Savory Corn and Pepper Muffins

Bread, Tuesdays with Dorie / Tuesday, January 13th, 2009


So, when my turn came to pick a recipe for Tuesdays with Dorie, I chose the Savory Corn and Pepper Muffins. Because the group had never baked any of the book’s savory recipes. And because people have very strong opinions about cornbread. When you have a group of 300+ members all baking the same thing, you need a little controversy. Otherwise, you’ll be ready to lobotomize yourself with a soup spoon after No. 89.

At the risk of sounding like a cross between Foghorn Leghorn and Scarlett O’Hara, I’ll say that I’m a Southerner, and we tend to be territorial about cornbread. I fully expect the Southern delegation of TWD to either a.) politely decline to make these corn muffins on the grounds that they contain sugar or b.) politely make the muffins but mention how they cut the sugar. I know, we put sugar in everything else, but when it comes to cornbread, most Southerners don’t like it sweet. We go with cast-iron, high heat and bacon grease. Judge the bacon grease if you must, but my 89-year-old mommaw swears by it, and she could give you the family trees of every character on “Days of Our Lives” while single-handedly plowing a field right now.

I picked Dorie’s Savory Corn and Pepper Muffins, because I wanted to try a Southwestern cornbread. In the South, everyone’s grandmother makes “Mexican Cornbread” with cream-style corn, canned green chiles and at least a cup of cheese. Dorie’s recipe offered an authentically Southwestern cornbread with fresh corn, jalapeño, red bell pepper and cilantro. I was curious.

Dorie’s muffins were a nice surprise. Sweet, spicy and really fresh-tasting. The corn and peppers aren’t cooked before they go into the batter, so they give plenty of color and bite. I buttered my first one out of habit, but it definitely didn’t need it.

The thing about these muffins is that they inspire chili-making. So, if you’re following the Great Corn Muffin Debate of ’09 or looking for a few good chili recipes, visit the rest of the TWD clan.

Savory Corn and Pepper Muffins

From Dorie Greenspan’s “Baking: From My Home to Yours”

Makes 12 muffins

South-of-the-Border-style muffins have the spunk, spice and potential to be as good a partner to soup and salad as to huevos rancheros or a mild-mannered four-minute egg. Think of them as mini corn breads–they’ve got that kind of tight crumb and light crumbliness–and enjoy the cilantro and chiles that give them such a distinctive Southwestern twang. (For a more traditional version of these muffins, see Playing Around.)

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal, preferably stone-ground
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon chili powder, or more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/4 cup corn kernels (add up to 3 tablespoons more if you’d like)–fresh, frozen or canned (in which case they should be drained and patted dry)
  • 1 small jalapeño pepper, seeded, deveined and finely diced
  • 1/4 red bell pepper, seeded, deveined and finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
  1. Getting Ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter or spray the 12 molds in a regular-size muffin or fit the molds with paper muffin cups. Alternatively, use a silicone muffin pan, which needs neither greasing nor paper cups. Place the muffin pan on a baking sheet.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, chili powder, salt, baking soda and black pepper. In a large glass measuring cup or another bowl, whisk the buttermilk, melted butter and egg yolk together until well blended. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and, with the whisk or a rubber spatula, gently but quickly stir to blend. Don’t worry about being thorough–the batter will be lumpy, and that’s just way it should be. Stir in the corn kernels, jalapeño, red pepper and cilantro. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups.
  3. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the tops are golden and a thin knife inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 5 minutes before carefully removing each muffin from its mold.

Serving: These are particularly good served warm and still very good at room temperature. As a morning muffin, they’re good with butter; for lunch or supper, try them with red pepper jelly or salsa.

Storing: Best served the day they are made, these can be kept covered overnight and split and toasted the next day. They can also be wrapped airtight and frozen for up to 2 months. Rewarm in a 350-degree-F oven, if you’d like, or split and toast them.

Playing Around

Plain Corn Muffins: Omit the chili powder, black pepper, jalapeño, red pepper and cilantro and increase the sugar to 1/4 cup.


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92 thoughts on “Savory Corn and Pepper Muffins

  1. Thanks for picking this recipe! I don’t usually make cornbread and now I’m wondering why. This version was great…really moist, and I loved the chili powder and red pepper flavors. I’m a Northerner and I reduced the sugar!

  2. It was very nice to have a savory recipe this week…and an easy one…it was a good week for an easy savory recipe. You did good. Yours look very lovely…it is such fun with those little bits of color poking through, isn’t it? Okay, it doesn’t take much to thrill me these days as I have been a couple of weeks on bedrest and, well, that is definitely not all it is cracked up to be, despite my stack of books and the movies recommended from your site a few weeks back. Thanks for that, btw. I’m on the road…should be ready to tackle the next recipe soon!

  3. Thanks for this week’s recipe! Yours look like they turned out so much better than mine; I’m going to have to have another go at this recipe, I think.

  4. Great recipe choice! I loved it. Looks like some people avoided controversy by changing or skipping the recipe, which is a shame, but it’s their loss anyway.

  5. Yum yum yum! Bravo on the muffins and the recipe choice! I think I’m the only Southerner who likes sweet cornbread, hence my dependency on Jiffy cornbread. I passed this week for various reason, but will not let this recipe pass me up and will try soon. THanks!

  6. Great choice… I loved them! I do love the iron cast way as well, but this was a lovely choice and a good one to keep in the rotation. Thanks Rebecca!

  7. It was a great pick, Rebecca! I love the picture of the butter melting on the muffin. LOL about your Mommaw, plowing the field, etc.
    And you’re right, there were tons of chili makers out there this past week as well. Thanks again!

  8. I can’t really say I am a Southerner, but I married one, so I know the whole cornbread issue!
    These were great. Thanks for a wonderful pick and your pictures are gorgeous as always!

  9. thanks for picking a savory. I am ‘sweeted’ out for a while. Yours look great.

    As for the Great Cornbread debate. I am a southerner, but I like my cornbread sweet, baked in a skillet with butter.


  10. your muffins look great – thanks for chosing. i would like to try the Mexican cornbread recipe with the creamed corn and cheese – that sounds like more my thing :0)

  11. It was a neat recipe. I added butter, too. I mean why not add more yummy goodness! Creamed corned sounds awesome. I will try it next time. Have a good day!

  12. I think these muffins bridge the North/South divide nicely. Just enough sugar to keep the Yankees happy, but hardly a sweet muffin, so the Southerners really should not complain. These muffins satisfied both the native New Englander and the Southern transplant in me. Great pick!

  13. Despite being a Southern and being brought up in the grand tradition of saving your bacon grease for cornbread – I thought these were a great selection. Different and tasty! Thanks!

  14. Although I skipped this week in deference to my picky (for cornbread, anyway) husband and daughter, thanks for picking something savory! My West Texan grandmother would have made these in her Lodge skillet with bacon grease, too. I do plan to make them when I have a more adventurous panel of taste-testers. Yours look delicious.

  15. Thanks for choosing a savory recipe, Rebecca! The muffins were a lovely change from the usual sweets. I love your comment about the sugar–it did seem a little blasphemous to add 3 entire TBS to the batter, but I followed Dorie and was glad I did. A lovely melange of flavors and sensations:)

  16. I grew up in the south with the no sugar cornbread, too. My mother-in-law (also a southerner) used to make hers that way but has started using Jiffy mix!! Now my kids think cornbread should taste like a muffin! I have to break them of the white bread habit when they come back from her house, too.

  17. Thank you so much Rebecca for picking that recipe this week!
    We all enjoyed it very much… perfect, for Siberian weather like ours! LOL
    Yours are pretty darn good looking too!

  18. Such a great pick Rebecca! I was so glad to have a savory recipe after all of the sweets of the last couple of months. Thank you!!

  19. Thanks for picking these! They were fun to make. Like others, I don’t usually make Mexican cornbread because of my picky family, lol, but these muffins were really good! I thought the spices and peppers offset the sugar and didn’t think they were too sweet. :)

  20. You are so right about us southerners and cornbread recipes. Mine was handed down through the generations with bacon grease and cast iron too, but I have to say these were good too. I didn’t cut the sugar or alter the recipe and hubby gobbled them up no questions asked.

  21. It was a wonderful choice. I think many, many pots of chili were made around the world because of you. Yours look tasty and adorable.

  22. I just loved the combination of the sweetness of the sugar and that kick in the butt by the jalapeno pepper!! Great pick, thank you sooo much!

  23. I, too, have been craving a savory pick! I love how the littlespecks of green and red are so perfect in yours. They really look delicious! Thanks for stirring the pot of controversy!

  24. Love your picture! I thank you for choosing these little gems, like many of us I just made chili and called it a day. Perfect. I did make a slight error. I made the muffins on the previous page! Oops! Guess thats what I get for scanning the pages! Still very good!

  25. I’m a born New Englander, but transplanted to the South for over 30 years. I actually like my cornbread all different ways (and so does my deep-Southern husband). BUT we don’t really like sugar in our savory foods. So, yes, I cut the sugar. And I only added canned chiles because I was surprised there was no bell pepper in the produce drawer. Oh well, guilty as charged!

  26. Ezra’s iron skillet came straight from EBay. Only place I could find (1)old (2)used and (3) perfectedly seasoned skillet. Cost me as much to ship it as to buy it! BUT I wasn’t about to part with MINE.

  27. Hmmm… I live in CA. Does that make me northern or southern? I don’t like cornbread so maybe I am out west of the border huh? HAHA. Even though I am not a fan of cornbread I had alot of fun making these. Nice switch from sweet to savory. Great pic Rebecca. Props to my homie.
    Clara @ iheartfood4thought

  28. Muffins, the perfect solution for the family split about adding “things” into cornbread. I loved these, and loved a quick recipe this week. I got home from a trip late last night, but managed to get them made today and managed to not eat them all, so I can serve them for dinner tonight.

  29. Loved this recipe and am glad you chose it in honor of my first TWD. OK, j/k obviously, but we really did like this. Yours have a beautiful dome to them that mine did not manage to achieve. Kudos!

  30. I like how you shook things up a bit with a savory TWD! I’ve enjoyed seeing these throughout the blogosphere today. Yours look fantastic :)

  31. thanks for a great choice this week. and all the different opinions have made for some interesting reading this week. :) your muffins look really good.

  32. Your photography is stunning and the muffins look fantastic! Thanks for a great pick this week! I loved these corn muffins and so did my iron skillet, bacon grease lovin’ boyfriend! He loved them after I tricked him into trying them, that is!

  33. I like my savory cornbread in a cast iron skillet with that outer crunchy layer. Yumm yumm. I saute jalepeno and onion and add a can of creamed corn with a cup of pepper jack or monterrey jack cheese. Buttermilk of course. So delish. So that is this Oklahoma girl’s version. Just reminded myself these were corn muffins and maybe this was a different category. Not a pan of cornbread, ya know Thanks for something savory this week.

  34. Thanks for hosting this week Rebecca. Unlike most Southerners, I didn’t actually really know what cornbread is, so I came to this with no firm views, and I was surprised how much I liked them (given that I thought I wouldn’t). Great choice.

  35. Your muffins look so delicious! Thanks for choosing this recipe. I don’t know much about cornbread, but these muffins (I made them plain) were delicious!

  36. I am pro sugar in the cornbread.. but then again I am Canadian and can sidestep the debate. Great pick – they lent themselves well to playing with the flavours.

  37. We use white cornmeal in the south. The only time a southern child gets yellow cornmeal is when when he eats school lunches

  38. Great looking muffins, Rebecca! I think it’s terrific that you picked a savory recipe. I’m just sorry that I haven’t gotten around to making them yet.

  39. This recipe (er, I should say the variation that I made) was a welcome relief from all the sweet junk we’ve been eating. Thanks for the great pick, and the great stories!

  40. Thank you so much for the awesome pic this week! I think everyone breathed a sigh of relief at the fact that it was a cookie or a cake or something fatty fatty fatty! Thanks, Rebecca!

  41. Thanks for chosing a savory item! I was getting a major tooth ache :-)
    The Shepherds pie is always delicious. I use ground turkey instead of lamb or meat for lower fat, and tofu sour cream to keep it Kosher.

  42. I had to change them – couldn’t handle the add ins, probably would have done it if the boys would eat them. Maybe another time for friends. hmmmmmm
    And had to do it in the skillet!

    Your pics are great!!

  43. Thank you SO MUCH for picking this recipe! I was so glad to have a post-holiday break from sweet stuff. Oh – and I’m a Northerner, but I definitely made my cornbread (I didn’t make it as muffins) in a cast iron skillet.

  44. Thank you for choosing these. They were absolutely perfect for my weekend. Easy to make and easy to eat. It was a great choice!! Yours look fabulous.

  45. Thanks for choosing this recipe! It was quick, easy and quite delicious. Perfect for a cold winter night.
    (Oh, and I thought the amount of sugar was perfect!)

  46. Thanks for choosing these! While they were not my favorites, I did have fun with my many variations.

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