The Ultimate Southern Comfort Food — Beans and Cornbread Bowl

Here’s a fun fact…my dad was the youngest of ten children — five boys and five girls, with a set of twins thrown in for good measure. As was usual for the times, my dad’s father was the sole wage earner for the family, so the food dollars had to be stretched as far as possible to feed the entire family, three meals a day. My dad’s mother was a wonderful cook and the BEST biscuit maker from scratch (something I doubt I will ever try, since she didn’t follow or even have a recipe for them.) And playing heavily in the weekly meal plans was beans and cornbread. For some of you, today’s beans and cornbread bowl will be a familiar friend. For others of you, even the sound of it may sound like a stranger you have no intention of meeting. But… just know… there is no warm hug of a dish (beyond comfort) like it.

As this was something my dad never tired of, I grew up eating beans and cornbread. But instead of a side as it’s typically prepared, and because I’ve always been a fan of bowls, I prefer to layer all the yummy components of the supper in a bowl, rather than spread them out separately on a plate.

*Posts on may contain affiliate links. Click HERE for full disclosure.

There are many pluses to note in this dish…It is filling, savory, healthy (though heavy on the sodium) and CHEAP to make! Beans are loaded with fiber and vitamins and a one-pound bag of dried beans goes a long way. The other layers I love to add to my bowl? Crumbled cornbread, coleslaw, chopped tomatoes, diced onions, and chow chow (or pepper sauce).

My favorite dried bean is probably the pinto bean, with the great northern bean, as a close second. Other dried beans that would also work well in a layered bowl include lima beans, black eyed peas and navy beans.

The Ultimate Southern Beans & Cornbread Bowl

What ingredients are needed to make a beans and cornbread bowl?

  • Dried Beans
  • Cornbread Mix
  • Cabbage (and the other fixin’s to make coleslaw)
  • Tomato (bonus points if it’s from your garden or farmers’ market)
  • Sweet Onion or Green Onion
  • Chow Chow

Btw, when it comes to cornbread, my mom prefers a traditional cornbread but I gravitate toward the sweet because I think it contrasts well with the savory (and sometimes spicy) components. The Trader Joe’s cornbread mix is my favorite. But, you can even use a cheap box of Jiffy for a similar sweet take.

Favorite Cornbread Mix for Beans & Cornbread Bowl

I love using a chow chow for a sweet/sour contrast but also use a pepper sauce from time to time, instead.

The Ultimate Beans & Cornbread Bowl with Yummiest Toppings

What kitchen tools are needed to make a beans and cornbread bowl?

The only kitchen tools needed are basic tools that typically any cook will have on hand. However, my coleslaw recipe for this beans and cornbread bowl screams for coleslaw made in a food processor. (I have the 9-cup version of the KitchenAid food processor but right now, Amazon is offering 20% off the 7-cup matte black version HERE, making it a fantastic deal!) Making the coleslaw from scratch results in just the right fine and moist consistency, which eliminates the need to add much mayonnaise to the slaw.

Ultimate Southern Beans & Cornbread Bowl

Add-ins for the beans (to add while cooking)

Depending on your individual tastes, your seasoning of choice may be added to the beans while they are cooking. Growing up, our dried beans were often cooked with bacon or some other type of salt pork. Today, I don’t cook them with pork and only season the beans with salt and pepper (and a tablespoon of sugar, a trick we learned from my grandmother.)

  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Onion Salt
  • Bacon
  • Salt Pork
  • Sugar (I only add this to the pinto beans, and only add one tablespoon to the entire pot.)
  • Chopped onion
The Ultimate Southern Pinto Beans & Cornbread Bowl

Do you need to pre-soak the dried beans before you cook them?

You can absolutely pre-soak the dried beans before you cook them! The advantage to this is it will shorten the cooking time of the beans. But pre-soaking is not necessary, if you have the time. Another advantage to pre-soaking the beans, draining off the soaking water and adding fresh water is to reduce any gassy effects this fibrous legume may create. 😉

The Best Southern Pinto Bean & Cornbread Bowl

Important Cooking Note!

As you are cooking the dried beans, it’s important to stir them gently every 30 minutes or so and add water as needed. You don’t want the beans to boil dry and you also want to have enough bean liquid or “soup,” as it’ is’s an important component of this dish.

NOTE: While the bowls in the photos throughout today’s post were crafted strategically to showcase the individual components, when I’m building a bowl for dinner, I layer it vertically, use a LOT OF the bean “soup” and mix it all together. Not pretty, but delish!

Yummy Southern Beans & Cornbread Bowl Recipe

Why is this a budget-friendly meal?

At my last shop, a pound of dried beans was $1.99 and a head of cabbage was 49 cents a pound. We had our home grown tomatoes, chow chow and green onions on hand. The most expensive item on this menu was my preferred cornbread mix (Trader Joe’s) and it was around $2.69 for the package. Less expensive cornbread mixes include Jiffy mix (as I mentioned, I like a sweeter cornbread mix version, like Trader Joe’s or Jiffy) or the Martha White packets, which all cost less than a dollar. The total of this meal, which feeds more than five or six, is less than $6, if you have the other pantry items on hand!

The Best Southern Beans & Cornbread Bowl & Toppings

How to Make Beans & Cornbread (Bowl-Style)

Find the recipe for the beans and cornbread bowl below…

Yummy Southern Beans & Cornbread Bowl Recipe
5 from 2 votes

Beans and Cornbread Bowl

This one-bowl dish features your dried bean of choice, cornbread and coleslaw, topped with dice tomatoes, chopped onion and a bit of chow chow relish on the side.

Course Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine American, Southern, Vegetarian
Keyword budget meal, coleslaw, pinto beans
Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours 30 minutes
Servings 6


Pinto (or other dried bean) Ingredients

  • 1 lb Dried Beans
  • 1 Tbsp Sugar
  • 3 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Pepper

Coleslaw Ingredients

  • 3/4 head Cabbage
  • 3 Tbsp Mayonnaise
  • Salt to taste
  • Pepper to taste


  • Diced Tomato
  • Chopped Sweet Onion or Green Onions
  • Chow Chow Relish


Pinto (or other dried bean) Cooking Instructions

  1. Rinse dried beans, place in Dutch oven and cover with six cups of water.

  2. Bring water to a boil over medium high heat and lower heat to medium low.

  3. Simmer for one hour. Add sugar, salt and pepper and stir.

  4. Stir sporadically and add additional water, as needed. Typically, an additional two cups of water will need to be added during the total cooking time.

  5. Simmer for approximately 2 additional hours. Check beans for doneness. They should be soft, but not mushy.

    NOTE: It is important that the finished beans include a nice amount of liquid or "soup" as this will be needed when the Beans and Cornbread Bowl is assembled.

Pinto (or other dried bean) Cooking Instructions — When They Are Pre-Soaked

  1. Place beans in large pot. Add six cups of water. Soak overnight.

  2. Drain and rinse beans.

  3. Place rinsed beans in a Dutch oven and cover with six cups of water.

  4. Bring water to a boil over medium high heat and lower heat to medium low.

  5. Simmer for one hour and add sugar, salt and pepper.

  6. Simmer for an additional one half hour. Stir occasionally and add additional water, as needed.

    NOTE: It is important that the finished beans include a nice amount of liquid or "soup" as this will be needed when the Beans and Cornbread Bowl is assembled.

Cornbread Instructions

  1. Mix and bake cornbread according to the directions on the mix.

Coleslaw Instructions

  1. Wash and cut 3/4 of a medium-sized cabbage into small chunks.

  2. Load the cabbage chunks in small batches to the food processor chute.

  3. Pulse/process cabbage in a food process with the small shred blade.

  4. Dump chopped slaw into large mixing bowl.

  5. Add mayonnaise and stir mixture.

  6. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Beans and Cornbread Bowl Assembly Instructions

  1. Crumble a square of warm cornbread in an individual bowl.

  2. Top the cornbread with the warm beans (and include some of the bean liquid.)

  3. Top the beans with the coleslaw.

  4. Add diced tomatoes, chopped onions and chow chow relish.

The Ultimate Beans & Cornbread Bowl with the Best Toppings

Have you ever tried making and/or eating beans and cornbread in the past or present? What type of beans are your favorite to layer with cornbread? I would love to know and hope you will try this recipe!

Kitchen and Cooking Necessities & Faves

Share this:
Kelley Nan headshot


Leave a Comment

Recipe Rating

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


  1. 8.29.23
    Debbie W said:

    I grew up eating this as well so this brings back wonderful memories. I haven’t made it in years but you’ve really made me want some beans & cornbread. Yours looks delicious! Maybe I will make some once our weather cools off. Thanks Kelley Nan!

    • 8.31.23

      Thank you so much for your sweet note, Debbie! It’s been hot here, too, but I wanted to take advantage of the fresh tomatoes from our garden. I hope you will give it a try soon!

  2. 8.29.23
    Vicki said:

    Beans and cornbread(dried limas and plain not sweet cornbread) my absolute fave growing up! With ham or fried pork chops.

    • 8.31.23

      Thank you for visiting, Vicki! I’m so happy to know that this recipe invoked some great memories for you.

  3. 8.29.23
    Ann said:

    5 stars
    Kelly, thanks for reminding me of a favorite dish when growing up in Kentucky. My next door neighbor’s mother used to fix beans and cornbread for us which we’d get to eat outside on their picnic table. For some reason, this remains one of my favorite memories. Our cornbread had no sugar, so that’s how I prefer it. Going to fix some soon!

    • 8.31.23

      Thank you so much for sharing your sweet memory with me, Ann. I love that your neighbor shared this for your outdoor picnic. I hope you will fix some beans and cornbread soon!

  4. 8.29.23
    Dianne said:

    5 stars
    My husband disliked Jiffy. I had to make cornbread from scratch, thin & crispy. His favorite meal was cooked cabbage, pintos, macaroni & cheese & cornbread. (My mother & I loved Jiffy)

    • 8.31.23

      Hi Dianne, My mom always made cornbread from scratch, back in the day, too! I love your husband’s favorite meal. It sounds delicious!

  5. 8.30.23
    Cassie said:

    This brings back memories from my childhhod in Colorado. Chow chow is my favorte to add to beans. We moved to Missouri and very few have heard of it. This will be on our menu this week. Thanks for sharing.

    • 8.31.23

      Cassie, I so agree that a good chow chow is hard to beat and adds just the right amount of sweet and heat to beans. I’m so glad you will be adding this to this week’s menu and hope you are able to find that chow chow!

  6. 8.30.23
    Joy said:

    As a panhandle of Florida native all I have to say about cornbread and beans is YES Mam!!

    • 8.31.23

      Yay, Joy, and I hope you still eat this dish today. It’s one of my faves!