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Mexican Corn Bread Recipe: A Hearty Main-Dish Casserole

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Mexican corn bread casserole smothered in pinto beans and fresh salsa.

Mexican corn bread casserole smothered in pinto beans and fresh salsa.

Mexican Corn Bread: A Handed-Down Family Recipe

This recipe came to me from my mother-in-law, who is now in her 80s. She has made this corn bread for decades in what I call the "old-fashioned way," measuring out cornmeal, flour, baking soda and other ingredients to make the batter, and using bacon drippings in the batter rather than vegetable oil or butter.

I've adapted the recipe for my own on-the-go lifestyle, substituting corn bread mix to throw it together more quickly, and melted butter rather than bacon drippings. I doubt butter is any healthier than bacon drippings, and honestly, bacon drippings gives the cornbread a wonderful flavor. However, I rarely fry bacon these days and so the little jam jar I keep in the refrigerator for bacon drippings is nearly always empty. I love the flavor and texture butter provides; a healthier option would be to substitute olive oil. See the recipe notes at the bottom of this article for more tips and suggestions.

This recipe is a favorite of my husband's. My kids learned to love it as well, once they grew past that age when kids typically refuse any food with too many ingredients mixed together in the same dish. Serve it up with salad and pinto beans on the side, and garnish with your favorite salsa or a dollop of sour cream, if desired.

Ingredients

  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 large bell pepper, diced
  • 1 pound extra-lean ground beef
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 packets Betty Crocker corn bread mix (or your preferred brand)
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 and 1/3 cups milk
  • 1 can cream-style corn
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1 pound sharp cheddar cheese, grated

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degreens F. Coat the inside of a 9x13-inch baking pan with cooking spray.
  2. Saute the onion, bell pepper and ground beef in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook until the ground beef is browned and the vegetables are tender.
  3. Season the meat mixture with chili powder, ground cumin, salt and pepper. Add more seasonings to taste, if desired. Mix seasonings in well, turn off the stove burner and set the meat mixture aside.
  4. In a mixing bowl, combine corn bread mix, eggs, milk, melted butter and creamed corn. Stir until mixed but do not over-stir as this will result in tough corn bread.
  5. Pour a little less than half the corn bread batter into the greased (sprayed) baking pan. Spread the batter evenly across the pan.
  6. Layer the meat mixture evenly in the pan, on top of the corn bread batter.
  7. Sprinkle cheese evenly over the meat mixture.
  8. Top with remaining corn bread batter, spreading with a spoon or rubber spatula as you go to ensure that the entire top is covered in batter. If some of the grated cheese bits get mixed in with the batter, that is fine.
  9. Bake in the preheated oven for 40 minutes or until top of corn bread is golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to sit about 10 minutes before serving.

Recipe Notes, Tips and Serving Ideas

If cooking for two or for people with smaller appetites, you can halve the ingredients and assemble this casserole in a square 9x9 baking dish. Reduce baking time 30 minutes. As ovens vary, check for doneness after 30 minutes; allow more time if necessary, baking until the top is golden brown.

Another option when making a 9x9 pan of Mexican corn bread is halving all ingredients except the meat, onion, bell pepper and spices. I like to prepare and cook the full amount of the meat mixture as described in the ingredients and instructions above, but use only half of the cooked mixture in the 9x9-sized pan. I then allow the remaining cooked meat to cool and place it in a freezer bag to be used later in the week for tacos or taco salad. The onions, peppers and chili seasonings make it perfect for those two dishes, as well as quesadillas or burritos.

Leftovers store well in the refrigerator and heat up easily in the microwave. If the top corn bread layer becomes mushy from condensation, you may prefer to reheat it in the oven, which will crisp it back up.

Mexican corn bread also freezes well; I typically freeze leftovers rather than the entire pan, cutting them first into serving-size pieces, wrapping each piece in plastic wrap and then again in foil before placing in the freezer. You can also wrap several cut pieces together as one package.

Because this recipe bakes up and is served in a 13x9 baking dish, it travels well and is a delicious, much-appreciated contribution to new parents, shut-ins, potlucks, church suppers or those mourning the death of a loved one.

If you are allergic to corn or must adhere to a gluten-free diet, substitute the corn bread batter for the millet bread batter in the video below by YouTuber "OldAlabamaGardener." For a 9x9 pan, double his recipe; for a 13x9 pan, triple it or possibly even quadruple it.

Allergic to gluten or corn? Substitute millet bread batter.

Did you make this recipe? If so, please let me know how you liked it!