Southern Cornbread Dressing is a Thanksgiving classic. Bread, cornbread, butter, sausage, eggs, and a handful of easy-to-find ingredients make a delectable combination. This moist, well-seasoned recipe is a genuinely comforting side dish!
One thing I’ve learned in my cooking career is that you can never ever have too many casseroles at Thanksgiving. 😉 Actually, I got that from my sister, who loves gracing her Thanksgiving table with traditional casseroles like sweet potato casserole and green bean casserole.
Since we won’t be traveling down South to celebrate Thanksgiving with them, I’ll post one of her most-raved casserole dishes – Southern Cornbread Dressing. It’s effortless and a sure winner for a stress-free holiday.
What Is It?
What Is Southern Cornbread Dressing?
Cornbread dressing is a classic Thanksgiving side dish in the Southern U.S. It’s also a personal thing, as every grandma has their own recipe for creating this soul-satisfying side dish.
Crumbled pieces of day-old bread and cornbread (the drier, the better) flavored with celery, sausage, sage, herbs and spices, milk, and a good stock make a spectacular holiday or any-day recipe. Savory, moist, and DELICIOUS!
- Breakfast Sausage – Browning it in a hot pan and sauteing it with other savory ingredients is fantastic.
- Veggies – Add nutrition and flavor with onions, celery, and garlic to make every savory recipe better.😉
- Herbs – Italian seasoning, sage, and thyme give this amazing casserole its definitive flavor.
- Breads – Day-old bread and cornbread make the base. If you must use fresh bread, cut it into cubes and toast it in the oven on really low with the door cracked open for about half an hour.
- Half-and-Half – Richness from the cream makes this cornbread dressing exceptionally moist and delicious. You can use heavy cream for extra richness or milk if you want to reduce fat intake.
- Eggs – The perfect binder to keep your cornbread dressing together.
- Chicken Broth – This savory liquid moistens and adds flavor to your dressing. The ideal amount gives you a moist, not soggy, dish. You can use vegetable stock if you prefer.
How to Make Southern Cornbread Dressing
Prep Your Ingredients
- Prepare Casserole. Spray or generously butter a 9×13 baking or oven-proof dish with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.
- Brown the Sausage. Heat a large skillet over medium, and let it heat up. Then add breakfast sausage, and break it into chunks with a wooden spoon. Let it cook while stirring for 3 -5 minutes. (Photo 1)
- Saute the Veggies. Add about a tablespoon of butter to the pan with the sausage, followed by onions, celery, garlic, Italian herbs, sage, and thyme. Then cook until onions are soft or wilted, 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat. (Photo 2-3)
- Mix the Breads. In a large bowl, combine day-old cornbread and bread cubes. (Photo 4)
- Add the Dairy. In a medium bowl, mix together half-and-half and eggs. Pour the egg mixture evenly over the cornbread mixture. (Photo 5 -6)
- Combine. Carefully add the sausage and veggie mix with all its juice to the dairy and bread mixture. Gently fold it into the cornbread mixture so it’s well combined without mashing the cornbread. (Photo 7)
- Add Chicken Stock. Add chicken stock and continue folding until your dressing is moistened. Taste test and season with salt if needed. (Photo 8)
Bake the Cornbread Dressing
- Final Stretch. Transfer your casserole mixture to the greased baking dish. Cut butter into tiny slivers and scatter on top of the dressing. (Photo 9)
- Bake. Put your casserole in a 350℉ oven until it is hot all the way through and crusty on top, 35-40 minutes. Start checking for doneness at around 30 minutes. (Photo 10)
- Dairy-Free. Replace the butter with olive oil and the half-and-half with soy milk (or your favorite neutral-flavored plant-based milk).
- Herb Swap. If you don’t have fresh herbs, then dried ones work fine. Use a third of what the recipe asks for when replacing fresh herbs with dried ones.
- Poultry Seasoning. Italian seasoning is terrific, but so is homemade poultry seasoning for a flavor makeover.
Tips and Tricks
- Day-old bread makes the best dressing because it’s dry enough to soak up more flavor. Waste not, want not.😉
- If you want extra smokey, savory flavor, use a tablespoon of bacon fat instead of butter.
- If you only have fresh bread, cut it into cubes and bake it in the oven at 350℉/177℃ for about 20 minutes.
Make-Ahead and Storage Instructions
You can assemble this Southern cornbread dressing recipe a day or two ahead, cover it, and store it in the fridge. Bake it when you’re ready.
Or you can assemble it and freeze it a month ahead. Thaw it overnight in the fridge and bake it the next day.
Refrigerate your leftover cornbread dressing in an airtight container for up to four days. Then reheat it in the microwave or 350℉/177℃ oven until heated through, 10-20 minutes.
Stuffing is typically made with wheat bread and stuffed inside the bird. There, it soaks up the mouthwatering flavor from the meat juices. On the other hand, dressing traditionally has cornbread and is baked like a casserole. Honestly, dressing is the safer choice because you don’t have to worry if it cooks well in a stuffed turkey.
Your cornbread dressing is done once the center is firm and not jiggly. Poke it with a toothpick, and if it comes out clean and the center is firm, you’re good to go.
It may need more moisture or suffer from overmixing. Just add a splash of broth until it has the desired moisture level. Or, if it’s too moist, spread it out onto a baking sheet and bake it until it dries up a bit. See how easy this dish is?
What to Serve With Southern Cornbread Dressing
- Pan Seared Oven-Roasted Steak
- Spiced Roast Turkey
- Easy Meatloaf
- Collard Greens with Smoked Turkey
- Homemade Brown Gravy
More Fabulous Holiday Add-On Recipes
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Watch How To Make It
This blog post was originally published in November 2018 and has been updated with additional tips, new photos, and a video.
Southern Cornbread Dressing
- 3 tablespoons (42g) butter, divided
- 1 pound (453g) breakfast sausage
- 2 medium onion (about 2 cups)
- 2 stalks celery (about 2 cups)
- 2 teaspoons (10g) garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon (2g) Italian seasonings
- 3 tablespoons (8g) fresh sage, chopped
- 1-2 teaspoons (1-2g) fresh thyme, minced
- 6 cups cornbread, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 1 pound) see notes
- 2 cups bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
- ½ cup (120ml) half-and-half (or heavy cream)
- 3 large eggs, beaten
- 1 cup (240ml) chicken broth
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Spray or generously butter a 9×13 baking or oven-proof dish with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.
- Heat a large skillet over medium, and let it heat up. Then add breakfast sausage, and break it into chunks with a wooden spoon. Let it cook while stirring for 3 -5 minutes.
- Add about a tablespoon of butter to the pan with the sausage, followed by onions, celery, garlic, Italian herbs, sage, and thyme. Then cook until onions are soft or wilted, 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat.
- In a large bowl, combine day-old cornbread and bread cubes.
- In a medium bowl, mix together half-and-half and eggs. Pour the egg mixture evenly over the cornbread mixture.
- Carefully add the sausage and veggie mix with all its juice to the dairy and bread mixture. Gently fold it into the cornbread mixture, so it's well combined without mashing the cornbread.
- Add chicken stock and continue folding until your dressing is moistened. Taste test and season with salt if needed.
- Transfer your casserole mixture to the greased baking dish. Cut butter into tiny slivers and scatter on top of the dressing.
- Put your casserole in a 350℉/177℃ oven until it is hot all the way through and crusty on top, 35-40 minutes. Start checking for doneness at around 30 minutes.
Tips & Notes:
- Use a day-old cornbread and bread. Day-old makes the best dressing because it soaks up the liquids better.
- Advance preparation. You can assemble and refrigerate the casserole ahead, then bake it when you want. Do this weeks in advance, wrap it tightly, and freeze it. When ready to bake, just thaw it in the fridge overnight and bake.
- Use rendered bacon fat for more flavor. If you want an extra savory flavor, replace some of the butter with bacon fat when sauteing the mixture.
- Dry the bread. Baking the bread at a very low temperature for 20-30 minutes will dry the excess moisture if all you have is fresh bread.
- The mix should have a moist sponge-like texture. Not too dry and not too wet is a perfect consistency.
- Please keep in mind that nutritional information is a rough estimate and can vary greatly based on the products used.
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