What Exactly Is Cornbread Salad And Is It Even A Salad?

It's safe to say most foodies enjoy downing a warm piece of homemade cornbread with their main meals from time to time (especially if it has Southern influences). Since cornbread is a hearty cross between a biscuit and a slice of homemade bread, this crumb-filled main course accompaniment goes well with your favorite soup, stew, and most colorful salads. However, have you ever heard of cornbread mixed directly into a mish-mash of veggies and cheese, and topped with a creamy dressing? Well, that's what you call a cornbread salad.

For those of us who may be new to Southern cooking, cornbread salad is exactly what it sounds like. This intriguing dish is composed of cornbread, plus some typical salad ingredients, including pinto beans, corn, bell peppers, tomatoes, shredded cheese, bacon, and of course, hearty cubes of cornbread. The mixture is then completed with a healthy drizzle of creamy ranch dressing. This salad is known to be a great meal to prepare when you need to figure out what to do with leftover cornbread or when you're in the heat of summer. So now that you know exactly what cornbread salad is, what does it taste like, and more importantly, is this epic mixture of tasty ingredients actually even a salad?

The ins and outs of cornbread salad

To describe the taste of this classic Southern side dish, the ingredients mirror any other traditional cold, mayonnaise-heavy salad you'd find at any family gathering or potluck. The cornbread can hold most of its crumbly texture against the bite of fresh peppers and tomatoes. Each mouthful of cornbread salad is sure to elude Southwest flair thanks to the addition of pinto beans, shredded cheese, and corn. And the reason why this unique salad can hold some of that necessary texture has a lot to do with the way cornbread salad is prepared.

Just as an original Cobb salad is served in layers, cornbread salad is usually served in a trifle bowl, with distinct layers of cornbread and all of the salad's ingredients visible from the outside of the bowl. The dressing portion of this signature salad has a thicker consistency, so as you prepare your layered cornbread salad, the dressing almost rests on the sections of veggies. When prepared in a trifle bowl, you can easily prepare cornbread salad ahead of time and not worry about the ingredients becoming too soft since everything has yet to be mixed. This epic dish is in fact a salad by definition since cornbread salad falls into the "small pieces of food mixed with dressing" category — a description of the word salad. Now that we can safely call this Southern staple a salad, there's more than one way to make this cornbread-infused dish.

Details matter when preparing cornbread salad

Among the 13 clever ways to use leftover cornbread, turning these crumbly chunks into a delicious salad is not only resourceful but also quite tasty. Now that you know the general makeup of a traditional cornbread salad, there are a few different ways you can change up the ingredients. If you're making boxed or homemade cornbread just for this layered salad, why not add in some shredded cheddar or diced jalapenos to give your cornbread a more developed flavor profile? 

When making the dressing, you have a lot of different ways to make this creamy addition your own. While some traditional Southern recipes call for straight-up mayonnaise as the dressing of choice, feel free to add in a powdered packet of Ranch seasoning and even some extra chipotle powder if you like your salads with an extra kick. Since you're cooking bacon, you may even want to add a small drizzle of bacon grease to your dressing in order to impart a smokier flavor.

As far as assembly goes, trifle dishes aren't a requirement for this Southern staple. While this salad can be prepared in a fancy glass bowl ahead of time and sit in your refrigerator for four or more hours, if you're determined to mix all of your ingredients together, keep in mind that after a full day, the cornbread will begin to lose some of that crumbly bite and the salad structure will breakdown little by little. Now that you know all the details regarding cornbread salad, will you give this unique side dish a try at your next cookout?