Smokey Skillet Cornbread (gluten free)

I always LOVED cornbread and corn muffins as a kid. My sisters and other kids would have prefered blueberry muffins, coffee cake, or even cupcakes.  Given that I never had much of a sweet tooth, I would pass any of those up for a warm corn muffin with melted butter dripping out the sides.  I would even ask my mom to save me the spoon and bowl with the cornmeal batter!  I won’t lie – I still like that thin, gritty batter…  I can’t be the only one, right?

I came up with this recipe two years ago to serve alongside a pot of chili.  Actually, several pots of chili.  In May of 2014, the South Sound Vegans held a vegan chili contest to raise money for Pigs Peace Sanctuary, a (mostly) all pig rescue in Stanwood, WA.   The 39 acre sanctuary is run by one dedicated and compassionate woman named Judy, and is tucked away in the beautiful farmlands of northwestern Washington.  Among the many beautiful animals that I met on the day that I visited, one special little pig sticks out in my mind.

Honey Pigs Peace

Honey at Pigs Peace Sanctuary

Her name is Honey, and she was only about 4 months old when I met her.  Honey was rescued from the back of a man’s truck, and suffered devastating injuries.  She was permanently paralyzed from the waist down due to repeated abuse.  This did not stop her, though!  That girl could run using only her front legs.  She was incredibly sweet, and loved bellyrubs more than anything in the world.  I haven’t been back to Pigs Peace since that day, but I often wonder how Honey is doing.

The chili contest was such a fun way to raise money for a good cause!  I anticipate these types of fundraisers happening for Cupid’s Landing in the very near future.

This cornbread is baked in a cast iron skillet and gets its smokey flavor from Spanish paprika (also known as smoked paprika.)  I initially discovered the world of smokey seasonings in preparation for the chili contest, and I’ve been sold ever since!  Smoked paprika, chipotle chili powder, liquid smoke, smoked salt… Smokiness adds a whole other layer of flavor that never disappoints.  What’s your favorite smokey flavored dish?

*Note: The recipe calls for ground chia seeds.  Both ground chia seeds and ground flax seeds create a gel-like consistency when mixed with water, which helps to hold baked goods together.  They both work similarly, and both have their pros and cons.  Chia seeds are more expensive, and flax seeds add a flavor that is not very appealing to me.  Most people don’t seem to mind it, but I prefer chia seeds.  You may use flax instead of chia in this recipe.  Just be sure to mix the ground flax seeds and water at the very beginning of the recipe as flax seeds take several minutes to congeal as opposed to chia seeds, which are like cement if left to soak for too long!  You can find both kinds of seeds at most grocery stores in the natural/organic section, or on Amazon (Bob’s Red Mill is a popular brand.)

Smokey Skillet Cornbread
Yields 11
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  1. Canola oil for skillet
  2. 2 1/2 cups cornmeal
  3. 6 tablespoons gluten-free all-purpose baking mix (or regular ap flour)
  4. 2 teaspoon kosher salt
  5. 2 teaspoon baking powder
  6. 2 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika, plus more for skillet
  7. 1/4 cup Earth Balance margarine
  8. 4 tablespoon ground chia seeds *see note above
  9. 1/2 cup water
  10. 2 cups almond milk
  11. 1/4 cup vinegar
  1. Preheat oven to 425° F.
  2. Grease a cast iron skillet with a small amount of oil, sprinkle with a bit of smoked paprika, and place in the oven while it heats.
  3. Mix the dry ingredients (cornmeal, flour, salt, baking powder, paprika) in a large mixing bowl. Massage the margarine into the dry mix with your hands until it resembles the consistency of wet sand.
  4. In a medium sized bowl, combine ground chia seeds with water. Mix just a few times (just until it gets thick and gooey). Stir in the milk and vinegar, and whisk to combine. Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and stir to combine.
  5. Remove the skillet from the oven, and pour the mixture into the hot skillet (watch out for splatter!) Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool for at least ten minutes, or up to overnight (covered). Carefully invert onto a plate or cutting board. Serve hot with a slathering of Earth Balance or hot sauce, or at room temperature all on its own.
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