Thursday, November 12, 2009

Traditional Southern Cornbread Dressing (Stuffing)

A traditional southern cornbread dressing, made with crumbled cornbread and toasted crumbled bread.
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 are added, giving a "fluff" to our dressing. Some folks like using chopped boiled eggs as well. Our dressing is more wet before it's cooked and thanks to the raw egg, fills out much like a soufflé 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 breadcrumbs 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?

You'll need some cornbread, of course! Make that ahead if you can and leave it out to stale, because you want it to be very dry.


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 stale sandwich bread, homemade bread, rolls, French bread, but whatever bread you like, but 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 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 desired consistency. To me that is 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 {affil link}, 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!




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Posted by on November 12, 2009
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