Appetizer Lunch Salad Side Dish Summer Tomatoes Vegetarian

Grilled Cornbread Panzanella




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My Cornbread Panzanella is buttery grilled cornbread meets juicy tomatoes, red onion, and basil for a fresh take on the classic Italian tomato bread salad!

A plate of cornbread panzanella on a white surface with a plaid linen towel and white bowls and forks.

Every tomato lover should have a great panzanella salad recipe up their sleeve

This cornbread and tomato salad is the epitome of late summer eating it’s meant to celebrate the glories of ripe juicy tomatoes.  The combination of just a few special ingredients really works well here. The slightly sweet cornbread plays beautifully with the acidity of the tomatoes and the slight sharpness of basil and red onion. It’s my new favorite summer lunch!

Mixing cornbread panzanella ingredients in a stainless steel mixing bowl with a white spatula.

How to use cornbread in panzanella salad

Traditional Italian panzanella is made with wheat bread that’s gone a bit stale. It soaks up the juices from the tomatoes, softening without getting mushy. I use day old or leftover cornbread, which slices into neat chunks.

Grilling the cornbread cubes for a couple of minutes in butter on the stovetop gives it great flavor and a crisp exterior that helps keep its structure in your salad.

I used a whole batch of cornbread in this recipe for a hearty salad that can easily serve as a main course for lunch. But adjust the amount of bread to what you have on hand, or how carb-y you want your salad to be.

A bowl of cornbread panzanella with a fork on a plaid linen towel.

Tips for assembling a great panzanella salad ~

Whatever recipe you’re using, there are a few rules to keep in mind…

  • Your salad will only be as good as your tomatoes. Don’t make this recipe unless you have fabulous specimens. (If you’re reading this in the middle of winter, do yourself a favor and head on over to my Spicy Citrus Salad with Black Olives.)

 

  • Don’t make this salad ahead of time.  Tomatoes deteriorate once cut, and shouldn’t be kept in the refrigerator. You can, however, make the croutons well ahead.

 

  • Add your bread to the rest of your salad ingredients right before serving. The bread will begin to soak up the juice immediately, and you don’t want it getting soggy before your first bite.

 

  • You might consider adding the cornbread croutons to each serving individually.  This is especially helpful if you know you’ll have leftovers and don’t want soggy bread.

 

  • This recipe still benefits from a very simple oil-and-vinegar dressing to help everything come together. I used apple cider vinegar, but feel free to substitute any vinegar you like.

A platter of cornbread panzanella with a serving spoon and two white bowls of panzanella with forks.

The cornbread recipe I’ve provided here is simple and lightly sweet

but feel free to use whatever leftover bread you love ~ maybe you’d prefer a zesty honey jalapeño cornbread for your croutons, just cube and grill them up, they’d add a whole new flavor profile to your bread salad.

Pieces of honey jalapeño cornbread stacked in a pan

I’ve kept things simple, but you could add shavings of sharp Parmesan, or fresh mozzarella.

  • I think my basil marinated mozzarella balls would be amazing tucked into this salad.
  • Cucumber goes especially well with tomatoes, so they’d be right at home in a panzanella.  Check out my Middle Eastern tomato and cucumber salad for inspiration.
  • There’s no reason you couldn’t add some leafy greens in as well.
  • And if you’re feeling like you’ve just gotta have a little more protein, why not not ribbons of salami? Or prosciutto?  Or bacon? Or tuna?

overhead photo of basil marinated mozzarella on white surface

Once the bread hits the salad, enjoy asap, there’s no turning back!

Close up side view of a white platter of cornbread panzanella with a stainless steel serving spoon.

More tomato salads ~

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5 from 3 votes

Cornbread Panzanella

Summer Cornbread Panzanella ~ buttery grilled cornbread meets juicy tomatoes in this fresh take on a classic Italian bread salad!
Course Appetizer, lunch
Cuisine Italian
Yield 4 servings for lunch

Ingredients

Simple honey cornbread

  • 4 Tbsp butter, melted
  • 1 cup milk or buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Salad

  • 1 batch honey cornbread, cooled and cut into large cubes
  • 2 Tbsp butter, for frying
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 3-4 medium to large tomatoes, cut into large wedges or diced
  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved or whole
  • 1 handful basil leaves, sliced

Dressing

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar (or use whatever kind of vinegar you like)
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

Honey cornbread

  • Preheat oven to 350F and butter a 10 inch cast iron skillet.
  • Whisk together the melted butter, milk, honey and eggs. Then whisk in the baking powder and salt. Finally, fold in the flour and cornmeal and mix until everything is well combined.
  • Pour the batter into your prepared skillet, and bake for 35-40 minutes until risen and golden brown on top.
  • Allow the cornbread to cool completely (overnight in the fridge is fine) before cutting into cubes to make the salad.

Panzanella salad

  • Heat the butter in a cast iron or non-stick skillet over medium heat, and when it's hot, add the cornbread cubes, a few at a time, and allow them to get browned on all sides. Set aside.
  • Whisk together the dressing ingredients.
  • In a large mixing bowl, toss the tomatoes with the red onion, basil, and about half of the dressing.
  • Gently fold in the cornbread just before serving. Add more dressing if desired, to taste.

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7 Comments

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  • Reply
    Sarah
    August 30, 2020 at 9:26 pm

    5 stars
    Gotta make this for dinner!

  • Reply
    Terri
    August 21, 2020 at 6:28 pm

    Made this for dinner. Big hit! Great idea. Thanks!

  • Reply
    Jean | DelightfulRepast.com
    August 20, 2020 at 11:47 am

    Sue, what a gorgeous dish of food! Wouldn’t have thought to use cornbread in a panzanella, but it sounds wonderful. Love the “Once the bread hits the salad” line!

  • Reply
    Susan
    August 19, 2020 at 10:39 am

    The use of grilled corn bread for the salad was an exceptionally good idea! Can’t wait to try it.

  • Reply
    desiree northend
    August 19, 2020 at 8:31 am

    Sounds wonderful! Can’t wait to try it.

  • Reply
    Cindy
    August 19, 2020 at 6:55 am

    Hi Sue! This recipe looks amazing! I’m wondering if I could substitute sugar for the honey in the cornbread recipe. I wouldn’t use a half cup but maybe a quarter cup?

    • Reply
      Sue
      August 19, 2020 at 7:02 am

      Sure, you could do that, one quarter cup would be a little less sweet, you could add up to 1/2 cup.