Southern Cornbread Dressing | Never Enough Thyme
Try this recipe once and your mouth will start to water every time you think of it! My cherished family recipe for Southern Cornbread Dressing is wonderfully moist and seasoned with onions, celery, and sage. It puts stuffing to shame! I'm checking today to make sure I have everything I need for the one recipe […]

Try this recipe once and your mouth will start to water every time you think of it! My cherished family recipe for Southern Cornbread Dressing is wonderfully moist and seasoned with onions, celery, and sage. It puts stuffing to shame!

Southern Cornbread Dressing in a white baking dish.

I'm checking today to make sure I have everything I need for the one recipe that I absolutely can never even think about leaving off the menu for Thanksgiving. It's our family's cherished and very much sought after Southern Cornbread Dressing.

This cornbread dressing is always the star of the show at our Thanksgiving dinners. The side dishes may change. The desserts may be varied. But there is always, always dressing on the menu.

Jump to:

Stuffing or Dressing? What's the Difference?

There are those who will debate the differences between dressing and stuffing. And I suppose there are merits to each, but dressing is our tradition.

Some people say that the difference is simply that stuffing is cooked inside the turkey and dressing is cooked in a separate dish. I would say that there's a great deal more difference than that.

The type of cornbread dressing that I grew up with was as different from stuffing as night is from day. Stuffing has cubes of bread or cornbread with other wonderful additions. Vegetables, sausage, even fruit.

But dressing is of a completely different texture. The cornbread is broken down to be more homogenous with the other ingredients which are typically not much more than onions, celery, and stock.

It's also given some lift during cooking with the addition of beaten eggs. The result is more akin to what southerners would call "souffled," the cornbread having been lightened and puffed by the addition of the eggs.

My Mama's Dressing

This recipe is, with minor modifications, my mother's recipe for cornbread dressing. Now my mama is the undisputed Queen of Southern Cornbread Dressing Makers.

She holds the title and everyone in the family knows it. We're all crazy about her dressing and she always makes far more than is needed to feed the crowd because everyone wants to take the leftovers home.

Handwritten recipe page

When BeeBop and I were newly married and living far away from our southern home, Mama wrote down her dressing recipe and mailed it to me to use for our very first Thanksgiving together.

That was over 30 years ago, and I've used her handwritten instructions ever since. It makes me feel like she's right there in the kitchen cooking with me.

If you want to treat your family to some authentic southern cornbread dressing, just give my recipe a try.

How to Make Southern Cornbread Dressing:

Make the Egg Bread

You'll start by making a type of cornbread that we call egg bread. The egg bread should be room temperature, so it’s easiest to make it the day before you make the dressing.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Dry ingredients for the recipe in a sifter over a mixing bowl.

Sift together the cornmeal, baking powder and salt.

Egg bread mixture in a mixing bowl on with a whisk.

Into the dry ingredients, alternately add the buttermilk and eggs. Add one egg at a time, followed by some of the buttermilk, whisking well after each addition.

A black cast iron skillet containing the oil required for the recipe.

Pour the cooking oil into an iron skillet and place it into the hot oven. Let the batter rest while the skillet and oil are heating (about 5 minutes).

Carefully but quickly, remove the hot skillet from the oven and pour in the batter. Return the pan immediately to the oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Finished egg bread in a cast iron skillet.

Set aside the egg bread until you're ready to make the dressing. I always make the egg bread a day or two in advance and refrigerate it until it's needed.

Assemble the Dressing:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Saute the Vegetables

Chop the onions and celery.

Chopped onions, chopped celery, and butter in a cast iron skillet.

Melt the butter over medium heat in a large sauté pan.

Add the onions and celery and cook slowly until tender but without browning at all. Sprinkle the vegetables with the ½ tsp. salt while cooking.

Crumbled egg bread and cream of chicken soup in a baking dish with a potato masher.

Meanwhile, crumble the egg bread into a large baking dish. Just break it up as small as you can with your hands. Don't worry about it too much, you'll work out the finer texture a little later.

Add the crushed saltine crackers, soup, and broth. Then using a potato masher or a big cooking fork, break up the egg bread and crackers with the soup to create a finer texture. You want as few lumps as possible.

Baking dish with mixed cornbread and sauteed veggies being added.

Add the sautéed vegetables, salt, pepper, and poultry seasoning. Mix well.

Now, stop at this point and taste the mixture. You may need a little more salt. Remember, that's a big dish of dressing to season.

Baking dish with eggs added to dressing mixtue.

Lightly beat the eggs and add them to the dressing mixture.

Your mixture should be fairly “soupy.” If you think it’s too thin, you can add some additional bread, crackers, etc. to thicken it. However, it's rarely too wet.

Even if you think the dressing is too wet, it's probably not. It took me a long time to learn that. It's just one of those cook-by-feel lessons that you acquire through making a traditional recipe over and over.

If you do add more bread or crackers, be sure to crumble them very well and incorporate them into the mixture.

Southern Cornbread Dressing in a baking dish ready to cook.

FAQs

Can I Make This Dressing Ahead?

People often ask me if they can assemble the dressing a day ahead and bake it when ready to serve. Quite honestly, I don't advise doing that simply because cornmeal (and therefore, cornbread) is very, very absorbent. The longer it sits, the more liquid it absorbs. If you made your dressing the day before baking, it would most likely turn out dry because the cornmeal would have absorbed all the liquid. This type of dressing is meant to be quite moist when served.

However -- here's what you can do: (1) Bake the egg bread one to two days ahead. Let it cool, then crumble it and store it in a container in the refrigerator, (2) Cook the onions and celery up to two days ahead and store them in the refrigerator, (3) Crush the crackers and have them ready to go. The day you're cooking, it will take you just a few moments to assemble everything and pop it into the oven.

I'm Allergic to Eggs. Any options?

Of course, you can use your favorite egg substitute in this recipe.

How Do I Store the Leftovers?

This dressing can be stored in the refrigerator for up to four days. You can also freeze it for later use. To freeze, place the dressing in a freezer storage container and use within six months.

How Do I Serve This?

We always do a buffet for Thanksgiving. I make a large platter with sliced turkey on one end and mounds of dressing on the other. Serve turkey or giblet gravy to drizzle over the dressing and, of course, cranberry sauce on the side.

Closeup of a serving of Southern Cornbread Dressing with a white serving dish in the background.

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Southern Cornbread Dressing in a white baking dish.

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📖 Recipe

Southern Cornbread Dressing in a white baking dish.

Southern Cornbread Dressing

My cherished family recipe for Southern Cornbread Dressing is wonderfully moist and seasoned with onions, celery, and sage.

Print Pin Rate

Course: Main Dishes

Cuisine: Southern, Vintage

Prep Time: 40 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour 55 minutes

Servings: 12 servings

Calories: 346kcal

Ingredients

For the egg bread:

  • 2 cups finely ground white cornmeal sifted
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 3 tbsp cooking oil

For the dressing:

  • 2 onions
  • 3 stalks celery
  • 8 tbsp butter (1 stick)
  • ½ tsp salt
  • Egg Bread recipe follows
  • 10.5 oz cream of chicken soup
  • 32 oz chicken (or turkey) broth or stock
  • 2 cups saltine crackers or leftover biscuits or stale bread (may need more to finish)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • ¾ tsp poultry seasoning
  • 3 eggs

Instructions

Make the egg bread:

  • Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

  • Sift together the cornmeal, baking powder and salt. Add buttermilk and eggs, alternately.

  • Pour the cooking oil into an iron skillet and place it into the hot oven. Let the batter rest while the skillet and oil are heating (about 5 minutes).

  • Quickly pour the batter into the hot skillet and return immediately to the oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes.

  • Allow the egg bread to cool completely before proceeding.

Assemble the dressing

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

  • Chop the onions and celery.

  • Melt the butter over medium heat in a large sauté pan. Add the onions and celery cooking slowly until tender but without browning at all. Sprinkle with the ½ tsp. salt while cooking.

  • Meanwhile, crumble the egg bread into a large baking dish. Add the soup and broth and mix well using a potato masher or large fork to break up the egg bread to a fine texture.

  • Add the sautéed vegetables, salt, pepper and poultry seasoning. Taste and adjust for more salt if needed.

  • Lightly beat the eggs and add to the dressing mixture. Your mixture should be fairly “soupy.” If you think it’s too thin, you can add some additional bread, crackers, etc. to thicken it. Be sure to crumble them well and incorporate them into the mixture.

  • Bake for 35-45 minutes or until the dressing is golden brown on top and cooked throughout.

Notes

TO MAKE AHEAD: (1) Bake the egg bread one to two days ahead. Let it cool, then crumble it and store it in a container in the refrigerator, (2) Cook the onions and celery up to two days ahead and store them in the refrigerator, (3) Crush the crackers and have them ready to go. The day you're cooking, it will take you just a few moments to assemble everything and pop it into the oven. STORING LEFTOVERS: Store in the refrigerator for up to four days. You can also freeze it for later use. To freeze, place the dressing in a freezer storage container and use within six months. HOW TO SERVE: We always do a buffet for Thanksgiving. I make a large platter with sliced turkey on one end and mounds of dressing on the other. Serve turkey or giblet gravy to drizzle over the dressing and, of course, cranberry sauce on the side.

Nutrition Information

Serving: 1g | Calories: 346kcal | Carbohydrates: 36g | Protein: 9g | Fat: 19g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Cholesterol: 109mg | Sodium: 1480mg | Potassium: 346mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 511IU | Vitamin C: 7mg | Calcium: 128mg | Iron: 3mg

Nutrition information is calculated by software based on the ingredients in each recipe. It is an estimate only and is provided for informational purposes. You should consult your health care provider or a registered dietitian if precise nutrition calculations are needed for health reasons.

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-- This post was originally published November 5, 2010



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