No, Johnnycakes And Cornbread Aren't The Same Thing

Johnnycakes and cornbread are both popular foods with deep American roots, but they are often confused as being the same food, which they are most certainly not. From their ingredients to their preparation methods to their history, Johnnycakes and cornbread are distinctly different from one another. 

The first major difference between Johnnycakes and cornbread is their shape, consistency, and ingredients. Johnnycakes tend to be sweeter, and cornbread has a more savory flavor profile. Johnnycakes are similar to a pancake, round in shape, but unlike pancakes, Johnnycakes are made with cornmeal. Meanwhile, traditional cornbread recipes produce bread that is brittle and may be cooked in a cast iron skillet or pan.

While the ingredients list for each food is similar, there are some important differences to note. Johnnycakes contain cornmeal, flour, milk, and some kind of sweetener — for instance, one Johnnycake recipe calls for honey — while cornbread has cornmeal, flour, buttermilk or milk, and baking powder in its recipe. While they share certain ingredients, the end results are vastly different. 

Johnnycakes hail from the North, cornbread from the South

Both Johnnycakes and cornbread both originated from settlers adopting and evolving the Native American practice of using cornmeal, but regional differences quickly popped up. Johnnycakes traces its origins back to the New England region, particularly Rhode Island. According to the New York Times, the state has its own unique Johnnycakes recipes that omit flour in favor of salt, creating a thinner, flatter cake. 

Meanwhile, cornbread became popular in the southern part of America, accompanied by regional favorites like fried chicken or beans. Cornbread evolved into its modern-day form during the 1800s, having a notable link to slaves in the region and as a food source for soldiers during the Civil War. In a post-Civil War South, freed slaves brought their cornbread recipes to the North. In the South, some cornbread recipes use the addition of bacon drippings for extra flavor. 

While cornbread is distinct from Johnnycakes, there is a similar dish in the South called hoe cakes. Like Johnnycakes, they resembled thin pancakes. Both Johnnycakes and cornbread are enjoyed across the country today, but don't make the mistake of thinking they're the same thing