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The smell of sage instantly takes me back to Thanksgiving in my Nana’s kitchen and her cornbread dressing. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, partly because of my love of her signature side dish. This recipe for Southern Cornbread Dressing is a close replica of what she made every year for decades.
There are many variations of cornbread dressing (or stuffing but we will save that discussion for later) but all of them start with good homemade cornbread.
Key Ingredients and Substitutions
The two stars of southern cornbread dressing are cornbread and sage. You will also need a couple of other pantry staples.
The complete ingredient list and measurements are listed in the printable recipe below.
- Cornbread: It wouldn’t be cornbread dressing without delicious cornbread. We included our recipe but you can use your favorite cornbread recipe or mix.
- Bread: Any stale sandwich bread will work – white bread, wheat bread, or sourdough but avoid seeded or flavored bread. The bread should be cut into cubes or torn into small quarter-inch pieces.
- Sage: It is not traditional cornbread dressing if it doesn’t have sage. In our family recipe, rubbed sage was always used but you can use fresh or ground dried sage. For each teaspoon of rubbed sage substitute approximately 1/2 teaspoon of ground sage since ground sage is more concentrated. For fresh sage use 1 tablespoon of fresh for every teaspoon of rubbed.
- Onions and Celery: Besides adding flavor the onions and celery also add texture so do not skip them.
- Broth: If you have the time we recommend making your own chicken or turkey broth (or stock) but a good quality store-bought broth is great as well. We prefer to use turkey broth for a little extra Thanksgiving flavor. You can also use stock for a deeper, richer flavor.
- Eggs: To help bind the dressing together you will need two large eggs. You will want to whisk them slightly before adding them to the dressing mixture.
What Kind of Cornbread is Best for Stuffing?
The backbone of this easy dressing is delicious scratch-made cornbread. There are many recipes out there for cornbread and some add tons of sweetener (like honey or sugar). Avoid those recipes for stuffing. I love sweet cornbread but not in my stuffing. We included the recipe for our cornbread but substitute your favorite recipe or even a store-bought version.
Our cornbread recipe uses cornmeal and flour as well as rising agents along with milk and eggs. Yes, it has a teaspoon of sugar but not for sweetness. It is added to attract and hold in moisture – without the sugar, the moisture would evaporate during baking.
There are a lot of options for store-bought cornbread mixes. You can use either a white or yellow cornbread mix but not anything that is labeled as stuffing. There are also cornbread varieties that have additional ingredients like green chiles and these are perfect with a bowl of chili, they are not ideal for stuffing. Also, skip those mixes that have the word “honey” or “sweetened”.
Dressing vs. Stuffing – What’s the Difference?
The terms “dressing” and “stuffing” are often used interchangeably, but technically there is a difference.
- Dressing is cooked in a separate pan and outside the cavity of the turkey or chicken.
- Stuffing is stuffed and cooked inside the cavity of the bird.
The flavors and ingredients can be the same or similar which leads to the casual misuse of the two words. Growing up in the south, our family always made cornbread dressing. But whether you call it stuffing or dressing it doesn’t really matter since they are both delicious.
How to Make Southern Cornbread Dressing
Here are the quick step-by-step instructions with visuals; you can find the full instructions with the exact ingredients in the recipe card below.
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Pro-tip: To avoid scrambling the eggs combine the onion-celery mixture with the cornbread mixture well then add a couple of splashes of broth before adding the eggs and remaining broth.
1. Make the Cornbread: Preheat the oven to 400°F and butter an 8×8 baking pan or 10-inch cast-iron skillet. In a medium mixing bowl add the flour, cornmeal, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and sugar then whisk combining well. Make a well in the center of your dry ingredients and add the melted butter, milk, and egg. Stir the batter just until the mixture comes together (it’s okay if there are a few lumps).
2. Bake the Cornbread: Pour the batter into the greased pan or skillet then bake for 20-25 minutes until the top is a deep golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow cornbread to cool and then crumble. Note: Cornbread can be made in advance. You can also use a store-bought cornbread mix.
1. Sauté the Onions and Celery: Heat a large skillet over medium heat to melt the butter. Add the celery and onion once the butter has melted and sauté them for about 5 to 6 minutes or until they are tender.
2. Make the Dressing: Stir together the crumbled cornbread and bread in a large bowl. Add the poultry seasoning, sage, salt, black pepper, and celery-onion mixture and stir until well blended. Add the eggs and broth (starting with just a cup) then work the mixture until you get a well-combined but lumpy dressing. Add additional broth as needed in half-cup increments. The dressing should be wet but not standing liquid.
3. Bake the Dressing: Transfer the dressing to a greased 9×13-inch baking or casserole dish. Bake for 45-60 minutes or until dressing is browned and cooked through.
4. Serve: Southern Cornbread Dressing is best served warm with turkey gravy drizzled on top.
Recipe Tips and Notes
- Cast Iron vs Baking Pan. Technically either can be used. The cast iron will create a really brown crispy crust compared to a baking pan. For the dressing, we prefer the texture of the cornbread made from a baking pan.
- Cornbread does not need to be stale. Cornbread that is stale or toasted just requires more liquid so you may have to adjust the amount of broth you add to the dressing recipe.
- The dressing should be wet but not standing liquid. Add the broth a little at a time to avoid soupy dressing.
Make Ahead Tips
- Bake the Cornbread in Advance. The cornbread can be up 2-3 days in advance and stored a container at room temperature. You can also make it weeks in advance and then freeze and thaw it overnight in the refrigerator.
- Sauté the Onions and Celery Ahead. Sauté the onion and celery the day before then refrigerate in an airtight container.
- Make the Recipe Ahead. Prepare the cornbread dressing and then refrigerate the unbaked dressing covered for up to 2 days. You can also make it weeks in advance and freeze it. Thaw in the refrigerator and then bake at 350°F for 45-60 minutes.
Frequently Asked Questions
YES! Sauteeing them mellows out the flavor slightly and also gives the onions a sweeter flavor. Skipping this step will result in a texture and taste that is slightly off. There’s no shortcut to good flavor.
Place baked, cooled dressing in a freezer-safe air-tight container and freeze for up to 3 months.
Allow it to come to room temperature which will help it to cook more evenly. If the dressing seems dry add a splash of broth then cover the pan with foil and place it in a 350°F oven. Reheat for approximately 20-30 minutes depending on the amount being reheated or until the internal temperature is 165°F.
Of course. Save all your leftover cornbread and store them in a freezer-safe container until you have enough to make 3 cups of cornbread crumbles. Allow the cornbread to thaw in the refrigerator before making the dressing.
The eggs help bind all the ingredients together. They can be skipped but the ingredients might not bind together as well.
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Southern Cornbread Dressing
This recipe may contain paid affiliate sales links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Please see my full disclaimer policy for details.
- 1 cup cornmeal
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 cup milk
- 2 large eggs
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Southern Cornbread Dressing
- 2-3 tablespoons butter
- 2 cups onions, diced
- 2 cups celery, diced
- 3 cups cornbread, crumbled
- 2 cups bread, crumbled
- 1 tablespoon rubbed sage
- 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
- 2 teasponn kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 2 to 2 ½ cups chicken or turkey broth
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Butter the baking pan or cast-iron skillet and set aside.
- In a medium mixing bowl add the flour, cornmeal, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Whisk to combine well.
- Make a well in the center of your dry ingredients and add the melted butter, milk, and egg. Stir just until the mixture comes together. There will be a few lumps remaining.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 20-25 minutes until the top is a deep golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cornbread can be made in advance.
- Allow cornbread to cool and then crumble.
Southern Cornbread Dressing
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter the baking pan and set aside.
- In a large skillet over medium heat melt the butter and then add the celery and onion. Sauté for about 5 to 6 minutes or until celery and onions are tender.
- Stir together crumbled cornbread and bread in a large bowl. Stir in the poultry seasoning, sage, salt, black pepper, and celery-onion mixture. Stir until well blended.
- Add the eggs and broth then work the mixture until you get a well-combined but lumpy dressing. Add an additional cup of broth as needed. The dressing should be wet but not standing liquid.
- Transfer the dressing to a greased baking dish. Bake for 45-60 minutes or until dressing is browned and cooked through.