Corn Pone, a Pioneer Staple

corn pone recipe

What is corn pone?

Corn Pone is a form of cornbread normally made without milk or eggs. It can be baked or fried.

Where corn pone came from is contested in the history books. It is well documented that it was used by both armies during the Civil War. So both the North and the South at least agreed on one thing!

It’s also something that was cooked and eaten by pioneers.

Most of the modern recipes we see for corn pone use milk and eggs. This is really just corn bread. Older recipes for corn pone leave out the milk and eggs making an ideal prepper food!

Here is an old corn pone recipe.


  • 4 cups ground white or yellow cornmeal
  • 1 Tablespoon salt
  • 2-3 cups of very hot water (not boiling)
  • 1/2 cup of bacon grease (or other fat)

corn pone

  • In a large bowl, add the hot water to the cornmeal and mix it into a thick batter.
  • Cover the bowl with a dishcloth and let it sit for 15 to 20 minutes.
  • The batter should still be soft enough to mold into a small cake about the size of the palm of your hand. If not, add a bit more water.
  • Take your cake and shove three fingers into the middle. If the batter holds the fingerprints, the batter is just right. If it does not, adjust the water or cornmeal as necessary.
  • Warm your cast-iron skillet over medium heat on the stove or fire.
  • Add the bacon grease or oil.
  • When the oil is hot, lay the cakes into the pan.
  • Cook them until they are browned on one side. This should take about 3 minutes.
  • Turn each and brown on the other side.
  • Drain the fat and serve.
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Corn pone can be fried as above or baked in a Dutch oven. If you have ham, bacon, or chili peppers, they can be added as an option.

I love it with chopped-up jalapeno peppers mixed in the batter!

As one old boy said, “this was a get-by recipe when you had nothing else. If you were lucky enough to have butter or jam, it tasted plenty good.” In the days of the Great Depression, sometimes this would be a meal in itself.


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44 thoughts on “Corn Pone, a Pioneer Staple”

  1. Excellent, this adds another item to the teotwawki menu. ‘Little things’ like this can and will have a ‘big big’ impact on prospects for survival once shft comes along (If people will just heed your advice). I’m going to try it with olive oil instead of bacon grease and will let you know the results, if you are interested. Blessings and keep articles like this coming. thanks

      1. WE actually serve a variant of this at my VFW post for Saturday breakfasts. It’s popular with the older folks and I was told it was a “depression era” food. We call it “Mush” but it is basicallt presse corn meal. I live in Ohio though, so I’m not sure what itmay called in other places.”

          1. Here in Alabama, mush is usually the name applied to grits that are made from meal not hominy grits. This is, in my opinion as an anthropology student and former line cook, the American equivalent To Italian polenta. Johnny cakes, hoe cakes, and my favorite, corn dodgers are all local variants of this theme. Eggs, wheat flour, and consistency are the variable. Good cooking to you all. And hey, try Sofkee, a classic on the reservations where I grew up.

  2. Pangiallo [“Yellow Bread”] is traditional in the Veneto region of Italy. It was less expensive than other breads, so was known as “Il pane dei poveri” or “the bread of the poor”. Polenta or corn meal are commonly substituted for finely ground corn flour. The proportions of cornmeal to other flour vary, but this recipe I found sounds very much like what I ate:

  3. Just the same as fried mush, except made into patties instead of poured into a breadpan, chilled and sliced before frying. We were raised on it, excellent with sorghum or molasses and with bacon fat for frying it. We didn’t know it was poor folks food, as we weren’t, but our dad had been as a child.

  4. Thanks for the recipe. I can appreciate these type of “few ingredients” and easily made food items. Hardtack is another easy to make (and long shelf life) foods we all should know how to make.

    Think I’ll try my pone with bacon grease, sounds like it would add more favor.

  5. Love the corn pone and served it at an outdoor party as dessert with a variety of home made jams and honey.was a big hit. Next time will try with mashed beans as a anemic an Indian variation of bean bread.

  6. We ate a lot of cornbreads growing up. Mom would put bacon or sausage drippings (with some crumbles in each pancake) in a pan and put peppers and onions in the batter then fry like pancakes or pour into a real (hot cast iron skillet) for that nice crispy crust. 🙂 Oh my. Or she would make a sweet batter for sweet muffins or sweet cornbread for a dessert. We didn’t have much but we always had home cooked food and that was the best. 🙂

  7. Darla, your Mom’s recipe sounds wonderful!

    Along with the peppers and onions, add a catfish or Bluegill nugget cut up about 3/4″ size, putting one fish cube into a soup spoon full of batter and fry up as little cakes in the cast iron pan or deep fry, as for hush puppies. I have also had these with crawfish, shrimp or Andouille sausage bits substituted. All good. A dash of Tabasco or Chulula adds a kick if you like it. Serve with “dirty rice” or refried beans, or whatever as is your family custom.

  8. Thanks for this authentic recipe. This is how Cherokee make it. It is never made with milk or eggs like the white settlers added in.

  9. Please be sure to keep in mind that having corn and corn products as the main ingredient in your diet can lead to PELLAGRA, a potentially fatal disease caused by dietary deficiencies. Corn does NOT contain everything your body needs to be healthy. Be sure to have beans or corn, or both in the dietary mix. Don’t take my word for it. Google Pellagra. You will learn about some pretty horrible bits of American history. Very sad stuff.

      1. I’m not an expert by any means….but here is my understanding of pellagra. It is a B3 deficiency which can happen if your corn has not been soaked in lime. All store bought cornmeal has a lime added in. Corn naturally has B3 but it is ‘bound’ to other molecules. With nixtamalization-treating with lime-the B3 is released. Native Americans knew this process. When Europeans took the corn ‘home’, they didn’t know the process that’s why they ended up with pellegra. One can easily do the process at home on their own corn with pickling lime.

        1. Good call! Nixtamalization Adds a lot of nutrients to your intake. I would suggest that tomatoes, fresh chilies, and squash are the real life savers here. Or even better yet, make lacto pickles from nearly any garden vegetable and know you are getting your macronutrients

  10. In colonial times there was a thing called ‘thirder’ bread made from equal parts of wheat flour, rye flour, and Indian (cornmeal). I have made my own version of this using whole wheat sourdough starter that includes cracked wheat, plus cornmeal, and course ground rye. After mixing the ingredients, I let the batter set over night in a covered bowl on the kitchen counter. In the morning I fry it like pancakes. I find the course texture to be very satisfying and I don’t get hungry for quite a while after eating it. I serve it with a variety of toppings including: butter or a buttery spread, unflavored yogurt, unsweetened applesauce, blackstrap molasses, maple syrup, and grated sharp cheddar or jack cheese.

    The use of cracked or coarsely ground grains makes life much easier if you are grinding them using muscle power rather than electricity.

    Hangtown Frank

    1. Hangtown Frank: Could you post the entire recipe here? I’d really like to try it as it sounds pretty good. Is it just the post recipe using those three flours?
      Nice post and some interesting comments. I’ll have to try all of these!
      Thank you.

    1. Liil Ziesmann-Walter

      Actually, no, the original recipe above is a completely different idea. My family made these in the 70’s when we were living off the land for a few years (Prevention magazine published a similar recipe back then). Instead of boiling the corn meal into a soft mush and then cooling it (and frying or baking) you just pour in the hot water and let it cool until you can form it into cakes. Adding quite a bit of grease or oil keeps it from getting too hard when you bake it, my mom was anti-frying so we only ever baked them. The result isn’t the puffy texture of corn bread or the dense heaviness of fried corn mush (polenta) but much more crumbly and crispy. Like a crumbly biscuit or a sandy pancake. I love them, but they are a memory food for me and my family.

  11. I make something like this all the time. My mom made it all the time when I was growing up. We were kinda poor back then. My moms recipe is just a little different, but it is delicious!
    For every cup of cornmeal you use, add 1/3 cup flour, add salt (and a little black pepper if you like) to taste, and add boiling water to make dough. The water needs to be boiling to ‘cook’ it. Form into patties and fry in hot oil, preferably bacon grease, till browned on both sides. Goes great with just about anything you want to eat it with. We call it hot water cornbread.

  12. My Native American paternal grandmother made this all the time! Often called “hot water cornbread” or as she referred to it “dog bread!” She made it as an accompaniment to greens. She fried hers in super hot lard in a cast iron skillet. It’s crispy texture was delicious with vegetables.

  13. In the south especially GA and FL they make a version of this called hoe cakes because they used to bake them on the metal of a hoe in the fields. Served with most any southern meal. Sometimes with butter and molasses.

  14. We call it mush…fried in cast iron skillet and served with milk gravy over it with a side of bacon.. Good Kentucky eating.

  15. Hello,
    I love in Harlem, (NYC). My mother was from the south and used to call this “poor man’s cornbread”

  16. Ive eaten this for years. If you add just a bit of baking flour it makes it a little less dense. Like the previous posts mentioned, in the south its called Hoe Cakes, in the Caribbean its Johnny Cakes.

  17. In the lowlands of the Missisippi Delta we call this hot water cornbread. In the hills of East Tennessee my mother’s family called these corn dodgers or corn pones. If it is poured into a very hot skillet (greased or oiled, often with bacon drippings) it become corn bread. The addition of sugar, eggs and or milk instead of hot water came only when the family was prosperous, but most agreed it was better that way when made into a corn bread and provided more nutrition. The addition of onion or chives was common and sometimes crumbled bacon or sausage to the dodgers. Hushpuppies are very similar(usually with chopped onion, egg, milk now days) but were dropped by small spoonfuls into deeper hot grease/oil. The normal diet of poor rural southerners was beans, corn dodgers and pork fat meat or wild game along with whatever “greens” could be grown or scavenged. My great grand father’s favorite meal was barbecued possum, with corn dodgers, greens and sweet potatoes…

  18. Would not stay together to fry, what is the secret? Need a mush recipe that will slice after cooling in fridge. My Mom’s would slice and fry in a slice. I am 86 so this is not new to me. Thank you Gigi

    1. Gigi per your post I am not sure if you are asking for a recipe for Mush that can be sliced and fried, or if you have that to share. I grew up poor, and Fried Mush was always a favorite. Both my Parents made the Mush Recipe on the Box of Cornmeal, we ate that when cooked, but the remaining was packed into an oiled loaf pan, covered and chilled overnight or longer. Then de-panned, sliced thick enough to hold together for frying, dipped in flour, S&P and fried in of course Bacon Grease til crispy and hot. Served either at Breakfast with Eggs, etc, or at Dinner as a great side dish. Was always Delish.

  19. We used to have mush with raisins in it sometimes when I was a kid. Other times we had it with a bit of honey. I look forward to trying it with savoury add ins.

  20. Both my Grandmothers made this same recipe, but they had two different names for it. My maternal Grandmother from the Arkansas River Valley area around Russellville called it Dog Bread because they would feed it to the dogs when they had nothing else to feed them. My paternal Grandmother from South Arkansas near the Louisiana border called it Hot Water Bread.

  21. This does remind me of a process that the Tibetans use to make a dumpling called tsampa. You toast the grain, in their case it’s barley, then grind it into flour. To consume it you mix the flour with tea. That’s it. As the grain has already been gelatinized it’s just ready to eat. While not the most appealing, I appreciate the rugged simplicity.

  22. I just came across this recipe and God Bless you for it. I did not grow up poor, we had 3 servants in Memphis TN and after the Polio epidemic, a crippled 13 yr. old sister in an iron lung. Our family of 5 children was Immensely blessed. Friends Begged to eat dinner with us. Not a single thing was packaged and Delia, our cook and my best comfort, taught me to do everything in the kitchen, as well as my mother. This was what we longed for, corn pones! This is so simple and the best recipe I have found on the searches since I lost my mother’s version in her cookbook I inherited. I am now 73 years old, and I still make homemade sourdough bread, mango chutney, homemade ketsup, sweet pickles, and marinated vegs. for New Year’s Eve get-togethers at our house. I learned to grow vegetables and have a garden full of carrots, turnip greens, beets, berries, radishes, and ad. infinitum! Maybe this horrid viral “epidemic” that has people so shut up might just begin to wake people up to cooking real food for real people, real families, and growing their own real nutrition in their back yards as well.

  23. I grew up on corn pone, except we called it fried cornbread. I still eat it today. A lot of the Depression foods I grew up on, but didn’t know it was Depression foods. My favorite of all times is a Good Ole Tomato Sandwich especially with a tomato out of the garden. It’s a southern favorite today! Very interesting article!

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