I tried Dolly Parton's corn bread and it was one of the easiest recipes I've ever made

Dolly Parton's cornbread
I made Dolly Parton's corn bread, and it was delicious.Anneta Konstantinides/Business Insider
  • I made Dolly Parton's easy corn bread for breakfast.

  • The recipe only has three main ingredients and is ready in almost 30 minutes.

  • Parton's recipe may be simple, but her corn bread is delicious and goes well with everything.

I sat down with Dolly Parton and realized she's an expert when it comes to all things Southern food.

dolly parton
Dolly Parton loves cooking traditional Southern food like corn bread.Bridget Bennett/AFP via Getty Images

On top of being a legendary musician and a fashion icon, Parton is also a great chef.

The country-music star shared plenty of her cooking secrets with me, including her hack for making the fluffiest scrambled eggs and the unique ingredient she uses to elevate her mac and cheese.

Parton also revealed what she loves whipping up in the kitchen for Carl Dean, her husband of 56 years, or her goddaughter Miley Cyrus.

"Miley and I both love Southern food like mashed potatoes, coleslaw, and a big ol' hunk of corn bread — making corn-bread muffins or a big pan of it with the squares," Parton told me.

I loved trying Parton's usual Taco Bell order. So when I stumbled on her corn-bread recipe, I knew I had to give it a go.

Parton's corn-bread recipe began circulating online after it was featured in her cookbook.

Dolly Parton with Duncan Hines products
Parton's corn-bread recipe only has a few steps and ingredients.Sebastian Smith

Parton's cookbook, "Dolly's Dixie Fixin's: Love, Laughter, and Lots of Good Food," was released in 2016. It features 125 recipes, including dishes that Parton always loves whipping up on tour or at home. As true Dolly Parton fans know, the cookbook is no longer readily available. If you want a copy on Amazon, you'll have to fork over more than $200.

But Parton's corn-bread recipe has popped up on various websites, and the official Dollywood Facebook page also shared it in 2014. Parton wrote in her cookbook that when it comes to corn bread, she loves to keep things simple.

"Coarse cornmeal, buttermilk, bacon drippings, and salt and pepper. Mixed together and baked in a slick black skillet. Served hot. Now that's my idea of real corn bread," she wrote. "There's nothin' you can't eat with a warm wedge of corn bread alongside it. That's why I always take two pieces and slather them with butter while they're still warm."

I'm not much of a baker, but Parton's recipe sounded foolproof — even for me. There were still some challenges along the way, but the finished product was definitely worth it.

The first time I tried to make Parton's corn bread was kind of a disaster.

Bad batch of Dolly Parton's cornbread
My first attempt at Parton's corn bread.Anneta Konstantinides/Business Insider

When I first found Parton's recipe online, I didn't think I needed to double-check the ingredients. So when I saw that it called for two cups of cornmeal, I just bought the same box I had used to make Ina Garten's (very delicious) brown-butter skillet corn bread for Friendsgiving.

When the corn bread came out of the oven, I knew I’d made a huge mistake.

Bad batch of Dolly Parton's cornbread
I realized I had used the wrong cornmeal when I first tried Parton's recipe.Anneta Konstantinides/Business Insider

When I first tasted the corn bread, I couldn't figure out what went wrong. But it tasted pretty terrible, and I just knew there was no way I had done Parton's recipe justice.

Thankfully, after a little more research, I stumbled on the original page from Parton's cookbook and found her actual ingredient list. Parton had specified that her recipe requires self-rising cornmeal, and she recommended using Martha White cornmeal "because I like the texture." In retrospect, it seems obvious that the recipe would require self-rising cornmeal since Parton doesn't add any baking powder or eggs to her batter. But alas, this baking novice just didn't catch it.

The great thing about cooking, though, is you can always try again. So I found some Martha White cornmeal and went back to the kitchen.

Parton's skillet corn bread has just a few main ingredients.

Ingredients for Dolly Parton's cornbread
Parton's corn bread includes self-rising cornmeal, buttermilk, and bacon drippings.Anneta Konstantinides/Business Insider

To make Parton's corn bread (which has eight servings), you'll need:

  • 2 cups self-rising cornmeal (she recommends Martha White or White Lily)

  • 1-1 ½ cups buttermilk

  • 2 teaspoons bacon drippings, plus extra for the skillet

  • 1 teaspoon salt

I began by making the bacon drippings.

Making bacon drippings for Dolly Parton's cornbread
I cut my bacon into small pieces so it would render evenly.Anneta Konstantinides/Business Insider

Before I got started, I read this helpful article from CookingLight on the best technique for making bacon drippings. Instead of cooking full bacon strips, I cut the meat into small pieces and spread them out on my 9-inch skillet so the bacon would render evenly.

I cooked my bacon over medium-low heat until it turned crispy and I could see plenty of drippings at the bottom of the pan. Then I removed the pieces, letting them rest on a plate lined with a paper towel. Parton said the skillet should be covered with extra bacon drippings, so I didn't wipe it clean after I finished cooking.

You could easily whip up Parton's recipe after you've made breakfast or save the bacon to eat alongside her corn bread. Either way, it's a win-win.

It was time to whip up the batter!

Flour for Dolly Parton's cornbread
Parton recommended using Martha White self-rising cornmeal.Anneta Konstantinides/Business Insider

First I added two cups of the self-rising cornmeal to a large bowl.

Then I added some salt and the bacon drippings.

Making Dolly Parton's cornbread
I added one teaspoon of salt to the batter.Anneta Konstantinides/Business Insider

The first recipe I found online actually called for two tablespoons of bacon drippings instead of two teaspoons. I didn't realize that Parton's recipe was different before I made the corn bread again, so I accidentally added extra.

But the flavor still came out great, so feel free to add more bacon drippings if you wish.

Last but not least was the buttermilk.

Batter for Dolly Parton's cornbread
Then I mixed everything together.Anneta Konstantinides/Business Insider

Dolly recommends gradually adding the buttermilk while stirring everything with a wooden spoon. You'll know the batter is ready when the consistency is thick but smooth.

I poured my batter into the hot skillet and popped it in the oven.

Batter in pan for Dolly Parton's cornbread
I baked my corn bread for 25 minutes.Anneta Konstantinides/Business Insider

Barely 10 minutes of prep had passed and my corn bread was ready to bake.

I threw my skillet into the oven at 425 degrees Fahrenheit and let it cook for 25 minutes. Parton says you'll know the corn bread is ready if it springs back when you tap it.

My second attempt at Parton's corn bread came out beautiful.

Dolly Parton's cornbread
Parton's corn bread looked promisingly fluffy.Anneta Konstantinides/Business Insider

I sighed with relief when I opened the oven. The corn bread had a pretty golden hue and looked promisingly fluffy — a far cry from the weird, acid-yellow bread I had made in my first attempt.

And Parton's corn bread tasted super fluffy and moist.

Dolly Parton's cornbread
Parton's corn bread was absolutely delicious.Anneta Konstantinides/Business Insider

Parton said her corn bread should be served "HOT!" so we dug right in after I took it out of the oven.

And the difference between my two attempts was like night and day. Parton's corn bread was absolutely delicious. The texture was perfectly pillowy and the bacon drippings added an extra touch of savory richness. I paired some of Parton's corn bread with a peach jam we had on hand, and the sweet and savory combination blew me away. I made the corn bread for breakfast while spending a week with my parents, and they were both huge fans as well.

Just make sure you enjoy the corn bread fresh from the skillet. I tried some leftovers the next day and found it dried up very quickly.

I would definitely make Parton's corn bread for an easy breakfast or side dish.

Dolly Parton's cornbread
I'll definitely make Parton's corn bread again.Anneta Konstantinides/Business Insider

The best part about Parton's corn bread is that it's ridiculously easy and quick. You can prep and bake it in almost 30 minutes, and this corn bread would go well with everything. I'd love to pair it with a hearty dinner or experiment with some hot honey and different jams for breakfast.

Either way, I know Parton's corn bread definitely won't disappoint.

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