Vidalia Onion Cornbread is a summer blockbuster! It’s the cornbread version of upside down cake, baked in a cast iron skillet and then flipped over to reveal a layer of sweet Vidalia onions. Everyone will want seconds of this moist Southern style buttermilk cornbread.
This upside down skillet cornbread is pretty epic, if I do say so myself. I’m proud to add this savory onion version to my growing cornbread recipe collection. If you haven’t seen the others, definitely take a look ~
This Southern style cornbread recipe results in a really nice coarse, moist crumb
It’s a pleasure to eat: not too crumbly, not too cakey. The addition of onion salt (or onion powder, you can use either) gives it an unexpected punch of onion flavor which I love. Despite the sweet Vidalias, this cornbread is not sweet at all, it’s savory through and through. But if you crave a sweet ‘Yankee style’ cornbread, you could add some sugar to the batter if you like.
I think buttermilk is key to this recipe
I don’t suggest skipping it. I always keep a quart in my fridge. If you haven’t used it before you’ll find it with the regular milk in your supermarket, but sometimes it can take a little hunting, it’s usually tucked away on a top or bottom shelf. It’s thick, rich, and full of flavor but surprisingly low in fat.
How to make your own buttermilk in a pinch
Mix lemon juice or vinegar into whole milk for an easy buttermilk substitute: for every cup of milk add a tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar, give it a stir, and let sit on the counter for 10 or 15 minutes. Use as you would buttermilk in recipes.
What makes Vidalia onions so different?
- Vidalias are a sweet variety of onion originally grown in the small town of Vidalia, Georgia. They were accidentally discovered by a farmer in the 1930s, and today there are 20 counties entitled to use the name Vidalia on their onions.
- Vidalias are sweet and mild because the soil they’re grown in is unusually low in sulfur. They’re so sweet that you can actually bite into them like an apple!
- Vidalia onions have a unique squat shape and layers of loose, papery skin.
- Vidalias are in season from April through August.
- You can eat Vidalia onions cooked, or raw. A few of my favorite ways to use them in summer are to quick pickle them, make up a simple relish for brats, or a Sweet Vidalia Onion Slaw.
Dos and Don’ts of Vidalia Onions
- Don’t store Vidalias with potatoes, that can lead to early spoilage.
- Store them in a cool dry place, but avoid piling them on top of each other.
- Vidalias, as opposed to regular onions, can be stored in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. They can last up to 2 months there. Vidaliaonions.org advises to “wrap each bulb individually in paper towels to help absorb moisture and place them in the crisper with vents closed. Many will keep for months!” This means you can enjoy my Sweet Vidalia Onion Dip during the holidays 🙂
Shopping list for Vidalia onion cornbread
- yellow cornmeal ~ I used Quaker for this recipe and loved the bright yellow color. You can use stone ground, or even white cornmeal if you prefer.
- buttermilk ~ look for it in the dairy aisle, every supermarket carries it. It gives this cornbread its distinctive flavor and crumb.
- Vidalia onions ~ look for them from April through August in the produce aisle. They’ll be labeled for sure, so read the signs. If you can’t find them, use a generic ‘sweet onion’, they’ll be right next to the regular yellow, red, and white onions.
- Onion salt or onion powder ~ this gives the cornbread a really nice savory kick.
- Sharp cheddar cheese ~ as long as there’s been cornbread, somebody’s been putting cheese in it, because it gives such an extra punch of flavor! You can use any firm sharp cheese you like, Gruyere works well, too.
pantry staples: vegetable oil, butter, flour, salt, baking powder, eggs
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Vidalia Onion Cornbread
- 10 inch cast iron skillet
- 2 Tbsp olive oil, or other vegetable oil. *See Notes
- 1 large (or 2 medium) Vidalia onions, peeled and sliced into 1/4 inch thick rounds. *See Notes
- 2 cups yellow cornmeal
- 1 cup flour
- 1 Tbsp baking powder
- 1 tsp onion salt, or powder (increase the salt if you use this)
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 cup packed shredded cheddar cheese, or other cheese, such as Gruyere
- 2 large eggs
- 2 1/2 cups buttermilk
- 6 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
- Preheat oven to 425°F.
- Add the oil to your skillet and heat on medium high heat. Arrange the onion slices in a single layer over the bottom of the skillet, adjusting the slices to fill as much of the surface as possible. Cook the onions, without moving them, for about 8 minutes, or until they are starting to soften and turn golden on the bottom (take care not to let it burn.) Remove from the heat.
- Whisk together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder and salts in a large mixing bowl. Blend in the cheese.
- In a separate bowl whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, and melted butter, mixing well to break up the eggs.
- Add the wet mixture to the dry, and mix just until completely combined and there are no dry streaks left (don't over beat.) Pour the batter into the skillet, over the onions. Bake for about 27 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out without wet batter on it; wet crumbs are fine.
- Let the skillet cool for 10 minutes, then run a blunt knife around the edges to loosen, and carefully invert onto a cooling rack. If any onions remain stuck to the pan, gently loosen them with an offset spatula and tuck them back into the top of the cornbread. Slice into wedges and serve with butter or honey.
- Butter or bacon grease will also work, but will result in a browner top.
- You can use any type of sweet onion if you can’t find Vidalia.