This recipe for Corn Patties was adapted from the Sioux Chef. I love using them as an alternative for white bread – try topping them with pesto, eggs, or smoked salmon.
When we think of traditional Indigenous foods on the West Coast our mind goes to salmon, seafood and berries. Corn was first harvested in Canada by the First Nations between Manitoba and Lake Superior and was a diet staple along with wild rice and hunted game. There was even a type of bannock made from corn (along with roots and sap), and it was only around the 1860s when bannock made from white flour was introduced.
Making Corn Patties
Celebrating Original Indigenous Foods
Indigenous Peoples and their diets are as diverse as the numerous countries and cuisines in Europe. Some foods we are very familiar with include the maple syrup or the wild rice used in this Simple Breakfast Chia Seed Pudding with Wild Rice, but there are so many more all around us.
Across the continent, traditional foods could include fish, seafood, seaweed, game meat, berries, fruit, roots, greens, corn, beans, squash, small mammals, seal and nuts! My favourite resource for learning more deeply about traditional foods from these lands is McGills Centre For Indigenous Peoples’ Nutrition and Environment.
Corn As An Original Food
While corn was not traditionally harvested on the Pacific side, plains First Nations began the horticulture of corn between the years of 800 and 1200 CE (AD) (1). Corn was an important staple food that allowed for a stable and plentiful food source and allowed for trade.
Colonization and Traditional Foods
Canada’s colonial past is marked by a steady erosion of indigenous food traditions, a process aided by the use of food and food sovereignty as a weapon against indigenous peoples (2). This complex issue deserves more than can be offered through this recipe – for further reading, this is a good place to start The History Of Food In Canada Is A History of Colonization.
Corn As An Alternative to White Flour
Corn and cornmeal is a medium glycemic index food, meaning its effect on blood sugar levels is moderate. White flour, as used to make white bread or bannock is a high glycemic index food, showing that it will have a greater effect on blood sugar levels.
Corn Patties As An Alternative to Bread
In my journey in seeking alternatives to bread, both for blood sugar management but also for the celebration of more traditional ingredients, these corn patties are enjoyed as a flour-free alternative. The corn patties offer that slightly doughy texture that we look for in bread, and they are a great vessel for adding things. I love mine with this Wild Fennel Pesto Recipe.
Ingredients for corn patties: Cornmeal, water and salt.
Cook the cornmeal for 30 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes.
Form the patties and place in a pre-heated frying pan.
Cook the patties for 5 minutes, then flip the corn patties and cook for an additional 3-4 minutes.
Coarse Cornmeal vs Fine Cornmeal
Cornmeal, as used in this recipe, is ground maize (field corn) and comes in fine, medium or coarse sized grains. Fine cornmeal is used for muffins or pancakes, or for coating fried foods. Medium cornmeal is used for making cornbread. Coarser cornmeal is best for making polenta, as well as these corn patties. The coarsest cornmeal is what is used for making grits.
*Note that Masa Harina is cornmeal made from ground hominy that is cooked in limewater first. This is used for making tortilla shells.
Adjusting The Salt
Being mindful of the effect of excess salt or sodium on blood pressure, I have included two options for sodium. If you are topping the corn patties with a heavily salted ingredient, such as smoked salmon or traditional pesto use the lower amount salt suggestion (1/4 teaspoon).
If you are planning on having the corn patties on their own, or with a simple egg or this Wild Fennel Pesto Recipe then the option add the full 1/2 teaspoon of salt for the most amount of flavour in the patties themselves.
Forming the Corn Patties
The cooked cornmeal with water needs to be cooled for at least 15 minutes before shaping. My suggestion is to take an ice cream scoop-sized handful of the cooked cornmeal and form it into a patty by swapping it from hand to hand until a circular and semi flattened pattie is formed. Drop this straight onto the heated frying pan.
Which Oil To Use For These Corn Patties
The Sioux Chef Sean Sherman uses Sunflower Oil in his recipes, though he resides in the lower USA states where sunflowers were more common (3). As these patties are cooked on medium heat, I use olive oil which is a healthy monounsaturated fat and won’t interrupt our bodies’ usage of omega-3 fatty acids (see post on Omega-3 Fatty Acids).
How To Make The Corn Patties Crispy
First, heat the frying pan to high heat, then turn it down to medium-high heat. This ensures that the frying pan is nice and hot before the addition of the cornmeal mixture. Add the oil to the hot frying pan, and then add the patties for a nice and crispy corn patty.
Purchasing Organic Cornmeal
Corn is one of the most heavily sprayed crops, and this is because corn has been genetically modified to withstand large amounts of the carcinogenic herbicide glyphosate. See post Genetically Modified Foods for more information. I purchase my organic foods in bulk from OM Foods (no affiliation).
Lower Sodium Alternatives
If you have opted for the lower salt amount, there is the option to add some herbs and spices for flavouring. I love adding oregano or powdered ginger and onion. Use whatever fresh herb you have access to, or pair the herb with your desired toppings (ie add minced dill to the corn patties if you are serving with eggs or smoked salmon).
What To Serve These Corn Patties With
These corn patties are a great vessel for toppings that you would otherwise put on bread. Option to top your corn patties with one of these:
- Fried or poached eggs (Health Benefits of Eggs)
- Smoked salmon
- Pesto (see this recipe for Ultimate Vegan Pesto with Hemp)
- Sweet Wild Fennel Pesto
- Serve it with this Easy Curry Lentil Soup with Kale
- Raw Almond Hummus
2 Ingredient Corn Patties | Traditional Indigenous Food
- 4 cups water
- 1/4-1/2 tsp salt*
- 1 cup coarse cornmeal or polenta
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- In a large saucepan, bring water and salt to a boil. Once the water is boiling, slowly whisk in the cornmeal.
- Continue to stir to make sure there are no lumps. Reduce the heat to a simmer, and stir regularly or at least every 5 minutes to prevent sticking to the bottom of the saucepan. Cook until the cornmeal is thick and the flavour is rich and creamy, or about 30 minutes. Taste and adjust salt if needed.
- Let the cornmeal cool for about 15 minutes, or until it is cool enough to handle. Heat a frying pan over medium-high heat and add the oil.
- Take an ice-cream scoop size of the cornmeal mixture into the palm of one hand, and toss it back and forth with the other hand until a slightly flattened patty shape is formed. Add this to the frying pan and continue with the cornmeal mixture until all the space in the frying pan is taken up.
- Cook the patties for about 5 minutes on the first side, then flip over and cook for an additional 3-4 minutes. Repeat the process with the remaining cornmeal mixture until all are cooked through.
- Keep the patties warm in the oven until they are ready to serve. Top with desired toppings (see above for ideas).
- Clearing The Plains: Disease, Politics of Starvation, and the loss of indigenous life. James Daschuk. 2019
- Indigenous Cuisine in Canada – The Guardian
- Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen. Sean Sherman. 2017.