Sliced cornbread in skillet

There’s nothing quite like the taste of homemade cornbread — steaming hot, fresh out of the oven, and topped with butter and maybe a little honey. It makes the perfect accompaniment to chili, stew, or any kind of barbecue, and you can even use it as a topping on casseroles or as the bread for a crumbly, hot sandwich. But there’s no denying that it’s a whole lot easier to pull a box of cornbread mix out of your pantry and throw it in the oven in about two minutes flat than putting the effort into making a batch from scratch.

That said, just because you’re using a box of mix to make your cornbread doesn’t mean you have to settle for a dry or flavorless side dish. There are lots of easy ways to jazz up your boxed mix in just a few minutes to turn your easy cornbread into a "just like homemade" masterpiece (and you don’t even have to have lots of extra ingredients on-hand). Try one of these simple hacks to make boxed cornbread mix taste homemade.

Add sour cream or buttermilk to boxed cornbread

sour cream in refrigerator

Cornbread mix often turns out a little drier than you might like. That’s why it’s a good idea to look for substitutions or add-ins that amp up the moisture while also giving the mix a little extra flavor. One simple solution according to Amy of the Accidental Happy Baker is to add sour cream to the mix. The sour cream increases the moisture in the mix while giving the bread an acidic edge, too. Amy also adds a few tablespoons of honey to her "homemade" cornbread to give it a sweet lift to balance out the tang of sour cream.

All-in-all, that’s just two extra ingredients needed to turn a boxed mix into the type of side dish your kids will beg for. Plus, you likely already have them on hand, so there’s no special shopping trip required. Sour cream is also a potentially great brownie add-in, so keeping it in the fridge is a good idea all-around.

Another easy option for added moisture and tartness is to add buttermilk to the mix. That tip was shared by chef and restaurateur Kelly Fields in her cookbook, The Good Book of Southern Baking, so it’s even got some culinary cred (via Epicurious). If you’re using Jiffy’s boxed corn muffin mix as a starter, just 2/3 cup will do the trick.

Give boxed cornbread a homemade feel with added corn

cornbread cake and cobbed corn

It should come as no great surprise that cornbread is made from, wait for it… corn. So what better way to give a boxed cornbread mix that homemade feeling than by adding actual corn to the mix? In chef Kelly Fields’ book on southern baking, she suggests adding a cup of corn kernels (fresh being best) to cornbread batter (via Epicurious).

There are a couple of complications to this step. The problem, of course, is that you’re less likely to have fresh corn just sitting around the house. Plus, if you want fresh corn kernels, you have to cook the actual corn first, which adds prep time that you may not be up for. The solution, according to Fields, is to strain an 8-ounce can of creamed corn and stir it into the batter, then add an extra egg. The end result is a more flavorful and moist cornbread with the added texture of the corn kernels. Plus, guests aren’t going to assume you used a boxed mix if they find actual kernels in their bread. You never have to admit your secret!

Throw in a little extra milk

cornbread slices and milk

Most boxed cornbread mixes, like Jiffy mix, call for nothing more than adding milk and eggs to the dry ingredients before putting it into a pan and sliding it all into the oven. So when all you have at home are the ingredients required (hey, sometimes getting to the grocery store isn’t a priority at the moment), an article on Wonder How To by Vanessa Middleton suggests another easy way to make your cornbread a little more moist and dense — just use a little extra milk.

When using the Jiffy mix, which requires two boxes to make a nine-by-nine-inch pan of cornbread, Middleton says that you can simply add 1/8-cup extra of milk (on top of what’s already required per the box instructions). This solution may not give your boxed-mix cornbread a complete and total makeover, but, hey, when you don’t have extras on hand, even a little tweak such as this hack can make all the difference between so-so cornbread and a really tasty side dish.

Make boxed cornbread sweeter with sugar or honey

cornbread with butter and honey

Sweet cornbread is a favorite in the world of Southern comfort foods. Though, as Garden & Gun notes, not everyone agrees that sugar has a place in cornbread. While you’re deciding, try a sweet cornbread variation to help make up your mind. You may be convinced. Not only does sweeter cornbread make a delicious pairing with more savory, meaty flavors, it’s also fun to eat the leftovers for breakfast in place of biscuits or pancakes. Most boxed cornbread mixes aren’t overly sweet, so an easy way to "make it yours," so to speak, is to add a little bit of your favorite sweetener to the boxed mix.

Lifestyle blogger Denay from Confetti & Bliss adds five tablespoons of granulated sugar to her Jiffy boxed mix recipe, although she clarifies that, given the sour cream she also adds to the mix, the sugar is really there to offset the additional tangy flavor. That said, she suggests adding one extra tablespoon of sugar if what you’re looking for is a more classically Southern sweet side. If you’re not adding sour cream, then feel free to experiment with the ratios. Maybe add a couple of tablespoons the first time you give it a go, like blogger Julie Pollitt from Back to My Southern Roots does. Given how affordable and accessible most boxed cornbread mixes are, you’ll have room to play around and find your own favorite version.

Give boxed cornbread a kick with jalapeños

cornbread muffins with jalapenos

Spicy cornbread isn’t a fan-favorite everywhere, but for some people, cornbread isn’t really cornbread if it doesn’t come with an extra kick of heat. And throwing a few jalapeños into the mix is a surefire way to give your boxed-mix bread the color, flavor, and spice it needs to trick practically anyone into thinking it’s homemade.

In an Epicurious cookbook review of Chef Kelly Fields’ favorite boxed cornbread mix hacks, Fields suggests adding a cup of roasted, chopped jalapeños to the batter before baking. Or if you prefer, you can skip mixing the jalapeños into the batter, and instead layer rounds of sliced jalapeños on the top of the batter after you’ve poured it into your pan.

Fields also says that, if you like spicy cornbread but you don’t have (or don’t particularly like) jalapeños, you can try mixing in a teaspoon of crushed red pepper or cayenne into the batter to achieve the same result. Of course, you can always add more or less, depending on how much heat you and your fellow diners can handle.

Add breakfast meats to cornbread mix

plate of cooked bacon

You probably already know that cornbread makes the perfect side for all sorts of meats. Eating steak? Serve it with a side of cornbread. Whipping up a batch of chili? Pop some cornbread in the oven as a pairing. This sweet-savory side is often just right for savory entrees.

So if cornbread makes the perfect accompaniment for your favorite meaty meal, then what’s stopping you from turning the rules on their head and making meat the perfect accompaniment for your boxed cornbread mix? Unpeeled suggests folding in the equivalent of four to six slices of crumbled bacon or breakfast sausage to your cornbread mix before popping it into the oven. Of course, there’s nothing stopping you from getting creative and adding ham, Canadian bacon, or a meat lover’s version packed with a bit of everything. You can even use bacon drippings as the mix’s fat.

And while you’re at it, you could throw in peppers and onions to turn your cornbread into a sort of breakfast casserole. Sure, you can still serve it as a side with your favorite dish, or you can enjoy a slice or two of this fortified cornbread for an easily transportable breakfast the next time you’re in a rush out the door in the morning.

Replace the dairy in your boxed cornbread mix

ingredients to make cornbread

Alright, so just because most boxed cornbread mixes call for adding milk, you may discover that the instructions on the box aren’t entirely worth following. It’s completely possible to switch up the added ingredients, for one, including even the dairy. Consider deleting the milk and instead add other items in your quest for boxed cornbread greatness. For instance, Denay, the lifestyle blogger at Confetti & Bliss, explains that she doesn’t need milk at all. In her version of a boxed cornbread mix hack, she uses eggs, melted butter, and sour cream instead. These other items provide the moisture that would normally be provided by milk. "Using milk would thin out the batter!" she says.

So if you start kicking around in the kitchen with her recipe, another recipe you find online, or you just start experimenting on your own, remember that your batter only needs so much moisture. If you’re adding honey, oil, sour cream, or butter, you may want to eliminate or cut back on the added milk. If you’re familiar with the consistency of the standard mixed batter, then simply pay attention to your modified recipe. When your mix achieves a similar consistency to other batters, stop adding ingredients. Yes, even if that means skipping the milk.

Don’t shy away from added butter

plate of butter

Standard boxed cornbread mix doesn’t typically call for added fats, like oils or butter. But, if you’ve ever eaten homemade cornbread, you know it typically has a melt-in-your-mouth consistency that might also leave you licking your fingers to remove excess oils. There’s no denying that adding butter or oils to bread helps add extra flavor (and moisture), so go ahead and cut your mix with your favorite fat. And the thing is, you don’t need to be shy about it, either. A recipe created by Mansa Queen and tested by DIY Joy adds a whopping seven tablespoons of melted butter to a Jiffy boxed cornbread mix. It also adds sugar, buttermilk, and an extra egg to get the ultimate "homemade" cornbread flavor.

Of course, if you don’t have butter on hand, you can try vegetable oil, or even alternatives like olive, avocado, or coconut oil. However, it’s important to remember that different types of oils can alter the taste of the finished product. The point is, if you’re looking for a slightly crisp outer crust with a buttery, moist flavor, you should really consider adding some type of fat to your boxed mix before baking it.

Don’t forget the cheese for cornbread mix

pile of shredded cheese

Adding cheese to your boxed cornbread mix is another great way to amp up the fats and flavors in your bread. And just think about the typical entrees that cornbread is paired with — chilis, stews, and soups — which are all often made better topped with a little cheese. So why not add the cheese to the bread, too, further matching the pairings and creating a perfect meal?

Food blogger Jill Nystul of One Good Thing uses cheddar cheese and Jiffy cornbread mix to create a cheesy corn casserole, but don’t stop there. Even just adding shredded cheddar to the standard mix will create a fun twist to your boxed cornbread. Plus, the fats in the cheese will help give the bread more moisture without any other ingredients added.

Cheddar cheese is probably the most typical addition to cornbread, but there’s nothing stopping you from experimenting with other options like pepper jack (which would pair perfectly with added jalapeños, too!) or gouda.

Make boxed cornbread mix into muffins

cornbread muffins and crumbles

Okay, so using a muffin mold to bake your cornbread won’t automatically turn it from "boxed mix" to "homemade," but there’s something quintessentially cute about bread baked in muffin tins, which certainly makes the result feel more special. And then, of course, you can jazz up your Jiffy mix (or other cornbread mixes) however you please with added ingredients or other hacks. For instance, a recipe on The Un-Snooty Foodie suggests adding butter, cheddar or Colby jack cheese, garlic powder, chopped chives, and seasoned salt to the mix to really kick up the personalization.

Individual muffins are also an excellent way to "cheat" your way into looking like an at-home chef by adding some sort of garnish to the top of each individual muffin. For instance, you could deck out the tops of your muffins with a jalapeño slice, a few crumbles of bacon, a slice of your favorite fruit, or even just a sprig of fresh herbs like thyme. Even if you don’t add a thing to the actual batter, the individual muffins topped with a garnish will do wonders for the presentation.

Turn boxed mix into corndog bites

cornbread muffin with hot dog

When you’re looking for a kid-friendly option in a package that’s appealing to adults, too, why not turn your cornbread muffins into corndogs? Really, a corndog is just a hotdog encased with a cornbread crust, so serving cornbread muffins with a piece of hotdog inside is practically the same thing. Not to mention, it’s super easy to do, even if you’re strapped for time.

Food blogger Jill Nystul of One Good Thing simply uses the standard Jiffy cornbread mix, which makes about six large muffins. She follows the recipe on the box, but with one addition — she adds a third of a slice of hot dog into each muffin before popping the tin in the oven. The recipe is easy to double, triple, or even quadruple if you’re serving a crowd, so they make a great option for birthday parties, summer barbecues, or, as Nystul suggests, just an easy after-school snack.

Try seasonally-inspired add-ins for boxed cornbread

cornbread slice with blueberries

Most people think of cornbread as a savory side dish, but, given that it goes so well with honey, it makes sense that jazzing it up with other sweet additions would work equally well. The suggestions for sweeter cornbread from Chef Kelly Fields, as detailed on Epicurious, would make particularly good additions to a breakfast meeting or a brunch potluck with friends. For instance, you can add citrus zest and lemon or lime juice to the batter for a summery twist — just remember to balance out the sour flavor with added honey or sugar. Or, you can throw berries into the pan before you add the batter.

And if it’s pumpkin spice season, there’s no reason to keep this holiday flair out of your cornbread. Fields suggests adding ground cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and cardamom to the batter along with a can of pumpkin puree for an autumnal take on boxed cornbread mix. The end result will be drastically different from your typical cornbread, yes, but it might just turn into a family favorite.

Load boxed cornbread mix up with all the extras

cornbread muffins and jalapenos

If you’re thinking of all the ways you can amp up your cornbread mix and you can’t decide on just one, the reality is that you simply don’t have to choose. There are so many different combinations of add-ins and spices that work well together in cornbread and beyond, so you can experiment to your heart’s content. For instance, why not add apple slices and cheddar for a sweet and savory option? Or mix in jalapeños and bacon into the same pan of cornbread. For veggie lovers out there, you can add mushrooms, peppers, onions, and spinach, along with your favorite cheeses, and top it all with spices like rosemary or garlic. Ultimately, remember that you’re limited only by your own imagination and whatever’s currently stocked in your fridge and pantry.

The Un-Snooty Foodie offers up the perfect example of someone adding "everything but the kitchen sink" to basic Jiffy cornbread mix, opting for cheese, butter, seasonings, and chives for a well-rounded (and still easy to assemble) recipe. And, of course, remember that the more personalized you make your mix, the more "homemade" your cornbread will taste.

Add extra time to cook your boxed cornbread mix

skillet cornbread with butter

Of course, it’s pretty important to remember that, when you’re adding lots of extras to a boxed cornbread mix, the items you’ve been adding in could very well affect the suggested cooking time, as these additions may change the consistency of the batter. According to writer Vanessa Middleton on Wonder How To, making boxed mix taste great is as much about getting the cooking time right as it is about the ingredients. First, she says you need to make sure you pre-heat your oven before combining your ingredients or starting to bake your cornbread. That’s because the pre-heat process can affect cooking time if you put your batter in the oven before it’s at the right temperature.

Once the oven is at the right temperature, start with the time listed on the box. But, if you’ve been hacking your boxed cornbread mix, it’s usually safe to assume that you’ll need a few extra minutes to bake the cornbread correctly due to added ingredients. How to tell when it’s ready? Some surefire signs that your side dish is done are if you see that the outer edges are browning and somewhat crisp. If you prick the center of the baking cornbread with a fork, the fork should come out clean and without any crumbs clinging to the tines. It’s also a good idea to keep an eye on the cornbread towards the end to keep it from overbaking.