Thursday, November 12, 2009

Traditional Southern Cornbread Dressing (Stuffing)

A traditional southern cornbread dressing, made with crumbled cornbread and toasted crumbled bread.

Traditional Southern Cornbread Dressing

Southerners sure do love their traditional cornbread dressing and some of them will get all "stuffy" over what constitutes dressing and what constitutes stuffing. In my humble opinion, it mostly just depends on where you were born!

In the South, there's really no difference other than whether the materials are cooked in the bird or out of the bird. What truly sets apart a Southern dressing from a Northern stuffing, generally speaking, is that in the North they prepare their stuffing (or dressing) from breads that are cut into cubes and their dressings are more dry. They also typically call it stuffing, whether it's stuffed into something or not.

In the South, our dressing is prepared from cornbread and breads that are baked, staled and then crumbled and to which raw eggs - and sometimes chopped boiled eggs as well - are added, giving a "fluff" to our dressing. Our dressing is more wet before it's cooked and thanks to the eggs, fills out much like a souffle once baked.

When we "stuff" it in the bird, Southerners typically call it stuffing, at least where I'm from, even though as terms go, our stuffed dressing is very different from our Northern neighbors stuffing, although we certainly also still call it dressing even when it's stuffed in a turkey, because, well, that's what it is! When we put it in a pan instead, we usually just call it dressing, not stuffing.

That's pretty much the reality of it all folks, so how about let's just stop the whole what's "authentic" and what's not silliness, eat, and be thankful for each other's company and quit the fussin' about whether we think it's stuffing or dressing, or what is wrong, or right, or what we think makes things different. It is the season of giving thanks after all, and besides, whatever you grew up with it, what your mama did, and what you do in your own Southern kitchen is right, bottom line. It's all good, so how about let's just eat!

I didn't exactly grow up with dressing made with cornbread. My southern born and bred Mama, the rebel that she was, always made an herb bread dressing, and often using the Pepperidge Farm seasoned bread crumbs as her base. Based on the sales of that product here in the South, she clearly wasn't alone. She also both stuffed her dressing (stuffing) IN the turkey, with a pan of the excess served alongside an oyster dressing for Daddy, that I also happened to love. So I guess since my Mama stuffed the turkey and served it in a pan, we had both stuffing and dressing! Weren't we just lucky?

Now some of us Southerners like the dressing made with only cornbread. I like that, but I'm more in the other camp because not only did I grow up with a bread dressing, but I also like the added body that comes from using bread.

You can use any kind of bread, and often we use the accumulation from those one of two leftover rolls or biscuits that we've tossed in the freezer throughout the year. You can use sandwich bread, homemade bread, French bread, but whatever bread you like, do toast it before crumbling it.

Taste the dressing before you add in the raw eggs, because the flavor then is pretty much gonna be the flavor when it's baked. Adjust the seasonings as needed, then add the eggs and add in additional stock if it isn't moist enough. A lot of us Southerners add in boiled egg, so if you like, add 2 eggs raw, and 2 eggs boiled and chopped. Mama only used raw eggs.

Stock measurements in dressing recipes are always a simply a guide. Put in a small amount of liquid, stir and add more liquid to get it to the consistency of a cooked oatmeal. The dressing pictured at the top was prepared with about 5 cups of stock and baked covered, resulting in a very moist but fluffy dressing which is the way that I like it. Use more or less to get the consistency you like.

I like to use Bell's seasoning, a salt-free blend of herbs like rosemary, oregano, sage and marjoram, plus some ginger, and thankfully one that has become more widely available in the South, especially around the holidays. If you don't have access to Bell's seasoning and you don't feel like making up a copycat batch, just use a couple pinches of some or all of those seasonings, or just good ole sage, and don't forget... always taste and adjust before you bake!

Stop by and check out my cornbread and oyster dressing and my other traditional southern Thanksgiving dishes if you have time. Some additional recipe ideas for Christmas can be found here. You'll want to check out my 7 Top Tips to Perfect Your Holiday Stuffing.
MJR said:  I am an Oregonian, so good southern food is hard to find around here. I made your cornbread stuffing (with the addition of spicy sausage) for Thanksgiving and Christmas. It was a huge hit both times.

Dressing... a perfect receptacle for just a bit of homemade gravy. Let's make some!

Recipe: Traditional Southern Cornbread Dressing

©From the Kitchen of Deep South Dish
Prep time: 20 min |Cook time: 45 min | Yield: About 10 to 12 servings

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) of butter
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 stalks (ribs) of celery, chopped
  • 6 cups of cooked, crumbled stale cornbread
  • 6 cups of dry, toasted bread, crumbled (sliced bread, leftover biscuits or rolls)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon of Cajun seasoning (like Slap Ya Mama), or to taste, optional
  • 1/4 teaspoon of freshly cracked black pepper, or to taste,
  • 1 teaspoon of sage (or Bell's seasoning), or to taste, optional
  • 1 teaspoon of poultry seasoning
  • 1 cup of turkey gravy (canned is fine)
  • 4 to 6 cups of turkey or chicken broth or stock, more or less
  • 4 large eggs, beaten

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9 x 13 inch pan and set aside. Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. Saute the onion and celery; add the salt, Cajun seasoning, pepper, sage and poultry seasoning. Continue cooking and stirring for 2 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Combine the crumbled cornbread and bread into a large bowl. Add sauteed veggies, scraping out skillet; add the gravy and 4 cups of the stock. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Add the beaten eggs; gently toss. Add more of the broth as needed, taking care not to make the dressing too soupy. Dressing should be the consistency of cooked oatmeal. Lightly spoon into the casserole dish, but do not pack down. Bake at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes. For a moister stuffing, baked covered. For a drier stuffing with a crunchy top, bake uncovered.

Cook's Notes: Make cornbread a day or two ahead when possible and allow it to go stale. This dressing is also excellent with cooked turkey or chicken. Mix in about 2 cups of roughly shredded, cooked chicken or turkey before baking.

For Sausage Stuffing: Brown and drain a 1 pound roll of Jimmy Dean pork sausage. Set aside and stir into the dressing just before it goes into the oven.

Make Ahead Tip: While dressing is best when freshly assembled and baked, you may prep most of the ingredients ahead to save time. To prepare entire dish ahead, assemble all the way up to the baking stage the day before, using additional broth to make it more soupy, but don't bake it. Cover tightly and refrigerate. Any longer ahead than that freeze it. You'll need to allow for a day for it to thaw in the fridge before baking.

How to fix a too dry or too wet stuffing: If you find your stuffing is too dry, add additional warmed broth to it, stir well, and return to the oven, checking periodically. If the stuffing is overly wet and too gummy, cook it uncovered for a bit longer, checking periodically. Be sure to check out my 7 Top Tips to Perfect Your Holiday Stuffing.


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©Deep South Dish
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Posted by on November 12, 2009
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  1. Oh my goodness. Your dressing looks just like the way my Mom use to make it. My MIL is having surgery a week before Thanksgiving this year. So guess who gets to cook. Will definetly be using some of your recipes.
    Stop over at my blog. I left you an award.

  2. "Tis the day before Thanksgiving and all thru the house..." believe it or not, there is bliss. I lost my most treasured possession, my Mom's dressing recipe. I have been making it for several years and know basically how it goes, but finding this recipe and seeing the photo has renewed both my confidence and my faith in wonderful Southern women who hold our heritage dear. I also am going to try giblet gravy for the first time as well as some of the other wonderful recipes here. I'll let you know if there are rave reviews at my house!

  3. Hi Thena - so sweet, thanks so much!

    Oh Dickeybird Lady, I'm so glad. Hope everything you try is wonderful!! Happy Thanksgiving.

  4. My same recipe.. but try adding the onions and celery to the cornbread before baking. It really enhances the flavor. You are one awesome cook! I grew up in Ala.and most of your recipes are very similar.

  5. If you wanted to make your dressing ahead of time? How do you suggest one goes about doing that safely, im so confused on this topic. Maybe I should just scrap the whole idea and just make it fresh but for time constraints, it might be helpful.

  6. Hi Jessica! You sure can make this ahead. Just assemble it all the way up to the baking stage the day before, but don't bake it. Cover tightly and refrigerate. Any longer ahead than that and I would freeze it. You'll need to allow for a day for it to thaw in the fridge. Enjoy!

  7. I can never make really great dressing and I'm a Southern cook from way back. Will give this one a try. Since joining this site on FB this month I have made the pot roast, the sweet potatoes/apples,the biscuits and several more, All delicious !!! I now plan my meals around your FB Posts ! Thank you !

  8. Truthfully it can be tricky and it depends on if you like it drier or more moist. The mixture should be a bit goopy, but not too much. Be sure to check out that link of tips too - hope you enjoy it!

  9. Is McCormick turkey gravy from a package OK to use

  10. Sure - you need it here in its liquid form though, so you''ll need to make it up according to package directions. Use the one cup and reserve the rest to stir into your other gravy you make.

  11. Mary, does your cornbreat recipe with 2 cups of corn meal make the 6 cups or do you need to double that recipe?

  12. Hi Georgia! If you're using my cornbread recipe, you just need to make the cornbread as is, only one recipe - no need to double it!

  13. Haha! I was just coming back to say - never mind, I figured it out. Yes 2 cups of meal makes 6 cups with a piece left over for "tasting."

  14. That's okay Georgia - anytime! Hope you love it - Happy Thanksgiving!!

  15. This was simply amazing. I made it for thanksgiving. Everyone was so impressed and even my finicky eater brother loved it. I did as docox suggested and added the veggies in with the cornbread and once it was done baking, it had my senses going even before I crumbled it and added the other ingredients. The end product was delicious. Thank you so much. Well done.

  16. Thank you so much Taun! I am thrilled it was a hit and I really appreciate you taking the time to come back and comment to let me know. I'm going to try that with the veggies cooked in the cornbread myself. Happy Thanksgiving!!

  17. Wondering if adding chopped apples and pecans would be good with this recipe?

  18. Cindy, are you reading my mind??? Seriously, I have plans to make an apple & pecan dressing this Christmas. It won't be up on the site in time for this year, but that is funny! I haven't written it yet, but I'm sure this recipe will be the basis for it! I hope it turns out. Happy Holidays Cindy!

  19. Pepperidge Farms also makes cornbread like the bread and it works just as well. I have gotten lazy over the years and do everything I can to shorten my cooking times & time in the kitchen.

    1. Yes they do and I have certainly used it too Alicia! Mama used the herb bread stuffing from PF & I love that one too. It's a flavorful shortcut for sure. This recipe here is written as a homemade, from scratch version of cornbread dressing, but I like to use the packaged mix for just an everyday type of meal with stuffing and for another version I do in the crockpot.

      When substituting, remember that there are already seasonings in these mixes, plus it seems to taste a lot saltier than it used to, so be sure to taste and make adjustments in your seasonings!

  20. I was looking for a traditional cornbread dressing recipe because I had a leftover skillet full of cornbread and didn't feel like giving it to the chickens. I found a lot of recipes but this one seemed best so I tried it. What a hit! My family devoured it and I think I have found my new favorite. It is delicious. Of course, two sticks of butter could make an old tire taste good, so I won't share this recipe with my DR. Well done, an excellent recipe, and use the boiled eggs!

  21. Can't wait to make Thanksgiving dinner for my mom. This dressing is going to be amazing. It looks and sounds JUST like my Mamaws' :) thank you so much for sharing this recipe and reminding of my wonderful Grandmother in the process, I loved her cooking and blessed to have finally found a recipe like hers ^-^ Have a great holiday!

    1. Oh, you are so welcome and I sure hope that it's something similar to your Mamaw's Charmaine!! Happy Thanksgiving!

  22. Is that correct, 6 cups cornbread AND 6 cups any kind of bread crumbs? I always thought for a big pan of dressing only 2 or 3 slices of bread. I want to make this but wanted to be sure that's the correct amount of bread. Thanks!

    1. Yes, it is correct! Understand though, there is no one way to make dressing. There are literally thousands of other ways to make it and this is just my way of making it. Keep searching and you're likely to run across one that more closely matches what you remember.

    2. Thanks so much! This recipe souns a lot like my granny's!

  23. Hi again, stopping by to ask for advice. I wanted to know if I can use a prepackaged bread mix like Pepperidge Farm as a sub for toasted bread or rolls and just use that with the Jiffy Cornbread? How would I do this? Just trying to cut on time, but not flavor! Looking forward to making this on Thursday.

    1. Hi Charmaine! You can! The PF packages are 14 ounce in weight these days so you'll probably need about three to equal the 12 cups. You can even use a package of cornbread with a package of herb, or mix it up with Jiffy and an herb package, really however you want to! Since those are already seasoned I usually only add in the sauteed veggies, a little poultry seasoning and Bell's, or sage if you don't use Bell's, and some pepper. You're only replacing the breads here so follow the rest and taste before you add in the eggs to see if you need to adjust the seasonings.

  24. Sounds good, im going to use 6 cups jiffy 6 cups cubbisons' dressing (couldnt find pepperridge). I'll follow everything else the same. Thanks for your help and Happy Thanksgiving to you and family :)

  25. Sounds great, I'm on the right path then. Went to the store and could only grab the boxed Cubbisons' Dressing. So I will use 6 cups Jiffy Cornbread with 6 cups of Cubbisons' and follow the rest of the recipe. Thank you so much for ur help and Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family :)

    1. You're welcome Charmaine & Happy Thanksgiving to you too!


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