Cornmeal Mush

Cornmeal mush (or simply mush), an American dish which is at times called coosh, is a thick porridge or pudding made of cornmeal. The cooked mush is cooled to room temperature and then cut into pieces and pan-fried before serving.



Native Americans used different forms of ground corn for cooking, long before the European settlers reached the New World. They used corn whole or ground or treated with alkaline salt to create a range of porridge or gravy like dishes that were served with meat. Cornmeal mush became very popular with the new settlers as it could be made well in advance, it was cheap and it could be consumed cold as well as hot in sweet or savory versions. Cornmeal was exceedingly cheap and it became so popular that it was exported to the European mainland where it was adapted into local European cuisine to form a range of cheap peasant dishes.  



Cornmeal is readily available in supermarkets. The cornmeal is simmered with water or milk, salt and sugar to form a thick porridge.



There are two ways to eat cornmeal mush. Hot cornmeal mush is served with meat gravies or sauces as a dinner or supper dish. It is also served with eggs, bacon, and beans in the Southwest US to make a complete breakfast meal. The second alternative is to allow the cooked cornmeal mush to cool and set and refrying it again bacon drippings or fat. This is then served with beans or meat sauces.  


Popular Variations

Cornmeal can be prepared in a range of different ways to create savory or sweet variations. The same dish is also given different names in different geographical locations. For example,

  • American versions of cornmeal mush are called as hasty puddings which are created by simmering corn grains with water or milk.
  • Native American or Indian mush is a simpler version of cornmeal mush created by simmering the cornmeal in water. The porridge is allowed to cool down and it is then fried just before serving. Sweet and savory versions of the dish are very commonly prepared with maple syrup, honey, salted meat and molasses being served alongside.
  • Indian pudding is a New England dessert variety of cornmeal mush prepared cooking cornmeal mush with milk, cornmeal and molasses, honey, cinnamon, ginger, butter, raisins and nuts.
  • Polenta is the Italian version of cornmeal mush prepared by simmering cornmeal in water or milk. It was considered a peasant dish and was commonly served with a little salted fish.
  • A Romanian version called as Mămăligă is also made by simmering the corn in water, stock, milk or cream to make a creamy pudding. 



During the American Civil War, the Confederate and the Union Armies prepared large amounts of cornmeal mush as it was cheap and easy to cook.