Fried Cornmeal Mush

Many a breakfast in  Pennsylvania Dutch country and the Coal Region, both in the past and present, includes fried cornmeal mush.  Sliced thinly and fried in fat – bacon grease, lard, shortening, cooking oil – until crispy brown (here is where the value of a well-seasoned cast iron skillet comes in), it is served hot usually topped with maple syrup, sausage gravy, tomato gravy, ketchup, or apple butter.  Fried cornmeal mush has been in the diet of many a generation of hearty folk in the Coal Region. 

Mush requires few ingredients to make and is a simple and economical dish good for feeding large families and getting through times when money was tight. Corn mush is made with finely-ground yellow corn meal. It’s easily available in grocery stores . 

Cornmeal mush does differ from polenta.  “Polenta” is technically not an ingredient—it’s a a dish. The term ‘polenta’ refers to the traditional Italian preparation of a variety of coarsely ground grains or starches cooked into a porridge. However, cornmeal polenta is by far the most common preparation and today, particularly in the United States, when you hear the term “polenta,” it refers to the cornmeal version. However,  coarsely ground corn is preferred for polenta and many cooks add grated cheese or additional ingredients to kick up the flavor.  Mush is made using finely ground cornmeal.

The recipe is very simple: cornmeal, water, and salt, but you can use stock in place of the water, add black pepper – follow your personal tastes – you should feel free to make any dish your own.

Fried Cornmeal Mush

Recipe by A Coalcracker in the KitchenCourse: Breakfast, Entrees, SidesCuisine: Pa. Dutch, Coal RegionDifficulty: Easy


  • 1 Cup Yellow Corn Meal

  • 1 Cup COLD Water

  • 3 Cups Water

  • 1 teaspoon Salt


  • In a heavy saucepan, bring 3 Cups of water and the salt to a boil.
  • In a small bowl, mix together the cornmeal and the 1 cup of COLD water.
  • Gradually stir the cornmeal and water mixture into the salted boiling water. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
  • Cover, and continue cooking for 10 – 15 minutes, stirring occasionally (should be very thick).
  • Pour into a loaf pan, cool and refrigerate until completely cold and firm.
  • Slice into thin slices. Dredge in seasoned flour and fry in fat until golden brown and crispy.


  • Serve with maple syrup, ketchup, or condiment of your choice.