Masa Cornbread, Gluten- and Dairy-Free

Gluten-free, dairy-free masa cornbread

Ever since I got my mother a stand-up freezer for her garage and filled it with home-cooked, salt-free stews and the like, she’s been hooked on my turkey-bean chili, chowing it down herself but also serving it to her guests. On my most recent visit, my sister invited over a number of family friends that included one person who, like me, who can’t eat gluten or dairy.

So, I decided since there were two of us in that position, I would finally attempt a gluten-free, dairy-free cornbread, to go with the chili my mom wanted me to serve to the crowd. I was particularly motivated because the other woman had just found out about her intolerances, and I wanted to signal to her that she needn’t get too depressed, because great eating can still happen even with these restrictions.

I poked around for cornbread recipes online. I did not look for one that started off gluten- and dairy-free, because I’m an experienced cook and I like to try to adapt the best “normal” recipes sometimes. I wanted to use masa, because I had that at my mom’s house, while I had no gluten-free cornmeal there. (Corn does not naturally have gluten in it, but if corn is processed with wheat, it ends up contaminated with gluten. It’s pretty easy for me to find gluten-free masa wherever I go; the big bag I had at my mom’s place, I found at Aldi’s.)

I soon found a highly-rated masa harina cornbread recipe from The Pioneer Woman and went about changing it so I could eat it safely. To my shock, on the first try, I had made a delicious, moist cornbread. It went perfectly with the chili, but I also ate it for dessert while I was down there; I warmed up the bread, sliced fresh strawberries over it, and drizzled it with agave syrup. Yum.


  • 3/4 cup of neutral oil like canola oil
  • 1.5 cups of masa (you could use masa marina, I guess, but I just used Maseca gluten-free masa)
  • 1 cup of gluten-free oat flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill)
  • 2 tbsp. baking powder (make sure it is fresh, not expired)
  • 1.25 cups of plain soy milk (the type made of just soybeans and water, no additives at all)
  • 1/4 cup real maple syrup
  • 4 eggs


  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Use 1/4 cup of the oil to coat the pan. Pour the oil in the pan, swirl it to coat the bottom, and then use a paper towel to draw some of the oil up and coat the sides by rubbing it with the oily paper towel. (I used a metal 9×13 baking dish, and this worked very well to give the bread a nice crust that pulled away from the side of the pan.)
  3. Mix the dry ingredients (masa, oat flour, and baking powder) in a large bowl. This only takes a minute with a big spoon.
  4. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk the eggs until well blended. Add the soy milk and whisk to blend. Add the oil and maple syrup and whisk it all to bend. It will not perfectly blend away all of the oil droplets. That’s okay.
  5. Pour the liquid into the dry ingredients and whisk it well until it is all blended. This will only take a minute or two of vigorous whisking.
  6. Let the batter sit for 5-10 minutes, until you see bubbles nicely formed. Use your whisk to look “into” the batter (dunk it in and pull up), to see if the batter has formed a kind of spongy web. That’ll be the sign that your baking powder has done its work and created lots of air bubbles to keep your cornbread fluffy and moist.
  7. Pour it into the pan, using a spatula to get all the batter into the pan.
  8. Bake for 25 minutes. At that point, it should be fully cooked, the top a pleasant golden color, the sides pulling away from the pan.
  9. Let cool in the pan for a bit before you cut into it.