Fried Cornmeal mush is one of those old classic inexpensive breakfasts. If you have never tried this depression-era food staple, you have missed out on a dish that was served across the heartland of America years ago.
A recipe ahead of its time!
Are you looking for a breakfast menu item that is gluten-free, dairy-free, and egg-free? This may be a great option for you. While cornmeal mush has been associated with being a food of the poor when pan-fried cornmeal mush is a flavorful breakfast. This is a warm breakfast that will fill the bellies of your family.
Fried cornmeal mush has a crispy outside and is tender and moist inside. This can be topped with butter, fried in bacon grease, or even topped with maple syrup if you want to enjoy it sweet.
Thanks to my Grandmother for this Recipe
My recipe is from the archives of my grandmother, Ethel Eynard, who lived in Jefferson City, Missouri. I remember enjoying this tasty mush many times while I was growing up.
Nowadays, I love to make fried cornmeal mush, because it’s so nice and crispy on the outside. And, if you add a bit of salt, you get a fabulous salty crunch.
Fried cornmeal mush is hearty enough to have as a main dish for breakfast, or you can even serve it as a side dish for dinner.
History of Cornmeal Mush
The early American settlers learned how to make this mush from the Native American Indians who had been grinding corn for centuries for use in many kinds of dishes. Cornmeal mush became a staple breakfast and supper dish. It was served with butter, milk, or meat drippings.
Cornmeal became so popular that it was exported to the European mainland where it was adapted into local European cuisine to form a range of cheap peasant dishes. For instance, in Italy, it became known as polenta.
A Food to Feed Armies
During the Civil War, both the Confederate and the Union armies dined on large amounts of cornmeal mush as it was cheap and easy to cook. Mush with drippings evolved into today’s grits served with red-eye gravy or sausage gravy.
In fact, much of today’s Southern cuisine originated from recipes learned from the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Creek Native American tribes. Read more about the history of cornmeal in America.
Interested in grits? You can make some delicious homemade grits for breakfast.
Cornmeal: Perhaps America’s Most Traditional Food
The first American gristmill for grinding corn and grains was probably constructed in 1621 in present-day North Carolina. Just as in a community barn-raising, the local farmers would help a miller build a mill close to their farms. The miller received a small amount of the ground product which was called the “miller’s toll”.
The gristmills were also social centers where people would gather to catch up on the latest gossip while they waited for their corn and grains to be ground. The most recent issues of newspapers would be posted on the side of the mill, and children would swim or fish in the millpond.
By 1850, America’s countryside featured more than one hundred thousand gristmills. But, at the close of the 17th Century, the efficiency of steam was replacing water-powered mills. Today, less than one thousand gristmills remain.
Here’s a list of what you need:
- Yellow Cornmeal, Martha White recommended
- Vegetable oil for frying
How to Make Fried Cornmeal Mush
- Bring water to a boil over high heat.
- Combine cornmeal, cold water, salt, and sugar in a bowl.
- Gradually add the cornmeal mixture to the boiling water, stirring constantly.
- Cook the cornmeal until thick.
- Reduce heat, cover the pan, and cook for 5 more minutes, stirring frequently.
- Pour the cooked cornmeal into a loaf pan.
- Cool the cornmeal then refrigerate it for several hours or overnight.
- Remove the cornmeal from the loaf pan and cut it into slices.
- Heat oil in a skillet.
- Fry the cornmeal slices slowly in the hot oil until browned, turning them over once while frying.
Serve homemade fried mush hot with butter and syrup.
Looking for more ways to use cornmeal? Try these recipes!
- Blackeyed Pea Cornbread
- Boston Market Cornbread
- Homemade Hush Puppies
- Jalapeno Cornbread Muffins
- Mexican Cornbread with Jiffy Mix
- Southern Cornbread Dressing
- Sour Cream Cornbread
- Tippins Cornbread
Popular Breakfast Recipes
Fried Cornmeal Mush
- 2 3/4 cups water
- 1 cup yellow cornmeal Martha White recommended
- 1 cup cold water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- vegetable oil for frying
- Bring 2 3/4 cups water to a boil over high heat.
- Combine cornmeal, 1 cup cold water, salt, and sugar in a bowl.
- Gradually add the cornmeal mixture to the boiling water, constantly stirring while adding the mixture.
- Reduce heat to medium-high and cook the cornmeal until thick.
- Reduce heat to low and cover the pan.
- Cook 5 more minutes, stirring frequently.
- Pour cooked cornmeal into a loaf pan.
- Cool the cornmeal to room temperature then refrigerate it for several hours.
- Turn the cornmeal out of the loaf pan and cut it into 1-inch slices.
- Put just enough oil in a skillet to cover the bottom.
- Place the skillet over medium heat and heat the oil until hot. It will begin to shimmer. Do not let it get too hot or begin smoke.
- Fry the cornmeal slices slowly in the hot oil until browned on the bottom.
- Gently turn the slices over in the pan and fry them until browned on the bottom.
- Serve fried mush hot with butter and syrup.