This Southern cornbread dressing recipe is the star holiday food every Thanksgiving-it's just a Southern comfort food we must have with our turkey dinner!
The thought of making dressing can be intimidating if you've never made it, but it's really very simple!
Just a few ingredients and you're done! No more StoveTop™ dressing- this easy recipe has no additives, preservatives or fillers-just homemade goodness--and it doesn't use any condensed soups!
I promise you'll love this old fashioned, traditional Southern recipe and will make it more than once a year!
What's the difference between Southern cornbread dressing and stuffing?
These terms are not used interchangeably in the South.
Cornbread "dressing" is made with day-old, dried cornbread and herb seasoned bread crumbs, and is cooked in a big pan in the oven- some people refer to this as "pan dressing."
It is not cooked or stuffed into the turkey cavity, but in a separate pan.
Stuffing, on the other hand, is generally a combination of seasoned day-old white or wheat bread, with seasonings and perhaps celery and apples. It is cooked in the turkey cavity.
You'll love this recipe!
- Foolproof - works every time! Nothing fancy or tricky!
- Simple ingredients - all-natural, no preservatives, no canned chicken soup
- Ready in about 40-minutes! Make ahead if that's easier for you!
- Crowd-pleaser - I double the recipe if making this for more than 8 because everyone goes back for seconds and the leftovers are delicious!
We serve this at Thanksgiving with the usual suspects: turkey, gravy, cranberry sauce, collard greens, green bean casserole, candied sweet potatoes and finish it off with a slice of pumpkin or pecan pie!
This recipe is similar to Patti LaBelle's Cornbread Dressing recipe, except she uses oregano in hers. Our family recipe uses a hint of poultry seasoning and/or ground sage to get that savory flavor.
There are several versions of Southern Cornbread Dressing because no two cooks cook the same!
Some folks include boiled eggs, chicken or cream of chicken soup in their recipe, and some folks from Louisiana add andouille sausage to theirs! It really a matter of personal preference.
But I can tell you this: this beats Cracker Barrel's™ cornbread dressing and StoveTop™ Dressing Mix any day of the week. This homemade version has no additives, preservatives or fillers. It's all-natural and you can't beat that.
What you'll need:
To start with, you'll need two pans of cornbread.
You can make homemade cornbread or packaged, it doesn't matter. (If you make cornbread from scratch, double the recipe)
You'll need a total of 8 cups of day-old cornbread - 1 package of Jiffy™ cornbread = 4 cups of crumbled cornbread), so you'll need two packages of cornbread mix or make two large cornbread loaves
A Note about using Jiffy Cornbread Mix: it contains a little sugar, which I don't care for. You can substitute the milk for buttermilk in the Jiffy™ cornbread recipe. Use ⅓ cup PLUS 3 tablespoons of buttermilk instead of milk per package. This will get rid of any sweetness.
This family recipe calls for sausage with Sage, however, you can omit it if you're not a fan of sausage. (It does give it a great flavor!) The other ingredients are:
Note: this recipe has only ½ teaspoon of salt because I use salted butter, normal broth (not low sodium) and sausage. These ingredients provide plenty of salt!
If you use unsalted butter, low sodium broth and no sausage, you might want to add a little more salt to the recipe.
How to make Southern cornbread dressing
Before you get started, know ahead of time that the best way to mix all this together is to just use your clean hands. I've tried using a spoonula, spatula and big spoon, and it's just easier with your hands.
First, bake the cornbread, crumble it and let it sit out for 1-2 days.
Then, brown the sausage in skillet-there's not much grease from the sausage, but you can drain it if you want. In separate pan, saute onion and celery in butter.
Why do I need stale cornbread?
Stale, or dried cornbread is essential to fluffy Southern dressing because it absorbs moisture and provides texture.
It keeps the cornbread dressing from being too gummy or mushy.
How to dry out cornbread
Make the cornbread a day or two in advance. Once it's cool, crumble it up and place it in a big bowl, uncovered, and let it sit on the counter until you're ready to assemble the ingredients.
If you don't have time to make cornbread a day ahead, you can dry it out quickly with this simple oven-method:
Preheat oven to 250ºF
Crumble cornbread and place it on a large baking sheet
Bake cornbread until it begins to dry out (about 20 minutes)
Before it goes in the oven, this is what it looks like...
Most Southern cooks prefer to make their holiday cornbread dressing in a big aluminum pan.
Use cornbread that is two days old; crumble it and let it sit out for two days before you make the dressing
Make sure your poultry seasoning is fresh
Poultry seasoning contains sage; if you're using sage-seasoned sausage, go easy on adding the ground sage
Cooked sausage doesn't yield much fat so it's not necessary to drain it unless you want to
The best way to mix a big batch of cornbread dressing is with your hands
Yield and Servings
People always double-up on homemade cornbread dressing and gravy, so be sure to make plenty! This recipe makes about 12 cups of dressing, which yields about 16 ¾-cups per serving.
If you're hosting a big group for Thanksgiving, you might want to double the recipe and make it in a giant baking pan. You can freeze any leftovers for up to 3-months.
Tips for making cornbread dressing for a group
This recipe yields a full 9 x 13 baking dish of dressing which equates to about 12 cups. Most big serving spoons are about ¾ cup, which yields about 16 servings, so keep this in mind when planning your Thanksgiving or Christmas menu.
If you're like most of us, you'll have plenty of other side dishes and in this case, this recipe easily serves up to 16 but with no leftovers! If you want leftovers, I recommend doubling the recipe.
If you're making cornbread dressing for a big group, say 20 or more, make two batches and cook them in two pans (9 x 13 Pyrex or big aluminum pans.) By using two pans, the cooking time won't take as long as it would if you were cooking a double batch in one pan.
If you have any leftovers, you can send them home with folks or freeze it.
Best way to mix the dressing ingredients and seasonings together
If you're making a big batch of this, it can be hard to combine all the ingredients with a spoon or spatula. I've found the best way to get everything mixed together is to use my hands.
Yep, make sure you're hands and nails are good and clean (or wear food prep gloves) and gently fold everything together. Don't overwork it or it will be mushy.
Add the seasonings in two increments: after you've added the chicken broth and combined everything, add ½ of the poultry seasoning and sage; mix it gently together with your hands, then add the remaining poultry seasoning and sage, and combine one final time.
This ensures the dry seasonings are distributed evenly.
Poultry seasoning and sage
For the best flavor, make sure your poultry seasoning and ground sage are fresh. I only use poultry seasoning about once or twice a year, so I just buy a new jar every November...just in case.
Also, poultry seasoning has a little sage in it so keep this is mind, especially if you're using sausage with sage. If you add too much sage, the cornbread dressing turns a yucky green color...not appetizing at all.
How to avoid gummy or mushy dressing
Start with two pans of stale or dried cornbread - by "stale" I mean 1-2 days old. The dried cornbread absorbs the chicken broth and reduces the risk of gummy cornbread dressing.
Is Southern cornbread dressing gluten-free?
Generally speaking, no. Most cornbread mixes have flour in them; however, if you want to make a gluten-free version, use certified Gluten-Free Cornbread mix and Seasoned bread crumbs.
The Pepperidge Farm herb-seasoned bread crumbs are not gluten-free, but there are other GF brands out there that will work! I've read that Aleia's brand is good...
How to tell when it's done
The finished product will be a little brown on top and solid in the middle; not hard or firm, but semi-soft. If you find your cornbread is still mushy in the center, bake it a little longer.
If the top is nice and brown, but the middle is still mushy, cover the pan with foil and bake it a little longer, checking the center with a toothpick in 15-minute increments.
Actual baking times will vary depending upon the amount you make and your oven. Every kitchen is different, right?
Want to add boiled eggs?
If you liked eggs in your dressing, add 3-diced, boiled eggs to this recipe after you've combined everything else. Of course, you can always add more or less to taste.
How long to cook it
Generally speaking, Southern cornbread dressing cooks in about 25-40 minutes at 350ºF. If you're doubling or tripling the recipe, it may take a bit longer.
Keep an eye on it! When it no longer "jiggles" in the center and the top turns light brown, it's done!
Do I cook the dressing covered or uncovered?
Cook cornbread dressing uncovered. If you're reheating the dressing, put foil over the pan if the dressing has already been cooked. See Freezing and Reheating Instructions below.
How long can it sit out at room temperature?
Because this dressing contains eggs, you don't want to let it sit out more than two hours.
Make ahead of time
Make this traditional side dish from scratch a day or two before Thanksgiving or Christmas! Simply assemble all the ingredients, cover and refrigerate the uncooked (or cooked) dressing for up to two days.
On the day of the holiday feast, remove the dressing from the fridge, uncover and allow to come to room temperature prior to baking (it takes about 30 minutes for the dressing to get to room temperature.)
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Cover cooked dressing with foil and reheat; bake uncooked dressing uncovered.
Serve with Turkey Gravy
Southern cornbread dressing is typically drowned in turkey gravy:) that's what makes it so extra yummy!
Here's how to make a quick turkey gravy:
- 4 tablespoons of turkey pan drippings or butter (salted or unsalted)
- ¼ cup flour, all-purpose
- ½ teaspoon poultry seasoning
- 2 cups turkey stock
- salt & pepper to taste
Melt butter in pan on medium heat; whisk in flour and poultry seasoning; stir in broth; bring to boil; taste for salt & pepper; serve immediately
Freezing and reheating instructions
You can freeze cooked or uncooked southern cornbread dressing for up to 3 months. Make sure it's packaged and sealed well to minimize freezer burn.
When you're ready to cook or reheat the dressing, allow it get to room temperature first, then bake or reheat the dressing/stuffing at 350ºF until the center is done.
Place foil over cooked dressing when reheating so it won't dry out.
Do not cover uncooked dressing.
Once you make this easy and delicious Southern Cornbread Dressing, I promise you'll be making it all the time! It pairs beautifully with roasted or baked chicken, pork and beef!
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If you make this recipe, scroll down and leave a comment and rating! I love to hear from you! Thank you!
Southern Cornbread Dressing
- Big mixing bowl
- 9 x 13 or larger baking dish; (a big aluminum pan if you double the recipe)
- 2 pans cornbread crumbled and dried-out; can be homemade or packaged
- 2 cups Herb Seasoned Pepperidge Farm Classic Stuffing Mix
- 1 lb. Pork sausage with sage ,cooked and crumbled into small pieces
- 4 stalks celery ,finely chopped (about 1 ¼ cup)
- 2 medium yellow onions ,finely chopped (about 1½-2 cups)
- 1 stick butter ,salted, (¾ stick for onion/celery; remainder for buttering baking dish)
- 2 large eggs , lightly beaten
- 6 cups chicken broth (see notes if using low-sodium)
- 1 tablespoon Poultry Seasoning make sure it's fresh
- ½ teaspoon salt (see notes about salt)
- ½ tablespoon ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon ground sage (see notes if not using sausage with sage)
Make the Cornbread
- Use 2 packages of cornbread mix and follow package instructions or, make a double batch of my homemade cornbread2 pans cornbread
- Once cornbread is cool, crumble into a large bowl, cover and allow to sit at room temperature for a day or two
Cook the Sausage, Celery and Onions
- Place the sage seasoned sausage in a skillet and cook it until it is browned; use a wooden spoon to break the sausage up into tiny pieces; when sausage is thoroughly browned; set aside; drain it if it's super oily;1 lb. Pork sausage with sage
- In a big saucepan on medium heat, melt ¾ stick of salted butter; add chopped celery and onions; cook 10 minutes, or until onions are transluscent; turn off heat and set aside4 stalks celery, 2 medium yellow onions, 1 stick butter
Cornbread Dressing Assembly
- Preheat oven to 350ºF
- Butter the inside of a 9 x 13 baking dish; go all the way up on the sides of the dish because the dressing completely fill this size of pan1 stick butter
- Beat two eggs in a bowl; set aside2 large eggs
- Add the crumbled cornbread and Pepperidge Farm herb stuffing mix to the buttered baking dish (See Notes)2 cups Herb Seasoned Pepperidge Farm Classic Stuffing Mix
- Add the cooked sausage, onions, celery and the melted butter to the bread mixture; combine well
- Add eggs; combine well; (the best way to do this is to use your hands)2 large eggs
- Add 3 cups of chicken broth to mixture; mix together then add the other 3 cups of broth and combine it well.6 cups chicken broth
- Add ½ of the poultry seasoning and ½ of the pepper to the mixture; combine well, then add the remaining halves of poultry seasoning and pepper; add salt and combine again NOTE: if you're not using sausage with sage, add the sage now in ½ tablespoon increments)NOTE: taste now for salt1 tablespoon Poultry Seasoning, ½ teaspoon salt, ½ tablespoon ground black pepper, 1 tablespoon ground sage
- Place mixture in buttered baking dish; bake on the middle rack, uncovered for 25 minutes then check the center of the dish with a fork to see if it's almost done; if the center is still a bit jiggly, cook the dressing another 10 minutes; recheck center for doneness
- Dressing is done when the center is no longer jiggly and the top is brown
- A Note about using Jiffy Cornbread Mix: it contains a little sugar, which I don't care for. You can substitute the milk for buttermilk in the cornbread recipe. Use ⅓ cup PLUS 3 tablespoons of buttermilk instead of milk per package of cornbread. This will get rid of any sweetness.
- If you are not using sausage with sage, add 1 tablespoon of ground sage to this recipe. The poultry seasoning, black pepper and sage (optional) are added in increments because the mixture is so big. Add ½ the amount of sage, combine, then add the other ½. This ensures the seasonings are mixed well throughout .
- Poultry seasoning already contains sage, so it's not necessary to add more sage unless you love it! Be aware that too much ground sage turns the dressing a little bit green...
- This recipe uses salted butter, normal (not low-sodium) chicken broth and sausage-all of which are pretty salty. If you use unsalted butter or low-sodium broth, you may want to add a little more salt.
- Two cups of herb seasoned Pepperidge Farm stuffing mix means; pour the stuffing mix into a two-cup measuring cup, then add it to the cornbread
- Make this traditional side dish from scratch a day or two before Thanksgiving or Christmas! Simply assemble all the ingredients, cover and refrigerate the uncooked (or cooked) for up to two days.
- When ready to serve, remove the turkey dressing from the fridge, uncover and allow to come to room temperature prior to baking (it takes about 30 minutes for it to get to room temperature.)
- Preheat oven to 375ºF. Cover cooked dressing with foil and reheat; bake uncooked dressing with no cover.
- You can freeze cooked and uncooked dressing for up to 3 months. Make sure it's packaged and sealed well to minimize freezer burn.
- When you're ready to cook or reheat, allow it to get to room temperature first, then bake or reheat.
- Cover cooked dressing with foil and reheat; bake uncooked dressing with no cover.