Friday, November 13, 2009

Southern Cornbread and Oyster Dressing (Stuffing)

While oyster dressing may not be a traditional holiday dressing across the south, here along the Deep South of the Gulf Coast, where the oysters are salty-sweet, it absolutely is a star.

Southern Cornbread and Oyster Dressing (Stuffing)

I realize that oyster dressing is not something that is common at the holidays all over the country, and not even in The South really, but it certainly is down here in The Deep South, especially along the coastal waters. For Thanksgiving and Christmas, my Mama almost always made two dressings - well, essentially three, really, since she also stuffed the turkey with her herb stuffing.

I do lament the passing of the stuffed turkey. Quite frankly the stuffing in the bird was always my favorite because it was so juicy and moist from the drippings of the bird and just delicious. Ironically, that is the very reason why they say we are not supposed to eat stuffing from a bird.  Apparently because those juices dripping in from the bird to the stuffing start off raw, and do not actually get to a high enough temperature to properly kill off any bad bacteria, the stuffing can cause illness.

Well, I ate that kind of stuffing all of my life growing up, and I'm still alive and kicking and frankly, cannot remember one single time of getting sick from eating a holiday meal. An overly full stuffed gluttonous and very comforting and welcome feeling maybe, but never did I once get sick from eating stuffing from a turkey.  Still, I guess staying on the safe side is the right thing to do, so I only cook my dressing in a pan now. It's sad. I really need to go back and walk on the wild side.

Anyway, Mama made the herb bread stuffing in the turkey, plus a side pan of the leftover dressing, but she also made a pan of oyster dressing because my Daddy liked it. And so did I. We may have been the only ones in the family who ate it to be honest!

{Warning. Southern Style Hissy Fit commencing...} Mama made her oyster dressing with bread though, like her regular dressing, and did not use cornbread ever. She just did not like it. I know that's hard for some southerners to grasp but it's true. Not everybody wants cornbread dressing - even those who are born and raised, multi-generational southerners.  So please don't ever use that catch phrase "a real southerner wouldn't..." I get so tired of hearing that, because for one, quite frankly it's mighty rude to say that to a born and raised southerner, and for two, nothing will set my hair on fire faster than somebody to ever say that to me, and for three, because far as I know there really isn't a written southern handbook. If there is, y'all better hurry up and send me one because I'm fairly certain I've been breaking rules for most all my life. {tucks away soapbox}

Anyway... the first time away from home making my own cornbread dressing, I knew it was the perfect carrier for oysters, so that is how I do my oyster dressing. It's pretty much my basic homemade cornbread dressing with some variations, including of course, the addition of oysters. I like to rough chop the oysters up a bit and I do that with a pair of kitchen shears, but unless they are unusually large, you can keep them whole if you prefer.

Here's how to make it.

Be sure to check out my 7 Top Tips to Perfect Your Holiday Stuffing.

Looking for more holiday recipes? Click right here.

Recipe: Southern Cornbread and Oyster Dressing (Stuffing)

©From the Kitchen of Deep South Dish
Prep time: 20 min |Cook time: 45 min | Yield: About 8 to 10 side servings

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) of butter
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of chopped green bell pepper
  • 6 cups of cooked, crumbled cornbread
  • 6 cups of dry, toasted bread, crumbled (toasted white bread, leftover biscuits, or rolls)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of Cajun seasoning (like Slap Ya Mama), or to taste, optional
  • 1/4 teaspoon of freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of sage or (Bell's seasoning), or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon of poultry seasoning
  • 4 to 6 cups of turkey or chicken stock
  • 5 eggs, beaten (or 3 raw, 2 boiled and chopped)
  • 1 quart of oysters, liquid reserved

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare a 9 x 13 inch pan with butter or non-stick spray.

Toast the bread in a toaster or in the oven. Remove and set aside to cool. Make a pan of cornbread, remove and set aside uncovered to cool completely. You want the breads to be very dry.

Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Saute the onion, celery and bell pepper. Add the salt, Cajun seasoning, pepper, Bell's seasoning and poultry seasoning. Continue cooking and stirring for 2 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Crumble the cornbread into a large bowl. Add the bread and toss. Add the sauteed veggies, scraping out all of the butter; stir. Pour in 2 cups of the broth and toss. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Add the beaten eggs; stir. Using a pair of kitchen shears, roughly chop the oysters. Add the oysters, with their juices, to the cornbread mixture. This is where you fix the consistency. If you want a fluffy stuffing, you'll use less stock. If you prefer a wetter stuffing, add additional broth as needed to reach desired consistency, taking care not to get too soupy! Lightly spoon into the casserole dish, but do not pack.

Transfer to the prepared baking dish and 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: Instead of sage, I prefer to use Bell's seasoning, which is a mixture of sage with other herbs and spices. Click here for a copycat blend. For the cornbread, use a 9 x 9 inch pan of homemade cornbread, the back of the bag recipe, or two boxes of Jiffy cornbread.

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.


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©Deep South Dish
Looking for Traditional Southern Cornbread Dressing without oysters instead? Click right here. Or if you like, we've got Southern Chicken and Cornbread Dressing too! Check that one out too right here.
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Check These Recipes Out Too Y'all!

Traditional Southern Cornbread Dressing
Chicken and Cornbread Dressing
Seafood and Eggplant Dressing

Posted by on November 13, 2009
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  1. I haven't had oyster dressing since my Mother made it many years ago. Her's was different in that the dressing also had ground beef in it. I loved it, but now I just make a plain bread and herb dressing. You are inspiring me to try something new!

  2. The Oyster Dressing is my favorite part of the Thanksgiving dinner. My Mom always made her dressing with oysters. My sister usually has the big dinner at her house now that the folks are gone (I do Christmas) and she fixes the dressing just like Mom did. Oyster Dressing IS THE BEST!

  3. I love oyster stuffing, but haven't had it in years. Great idea to team oysters with cornbread too!
    I'm afraid I still stuff my turkey- as my mother and her mother before her. We are all still alive and well!

  4. I love stuffing! I've always wondered what the oyster stuffing tastes like. One of these days I'll be brave and make some.... I love oysters so I'm sure it's probably ok... :)

  5. I have had oyster dressing since I was a girl. I live near Athen, Ga. I now make this dressing for my children and grandchildren. Nothing is better!! Great memories!

  6. My Mom always made cornbread oyster dressing for Thanksgiving and Christmas. She would make up a HUGE batch of cornbread dressing right up to point of adding stock, then refridg overnight. Then, she'd correct the texture by adding all the oyster liquor followed by stock as needed, Then she would grease her large cast iron chicken fryer and put a layer of the dressing mix, then carefully arrange half of the oysters on top. Another layer of dressing, then the rest of the oysters in spots where they were not over those in the previous layer. Top with final layer of dressing then bake at 400 until golden brown and crispy. She would bake a 10 inch cast iron skillet with the dressing with no actual oysters in it for the kids (oysters, then as now were hella expensive). To me, the dressing doesn't taste right if there is no oyster liquor in it, but I never cared for the actual oysters.

    My dear mom was a wonderful cook and unfortunately passed away suddenly 3 weeks after Katrina without leaving any of her best recipes behind. She almost always cooked from her head anyway. One thing I do know, for the wheat portion, she used to use a mix produced by a new Orleans french bread bakery - they would shred day old loaves into large crumbs and season with dried herbs, then sell this in local New Orleans supermarkets from about mid october to January only. They stopped making this mix sometime in the late eighties or early nineties, and my mother had to shred up a loaf of french bread herself after that. She only made dressing a few times after 1996 as her health was failing. I miss her dressing SO MUCH. This is the closest recipe I have seen to hers. I conquered the turkey well, but I have never even tried the dressing. I may just do it this year, cost of oysters be dammed! Thanks so much for this recipe, and for letting me reminisce! Have a happy and safe Holiday 2001!

  7. Hi Loren and welcome!

    I'm so sorry for your loss - I too lost my mama back in '97 but I miss her every day of my life. The holidays are hardest even still. I know it will be hard to duplicate her dressing - I'm STILL trying to figure out mama's gumbo - but I sure hope that my dressing will maybe bring you some wonderful memories and at least starting point to try to recover her special touch. God bless you and Happy Thanksgiving!

  8. What is the asterisk for after the cornbread? There should be a footnote. Am I missing it?

    1. Nope, you're not missing anything Lisa! It was referencing the Cook's Notes at the bottom of the recipe, which when I wrote this in 2009 was simply noted as an asterisk.

  9. I grew up in south Texas near the gulf coast and we always had oyster stuffing for the holidays and now i make it for my family. I'm glad you posted this recipe because most ppl have no clue what it is and i was starting to wonder if anyone else ate it lol

    1. I know! Some folks look at you kinda cross-eyed don't they, but it's a common dressing along the Gulf Coast!

  10. Hate to disagree with you, but DON'T use Jiffy cornbread mix! Makes the dressing way too sweet!

    1. Hi Frances! I actually agree with you, but there are a lot of folks that like Jiffy just for that reason, which is why I added it as a last option. A homemade cornbread is the best IMHO too!


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