Ulu-Kiawe Cornbread

ulu-kiawe cornbread

ulu-kiawe cornbread

I developed this ulu-kiawe cornbread recipe for my last Pupus With A Purpose  event to highlight ingredients that are both local and invasive to Hawaiʻi. To make a gluten-free cornbread (or any kind of gluten-free bread for that matter) takes a bit of tinkering. AP flour brings a lightness to breads and pastries that gluten-free flours can’t. To avoid creating a dry hockey puck I treated this bread like a cake. How do you create a super moist cake? You add fat.

So, in addition to high quality ulu and kiawe flours, and locally grown and milled cornmeal, I incorporate a good amount of coconut oil into this recipe. I also use a lower glycemic monkfruit sugar instead of refined sugar to make it even healthier.

Lastly, I bake this bread in a well seasoned cast iron dutch oven passed down from my aunt who used it for years before me. This helps steam the bread a bit while giving it a nice crust. Plus, everything tastes better coming out of a family heirloom.

This may be a difficult recipe to make if you don’t live on Oʻahu because the ingredients may be tough to source. But, if you are lucky enough to live here I invite you to please indulge.

Ulu-Kiawe Cornbread

Use organic, local ingredients whenever possible. 

Cuisine Gluten free
Keyword cornbread, cornmeal, gluten free, kiawe, ulu
Servings 16 servings


  • 2 cups cornmeal Counter Culture Organic Farms' 'Nalo Orange Cornmeal
  • 2 cups milk whole
  • 1 can creamed corn
  • 1.5 ounces kiawe flour Waiʻanae Gold
  • 5 ounces ulu flour Manaʻe Farm or Kahumana Farms brand
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 3/4 cup monkfruit sugar
  • 2 each eggs
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil plus more for greasing your pan


  1. Pre-heat oven 400 degrees.

  2. In a small bowl combine cornmeal, creamed corn and milk; let stand for 15 minutes. 

  3. Grease a cast iron pan with 1-2 tablespoons coconut oil and place in the  oven while it's pre-heating. 

  4. In a large bowl whisk together flours, baking powder, salt and monkfruit sugar. 

  5. Whisk in cornmeal mixture.

  6. In a separate bowl whisk together the eggs and coconut oil until well incorporated, and then whisk this into the rest of the cornbread batter. 

  7. Remove the cast iron pan from the oven, pour in the batter, level it out with a spatula and place back in the oven. Bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cornbread comes out clean.

  8. Let the bread cool in the cast iron pan for at least 30 minutes. Invert the pan on to a cutting board to remove the bread, continue to let it cool on the cutting board for another 30 minutes, and then slice into 16 pieces or as desired. 

  9. Serve with soft butter, honey and jam or all on its own. 

What’s the deal with gluten?

acme bread
Buckwheat Meteil and NY Rye from Acme Bread Co.

As I began to research the subject of gluten I found myself going down a rabbit hole of topics ranging from refined flour made from commodity grains to the nutritional benefits of whole grains to sourdough bread fermentation to the demise (and some argue survival) of the health of our country due to the invention of the steel roller mill. Several months later I realized that I wasn’t writing a blog entry I was writing a book.

To keep things short, simple and focused on the topic of gluten I am going to write just about that and will save related topics for future articles.

What is gluten? Gluten is a mixture of proteins found in wheat, barley, rye and other related grains that cause bread to rise, hold its shape and give it desirable texture.

Gluten has been a controversial topic since the late 90’s when high carb diets suddenly went out of style and low-no carb diets started trending.

The argument of the gluten free advocators is that it creates inflammation and sugar spikes that promotes insulin resistance which can lead to obesity, diabetes and other inflammatory related diseases.

I believe that to be true but only in these instances:

  1. You are eating highly refined carbs made from commodity grains (processed foods).
  2. You do not eat a balanced diet of carbs, protein, vegetables and healthy fats.
  3. You are not eating whole grains  and/or eating breads that have been quickly fermented with commercial yeast instead of slow fermented with a natural starter  (like in the case of sourdough bread).
  4. You have changed the bacteria in your gut’s microbiome (probably by eating to much processed food and being overly exposed to antibiotics) to the point where you have trouble digesting food properly.

Gluten is the devil if you have Celiac disease. 1% of Americans are diagnosed with Celiac disease in which gluten attacks the immune system and severely damages the small intestine. There is no cure but you can avoid symptoms by not eating any products containing gluten.

Gluten sensitivity is what I believe is effecting all other Americans that have trouble digesting gluten. In this case gluten is not doing any damage to the persons intestine but it does cause them to have bloating, stomach pain or constipation.

The easiest way to find out if gluten is the cause of your digestion problems is to go on an elimination diet. This is when you eliminate a particular food from your diet (in this case gluten) and then start slowly adding it back in noting how you feel each time. If you still feel awful off gluten than it is probably something else in your diet that is making you feel this way. Eating intuitively and having self-awareness is the best way to determine which foods are right for you.

Most of the time when people go on a gluten free diet the reason they start feeling better is because they have eliminated most of the processed foods in their diet (white bread, white pasta, pizza, cookies, crackers, ect.). If you have done this and are feeling good try gradually adding whole grains that contain gluten back into your diet a little at a time like farro, pan au levain (sourdough bread) or whole grain pasta from reputable sources. What you may end up noticing is that not only are you not sensitive to these products but you are actually feeling healthier and maybe even dropping some pounds too.

Grains that contain gluten are:

  • Wheat
  • Barley (farro)
  • Spelt
  • Kamut
  • Rye
  • Triticale (rye-wheat blend)

Grains that do not contain gluten are:

  • Rice
  • Millet
  • Kasha
  • Buckwheat
  • Oats
  • Cornmeal
  • Wild rice
  • Quinoa
  • Teff
  • Amaranth

Companies that sell nutritious whole grain products are: