If you need just one new recipe this Thanksgiving, my Southern Cornbread Dressing is it. This is the only dressing recipe my family has ever made!
This Cornbread Dressing is the best of the best
This is the best recipe I got; it's all here, folks. I may turn out the lights on this blog after sharing this.
My Southern Corn Bread Dressing was saved for years to put in my second cookbook because I knew it would be a game-changer. You will also find a 'Thanksgiving for Two' feast in the book, and this cornbread dressing is in it, albeit in a small pan for two. Here, I doubled it to serve 4-6 for our small Thanksgiving series we've got going on.
When serving, use the oblong pan in the photos, or an 8x8 baking dish. The pan I just linked you to has a lid, so if you're doing a potluck Thanksgiving, it's perfect for you!
Like all good things, this recipe is first my Mama's. She says she clipped it from a Southern Living magazine decades ago, and quite frankly, it's the only type of dressing or stuffing I've ever tasted in my life. I don't need to try any other dressings; this is as good as it gets.
Our cornbread dressing is the reason people drive for hours all over Texas to descend on my parents' house for Turkey Day. Once you taste it, you will beg for an invite.
To make in a 9x13-inch pan:
First things first: yes, you can double this recipe! I double it and bake it in a 9x13-inch pan for my family. I cut it in half for the photos above, but here is a photo of it in a larger pan.
For this version, I did the following:
- I doubled the cornbread recipe to be 2 cups of cornmeal, 1 ⅓ cups of flour, 4 tablespoons sugar, 3 teaspoons baking powder, ½ teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon salt, 4 large eggs, 2 cups buttermilk, and 6 tablespoons of melted butter. I baked this cornbread for 20 minutes (or until done) in the exact same 9x13-inch pan I bake the dressing in. One less pan to wash, hooray!
- Once the cornbread was done, I let it cool and then crumbled it into a large bowl. I cubed the bread slices, and mixed that in along with the spices and salt. This mixture sat out overnight on the counter to go slightly stale. Making your cornbread and bread stale helps it absorb more liquid the next day when you bake.
- I doubled the dressing recipe to be: the cornbread recipe above, 8 slices of white bread, 3 teaspoons of salt (yes, really), 3 teaspoons of dried rubbed sage leaves, 4 teaspoons of poultry seasoning, 1 ⅓ cup diced onion, 1 ⅓ cup sliced celery, 1 ⅓ cup water, 12 tablespoons of butter, 3 cups of chicken broth, 4 large eggs, and 1 cup of milk. Then, baked it for 22-25 minutes, in the same pan I baked the cornbread in.
What is cornbread dressing?
Cornbread dressing is the same thing as regular ‘stuffing,' but made with cornbread and white bread. Typically ‘stuffing’ is just made with white bread. And technically, it’s ‘stuffing’ if its inside the turkey and ‘dressing’ if its baked separately on the side. Stale cornbread crumbles and stale bread cubes are tossed with your favorite Thanksgiving spices (sage, parsley, thyme, marjoram, and rosemary), and then baked in a custard of milk and eggs studded with chopped onions and celery. It’s like a savory bread pudding, in the best way possible.
Ingredients for this Cornbread Dressing Recipe
For the cornbread:
- Cornmeal. We’re making a batch of cornbread that we will then crumble and use for the cornbread dressing, and it starts with cornmeal. You can use finely ground or stone ground cornmeal, and it can be yellow, white or even blue cornmeal.
- Flour. A small amount of flour cut into the cornmeal makes the cornbread fluffy.
- Sugar. My cornbread recipe has a very small amount of sugar in it.
- Baking Powder. One and a half teaspoons of baking powder, for rising.
- Baking Soda. A very small amount (¼ teaspoon) of baking soda for rising.
- Salt. I like to cook with fine sea salt.
- Eggs. Two large eggs, at room temperature.
- Buttermilk. One cup of buttermilk makes the best cornbread. You can substitute the same amount of milk that you can have added one teaspoon of vinegar or lemon juice to, if you don’t have buttermilk.
- Butter. Melted butter is the key for the best cornbread!
For the dressing:
- Sliced White Bread. The other bulk of our cornbread dressing is sliced white bread. We will cube it before letting it go stale on the counter.
- Rubbed Sage. Rubbed sage is dry sage leaves that have been crushed/ crumbled. If you want to use fresh sage, finely minced the leaves until you have 1 tablespoon.
- Poultry Seasoning. This is the main flavoring component, so I think it’s important to buy a nice one. I like when you can see the individual herb flecks instead of a powdery version. Poultry seasoning contains sage, thyme, marjoram, and rosemary.
- Celery. Celery is the quintessential Thanksgiving vegetable, and this dressing requires ⅔ cup of finely chopped celery. This is weird, but my Master’s Degree is in celery production, and farmers in California and Arizona rush to get their celery crop in the ground at the end of summer so that they are guaranteed their ‘Thanksgiving harvest.’ Also, absolutely nothing smells better than driving by a field of celery being cut for harvest.
- Onion. An equal amount of chopped onion to celery: ⅔ cup.
- Butter. Six tablespoons of melted butter for the custard-like base here.
- Chicken Stock. You can use 1 ½ cups of store-bought chicken stock, or you can use leftover turkey stock.
- Eggs. Two large eggs, beaten before being added to the bowl.
- Milk. I prefer whole milk for baking.
How to make Dressing
The recipe first starts with a batch of cornbread. Use a packaged mix as my Mama does, or you can use my small batch of cornbread, doubled. I baked it in 12 muffin cups, but you could also do an 8x8" pan.
- First, combine the dry ingredients: flour, sugar, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
2. Next, stir in the buttermilk and egg. (If you need a recipe to use the extra buttermilk: small batch biscuits).
3. Finally, add the butter. See all the bubbles starting to form in the batter? That's because buttermilk is magic.
4. Divide the mixture into 12 muffin cups, or use an 8x8" pan.
5. Now take all the pretties and crumble them up--some large chunks are fine.
6. Next, cube 4 slices of white bread. This is literally the only time I ever buy white bread.
7. To the crumbled cornbread and bread cubes, add the spices and salt. It's supposed to be 1 ½ teaspoons of rubbed sage and 2 teaspoons of poultry seasoning, but I'm clearly adding an entire tablespoon. You just can't over-spice it. Also, don't skimp on the salt: 1 ½ teaspoons is perfect.
So, this is the part that is ideally done the day before. My Mama leaves her bread and spice mixture out overnight on the counter to go stale. If you didn't plan ahead, dry it in the oven to 10 minutes while the oven preheats.
The next day (if you left your bread and spices on the counter overnight):
8. Now, this next step is a bit weird but stay with me. We've come this far. You're going to saute ⅔ cup of onions and celery in 6 tablespoons of butter plus ⅔ cup of water. I know it's weird to saute in water, but trust me in this Southern Cornbread Dressing quest. Saute for about 5 minutes to soften the veggies.
9. Pour this golden mixture over the bread. (My butter is so golden yellow because I use Kerrygold!)
10. Next, add 1 ½ cups chicken broth or turkey broth.
11. Then, add ½ cup of milk.
12. And two beaten eggs. I suppose you could beat the eggs into the milk and add them, but then you'd miss out on another blurry photo opp.
13. When you stir it all together, it will be very moist. Don't worry your pretty little head over this.
14. Scrape it all into a dish. I used this oblong one, but it's equivalent to an 8x8" square pan. Perfect dressing for 4-6 people! Don't smoosh and flatten the dressing. The craggy top develops a great crust.
What temp to cook cornbread dressing? How long to cook dressing?
15. Bake at 400-degrees for 20 minutes. Taste. Tell me it's the only Thanksgiving dressing recipe you'll ever need in life. Amen.
How far ahead can you make Dressing for Thanksgiving?
We have experimented with this heavily in my family, because we all agree that, in almost all cases, ‘leftover Thanksgiving food’ is better than (or just-as-good-as Thanksgiving food. We have found that cornbread dressing tastes best re-heated the next day, so technically, you can make this dish one day early, refrigerate it and then re-heat over very low heat before serving. In our family, I make it the morning of Thanksgiving and let it rest before re-warming and serving. Fresh out of the oven, it is slightly crumbly and hard to serve.
Perfect Southern Cornbread Dressing recipe notes
- If you are looking to avoid all the pitfalls of other dressing recipes, this recipe is for you. First of all, the crumbled cornbread and bread cubes are left out overnight to dry, so the dressing is never too wet. There's milk, eggs, and chicken broth to make sure it's never too dry. While other dressings might bake up flat and dense, this one has eggs for lift and fluff. Any potential set-backs to enjoy this carb-loaded, best-part-of-Thanksgiving, I-might-skip-the-turkey-for-this-recipe has all been precariously planned for and diverted.
- The spices are doubled and tripled what they used to be in the original Southern Living recipe, and still, I manage to amp them up every time I make the recipe. It just keeps getting better. Come to my house in 10 years, and I'll be adding an entire cup of sage.
- If you make this, you can address all fan mail to my Mama. I understand that no other dressing recipe will ever grace your table after you taste this one, so if you want to start a social media revolution and send me snaps, Instagrams, and tweets of you burning the recipe card with your previous stuffing recipe, we can totally do that. You can find me anywhere on social media with the name 'dessert for two.' I'll be waiting for you; that's how good this Southern cornbread dressing recipe is!
How to serve Southern Cornbread Dressing:
Let the dressing cool for at least 10 minutes after baking before cutting into squares and serving.
Southern Dressing Recipe storage
Can cornbread be left out overnight?
Yes, it is perfectly fine to crumble or dice cornbread and leave it out at room temperature overnight so that it goes stale for dressing. Stale cornbread soaks up more flavor.
Cornbread Dressing FAQs
Do you put eggs in dressing?
Yes, eggs in dressing give it lift and fluffy. It also helps to bind all of the ingredients together.
What is the difference between cornbread stuffing and cornbread dressing?
Nothing, as long as they are baked the same way. If you stuff this into a turkey to bake it, it is called ‘stuffing.’ If you bake in a separate dish, it is called ‘dressing.’ Same recipe, different names, based on how it is cooked.
Why is my cornbread dressing mushy?
If your cornbread dressing is mushy, be sure you baked it in a wide enough pan. Plenty of surface area will help the top crisp and the bottom bake completely. Also, be sure you measured your ingredients properly and didn’t add too much liquid. You can add more baking time to help dry it out, or slice it into squares and toast it before serving.
Why is my cornbread dressing bland?
If you follow my recipe, your dressing will be anything but bland. As you add the herbs, crush them in your fingers to help release the oils. Also, be sure to add the full amount of salt the recipe calls for, otherwise it can taste bland.
- Cornbread Muffin Recipe:
- 1 cup finely ground yellow cornmeal
- ⅔ cup all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
For the Cornbread Dressing:
- 1 recipe of corn muffins (above)
- 4 slices of white bread
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt
- 1 ½ teaspoons dried rubbed sage
- 2 teaspoons dried poultry seasoning
- ⅔ cup chopped celery
- ⅔ cup chopped onion
- ⅔ cup water
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 ½ cups chicken broth
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- ½ cup milk
- Preheat the oven to 400. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with 12 liners, or have ready an 8x8" square dish.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
- In a glass measuring cup, beat the eggs into the buttermilk and add to the dry ingredients.
- Stir until combined, and then stir in the melted butter.
- Divide the batter between the muffin cups and bake for 12-13 minutes. The muffins are done when the tops spring back when pressed on.
- Let the muffins cool completely.
- Keep the oven at 400.
- Now, make the stuffing: crumble the cornbread muffins into a large bowl. Large chunks are okay.
- Dice the bread into 1" cubes, and add it to the bowl.
- Stir in the salt and spices. You can do this a day ahead of time, and let it sit out on the counter to go stale overnight. Or, you can dry it in the oven while it preheats.
- Next, in a small saucepan, add the celery, onion, water, and butter. Saute over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, just to soften the veggies. There will be a lot of liquid in the pan.
- Pour the liquid over the cornbread and bread cubes. Stir well.
- Stir the chicken broth into the bowl.
- Next, beat the eggs into the milk, and it to the bowl, too.
- Stir everything together very well.
- Pour into an 8x8" pan (or equivalent). Do not smooth the top--rough edges are desirable.
- Bake for 20 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes before slicing and serving.
To double this recipe and bake it in a 9x13-inch pan:
I doubled the cornbread recipe to be 2 cups of cornmeal, 1 ⅓ cups of flour, 4 tablespoons sugar, 3 teaspoons baking powder, ½ teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon salt, 4 large eggs, 2 cups buttermilk, and 6 tablespoons of melted butter. I baked this cornbread in a 9x13-inch pan for 20 minutes, until done.
Once the cornbread was done, I let it cool and then crumbled it into a large bowl. I cubed the bread slices, and mixed that in along with the spices and salt. This mixture sat out overnight on the counter to go slightly stale. Making your cornbread and bread stale helps it absorb more liquid the next day when you bake.
I doubled the dressing recipe to be: the cornbread recipe above, 8 slices of white bread, 3 teaspoons of salt (yes, really), 3 teaspoons of dried rubbed sage leaves, 4 teaspoons of poultry seasoning, 1 ⅓ cup diced onion, 1 ⅓ cup sliced celery, 1 ⅓ cup water, 12 tablespoons of butter, 3 cups of chicken broth, 4 large eggs, and 1 cup of milk. Then, baked it for 22-25 minutes, in the same pan I baked the cornbread in.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 2269Total Fat: 119gSaturated Fat: 70gCholesterol: 304mgSodium: 8715mgCarbohydrates: 266gSugar: 57gProtein: 44g