Crackling Bread for Christmas Morn (or Any Morn)

The caviar of cornbread is what this is. Crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside, studded with salty bits of fried pork rind (crackling) goodness. Ten minutes to make, 30-40 to bake, freezes beautifully. Our mama made this for Christmas morning every year, with Dortch’s* sausage biscuits, Moravian bread, ambrosia, and grits casserole. If you can’t carb at Christmas when can you. When Mama died on New Year’s night of 2005, her crackling bread died with her. She did not use a recipe. She made it by “feel.” She was that kind of cook and brilliant. I am neither.

Crackling Bread Cracklin' Bread
Crackling Bread almost as good as Mama’s.

Years of wandering in the Internet wilderness and no recipe that came close. Plus, hey you try finding cracklings in the Upper East Side of New York. Now the Piggly Wiggly in Tarboro, they always had cracklings. It was one of those things you could count on like Carolina’s basketball team. Like I said, years passed. Then one day an angel appeared and said “Behold, I bring you tidings of great substitutes: What about those pork rinds you buy at the convenience store when nobody’s looking?” And  I said “Hark, that might work.” And lo, it worked well enough. Joy to the world and what not.

And I wish you all a Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year, a blessed and peaceful time with those you love, near and far, including yourself. Thank you for all you have given me.


Crackling Bread

Developed with Chef Stephanie Valentine and as close to Mama’s as we can get. For the cracklings, if you cannot find the real thing, use packaged pork rinds, available at most convenience stores catering to country people. Also popular in the Latin-x world, they are called chicharrones.

10 minutes to prepare, 30-40 minutes to bake.

Makes about 2 dozen patties, give or take

1 ¼ cups cornmeal

1/3 cup flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon oil

1 1/2 cups warm water

1 egg

4 cups chopped cracklings or pork rinds

Butter for serving


Heat oven to 425.

Combine all ingredients. Drop by tablespoonful on ungreased cookie sheet and bake 30 to 40 minutes. Serve warm, spread with butter.

*The sausage is available at Smith’s Red & White in Rocky Mount, NC. They do not call it Dortches on the website, but to the best of my knowledge that is what it is.



  1. Love these!!!
    I can’t remember why I did it (I think as much curiosity as anything else) but I did make these vegetarian last year using Popchips! Which you introduced me to! It was pretty good! As good a substitute as anything else!!
    Lots of Holiday Cheer!!!
    OMG that sausage!!!

  2. Love Dortches sausage. Our priest travels to the Red &White to get it every year for the pancake supper on Shrove Tuesday! May try this Monday!!

    1. Missy! So happy to hear from you. Please give all your family my love. And keep chuckling. Lord knows you bring chuckles wherever you go. Lots of love and Merry Christmas, F

  3. Less than 24 hours in Richmond to Christmasy our grands, age 3 1/2 and 1. Have to stop at Dortches Red & White on way back. Will report finds as soon as we finish overeating homeade cinnamon rolls and hit the highway again.

  4. Dortches is the “suburb” of Rocky Mount where Smith’s Red and White is located. It is the high altar of pork. Best sausage in the world. Even my Louisiana food chauvinists agree and that is saying something! Going to try Ruth’s crackling bread recipe so thank you for recreating it! Merry Christmas!

    1. Thank you Chip! Let me know how it goes. And i am sensing an incredible business opportunity for someone who wants to take Dortches to an online shopping platform.

  5. Merry Christmas, darling Frances. This is a fun-to-read story behind the recipe. Still cooking recipes from California Cooking! Wishing Christmas blessings on you and world peace and joy in 2024

  6. Thank you for the recipe; what a lovely Christmas gift! When I make them, I’ll think of your momma in a size four, just as she is in her portrait Merry Christmas to you, Frances!!♥️

    1. Haha you are so welcome darlin’ Weedie! NB to readers and my mama being a size 4, which she was not, see Chapter Mama in The Bee Cottage Story. 14 was more like it. She was 6’ tall after all…

  7. I can’t wait to make this. As a Tarboro Native, my Grandaddy made crackling cornbread and it was delicious! The chewiness of the cracklings in the warm sweet cornbread is unforgettable, as is Dortches sausage! Merry Christmas!

    1. Love Red and White in Dortches. Stop as often as I can on the way fr DC to Fayetteville. Will have to try the Crackling bread!

  8. Hi,
    I discussed this recipe with several southern friends…pork rinds? My husband, Joe reconfirmed what I remembered, but never attempted myself his mom, Nadine’s recipe. Basically, her seasoned black pan, fried cuts of country ham with some fat attached first. And then fry your cornbread in some of that grease for flavour.
    Happy New Year!! Anna Ball

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