Cornbread traces its history to Native Americans

Published 12:55 am Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Cornbread has a long heritage that reaches back to Native Americans.

To many of us, cornbread seems like the most Southern of specialties, with a history that traces literal roots back to the crops of the pre-European Native Americans.

Though it’s probably true that Southerners make the best cornbread, this treat was warmly embraced by the European settlers who came to the New World, where they found maize, which the Indians ground into meal and mixed with water and salt to make cornbread, according to a history by the American Heritage Foundation at

The Europeans knew a good thing when they tasted it, recognized the benefit of taking advantage of the natural resources they could find around their new home and began to find ways to adjust and personalize the Indians’ basic recipe.

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A tasting trip of the United States today will yield tantalizing variety of cornbread recipes grounded in the traditions of the communities from which they spring.

There’s even a festival celebrating cornbread goodness, held annually in South Pittsburgh, Tenn., and featuring vendors, music, arts and crafts and highlighted by the National Championship Cookoff. The event takes place April 27 and 28, with the cookoff next year set for April 27. Visit for more information.

Here’s a look at the winning recipe from the 2012 event:


Sweet cornbread shrimp cakes with mango salsa

Melanie McCoy, Knoxville, Tenn.




1 (7 oz.) package sweet yellow cornbread and muffin mix

1/2 cup milk

1 egg, beaten


Mango salsa

3 cups peeled and chopped mango (about two to three)

2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion Juice of

1 large lime

Pinch salt

1 jalapeño or Serrano pepper, seeded and finely chopped

1/4 cup chopped cilantro


Shrimp Cakes

2 tablespoons butter

1 cup finely chopped celery

1/2 cup finely chopped red onion

1 pound uncooked shrimp, peeled, deveined and coarsely chopped

3 teaspoons seafood seasoning

2 large eggs, beaten

1/3 cup mayonnaise

1/3 cup chopped cilantro

Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Butter for cooking shrimp cakes

Lemon wedges and parsley for garnish



1. Bake cornbread mix according to package directions, using milk and one egg. Cool and crumble.

2. Stir together salsa ingredients. Allow to sit for 30 minutes. Serve or refrigerate until serving time.

3. Heat butter over medium heat in 12-inch cast iron skillet. Cook celery and 1/2 cup chopped red onion until tender, about six to eight minutes, stirring occasionally. Transfer celery and onion to large bowl. Stir in shrimp, seafood seasoning, two eggs, mayonnaise, cilantro, salt and pepper. Stir in crumbled cornbread until well blended. Using about 1/3 cup, form mixture into 12 crab cakes about 2 1/2-inches in diameter. Place on a parchment or wax paper-lined baking sheet.

4. Heat one to two tablespoons butter in skillet over medium heat. Cook crab cakes until lightly browned and shrimp turn pink, about four minutes on each side. Cook remaining crab cakes, adding additional butter as needed. Place cakes on a serving platter. Garnish with lemon wedges and parsley. Serve with mango salsa.

Makes 6 servings

Tip: Fresh peaches or pineapple may be substituted for mango in the salsa.