Somewhere South with Chef Vivian Howard

Sam Jones’ Cornbread

Photo by Denny Culbert

Photo by Denny Culbert

Much like the man himself, Sam Jones’ cornbread recipe is bold and unique. The addition of lard and a definitive dose of sugar set this recipe apart and satisfies those who prefer their cornbread dense and sweet.

Reprinted with permission from “Whole Hog BBQ” by Sam Jones & Daniel Vaughn, copyright © 2019. Photographs by Denny Culbert. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Penguin Random House, Inc.


  • 3 cups white cornmeal
  • 2 ½ tablespoons hushpuppy mix
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 ¼ cups water
  • ¾ cup lard or bacon grease


Step 1: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, stir the cornmeal, hushpuppy mix, and salt together. Add the water slowly while mixing and combine thoroughly. The goal is a batter that’s the consistency of a thin pancake batter. Add more water if necessary to achieve this.

Step 2: In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the lard. Pour it into a 9 by 13-inch pan, coating the bottom and sides, but do not pour off the remaining lard! Pour in the batter. The fat will come up around all the edges. It might look wrong, but that’s the goal.

Bake for 35 minutes, until the cornbread is golden brown on top. Be careful of the hot liquid fat in the pan when pulling it from the oven. Serve immediately or within the hour. If you keep this overnight, you could probably use it to shingle a house. I don’t recommend it.

Yield: 12 servings