Cornbread Panzanella Salad

5 from 2 votes

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This panzanella salad has toasted cornbread mixed with fresh cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions and basil. It’s tossed in a garlicky red wine vinaigrette. Perfect for summer and tomato season, this version of the classic Italian salad is bright, colorful and full of flavor and is fantastic for serving at a potluck or barbecue.

Try this buttermilk cornbread recipe for the bread in the salad.

Panzanella salad with toasted cornbread on a plate.

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

It’s a panzanella but different. When I was in my teens and first started eating salads, I know that croutons were part of the reason why, so I have always loved a bread salad. Here I use cornbread instead of Italian bread, sourdough bread or ciabatta.

Tomatoes and corn are perfect together. Even though this salad doesn’t have actual corn kernels in it, you get that corn flavor and more when you pair cornbread and cherry tomatoes.

There’s no better way to enjoy tomatoes during peak season than in a salad. Even though you can buy tomatoes at the grocery any day of the year, summer is when we should be eating them raw because that’s when they taste best.

What is a Panzanella Salad?

I like to think of a panzanella salad, caprese salad and Greek salad as cousins. I realize 2 of the 3 are Italian and one is Greek, but they all start with tomatoes. From there, it is the additions that differentiate them. You can absolutely use your creativity to make a mash up of all three depending what you have in your kitchen.

Traditionally, a panzanella salad has stale bread, tomatoes, red onions, cucumbers and basil tossed with vinegar and olive oil. Since I usually freeze bread before it gets stale, I toast it in the oven to dry it out, and in the process, it turns golden brown and gets wonderful toasted flavor, which wouldn’t be the case if it was just stale.

The Ingredients

Ingredients for salad including cornbread cubes, tomatoes, cucumbers,bers, red onions, basil, vinegar, oil, mustard, garlic, salt and pepper.

This is what you need:

  • Cornbread: It is up to you whether its homemade buttermilk cornbread made from scratch, a mix or a store-bought loaf.  
  • Tomatoes: My preference for this salad are cherry tomatoes. You can use grape tomatoes, but they won’t be as juicy. I like small tomatoes because they hold their shape and pulp when you mix them in a salad unlike larger tomatoes cut into chunks.
  • Cucumbers: English cucumbers or Persian cucumbers, also known as mini cucumbers, have much fewer seeds and more delicate skin than regular cucumbers, so they are always great in salads.
  • Red onions: Typically, you would thinly slice onions for a panzanella. I like finely dicing them. They end up more distributed throughout the salad when you prep them this way.
  • Basil: If you have bigger fresh basil leaves, tear them. This herb has a lot of flavor, so you don’t want to end up with a huge bite of basil that overpowers the tomatoes and cucumbers.
  • Red wine vinaigrette: I whisk a combination of minced garlic, whole grain mustard, kosher salt, black pepper, red wine vinegar and extra virgin olive oil.

Optional Additions

As mentioned, you can customize your salad. Because the base ingredients, tomatoes, cucumbers, basil and cornbread work with lots of other ingredients, this is easy to do.

  • Corn: Try fresh, roasted or grilled corn kernels.
  • Cheese: Torn fresh mozzarella or burrata, grated parmesan or crumbled feta would all be great.
  • Cooked grains: Go with quinoa, barley, farro or even pearl couscous.
  • Nuts such as toasted walnuts or pine nuts give the salad crunch.
  • Olives: Try pitted Kalamata olives, whole, halved or chopped.
  • Pesto: Whisk a tablespoon of basil pesto into the vinaigrette to make the salad more herby.

How To Make This Cornbread Panzanella Salad

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

1. Prep the cornbread. Toss the cubed bread with olive oil on a baking sheet. Arrange the bread in a single layer.

2. Toast the cornbread for for 20-25 minutes, flipping over halfway through baking. It should be golden brown and crisp at the edges.

Cubed cornbread on a sheet pan before and after you toast it in the oven.

3. Make the vinaigrette. You can do this while the cornbread is in the oven. Whisk the garlic, mustard, salt, pepper, vinegar and oil in a small bowl.

4. Assemble the salad. Combine the tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions and basil in a large bowl. 

Red wine vinaigrette in a small bowl. Salad ingredients assembled in a large bowl.

5. Stir in half the vinaigrette.

6. Fold in the toasted cornbread. I wait to do this because the consistency of cornbread is more delicate and crumbly than bread with a hearty crust. Drizzle in additional dressing as desired.

Salad vegetables tossed together with vinaigrette. Cornbread croutons stirred into salad in a large bowl.

Serving

This panzanella salad is a side dish that you can serve with vegetarian main dishes such as barbecue tofu veggie skewers, roasted Mediterranean vegetables & halloumi, sheet pan gnocchi or baked feta with summer veggies. It goes well with proteins such as chicken, shrimp, salmon or steak.

Leftovers, Storage & Make-Ahead Tips

You can keep the salad in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 3 days. It’s best if you plan ahead and not toss the entire salad in the vinaigrette if you know you’re planning to save some of it. Keep the dressing in a mason jar in the fridge.

You should store the croutons in a separate airtight container at room temperature. I recommend fishing them out of the salad if you have tossed them in. Then re-toast the croutons in a 300-degree F oven to dry them, and let them cool before you store them. The croutons will soften if they are in the salad in the fridge.

You can make the vinaigrette up to 2 days in advance. When you take it out of the refrigerator, let it sit for 15 minutes at room temperature and then stir it. This gives the oil a chance to turn to liquid again assuming it has hardened in the chill of the fridge.

I also recommend baking the cornbread 1 day in advance. Then you can cut it into cubes when it has fully cooled. That will make it better for toasting.

Panzanella salad with toasted cornbread on a large platter.

Recipe Tips

Use ripe tomatoes for the best taste. The is not a salad to make when you don’t have excellent tomatoes. It just won’t turn out as good.

If you bake your cornbread from scratch or with a mix, wait to let it cool before you cut it into cubes. It is even better to bake it 1 or 2 days in advance.

I recommend using cornbread for the croutons, but you can use a more typical panzanella bread type. This recipe will still be tasty if you use country bread or sourdough.

Wait to cut your tomatoes and cucumbers until you are ready to assemble the salad. Then they will be at their most crisp and juicy.

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Cornbread Panzanella Salad

5 from 2 votes
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Total: 35 minutes
Servings: 6
This easy panzaenlla salad has toasted cornbread mixed with fresh cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions and basil. It’s tossed in a garlicky red wine vinaigrette.

Ingredients 

For cornbread

  • 3 cups 1-inch cornbread cubes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

For vinaigrette

  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

For salad

  • 2 pints cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 cups diced cucumbers, preferably English cucumbers or Persian cucumbers
  • 1/3 cup finely diced red onions
  • 1/4 cup packed basil leaves, larger ones torn

Instructions 

  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  • On a sheet pan, toss the cornbread with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Spread it into a single layer.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes, flipping over halfway through baking, until the bread is golden, crisp and toasted.
  • While the cornbread is in the oven, make the vinaigrette. Whisk the garlic, mustard, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, red wine vinegar and 1/4 cup olive oil in a small bowl.
  • For the salad, combine the tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, and basil in a large bowl. Pour in half the vinaigrette. Stir everything together.
  • Gently fold in the toasted cornbread. Drizzle in additional vinaigrette as desired.

Notes

The salad can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 2 days. If you are planning to have leftovers, try to not toss that portion in the dressing. Keep the vinaigrette in a separate jar in the fridge.
Store the toasted cornbread in an airtight container at room temperature. If you have leftovers with cornbread stirred in, remove the croutons. Then re-toast them in a 300-degree F oven to dry them out, and let them cool before you store them. If you leave the croutons in the salad in the fridge, they will soften.
You can make the vinaigrette up to 2 days in advance. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Let it sit out at room temperature for 15 minutes before tossing it into the salad.
Optional Additions
  • Corn: fresh, roasted or grilled corn kernels.
  • Cheese: torn fresh mozzarella or burrata, grated parmesan or crumbled feta 
  • Cooked grains: quinoa, barley, farro or pearl couscous.
  • Nuts: toasted walnuts or pine nuts
  • Olives: Pitted Kalamata olives, whole, halved or chopped.
  • Pesto: Whisk a tablespoon of basil pesto into the vinaigrette 

Nutrition

Calories: 392kcal | Carbohydrates: 54g | Protein: 8g | Fat: 17g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 9g | Trans Fat: 0.2g | Cholesterol: 45mg | Sodium: 597mg | Potassium: 702mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 19g | Vitamin A: 1350IU | Vitamin C: 56mg | Calcium: 143mg | Iron: 3mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Salads
Cuisine: Italian
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Hi, I'm Paige.

Welcome to Last Ingredient where you will find simple seasonal recipes with plenty of fruits and vegetables, all for the home cook.

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