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August 23, 2011 | Issue 362

A Southern Staple

Soft Cornbread with Black Beans

Made with whole-grain stone-ground cornmeal, this dish includes whole corn and a nice portion of Vidalia or other sweet onion. One tablespoon of sugar gives it a hint of sweetness, while green chiles add a nice kick. But what makes this spoon bread truly special is the addition of black beans, which research has shown may help protect our cells from damage that may lead to cancer. Serve up this version of the classic Southern side dish alongside a fresh seasonal salad for a healthy, delicious meal.


Makes 12 servings.

Per serving: 170 calories, 5 g total fat (< 1 g saturated fat), 26 g carbohydrate,
6 g protein, 5 g dietary fiber, 310 mg sodium.

  • 3 Tbsp. canola oil, divided
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped sweet onion
  • Canola oil cooking spray
  • 1 cup stone-ground yellow cornmeal
  • 1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1½ tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 cups low-fat buttermilk
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 (4 oz.) can chopped green chile peppers, drained
  • 1 cup defrosted frozen yellow corn kernels
  • 1 (15 oz.) can black beans, rinsed and drained, divided


  1. In small skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook until translucent, stirring occasionally. Set aside to cool.
  2. Place rack in upper third of oven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat 9-inch square baking pan with cooking spray and set aside.
  3. In large mixing bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In another bowl, whisk together buttermilk, egg and remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Mix in chile peppers. Add wet ingredients to dry and mix with a wooden spoon, being sure to reach bottom of the bowl to combine them fully. Do not over mix. Mix in corn, 1 cup of beans and cooked onions just until combined. Spread batter evenly in prepared pan. Sprinkle remaining beans evenly over top of batter.
  4. Bake for 30 minutes, until cornbread is golden and feels firm to touch when lightly pressed in center and knife inserted comes out slightly streaked with moisture. Let cornbread sit for 5 minutes, then turn it out onto wire rack. Using second rack, or serving plate, flip cornbread to top-side up. Cut cornbread into 12 squares and serve immediately.

Grocery list

Canola oil
Sweet onion
Canola oil cooking spray
Yellow cornmeal
Whole-wheat pastry flour
Baking powder
Baking soda
Low-fat buttermilk
Green chile peppers
Yellow corn kernels
Black beans

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In laboratory studies, saponins, a compound in beans, have shown the ability to inhibit the reproduction of cancer cells and slow the growth of tumors in several different tissues.

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