Delicious Southern Cornbread Dressing is a must on your Thanksgiving menu! This old-fashioned recipe is delicious! Seasoned with sage, celery, onion, and other simple ingredients. This holiday favorite is the soul food recipe you need on your Thanksgiving table.
The perfect family recipe for this holiday season! Southern dressing is the perfect side dish to serve on Thanksgiving Day or for Christmas dinner. It’s one of those old-fashioned recipes that is a family tradition for many in the south, and it’s just not the holidays without it! Growing up in the deep south, this was the one thanksgiving side dish that I could not live without!
There are about a thousand ways to make dressing, but this is the best dressing recipe! While this recipe is not complicated, it’s important to note that this does require some planning ahead. However, you can prepare this ahead and freeze or refrigerate it a few days before baking.
The holidays are hectic for many families, so I totally understand wanting to scoop up that bag of premade stuffing from the store and be done with it. But, once you make this recipe, you never go back to the bagged stuff again!
Thanksgiving Cornbread Dressing Recipe
What is cornbread dressing? Much like a traditional stuffing recipe, cornbread is a combination of bread, vegetables, seasonings, and chicken broth mixed up and baked casserole style. It’s a delicious, southern recipe that is considered an heirloom in our family!
There are many different versions of this recipe floating around the internet. Depending on where you live, others may add ingredients like nuts, oysters, sausage, eggs, or other additions.
Dressing vs. Stuffing
Cornbread dressing is not the same as stuffing. The debate between dressing and stuffing is an argument that seems rather polarizing in many areas. Do you cook the dressing in the bird or out? Is there really a difference between dressing and stuffing?
Dressing and stuffing recipes are similar as they are both a combination of pieces of bread, vegetables, and other ingredients. But, there is one major difference:
- Dressing is cooked outside of the turkey cavity in a casserole dish.
- Stuffing is cooked and served from the cavity of the turkey.
What is the difference between cornbread dressing and stuffing?
|Long prep time, requires overnight rest
|Can be prepared within an hour or two
|Cooked in a casserole dish, outside of the bird
|Cooked inside the turkey cavity
|No risk of undercooked turkey
|Potential risk for undercooking the bird to avoid overcooking the stuffing, or vice versa
|Easy as making a casserole! Does require planning ahead
|Difficult to time the doneness of the bird and doneness of the stuffing
What ingredients are in dressing?
To make an old-fashioned cornbread dressing recipe, you only need a few basic, pantry ingredients.
(See the recipe card for complete details)
Prepared Cornbread: This recipe starts with a skillet or pan of cornbread. You will need to prepare this a few days before assembling the rest of the dressing so that it can dry out. I prefer using a homemade cornbread recipe instead of a boxed cornbread mix. Also, I would avoid any “sweet” style cornbread recipes for a savory southern dressing.
Bread: Any type of bread will do. I prefer neutral flavors, like white, wheat, sourdough, etc. Avoid heavily seeded or flavored breads. Like the cornbread, you will also want the bread cubes to dry out. These large, soft bread crumbs absorb the liquids and create a casserole-like consistency. More on this below!
Seasonings: Herbs and spices stay pretty basic with this recipe. Made without poultry seasoning, the salt, plenty of black pepper, and sage gives this classic dressing recipe all the flavors it needs. It’s the perfect amount of sage that will not overpower the dish!
Onions and Celery: Adding vegetables gives the dressing some texture and added flavor. The onions and celery are cooked down until they are soft, tender pieces with just the right amount of crispiness left. Not mushy!
Large Eggs: Not small or medium eggs. Large eggs are added to the dressing to act as a binder, holding all of the ingredients together. These are lightly whisked before being added to the dressing mixture.
Chicken Broth: Use homemade or store-bought. Stock can also be used in place of broth.
What is the best bread to use for dressing?
The best type of bread for making dressing has a neutral flavor. Avoid heavily flavored or seeded breads. Neutral breads like white, wheat, or sourdough will do.
You can use sandwich bread, hot dog and hamburger buns, biscuits, bagels, English muffins, etc. The actual type of bread really doesn’t matter. They will all be torn into small pieces and stirred into the dressing mixture. The “soft” bread crumbs are used in addition to the stale cornbread to bind the ingredients together.
Tip: I typically start collecting the heels of loaves and odds and ends of different kinds of bread to use in this recipe. Like I said, whether it’s slices of bread or buns, it really doesn’t matter.
How do you make bread stale overnight?
This tip is especially important if you are using fresh bread: To make bread go stale overnight, place the slices or pieces of the bread on a baking sheet and leave them out overnight to dry out.
If you are in a pinch for time, toast the bread on a baking sheet.
How to Make Cornbread Dressing
To start, prepare the cornbread and bread cubes. Make your cornbread and allow it to cool. Using your hands, crumble the cornbread into a bowl or container.
To the same bowl, add the stale bread crumbs that have been torn into larger, thumb-sized pieces. Let this bowl sit uncovered overnight so the bread can dry out.
Next, melt a stick of butter in a large skillet and sauté the onions and celery until they are tender. Stir in the sage.
Add this mixture to the stale bread. Then, stir in the chicken broth and whisked eggs. Season with salt and pepper.
Tip: Add the chicken broth to “cool” the vegetables before adding the eggs to avoid “scrambling” the eggs.
Cover the mixture and allow it to rest in the refrigerator overnight or for up to 3 days. This allows the flavors to marry and the bread to absorb the liquid.
Note: The mixture will look very soupy, even after the bread has had a chance to absorb the liquid. It is supposed to be that way! It will firm up during baking.
When you are ready to bake on Thanksgiving or Christmas Day, give the mixture a good stir before transferring it to a 9×13 inch casserole dish. Depending on the depth of the casserole dish, you may need an additional 8×8 casserole.
Bake at 375F degrees for about 2 hours, or until the dressing does not jiggle in the middle when gently shaken.
How long does it take to cook cornbread dressing?
Depending on the oven, depth of the pan, and the moisture level of the dressing, this dish can take up to two hours to fully cook.
Big Tip for Readers: Do not wait until two hours before serving time to put this in the oven! Give yourself (and the dressing) plenty of time to bake properly.
If you are baking multiple dishes at one time, the baking time for the dressing will likely increase depending on your oven and how much “sharing” is happening inside.
Tips for the Best Cornbread Dressing
Can you make cornbread dressing ahead of time?
Can you prepare uncooked dressing (or stuffing) ahead of time and refrigerate? Can I mix my dressing the night before? Refrigerate the “fresh” cornbread dressing mixture in an airtight container for up to 3 days before baking.
To freeze cornbread dressing: Add the cooled mixture to an airtight container and freeze for up to 3 months. Allow 3 days to defrost before baking.
How do you know when the dressing is done?
Cornbread dressing is done when the center does not jiggle when gently shaken. If it is still jiggly or soupy, continue cooking (uncovered) for another 20-30 minutes, or until done.
How do you keep cornbread dressing from being gummy?
As you are assembling the recipe, be sure not to overmix. This causes the dressing to become gummy.
- To keep dishes to a minimum, mix and freeze the dressing in the same container. I use a 4.5-liter container.
- If you are storing the dressing in a casserole dish before baking: Allow the dish and dressing to sit on the counter for about 30 minutes to bring it to room temperature to avoid shattering the glass and reduce cooking time.
- Don’t wait until November to begin “collecting” bread for soft bread crumbs. Toss heels, burger buns, etc. into a freezer bag all year round. The drier the bread, the better!
- When crumbling the cornbread, break it into larger pieces as they will continue to break down when mixed with the liquid and other ingredients.
More Thanksgiving and Christmas Recipes:
- Sherbet Punch Recipe
- Christmas Tree Cake
- Christmas Charcuterie Board
- Crockpot Christmas Crack
- Crockpot Turkey Breast
Southern Cornbread Dressing
- 1 Prepared cornbread recipe (crumbled and stale)
- 3 cups soft bread cubes (torn into thumb-sized pieces and stale (see notes))
- 1 stick butter
- 2 cups yellow onion (chopped)
- 3 cups celery (chopped)
- 1 tablespoon rubbed sage
- 4 eggs (lightly beaten)
- 8 cups chicken broth (homemade or store bought)
- 1 tablespoon black pepper
- Make cornbread in a cast iron skillet or glass casserole dish. Crumble and set aside in a large mixing bowl. To the same bowl, add the "soft" breadcrumbs, torn into thumb-sized pieces. Allow the mixture to sit out and become stale for 1 day, or up to 3 days.
- Melt butter in large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and celery. Sauté until tender – about 7-10 minutes. Stir in sage and sauté for one more minute.
- To a large mixing bowl, add the breadcrumb mixture, sautéed vegetables, eggs, chicken broth, and pepper. Stir until all ingredients are well-incorporated.
- Allow mixture to “set” in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours or overnight.
- Pour mixture into one lightly greased 9×13 casserole dish and one 8×8 casserole dish. Bake uncovered at 375°F degrees for about 2 hours or until golden brown.
- When adding eggs to the bowl, make sure your bread mixture has cooled to avoid “scrambling” or cooking the eggs.
- Dressing will be very soupy before baking – almost too soupy in appearance. This is normal!
- To keep dishes to a minimum, mix and freeze the dressing in the same container. I use a 4.5 liter container.
- Don’t wait until November to begin “collecting” bread for soft bread crumbs. Toss heels, burger buns, etc. into a freezer bag all year round.
- When crumbling the cornbread, break into larger pieces as they will continue to break-down when mixed with the liquid and other ingredients.
- Uncooked dressing can be frozen for up to 3 months. Allow 2-3 days to thaw before baking.
- Thawed, uncooked dressing can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Transfer to a casserole dish and bake.
- To avoid shattering your dish, allow it to sit on the counter for about 30 minutes to bring it to room temperature before placing inside the oven..
- Hot dog/hamburger buns
- Loaf bread (white bread or wheat bread)
- French bread (or other artisan style breads)