Looking for a savory and lightly sweetened side dish for the holidays? Corn casserole is a must-have on the dinner table, but let’s skip the Jiffy recipe shall we. I’m going to show you how to make a more flavorful cornbread cake with simple pantry ingredients.
Corn casserole also known as cream corn casserole is a nostalgic dish that always seems to show up around the holidays. Typically made with a small box of Jiffy corn muffin mix as the base, I reverse-engineered the recipe to make it from scratch. I put pen to paper to do some calculations and then baked a batch with the commercial product to test against my homemade version. I’m happy to declare my recipe a winner in a blind taste test with my family.
I’m all for convenient meals, especially during busy weeknights. However, as a food scientist and mom, I like having the ability to control the sweetener and salt levels that go into recipes. Corn casserole has common pantry ingredients like cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, and cornstarch. To create a moist cake consistency, whole corn kernels, sour cream, and butter are added. This side dish, which is best served piping hot, balances just the right amount of savory-sweet flavor.
Jiffy corn casserole vs. homemade
While using a boxed cornbread mix provides a ready to stir and bake option, I’m a little shocked at the high levels of sugar and salt in those tiny Jiffy packages. Not to mention hydrogenated shortening, no thanks! Just like I’ve done with my cornbread muffins recipe, I’ve targeted a similar taste profile as Jiffy, but it can easily be tweaked to meet your dietary needs.
One of the hallmarks of this dish is adding canned cream corn. Taking a closer look at the ingredients label it contains corn kernels, water, cornstarch, sugar (a lot!), and salt. To create my own without the intense amounts of added sugar and salt (nearly 7 grams of sugar and 340 milligrams per ½ cup for some brands, yikes), I keep it simple.
DIY creamed corn
- Saute the corn kernels until tender, especially if using fresh corn. If you like you can chop the corn using a blender or food processor to have a similar texture to the canned product.
- Make a cornstarch and water slurry and bring to a boil with the corn. The starches will help thicken the mixture and keep the casserole moist.
- No salt or sugar is added to the creamed corn in this step because it’s incorporated into the dry cornmeal mixture. However, if you’re making a separate side dish, feel free to add some in.
If you’re in a hurry and want to use the canned product, I suggest getting the unsalted creamed corn and cut back on the sugar 1 ½ tablespoons instead of a ⅓ cup.
The baking powder gives the casserole rise and cake-like texture. The fat in the sour cream and butter create a soft consistency in the center. The acidity from the fermentation of the sour cream provides a nice balance to the sugar and salt while enhancing the savory corn flavor.
This corn casserole recipe is an easy side dish to prepare that can feed a crowd. You can also add in more herbs like chopped chives, rosemary, or thyme to the mix. Cheddar cheese is also a tasty mix-in. If you want a kick of spice, chopped jalapenos will bump up the heat. This dish can be prepared a day in advance and reheated before serving.
Baking the corn casserole
To achieve a golden surface while not drying out the center of the casserole, I use moderate heat and an extended period of time. A temperature of 350ºF (177ºC) for about 45 minutes will give you just the right texture.
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- 3 cups corn kernels, fresh or canned
- ½ cup water
- 1 ½ teaspoons cornstarch
- ¾ cup yellow cornmeal
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- ⅓ cup granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 cup sour cream
- ½ cup unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon chopped chives, plus more for garnish
- Set oven rack to the middle position, preheat to 350ºF (177ºC).
- Heat a medium-sized saute pan over medium heat, add corn and saute for 1 minute, longer if needed to cook fresh corn.
- Whisk together water and cornstarch in a small bowl, add to pan and stir frequently to combine.
- Bring to a boil, stirring to thicken water, about 30 to 60 seconds, turn off heat and set aside.
- Whisk together yellow cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Add sour cream, melted butter, chives, and cooked corn mixture.
- Pour batter into a lightly greased 8 by 8-inch casserole dish. Use a spatula to evenly spread it out into the pan.
- Bake until the edges are lightly browned and the top is golden in color and set in the center, 45 to 55 minutes.
- Serve warm garnished with more chives if desired.
- Honey, maple syrup, or coconut sugar can be substituted for granulated sugar.
- Olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, or ghee make good substitutes for butter.
- Plain Greek yogurt can be substituted for sour cream.
- For a cheesy corn casserole version, mix in 1 cup of cheddar cheese into the batter.
- MAKE IT GLUTEN-FREE: Substitute all-purpose flour with gluten-free flour.
- MAKE IT DAIRY-FREE: Substitute olive oil, vegetable oil, or coconut oil for butter. Substitute coconut cream for sour cream.
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