noticed that the cornbread batter came out slightly wet, so I was nervous to see exactly how it would bake. 

The first muffin was difficult to extract from the greased tin, but overall, the muffins came out without any major mangling issues. The color was perfectly blonde and the muffins had a distinct shine, solid height, and were relatively compact rather than crumbly, and far from dry. But, I found the flavor of this mix to be lackluster; there were some buttery notes, but otherwise, it tasted like buttermilk pancake batter with cornmeal stirred in. Krusteaz places in the middle of the pack because it’s not bad, but not great. 

6. Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix

Jiffy corn muffin mix

The Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix was one of the cheapest options that I sampled. Each 8.5-ounce box makes half a dozen muffins and only requires two ingredients: eggs and milk. And seriously, how can you say no to these cute little boxes? 

I wanted to believe in the power of Jiffy — I really did. These muffins were a breeze to mix up with the ingredients, pop into the muffin tin, and bake. The color on them was also much more blonde and beautiful than the others. But, I immediately knew that there was going to be an issue with these muffins when I had to mangle them to get them out of the tray. Honestly, I could barely call them “muffins” by the time I was done, based on how they looked after I tried to wedge them out of the tray seemingly every which way. 

But the flavor of these muffins was out of this world. Each one was buttery, ethereally soft, and there was very little focus on the cornmeal. This made for a muffin that wasn’t particularly mealy, but was still pleasurable. However, I couldn’t, in good conscience, serve these muffins (or what was left of them) to dinner guests, no matter how good they tasted. 

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5. Duncan Hines Dolly Parton’s Sweet Cornbread & Muffin Mix

Duncan Hines Dolly Parton cornbread

I am no stranger to the Dolly-adorned lineup of boxed mixes by Duncan Hines. I sampled its store-bought biscuit mix before, and (spoiler alert) it didn’t go well. So, I was curious to see how its sweet cornbread mix would fare when compared to other top brands. Whipping up this mix required milk, an egg, and melted butter. 

This cornbread was the same color as Dolly’s hair on the box. It had that same shimmer and sheen as the Old El Paso cornbread, but without the same cloying cinnamon flavor. While this cornbread was attractive to look at, it would have been a bit more appealing if it had came out of the tin in a muffin shape, rather than as a heap of muffin shards. 

I should have taken the “sweet cornbread” labeling as a warning. This mix certainly leaned sweet — just as much as the honey butter cornbread from Zatarain’s — which really diminished how much of this Duncan Hines cornbread I could eat without groaning. However, the sponginess of this cornbread was excellent, and I noticed that there were coarse cornmeal pieces inside of the batter, which truly aligned it with the definition of “cornbread” that I am most familiar with. If it were less sweet, and held together better, I would have placed this classic baking brand higher on my list. 

4. Famous Dave’s Corn Bread Mix

Famous Dave's cornbread mix

If we’re giving awards for the coolest logo, Famous Dave’s takes the cake (err … cornbread). This brand makes several different flavors of cornbread besides the original product I tried for this review, including cinnamon spice and jalapeño. 

I was initially quite irked by this cornbread and its consistency. Of all the brands that I sampled, this one was the clumpiest mix. The clumps even remained after I mixed it with the milk, water, and eggs that the recipe called for. It was odd that the pieces didn’t dissipate, even after I attempted to chop them up with a silicon spatula in my mixing bowl. But, the chunks disappeared after the muffins took a quick 425 F spin in the oven. The cornbread came out rather pale, but the muffins were quite uniform in shape, while appearing shiny and moist. I was ecstatic to see that muffins made from this mix could easily pop out of the tray, too.

The flavor of these muffins was perplexing. While I was hit with an immediate, cloying sweetness, I was also met with some sort of savory and umami spice that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. There was nothing on the ingredient list that gave me a clue. The savoriness wasn’t as unpleasant as the sweetness, which is why these muffins didn’t nab the top spot. But, I still wouldn’t complain if I was served a batch of these at a restaurant. 

3. Zatarain’s Honey Butter Cornbread Mix

Zatarain's cornbread mix and muffins

Zatarain’s is all about Southern cuisine. This McCormick-owned brand offers an array of products — including rice dishes, smoked sausage, breading mixes, and single-serve meals — all focused on the flavors of Louisiana and the South. Its cornbread mixes come in cheddar jalapeño and honey butter varieties, the latter of which I tested for this roundup because it was available at my local Walmart. 

The texture of this mix out of the bag was perfect. It was smooth, with the perfect blend of plain flour and cornmeal. I added milk, butter, and egg and baked this batch at 375 F for about 25 minutes. The resulting cornbread muffins from this brand were absolutely divine. Whereas other brands struggled to get the perfect ratio of fluffiness to mealy cornmeal, Zatarian’s found it — and more. What came out of the oven was quite fragrant and buttery, and had the perfect amount of pull to it without any noticeable disintegration. While the muffins didn’t come out of the tin perfectly, they stayed relatively intact, so that I could enjoy them in their fullest glory. 

The only drawback that I found with this brand was its obvious and overwhelming sweetness. Although this is a honey butter cornbread, I didn’t detect any light floral notes of the honey. Rather, it just hit me with sugariness. It would be a solid introductory cornbread for a skeptic, but I would have liked to see a product with more balance. 

2. Fleischmann’s Simply Homemade Cornbread Baking Mix

Fleischmann's cornbread baking mix

I’ve bought Fleischmann’s yeast for years, but until now, I wasn’t aware that the brand also offers pre-made baking mixes like its Simply Homemade cornbread mix. This called for the standard cornbread trio: milk, eggs, and melted butter. The Fleischmann’s came out of the box clumpy, but it wasn’t as stuck together as a brand like Famous Dave’s. The chunks dissipated once I added the other ingredients to the batter, so it was, overall, smooth sailing to whip up a batch of these muffins. 

This cornbread was easily my number two because it didn’t have the same sweet, cloying flavor as Zatarain’s. Instead, my taste buds were greeted by a subtle, soft buttermilk flavor that didn’t overwhelm my palate. Plus, these muffins were relatively easy to remove from the tin. Although Fleischmann’s had a similar flavor to my top-ranked pick, it didn’t have nearly the same definitive rise. But, as far as cornbread muffins go, I would gladly eat one of these for a not-too-sweet breakfast or as a companion to a big bowl of Texas red chili. 

1. Bob’s Red Mill Golden Cornbread Mix

Bob's Red Mill cornbread mix

Bob’s Red Mill is one of the most easily recognizable brands in the grocery store, and one that I’ve grown to know and love over the years. So, I was floored to see that the brand also makes a delicious golden cornbread mix, which I found on  sale at my local Ocean State Job Lot. This mix recipe requires melted butter, water, and eggs. 

The biggest difference I noticed between Bob’s Red Mill and other brands was the notably longer baking time. The package noted that this mix needs to be baked at 350 F for up to 40 minutes before it’s finished. Other mixtures I made required a hotter temperature and a shorter bake time — which was much more convenient. Although I followed the directions to a tee, I think this variety would come out perfectly fine if it was baked at 375 F (or even 400 F) instead. 

Regardless, the finished Bob’s Red Mill cornbread was a visual stunner. It had an impressive, domed rise and a beautiful yellow color. The muffins were moist and compact, and the flavor was perfectly neutral. It was also clear that the company spent a fair amount of time tinkering with the perfect ratio of cornmeal to flour, because these muffins were not at all gritty — but it was still clear that I was eating cornbread. The flavor, consistency, and quality of the Bob’s Red Mill product skyrocketed it to the top of this list. 

Methodology

cornbread mixes with muffins

Baking mixes are designed to be a convenient alternative to blending the dry ingredients of a recipe. The highest-ranked products on this list were relatively simple to mix and prepare, and the resulting dish baked into a side that you would feel comfortable serving at a gathering or event. When it came to consistency, I looked for cornbread mixes that had the signature mealiness from the cornmeal, but also had a balance of flour and leavening agents to give it a good rise and a soft, plush bite. The flavor of the cornbread should also be neutral, not too sweet or savory, so that it could be enjoyed at any time of day and with any meal. 

I searched far and wide for the most original options for each brand, although some companies only offered flavored cornbread variations. In order to standardize each batch, I pared down the recipe to make three muffins each, and followed proper baking technique to ensure that each brand was given a fair shot. This included bringing my eggs to room temperature and abiding by the important cooking step of preheating the oven to the temperature recommended on the package. 

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