Gluten-free cornbread was, and will always remain, one of my ultimate food cravings. This cheesy cornbread with red chili and cheddar is sweet, spicy and redolent with the heat and scents of authentic Mexican cuisine.
- How I fell in love with cheesy cornbread
- Is all cornbread gluten-free cornbread?
- Adapting chili cornbread into gluten-free cornbread
- Ingredients for the perfect Gluten-free Cornbread:
- How to make gluten-free cornbread:
- When to serve this jalapeno cheese cornbread?
- Accompanying dishes
- Pin for Later!
How I fell in love with cheesy cornbread
Gluten-free cornbread is today a true love. But I first discovered cornbread, and particularly jalapeno cheddar cornbread, at a potluck.
Those strange Canadian beasts that involve many people, some of whom barely know each other, bring mounds of uncoordinated foods to a gathering is a flimsy idea at best that often results at strange pairings like a giant mound of fruit salad alongside a cold broccoli casserole.
But they can also lead to discovering new beloved dishes, like cheesy cornbread.
The sweet and spicy cornbread I tried the first time had hits of jalapeno chilis spread throughout, and a cheesy cheddar topping on top. It was fluffy, beautifully risen and perfectly balanced in its mix of sweet and spicy flavors - in short, the ultimate jalapeno cheddar cornbread.
And I chased that high for years, attempting to replicate that chili cornbread recipe into one of my own. Making it fully gluten-free proved to be particularly difficult. Until I finally discovered a recipe in a gifted cookbook last year for gluten-free cheesy chili cornbread - and my life finally made sense!
Is all cornbread gluten-free cornbread?
While cornmeal is gluten-free, not all cornbread is gluten-free cornbread.
Cornmeal-only cornbread, as I've tried to make countless time, often comes out a bit flat and falling apart; it lacks the rise and bite of traditional jalapeno cheese cornbread. It works much better in arepas, for example.
Typical Chili cornbread that is served in restaurants usually has a mix of regular flour alongside cornmeal flour. Gluten-free cornmeal is thus buffed up by regular, gluten-full flour, thus making most cornbread you get in restaurants NOT gluten-free.
I discovered this the hard way one day at Red Rooster in Harlem, where I happily devoured half an order of incredible cornbread before being hit by one of the worst gluten attacks of my life. Note to self: always ask if the bread contains any additional flour.
Adapting chili cornbread into gluten-free cornbread
The trick to making the perfect gluten-free cornbread was finding the right mix of gluten-free flours to go alongside the cornmeal into our gluten-free cheesy cornbread.
The resulting chili cornbread bake is thus gluten-free, but also cheesy, sweet and spicy cornbread.
The key to that turned out to be Gluten-free on a Shoestring's Gluten Free Bread Flour. The key to her elastic, resilient gluten-free bread flour is the addition of Whey protein isolate and Expandex or Ultratex 3.
What is Expandex or Ultratex 3?
Expandex is a proprietary chemically modified tapioca starch that gives gluten-free baked goods the stretch and chew typical to regular breads. Since Expandex is chemically modified, it unfortunately can't be replaced with regular tapioca starch/flour. It can be purchased through Amazon or in Canada, through Qualifirst foods.
Ultratex 3 is another Tapioca-based odorless, tasteless and colorless thickening agent. It is used in molecular gastronomy and can be purchased through Amazon or the Modernist Pantry.
What is Whey Protein Isolate?
Whey Protein Isolate is an unflavored protein powder that is nearly 100% protein - and is thus devoid of fillers. It also helps add "body" to your gluten-free bread.
Whey protein isolate is much easier to find and I was able to get it in my local Bulk Barn, or an Amazon.
What to use in gluten-free cornbread if you can't find Expandex or Whey Protein Isolate?
I have also used Gluten-free on a Shoestring's mock Better Batter gluten free flour mix. It worked well enough, and I will provide both versions in the recipe below.
I adapted the ratio to get the perfect chili cheesy gluten-free cornbread topping from the Savory Gluten-free Baker Cookbook.
Ingredients for the perfect Gluten-free Cornbread:
For jalapeno cheese cornbread topping:
2 jalapenos or red chilis, finely sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
2 teaspoons sugar
100 grams / 1 cup cheddar cheese
For the gluten-free flour bread blend:
22.5 grams superfine brown rice flour
22.5 grams superfine white rice flour
11.25 grams tapioca starch
11.25 grams potato starch
3.75 grams potato flour
2.25 grams xanthan gum
1.5 grams pure powdered pectin
18.75 grams Whey Protein Isolate (optional, but recommended for best results)
11.25 grams Expandex or Ultratex 3 (optional, but recommended for best results)
For the rest of the bread ingredients:
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
300 grams (2 cups) cornmeal gluten-free
4 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 lime, zest of
3 scallions, finely chopped
500ml / 2 cups buttermilk
50 grams / 3.5 tablespoons butter, melted
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
How to make gluten-free cornbread:
Preheat oven to 375F. Prepare a 9x9 square pan by laying it with parchment paper or by greasing with butter.
Begin by whisking all the gluten-free bread flour ingredients together in one large bowl. Make sure they are well combined. Set aside.
Prepare the jalapeno cheese cornbread topping: Preheat a pan to medium heat. Add olive oil and chilis. Fry the chilis briefly, about 2 minutes, just until soft. Season with salt and pepper, add cilantro and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Add the sugar, mix well to combine, and let the chili topping cook for a 1 minute longer. Take off heat and set aside.
To the bowl with gluten-free bread flour blend, add cornmeal, baking soda, cilantro, lime zest and scallions. Mix to combine.
In a medium bowl, combine buttermilk, melted butter, eggs, salt and pepper.
Gradually add the wet ingredients to the bowl with the dry ingredients. Stir with a spatula until everything is mixed together.
Pour gluten-free cornbread mixture into prepared baking dish and smooth the top with a spatula. Sprinkle evenly with cheddar cheese. Finally, spread chili cheddar cornbread topping on the top of the cheesy bread.
Bake gluten-free sweet and spicy cornbread at 375F pvem fpr 35 minutes, until the bread is golden-brown on top.
Gluten-free cornbread is best the day it is best, preferably fresh out of the oven slathered with some butter.
If needed, this chili cornbread bake can be stored in the refrigerator for a week, or sliced and frozen for 3 months.
When to serve this jalapeno cheese cornbread?
This Mexican gluten-free cornbread would be perfect for Cinco de Mayo alongside air fryer tostones! It would also be right at home during brunch, or alongside a nice chili.
Dairy-free or vegan cornbread
To turn this into vegan gluten free cornbread, you must replace the eggs with flax or chia eggs, use vegan cheese and make "vegan" buttermilk - add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to a cup of non-dairy milk and wait 10 minutes. You'll end up with a sweet and spicy cornbread you'll want to eat for days!
Gluten-free corn muffins
You can also bake this gluten-free cornbread in muffins tins, thus turning it into Gluten-free corn muffins. This works particularly well if you don't have Expandex or Whey Protein Isolate to turn this into a stretchy gluten-free bread.
Here are some ideas on what you can serve alongside this Chili cornbread bake:
Tried and loved this recipe? Please leave a 5-star review below! Your reviews mean a lot to me, so if you've got any questions, please let me know in a comment.
- You can serve it with rice and Instant Pot black beans
- With Mexican corn
- With salmon skewers with jalapeño crema
Pin for Later!
Gluten-free Cornbread with Sweet and Spicy Chili Cheddar Topping
- 9x9 square baking pan
For jalapeno cheese cornbread topping:
For the gluten-free flour bread blend:
- 22.5 grams superfine brown rice flour
- 22.5 grams superfine white rice flour
- 11.25 grams tapioca starch
- 11.25 grams potato starch
- 3.75 grams potato flour
- 2.25 grams xanthan gum
- 1.5 grams pure powdered pectin
- 18.75 grams Whey Protein Isolate optional, but recommended for best results
- 11.25 grams Expandex or Ultratex 3 optional, but recommended for best results
For the rest of the bread ingredients:
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 300 grams 2 cups cornmeal gluten-free
- 4 tablespoons chopped cilantro
- 1 lime zest of
- 3 scallions finely chopped
- 500 ml / 2 cups buttermilk
- 50 grams / 3.5 tablespoons butter melted
- 3 eggs
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- Preheat oven to 375F. Prepare a 9x9 square pan by laying it with parchment paper or by greasing with butter.
- Begin by whisking all the gluten-free bread flour ingredients together in one large bowl. Make sure they are well combined. Set aside.
- Prepare the jalapeno cheese cornbread topping: Preheat a pan to medium heat. Add olive oil and chilis. Fry the chilis briefly, about 2 minutes, just until soft. Season with salt and pepper, add cilantro and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Add the sugar, mix well to combine, and let the chili topping cook for a 1 minute longer. Take off heat and set aside.
- To the bowl with gluten-free bread flour blend, add cornmeal, baking soda, cilantro, lime zest and scallions. Mix to combine.
- In a medium bowl, combine buttermilk, melted butter, eggs, salt and pepper.
- Gradually add the wet ingredients to the bowl with the dry ingredients. Stir with a spatula until everything is mixed together.
- Pour gluten-free cornbread mixture into prepared baking dish and smooth the top with a spatula. Sprinkle evenly with cheddar cheese. Finally, spread chili cheddar cornbread topping on the top of the cheesy bread.
- Bake gluten-free sweet and spicy cornbread at 375F oven for 35 minutes, until the bread is golden-brown on top.
Jere Cassidy says
While I don't bake gluten-free I love reading these recipes to see what ingredients you are using. Cornbread is always a favorite at our house, we like the flavor and texture and anytime you add chilies and cheese I'm all in for a big slice.
I feel the same way! GF baking is quite involved and a bit difficult, so I love making it more accessible for people through clear instructions.
This recipe sounds great and looks hot. 🙂 We will have it on our menu soon. I am so glad I found this on your blog.
What a great combination of sweet and spicy. Thanks for sharing this recipe. I'm always looking for alternative recipes for when various family or friends come for dinner.
This looks great! I'm always wanting to find more gluten free recipes.
Ooh such a unique cornbread recipe, love it!
I hope you give it a try! It's got a great sweet & spicy flavor.
Enriqueta E Lemoine says
Gluten-free, sweet, and spicy? This cornbread has my name! Thanks for the recipe!
Oh that makes me really happy! Let me know if you give it a try.
This is so much fancier than my usual go-to cornbread recipe, definitely the perfect addition to a Mexican feast at home!
Hahah I guess I tend to get a bit "fancy" 😉
I love cornbread and this twist sounds amazing!
Yes! It's delicious and makes it accessible for GF eaters
Thanks a lot for sharing this cornbread recipe! It is very helpful, will surely make it again!
I'm so glad you liked it!
Jessica Formicola says
Sweet and spicy is my absolute favorite combo! I am making a batch of chili this weekend, so this cornbread will go perfectly with it!
Hope it'll get to grace your table this weekend!
My new SIL is sensitive to gluten, I can't wait to make this for her!
She will be so grateful to you if she likes big, bold flavors!
Chef Dennis says
Yum! My wife is going to love this!
Make it for her then! And reap the compliments
While I don't normally bake gluten-free as nobody in my family needs that, it is always useful to have adapted recipes for when you have guests that need special foods. This cornbread looks so scrumptious it would surely please a crowd and I'm definitely keeping this recipe for later.
I'm so glad this may come in handy for you in the future. I agree that GF recipes are more specialized, but those of us who need those adaptations are always looking for new things to try 🙂
I have been looking for a really good gluten-free cornbread recipe for some time. I'm fascinated by the binders you added, as well as your gluten-free flour blend. The bread looks so good!
I think you'll find this one hits all the spots of a good cornbread recipe! I love the texture and flavor, so close to non-GF.
I keep forgetting that cinco de mayo is coming up! Thanks for the reminder, this would be so perfect to serve! Thanks for the recipe, bookmarked 🙂
Thrilled to hear that!
This gluten free cornbread looks out of this world delicious! I have never been the biggest fan of cornbread, but WHOA, with all that sweet and spicy Mexican style goodness? I'm sold!
Just curious, why is cornbread not normally your thing? Anyway, the flavors here really are a standout!
Just the way I like my cornbread, a little sweet and spicy. I appreciated the information about the adaptations and the gluten-free ingredients.
Me too - the perfect cornbread gotta hit the sweet and spicy notes 😉
Super-delicious! I loved this recipe, I'm always looking for good gluten-free recipes and this was fantastic! Thanks for sharing.
That makes me so happy - glad you liked it!
This spicy cornbread was awesome with a big bowl of chili. The topping is amazing!
I love hearing that, Amy!
I love that this is gluten free!! Also, can you believe that I have never tried cornbread before?? I have got to give this a go because it looks amazing!
WHAT? How is that possible? Haha I think you need to try it!
I learned so much to give gluten-free breads the texture you want! I can't wait to go and buy these new ingredients (lucky me I live in Canada :D).
It's so accessible here! Even better in the US, but still good.
What an absolutely gorgeous looking cornbread! Would be so good with Mexican food or a big bowl of chili:)