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How to Make Cornbread Dumplings and Hot Water Cornbread

April 4, 2012

Cornbread dumplings are an old Southern staple that are typically cooked and served with greens.  Hot water cornbread is served throughout the Eastern United States and goes by many names.  It is variously know as Johnny cake, hokeg, hoe cakes, fried cornbread, or hot water cornbread depending on what part of the country you are in.  The reason that I am lumping these two recipes together is because they are really the same stuff, it’s just that one is boiled in water and the other is fried in grease.  These are both super simple to make and are excellent trail food.  The ingredients will keep indefinitely without refrigeration.  Pictured below: Ingredients for making cornbread dumplings or hot water cornbread

To make cornbread dumplings or hot water cornbread you will need:


1 cup of cornmeal (yellow or white)

1/8 teaspoon of salt

black or red pepper to taste

boiling water



Mix dry ingredients together

Pour in just enough boiling water to form a very thick paste



That’s pretty easy isn’t it?  The trick is to be sure and use boiling water.  The boiling water causes the corn to release its gluten which makes the dough stick together.  If you do the same thing with cold water you won’t form a dough, you’ll just end up with a handful of wet cornmeal.  Pictured below: Cornmeal dough

Now, at this point you choose whether you want to make dumplings or cornbread.

To make dumplings use your hands to form the dough into balls about the size of a pig-pong ball.  Pictured below:  Cornbread dough rolled into a dumpling

Add these balls of dough to your greens for about the last ten minutes that they are boiling.  Don’t stir the pot or you will break up the dumplings.  Some people like to add chopped onion into the dough while making the dumplings.  Either way they are powerful good.  Pictured below: Cornbread dumplings cooking in a pot of collard greens

To make cornbread use your hands to pat the dough out into cakes that are about two-and-a-half inches across and half an inch thick.  Pictured below:  Four dumplings and one cornbread patty

Heat up about a quarter inch of grease in a skillet and carefully place the cakes in the hot grease.  Fry the cakes on each side until they are golden brown.  You can eat the cornbread straight but if you put a little butter on them you will be in heaven.  Pictured below: top, Frying cornbread; bottom, cornbread ready to eat

I love to cook cornbread on the trail.  I usually take a hunk of summer sausage and a small bag of yellow cornmeal with me.  I fry the sausage first then use the grease to cook hot water cornbread.  It tastes great, is very nutrient dense, and really sticks to your ribs on a cold day.  Pictured below:  Southern country boy heaven, sweet potato, black-eyed peas, collard greens, and cornbread dumplings

  1. hannan permalink

    The other day, I went to a friend’s house and they made hot water cornbread. I was hesitant to try it because my parents made the best cornbread in the world and I use that same recipe and no other compares. Period. However, I didn’t want to be rude so I tried it. I must confess that it was the best cornbread I have ever tasted in my life. Just as you mentioned in the post, they told me that the key is the boiling water. It tasted very sweet as if they added sweetener, but I watched them make it and know it had no sweetener. Thanks for posting this. I’m a new fan of hot water cornbread.

  2. hannan permalink

    I also must mention that theirs was more watery, so they just poured it into the skillet. That’s the only difference. I like both recipes, though. 🙂

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