This tart and sweet gluten free cranberry cornbread, made with our Jiffy-style mix as a base, is sure to become a new holiday favorite.
How to make this gluten free cranberry cornbread
This isn’t a one-bowl recipe, but it’s close. It’s a two-bowl recipe. 🥄🥄It’s worth that extra bowl, though.
Since cornbread is meant to be a bit denser than a classic quick bread, we don’t go through the whole process of beating the butter, sugar, and eggs until light and fluffy first. All purpose flour doesn’t (and shouldn’t) add any flavor to baked goods, but cornmeal adds texture and flavor.
The tart and sweet cranberries make the bread beautiful and flavorful, and the buttermilk softens the texture just a bit. Thick slices of this bread would make a lovely addition to any holiday plate.
To make this bread, whisk the wet ingredients (buttermilk, melted butter, and eggs) together vigorously before combining them with the other ingredients. In a large bowl, place the dry ingredients (flour, cornstarch, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt), plus the granulated sugar, and whisk them to combine. Then, add the cranberries so they get coated in those dry ingredients. That helps prevent them from sinking to the bottom of the bread during baking.
The batter should be mixed just until it’s combined. The corn has its own sort of (perfectly safe) gluten, and if you work it too much, the cornbread will be tough.
Grinding yellow cornmeal into more of a corn flour
My standard cornbread recipe is our old fashioned naturally gluten free cornbread, made only with coarsely ground yellow cornmeal. That classic recipe calls for no all purpose gluten free flour at all. It has tons of texture, and has rounded out many soups, stews, and chili meals in my house over the years.
This recipe for gluten free cranberry cornbread is a completely different kind of recipe, based on our gluten free Jiffy-style cornbread. Since this recipe is baked in a loaf pan, and not as muffins, it’s important that the batter be light enough to rise without adding an excessive amount of baking powder or too many eggs.
Much like I refuse to buy more than one form of gluten free oats, preferring to grind my own a little bit for quick-cooking oats or a lot for oat flour, I won’t buy more than one type of cornmeal. I buy only coarsely-ground yellow cornmeal from Bob’s Red Mill brand (make sure you buy the variety that’s gluten free!).
When I want something finer, I grind it myself in a blender or food processor. Cornmeal is coarsely ground corn, and corn flour is finely ground corn. So I take my coarsely ground yellow cornmeal, and give it a spin.
Cornstarch is a powder made from only the starch in the endosperm of the corn grain. I’m a baker not a chemist 🔬so I buy cornstarch. 😂
How tart do you like your cranberries?
This is a very simple recipe that doesn’t call for a stand mixer—or even a handheld mixer. A handheld whisk, a couple bowls, and a spoon are all you need.
We’ve covered why I’m asking you to grind your cornmeal a bit more. Now I’m going to ask you if you’d consider tossing your fresh cranberries in a couple of tablespoons of confectioners’ sugar before adding them to the cornbread batter.
Fresh cranberries are suuuuper tart. That’s why dried cranberries, unlike raisins, almost always have added sugar. In our classic recipe for gluten free cranberry bread, we don’t add extra sweetener to the cranberries, but we slice them in half—and that recipe has more sugar in the batter.
If you try tossing your cranberries in granulated sugar, you’ll find that it simply doesn’t stick without first coating them in a sugar syrup. Rather than going through all that trouble here, I like to toss the fresh berries in just a bit of very finely-ground confectioners’ sugar. It sticks just enough to soften the tartness of the berries. But it is an entirely optional step.
Ingredients and substitutions
Dairy: There are two types of dairy in this recipe, and they should both be replaceable. You should be able to replace the buttermilk with half plain non-dairy yogurt and half non-dairy milk. You can also use that same combination with dairy-containing ingredients if you can have dairy but just don’t have buttermilk on hand.
You should be able to replace the melted butter with an equal amount, by weight, of my favorite vegan butter, Melt brand, or even with Earth Balance buttery sticks. If you do use Earth Balance, I’d recommend reducing the milk by 2 tablespoons and only adding them back if the batter seems too thick (based upon the look of the batter in the photos and video in this post).
Eggs: There are two eggs in this recipe. They should be able to be replaced with one “chia egg” (1 tablespoon ground white chia seeds + 1 tablespoon lukewarm water, mixed and allowed to gel) each.
Corn products: There are two different types of corn products in this gluten free cornbread: cornmeal and cornstarch. If you can’t have corn at all, since this is a cornbread I’m afraid I don’t think this is an appropriate recipe for you.
I have heard of replacing cornmeal with ground millet, but I haven’t ever tried it and am very skeptical. If you do try that replacement, you can replace the cornstarch with arrowroot or potato starch.
Please see the discussion above about the yellow cornmeal in the recipe, which is ground again into a finer consistency. The bread still has texture, just not as much.
Cranberries: You can (and I often do) use fresh cranberries that have been frozen in this recipe. Like frozen blueberries, frozen cranberries have a tendency to bleed into the rest of the batter. It’s a problem of appearances only, as it does not affect the taste at all.
If you’re using frozen cranberries, keep them frozen until moments before you are ready to add them to the dry ingredients in the recipe. Remove them from the freezer, measure them out, and toss them with the (optional) sugar right before adding them to the batter. That will help minimize bleeding.