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Sweet Vidalia Onion Cornbread




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Sweet Vidalia Cornbread on a bread board

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.  

Vidalia onion cornbread on a cutting board

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 ~

Honey Jalapeño Cornbread

Hatch Green Chile Cornbread

Blueberry Cornbread

Cheddar Kale Skillet Cornbread

Zucchini Cornbread

vidalia onion upside down cornbread

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.

 

Vidalia onion cornbread, turned out of the skillet

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.

Vidalia onions on a wooden table

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 🙂

Making upside down onion cornbread

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

slicing a piece of Vidalia onion upside down cornbread

 

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Taking a bite of Vidalia onion cornbread

Sweet Vidalia Cornbread on a bread board
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4.25 from 4 votes

Vidalia Onion Cornbread

Vidalia Onion Cornbread is baked in a cast iron skillet and then flipped upside down to reveal a layer of sweet Vidalia onions...everybody loves it!
Course bread
Cuisine American
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 27 minutes
Yield 10 servings

Equipment

  • 10 inch cast iron skillet

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil, or other vegetable oil. Butter or bacon grease will also work, but will result in a browner top.
  • 1 large or 2 medium Vidalia onions, peeled and sliced into 1/4 inch thick rounds. Note: you can use any type of sweet onion if you can't find Vidalias.
  • 2 cups yellow cornmeal
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp onion salt (you can also use onion powder, just increase the salt in the recipe)
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup packed shredded cheddar cheese (you can use other types of cheese such as Gruyere.)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 6 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 425F
  • 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.

Notes

*recipe adapted from Southern Cast Iron.

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8 Comments

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  • Reply
    Janet Franklin
    July 27, 2020 at 9:48 pm

    2 stars
    I made this recipe as directed and it looked wonderful. Despite being moist and not dry or crumbly, it simply had no taste. Maybe needs more salt, or spice? Cayenne, dash of hot sauce?would like to try again, looking for suggestions.

  • Reply
    Terry
    July 4, 2020 at 5:40 am

    What size pan is bes to use with this recipe?

    • Reply
      Sue
      July 4, 2020 at 6:46 am

      I use a 10 inch cast iron skillet, and you really need the full 10 inches because it’s a thick cornbread.

  • Reply
    Mary Ann Pollitt
    July 2, 2020 at 10:38 am

    This looks so yummy but I don’t have a cast iron skillet (wouldn’t use one much). Can you use a glass baking dish. I have round ones. What is the difference I would see.

    • Reply
      Sue
      July 2, 2020 at 2:48 pm

      I was just pondering this with another commenter, Mary Ann. If you did want to use a cake pan or glass baking dish you’d have to pre-cook the onions first, then arrange them at the bottom. Be sure your pan is large enough to hold the batter, too, it’s a lot. I’m just not sure about flipping the cornbread upside down if you use a glass baking dish. Might be worth experimenting, but I can’t guarantee it will work, sorry!

  • Reply
    pat
    July 2, 2020 at 9:41 am

    5 stars
    I live in the deep, deep south. No southern cornbread maker would bake cornbread in anything but a black iron skillet. Alway using Buttermilk. Bacon grease is used to fully cover the bottom of the pan well. Place that pan in your 425-degree oven to bring it all up to sizzling. Remove and pour batter into the hot sizzling grease in the pan then back in the oven to cook. The crust from the hot grease is what makes southern-style cornbread so fabulously delicious. It is served with fresh green spring onions on the side. A big bite of onion and a bite of cornbread. Your recipe sounds like a good short cut.

    • Reply
      Ileana
      July 2, 2020 at 1:35 pm

      What can I use instead of a cast iron skillet as I don’t own one?

      • Reply
        Sue
        July 2, 2020 at 2:46 pm

        It’s kind of tricky to use a different type of pan because you’ll be cooking the onions in the skillet first before pouring the batter in. Not sure how another type of pan would work.