Iron Skillet Cornbread

This show-stopping skillet cornbread from Indianola in Houston, Texas, features three homemade toppings—richly flavored Spiced Cane Syrup, crispy Fried Beluga Lentils, and Jalapeño-Onion Spread for heat—as well as Ruby Red grapefruit segments, fresh dill, and flaky sea salt. Piled on top of the cornbread, they make for a festive, colorful presentation. Serve this dish as an impressive centerpiece for your next brunch.

Iron Skillet Cornbread with Grapefruit, Beluga Lentils, Jalapeno Spread and Spiced Cane
Photo: Photo by Jennifer Causey / Food Styling by Margret Monroe Dickey / Prop Styling by Claire Spollen
Active Time:
40 mins
Total Time:
1 hrs 45 mins


Spiced Cane Syrup

  • 1 cup cane syrup (such as Steen's Pure Cane Syrup)

  • teaspoon ground allspice

  • teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • teaspoon ground mace

  • 2 fresh bay leaves

Fried Beluga Lentils

  • 2 cups water

  • ½ cup dried black lentils (beluga)

  • Vegetable oil, for frying

  • ½ kosher salt

Jalapeño-Onion Spread

  • 2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened

  • ¼ cup sour cream

  • ¼ cup finely chopped jalapeño chile (from 1 large chile), seeded if desired

  • 1 ½ teaspoons granulated onion

  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder

  • ½ kosher salt

Hopi Blue Cornbread

  • 3 cups (about 12 3/4 ounces) Hopi Blue cornmeal, or fresh coarse-ground cornmeal

  • 2 tablespoons baking powder

  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt

  • 3 large eggs, beaten

  • 2 ¼ cups whole milk

  • 1 cup whole buttermilk

  • ¼ cup (4 ounces) unsalted butter, melted, divided

Additional Ingredients

  • ¾ cup Ruby Red grapefruit segments (from 1 grapefruit), cut into bite-sized pieces

  • Fresh dill fronds

  • Flaky sea salt


Prepare the Spiced Cane Syrup

  1. Stir together cane syrup, allspice, cinnamon, mace, bay leaves, and orange peel strips in a small saucepan; bring to a simmer over low. Remove from heat; let cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes. Pour syrup mixture through a strainer into a medium bowl; discard solids. Place in an airtight container, and store in refrigerator until ready to use or up to 5 days.

Prepare the Fried Beluga Lentils

  1. Place water and lentils in a small saucepan; bring to a boil over medium-high. Boil, stirring occasionally, until lentils are tender, about 25 minutes. Drain. Pat lentils dry with paper towels.

  2. Pour oil into a large pot to a depth of 1 inch; heat oil over medium-high to 350°F. Working in about 3 batches, carefully lower lentils into hot oil using a spider; fry until crispy, about 1 minute. Make sure to leave enough room in the pot for the lentils to bubble up in the oil. Using a small mesh strainer, remove lentils from oil, and transfer to a baking sheet lined with paper towels. Sprinkle Fried Lentils evenly with salt. Set aside at room temperature until ready to use. Fried Beluga Lentils may be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to 1 day.

Prepare the Jalapeño-Onion Spread

  1. Beat cream cheese and sour cream with a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment on medium-high speed until smooth, about 1 minute, stopping to scrape down sides of bowl as needed. Add jalapeño, granulated onion, garlic powder, and salt; beat on medium-low speed until well combined, about 30 seconds. Store in an airtight container in refrigerator until ready to use or up to 1 week.

Prepare the Hopi Blue Cornbread

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Stir together cornmeal, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl until well combined. Whisk together eggs, milk, and buttermilk in a separate large bowl. Add egg mixture to cornmeal mixture; stir until well combined. Add 6 tablespoons of the melted butter, and stir to combine.

  2. Heat a 12-inch cast-iron skillet over medium. Add remaining 2 tablespoons melted butter to skillet; heat until butter is sizzling. Pour cornmeal batter into skillet; cook for 1 minute. Transfer skillet to preheated oven, and bake until cornbread is set in the center and browned all over, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from oven; let cool 10 minutes.

  3. Turn Hopi Blue Cornbread out of skillet onto a platter, and serve warm. Top with Jalapeño-Onion Spread, grapefruit segments, a generous drizzle of Spiced Cane Syrup, dill, Fried Beluga Lentils, and flaky sea salt.

Related Articles