Thursday, June 23, 2022

Cornmeal Mush: Appalachian Staple to Struggle Recipe

If you are looking for a recipe that calls for like two basic staple ingredients, boy do I have the recipe for you!

When I was a teen, I had some major problems with my stomach.  I was later diagnosed with a stomach condition which explained my gut always giving me a hard time with what I ate, but when I was a teenager in public school, it got to me something fierce.  I woke up one morning, prepared to do my usual ritual of drinking a glass of milk or getting a piece of toast and preparing for my stomach to not be happy with my choice, when I walked into the kitchen and found my mom cooking.  My mom, being a person who hated mornings more than your average vampire, always staggered to the coffee pot after being harshly awakened by the alarm clock and then proceeded to glare at the world at large until after her second cup of morning ambition.  So, to see my mom awake at the early hours I had to be up to catch the school bus, let alone cooking, made me stand there with my mouth hanging open in shock a bit.  She looked up from the stove and motioned me to the table and said simply, "Sit down.  I made you something that my grandma used to make for me when my stomach gave me issues."  

I sat down at the table, wondering what she was making.  It didn't smell like anything I recognized, so I was curious to say the least.  After a few minutes she put down a plate in front of me and I studied it kind of baffled as to what it was.  On the plate there looked to be slices of pudding or custard that had been browned/fried on each side.  She put the maple syrup in front of me next and got me a fork.

"This is cornmeal mush," she said simply, "try it."

I, always a lover of anything that maple syrup was involved in, poured some maple syrup over the top of the slices and then sliced off a chunk with my fork and chewed it carefully.  I immediately fell in love.  The mixture tasted of cornmeal, was creamy in the middle (with a bit of grainy since it was cornmeal) and had a tasty crunch to the exterior.  I later found out that cornmeal mush was a staple of the Appalachians, especially among the poor coal miner crowds and I could understand why it was so popular.  Very cheap to make, filling and tasty.  How could you go wrong?

To this day, cornmeal  mush is still a favorite of mine.  I don't make it so much now that I'm married as my husband doesn't like it, but every once in a while I make it, especially during the winter months.

Ingredients couldn't be simpler.  You start with cornmeal and water.  That's it.  If you have salt, it definitely adds something to it the recipe to add some in.  You can make it sweeter by adding a few teaspoons of sugar.  You can even get crazy and add some ground sausage and things to the mix itself.  My mom would take a few pieces of bacon and crumble them over the top when she ate hers.  I have always liked mine with just maple syrup on top.  Go as crazy as you want with this, but if you are looking for a simple pantry recipe to make for breakfast, this is definitely a good one to try.

So, here you go folks.  One of the simplest recipes you'll find out there.  Just be careful in the thickening phase and be sure to stir it as you don't want to scorch it to the bottom of the pan!

Cornmeal Mush


  • 2 3/4 cup of water
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (to one tablespoon, depending how sweet you want it, or omit if you wish)
  • 3 TBS butter (or other frying oil of choice)
  • Maple syrup


1.  Coat  an 8x4" standard loaf pan with non-stick spray.  Set aside.

2.  In a saucepan, bring the 2 3/4 cups of water to a boil over medium heat.  Mix cornmeal with sugar and salt.  Add in 1 cup of cold water to the cornmeal and whisk well to combine.  Add mixture to the boiling water while stirring constantly to help keep the mixture smooth.   Cook mixture until thick.  Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for five minutes, stirring occasionally.

3.  Pour mixture into loaf pan, cool and then refrigerate, at least two hours, but preferably overnight.  

4.  When ready to prepare, invert loaf pan onto a cutting board.  Slice into preferred thickness (some like to go as thick as an inch, but I normally do about half of that as I like thinner slices).  Melt butter in a frying pan and add slices of mush.  Fry on both sides until as brown as you like it, if you like it golden brown it will take about 8 to 10 minutes on medium low heat.  I like to keep the temperature lower so that the pieces get nice and hot all the way through and then crisp up the outside at a higher temperature at the end, but that is personal preference.

5.  Serve with maple syrup drizzled over the top.  Honey works as well.  Can be served with typical breakfast fair such as bacon, sausage, or eggs.



  1. Good stuff and oh so easy to make. A great way to stretch a budget.

  2. I hope this goes through, Erika…
    I loved your tomato soup cake! My husband, too. This recipe has me intrigued. I’ve only had mush once and it wasn’t very good. It was loose like oatmea so i’ve never had it again. I was a kid at the time so it could just be bad memories not bad food. I’m going to give this a try. It sounds so much better this time around. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Yeah, you can eat mush as either fried, like here, or as a cornmeal porridge straight out of the pan. I don't like the porridge version. It just comes out like a cross between oatmeal and a really loose cream of wheat to me. I like my oatmeal where it still has some body to it and isn't a glumpy mess and I like cream of wheat so thick it's almost like thickened oatmeal, so the loose mush was a no-go for me. Fried, though, it changes it's form after being in the fridge overnight and gets solid and once you fry it and put maple syrup on it...I love it that way *laugh*. Give the fried version a try. It is definitely a different dish :).

  3. My dad was born and raised in Eastern Tennessee so I know fried mush and love it. I haven’t fixed it in years. Now I will have to. I love it crispy on the edges with a slab of fried ham on the side. I don’t like syrup on it - I just eat it as it comes from the cast iron skillet. Sooooo good! Thanks for sharing this. I’ve never come across anyone ever sharing this Appalachian treat.

  4. in this area they specify fried mush, polenta (mush with cheese and not fried) or porridge (just mush from the pot)

  5. That sounds brilliant. When I get cornmeal, I will give it a try.

  6. I have always wanted to try this and now's the time. Thanks for the recipe.