Native American corn recipes are a fun addition to your homeschool lessons. Hands-on history activities like these are a great way to bring Colonial America to life.
When we studied early American history, we spent some time learning about the support the American Indians gave to the colonists, specifically their experience in growing corn, a crucial food staple.
As part of our lessons, we researched various corn recipes and made a few together.
My tweens loved adding some yummy dishes to our history class while also working on an important life skill.
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*Keep reading to download a FREE copy of the recipes.
Native American Corn
Corn, originating in Central America, most likely Southern Mexico, played an important role in the settling of America. Throughout early US history, it was an important part of the daily diet.
Over the years, the Native Americans realized that a surplus of corn could be grown, harvested and dried without harming the earth and could sustain them during times of lean hunting.
Plus, dried and ground corn was the perfect food to travel with, first in baskets and then in sacks.
Once introduced by the Wampanoag Indians, corn, or maize, became a lifesaver to the colonists.
Tisquantum (Squanto) taught the Pilgrims how to plant and harvest corn, which they used in various dishes like stews, puddings and breads. As the settlers moved and expanded further into the New World, corn remained a diet staple and quickly became the highlight of new regional dishes.
While in the kitchen cooking with your kids, share with them the interesting history of corn and why it was a diet staple. Teach them about the amazing knowledge the Native American Indians had of the land and crops, as well as the important role they played in the colonist’s survival.
And don’t forget the role this crop and harvest played in the first Thanksgiving story.
Indian Corn Recipe
Today, we use cornmeal to create fluffy, sweetened bread. However, back when corn was the main grain, there were larger varieties of flavors and textures.
They would use it to make everything from puddings and porridges to flatbreads and loaves of coarse-ground cornmeal bread.
Here are some recipes inspired by the food eaten by the Native Americans and settlers. Help your tween work on their cooking skills while learning a bit of history by making one of these together.
Native American Corn Cakes
One of the most common recipes throughout history using this whole grain is the Johnnycake, or corncake/hoecake. The original setters learned how to make these by the Pawtuxet Indians.
Over the years, we have baked this cornmeal flatbread in an open fire among the ashes, in ovens and over a flame or stove in a cast-iron skillet.
This is an excellent dish to make during your study of the 13 Colonies.
- 1 ¼ cups cornmeal
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- ½-1 teaspoon salt
- 1½ cups boiling water
- 2 TBSP bacon drippings or oil
- Cast iron skillet, non-stick pan, or electric griddle
- Ladle or large spoon
- Measuring spoons
- Liquid measuring cup
- Dry measuring cup
- Combine all the dry ingredients.
- Gradually add the boiling water to the dry ingredients, mixing with a spoon until moistened. The consistency should be thick (instead of runny) but should still be able to slide off the spoon. You may need more or less boiling water to achieve this consistency.
- Heat oil or bacon drippings in a cast-iron skillet or non-stick pan. You don’t want the cakes to stick.
- Spoon the batter into the pan, using one large spoonful for each cake.
- Once the edges begin to brown and become firm, flip over to cook the other side. If needed, you can add a couple of drops of oil to the top of the cake before turning it over. Cook until the other side is done. Press them down to keep an even thickness.
- Move them to a platter.
Indian Corn Pudding
We also known Indian corn pudding as spoon bread. This moist cornmeal dish resembles the traditional Native American corn pudding. It’s creamy like a pudding and rises like a souffle.
Like many corn recipes, we believe it has roots in Native American history, where it was known as suppone or suppawn.
It can be a hearty side dish, yet is sweet enough to be a dessert.
After Sarah Routledge published recipes for it in her 1847 cookbook, The Carolina Housewife, it quickly became a household staple.
It continues to be eaten today, with many variations developed over the years, with cornmeal remaining the chief ingredient.
- 1 ½ cups cornmeal
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 tsp sugar
- ½ cups boiling water
- 2 TBSP butter, cut in small pieces
- 1 ½ cups milk
- 5 eggs, beaten
- ¾ c corn kernels (thawed, canned, or fresh)
- 1 tsp baking powder
- Shortening (to grease the pan)
- Mixing bowl
- 2-quart baking dish
- Measuring spoons
- Liquid measuring cup
- Dry measuring cup
- Mixing spatula
- Whisk or hand mixer
- Preheat the oven to 350°.
- Grease a 2-quart baking dish.
- Combine the cornmeal, salt, and sugar in a mixing bowl.
- Add the boiling water and butter to the dry ingredients and mix (with a whisk, spatula, or mixer) until just moistened, about 5 minutes.
- Beat the eggs. Add the milk and beaten eggs to the cornmeal mix, and mix until it thickens.
- Drain corn if necessary. Add kernels to the mixture.
- Allow it to cool for about 5 minutes and then add the baking powder. Mix on low, until well incorporated.
- Pour the mixture into the baking dish and bake for 30 to 45 minutes until the center has set.
- Serve immediately.
This is similar to the Williamsburg corn pudding recipe.
To make it easier for you to make these as part of your history studies, you can download a PDF with both the Johnnycakes and Spoon Bread recipes.
Native American Succotash Recipe
The colonists learned a lot about farming their new land from the American Indians.
Along with corn, the Native Americans also developed and introduced the concept of symbiotic planting, known as the Three Sisters – corn, beans and squash.
The tall stalks of corn supported the bean vines and shielded the squash at the base of the plant, while also acting as ground cover, giving protection and support to the roots.
These three plants were the basis of many dishes in history.
One of the most common was succotash, which meant “boiled corn” from the Narragansett word “msickquatash.” This came in an assortment of recipes, not just the mix of lima beans and corn that we know today.
This three sisters succotash recipe celebrates the flavors of the harvest.
I hope you’re excited to add some cooking to your Colonial America history lessons. Your kids will have a lot of fun making (and eating) their way through history.
Early American Cooking Resources
If your tween enjoys making these corn dishes, use these tools to continue cooking through history.
- Make more historical recipes with the Hamilton Cookbook.
- The Williamsburg Cookbook includes a bunch of other dishes you can make during your history studies.
- Revolutionary Cooking contains over 200 meals for you to try.
Just a note – a cast iron skillet makes an enormous difference in cooking many of these recipes.
Additional Colonial Activities
Fill your history lesson plans with engaging, hands-on activities like these.
- Have some fun with these Colonial America map activities.
- As part of your study of the 13 Colonies, use this notebooking and activity unit.
- Take time to play some Colonial games as part of your class time.