Kernels of sweet corn stud this sweet and flavorful Mealie Bread, a South African sweetcorn bread that is sure to delight any cornbread fan.
Mealie bread is a traditional South African quick bread made from mealie, known in other parts of the world as maize, or corn.
Maize was first grown for food in indigenous Mexico, and it is thought that the Portuguese were the first to bring maize from the Americas to Africa.
It became quite popular in many parts of Africa where it was (and is) used to make a number of pudding, porridge, and bread dishes.
Steamed mealie bread
Mealie bread was traditionally made by steaming rather than baking.
A large pot of boiling water would have been put on the stove (or campfire) with a can, or something similar, inside to act as a platform for the bread pan.
Then, the loaf pan with the bread batter was placed into the boiling water so the water came about halfway up the sides of the pan.
The pot was then covered and the bread steamed.
Steaming is a gentle cooking process that cooks the corn slowly, creating a very tender consistency. The resulting bread is very moist, more like a cross between a thick, cooked corn pudding and a very dense quick bread.
This traditional, moist and dense mealie bread is still very popular today.
But, while we were in South Africa, we were served mealie bread that was a bit more bread-y than pudding-y. It had a a dry crust from baking and a crumbly texture. This corn bread was more similar to the Southern US cornbread that we were familiar with.
With one difference that made this cornbread stand out as something definitely different from any cornbread we had ever tasted.
There were distinct kernels of corn in this corn bread.
It is this baked, more bread-like version of mealie bread that we experienced while on safari that we used as the model for today’s mealie bread recipe.
African sweetcorn bread
This bread is definitely more of a sweetcorn bread than a traditional American cornbread. The emphasis is really on the sweetcorn, because it uses whole corn kernels in the batter.
The sweet corn kernels are partially ground, giving the bread a moist texture and a fun pop of flavor as you bite into the whole kernels.
There’s nothing like fresh sweet corn. And this sweetcorn bread really captures the essence of the sweet corn harvest in a delicious and comforting loaf!
How to serve mealie bread
One important thing to note is that due to the corn in this bread it can be quite crumbly. While we first crafted this recipe to be more similar to the crumbly mealie bread we had on safari, much of the feedback from our readers was requesting a cornbread that held together better.
We have since adjusted our recipe a bit to make it a bit closer to the more dense and moist, steamed mealie bread, which does hold together better.
If you prefer your mealie bread to have a bit more of a dry crumb, we recommend increasing the cornmeal by 2 Tbsp.
Either way, we do recommend letting your bread cool slightly before slicing it, as this helps the slices hold together better.
More corn side dish recipe
Who doesn’t love a corn side dish, particularly when it’s in season in the summer. These other corn side dish recipes are sure to fill your craving!
(And, if you’re looking to explore more veggie-laden quick breads, you have to try this Southern sweet potato bread. It’s even better than pumpkin bread!)
- 2 c (330 g) sweet corn kernels, (thawed if frozen, cut off of the cob if fresh), divided
- ½ c (118 ml) milk
- 2 eggs, beaten lightly
- 2 Tbsp (28 g) salted butter, melted
- 1 ½ c (180 g) unbleached all purpose flour
- 2 Tbsp cornmeal
- 2 Tbsp sugar
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp paprika
- Preheat your oven to 350F. Butter a 8 ½ x 4 ½ loaf tin.
- Place 1 cup of corn and the milk into your blender and blend until the corn is nicely pureed.
- Add the remaining 1 cup of corn and blend just enough to chop the kernels coarsely.
- Transfer the corn and milk mixture to a medium bowl. Add the beaten eggs and melted butter.
- Add the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, salt, and paprika to the bowl. Mix until incorporated and evenly moist.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
- Bake the mealie bread for 45-50 min. Until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Cool the bread in the pan for 5 minutes before turning the bread out onto a wire rack to continue cooling.
- Serve warm.
Serving Size:1 slice
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 139
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Sarah is co-owner of Curious Cuisiniere and the chief researcher and recipe developer for the site. Her love for cultural cuisines was instilled early by her French Canadian Grandmother. Her experience in the kitchen and in recipe development comes from years working in professional kitchens. She has traveled extensively and enjoys bringing the flavors of her travels back to create easy-to-make recipes.