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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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?
Once the bread hits the salad, enjoy asap, there’s no turning back!
More tomato salads ~
- Steak and Tomato Salad with A.1. Vinaigrette
- Basil Salad with Heirloom Tomatoes
- Summer Tomato and Tuna Salad
- Tomato Caprese Salad with Kalamata Olive Vinaigrette
- Persian Cucumber and Tomato Salad
- 4 Tbsp butter, melted
- 1 cup milk, or buttermilk
- 1/2 cup honey
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup yellow cornmeal
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1 Tbsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 batch honey cornbread, cooled and cut into large cubes
- 2 Tbsp butter, for frying
- 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
- 3-4 large tomatoes, cut into bite-sized wedges
- 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved or whole
- 10 basil leaves, sliced
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar, or other vinegar
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Preheat oven to 350°F and butter a 10-inch cast iron skillet.
- In a medium mixing bowl, 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.
- Heat the butter in a cast iron or non-stick skillet over medium heat. 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.
Questions and Reviews
Gotta make this for dinner!
Made this for dinner. Big hit! Great idea. Thanks!
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!
The use of grilled corn bread for the salad was an exceptionally good idea! Can’t wait to try it.
Sounds wonderful! Can’t wait to try it.
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?
Sure, you could do that, one quarter cup would be a little less sweet, you could add up to 1/2 cup.