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.
While many restored mills now serve as tourist attractions, a very small number, such as the Plimoth Gristmill built in 1636, are still operating. Read more about the history of gristmills.
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
Check out more of my easy breakfast recipes and the favorite family recipes here on CopyKat!
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.
We had cornmeal mush when I was a kid but never fried. Instead of frying it, ate it as a cereal, served with milk, sugar, etc. We loved it.
Arg!! Because of the many many ads popping up I had to screenshot the recipe! With that said, this was a delicious treat, my family and I thank you so very much 😁
Am going to try the mush.
I’m a native Yankee so, tho I’ve heard of cornmeal mush, I’ve never tried it. Am definitely going to make it for my AL husband.
For verification, scrapple is made from all kinds of the pig nobody wants to know about (sorta like what’s in hot dogs!).
I’ve always believed it originated with the PA Dutch people who lived in/around Lancaster, PA., not far from where I grew up.
It’s mixed with pork stock & yellow corn meal, some salt & some spices I don’t know about.
It’s shaped into an oblong loaf.
Refrigerate or freeze then defrost to fry until brown on both sides.
I use a cast iron skillet.
Grandma Schultz made this for us kids and it was my favorite breakfast. She sliced the corn meal thin and fried it in butter from her own cows. Nothing better for breakfast. Sausage gravy over all was the final touch. I can remember snatching hot crispy slices from her skillet, unable to wait for the gravy. Yum!
I have an elderly fellow friend that would like to have mush, but he told me that when his mother made it she made it in patties. Is this different than what is suggested with the pan choice? Is there a different recipe or would I use the same recipe for patties. I have never made but would like to surprise him with some. Any suggestions would greatly be appreciated. Thanks.
You could make it any way you like, but the key is allowing the mush to cool and to become solid.
My grandmother would add cooked, long strips of chicken and lots of crushed red hot peppers. It was sliced and served cold. It was so heavenly!
How about gotta? Now served near Cincinnati at a small restaurant. Fried like mush. Yummy.
Goetta pronounced getta……it’s a mixture of sausage and cooked steel cut oats. Then you let it chill and cut it up like fried mush and fry in hot grease in aLindnual goetta festival. We went there and ate a ton of fried goetta…..it is DELISH!!!
I have eaten this since I was small. I make it for my family All the time. My husband had never had it. It is really good if you add a little bit of garlic powder and dried Italian seasons.. Its a great family favorite
I bet this is tasty if you add a little garlic powder.
Bless your heart! My mother made this when we were children and we had no idea we were poor as church mice because it was our absolute favorite! My brother loved it so much my mom was astonished because it saved her having to give us bacon or sausage on the weekends which was expensive for her. I’ve tried to make corneal mush but didn’t realize it had to cook as long as it does. So mine always stuck to the pan and fell apart. I cannot wait to try this!
Thank you for rekindling one of my fondest recipes.
Use a Teflon surface for frying. Bacon grease was used to add flavor.
My mother in law says you should flour the slices when frying. Holds shape better and crisper too.
My father would cook a ham bone in the water first.
Then put the finished mush in a loaf pan to set before
removing the loaf and freezing it.
A great breakfast or other meal when sliced, fried and
served with syrup
Oh bet that tastes delicious!
We boil up pork neckbonea, pick off the little bits of pork then refrigerate over night so we can take off the fat. Once you use bone broth for the liquid you won’t want to use water again. My depression era grandmother made milk pans of this for her hubs and 10 children, sliced then dipped in flour and pan fried .delicious!
Sounds very similar to what my family used to make.
did you happen to see triple d when guy “refussed” to eat “”polenta”” with syrup—it was a scream–btw great site
Thank you. People are interesting with their food preferences.
I fell in love with your website when I saw this recipe. I was immediately transported back to Mom’s kitchen. This was a mainstay for my Grandma who raised 13 children on a miner’s pension. Although it is thrifty it is delicious and one never felt poor when eating it.
My family did a version of this that they called scrapple, it had pork, onions, and some sage in it. We fried it just like this and ate it. Loved it.
My parents made “scrapple” with the left over meat of the turkey carcass from Thanksgiving. My favorite treat. I can’t replicate it for anything.
My family made something similar with pork.
How about gotta? Now served near Cincinnati at a small restaurant. Fried like mush. Yummy.
sp error. it’s Goetta, a breakfast meat, fried like mush.
Recipe found on internet. Google the word.
Scrapple and gotta seem to be one of the same. My family loves it!!
I tripled the batch for mush. Made about 2 loaf pans. Made the night before, fried it in the morning. Grandma and mother made both…. A poor man’s breakfast!
my mother boiled down pork neck bones with some onions & celery and then pulled the meat from them after they had cooled. This liquid was strained before adding any cornmeal, etc. to it. A little sage was added also. It took me several efforts years ago to realize that you had to boil this until it was stiff almost before putting it in a loaf pan. This makes me want to make some more right now.
So that sounds like something my family used to make, and we called it ponas. Some people call that scrapple as well. It was so tasty!