Here’s the cornbread dressing recipe you won’t need to look up again.
When pulling together your holiday menus think about this: when dressing is baked in a casserole and not stuffed in a bird, it’s really just a savory bread pudding that uses broth instead of milk. And when you look at it like that, you make dressing more often. And you should.
Our top dressing for holidays and any time of the year is a straight-ahead Southern cornbread dressing—baked, crumbled leftover cornbread moistened with chicken broth and eggs, plus a few seasonings. After that you really only need onion and celery. Add other stuff if you like.
Check out the Cheater Chef list below for variations and make up your own. With the slightest imagination you’ll be serving dressing with any meat entrée—it’s as comfortable with mid-week pork chops as it is with weekend prime rib. And this savory bread pudding also makes an impressive, hearty centerpiece to a meal.
The secret to great cornbread dressing is a skillet of real cornbread.
There is no compromise here. No package of dried crumbs and absolutely no sweet cornbread from the Jiffy box. You must use no-sugar-added southern cornbread made from regular everyday ingredients. You’re best choice is a bag of Nashville’s own Martha White self-rising cornmeal mix. Just follow her directions on the bag:
2 cups cornmeal mix
1/4 cup oil
1 egg, enough milk or buttermilk for a pourable batter
Combine the ingredients in a bowl and blend well. If the batter seems too stiff, add a shot of water to loosen. Heat a greased cast iron or ovenproof skillet in a 450F degree oven until hot. Pour batter into the skillet and bake about 15 to 20 minutes.
If you can’t find self-rising cornmeal mix where you live, then add 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon of baking powder per cup of cornmeal/flour. I would use 1 3/4 cup cornmeal and 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour plus 1 teaspoon of salt and 2 teaspoons baking powder.
And keep this in mind as you’re about to pour the batter carefully into a hot cast iron skillet:
The cornbread batter must be like pancake batter, creamy and pourable, and not too thick. Thick, clumpy batter makes dry cornbread. Creamy batter makes moist cornbread. It’s as simple as that.
Go ahead and make the cornbread anytime, even days ahead. Crumble it up and keep it in the freezer until you need it. Whenever you’ve got leftover cornbread, biscuits, or other bread around, freeze it for dressing. They all work.
One last thought before the recipe–reheat dressing in a preheated skillet and under the broiler until you like what you see. And don’t get so excited that you reach for the handle without an oven mitt.
- 2 cups chopped celery
- 2 cups chopped onion
- 1 1/2 sticks butter
- About 5 to 6 cups crumbled cornbread (cornbread from a skillet of cornbread made with 2 cups cornmeal mix)
- About 3 cups stale, toasted, or fresh bread cubes (regular bread helps hold the dressing together and gives it a softer texture.)
- Handful of fresh chopped parsley
- Other herbs as you like--fresh chopped sage, marjoram, thyme, rosemary (or use any combination of dried herbs – about 1 teaspoon each rubbed sage, marjoram, thyme, rosemary)
- Generous amount of black pepper
- 3 to 4 cups chicken or turkey broth, homemade or canned.
- 2 eggs, beaten
- Melt 1 stick of the butter in a large skillet. Cook the onions and celery in the butter over medium heat until soft and caramelized, about 20 minutes.
- Combine the crumbled cornbread and bread cubes in a large mixing bowl.
- Stir in the cooked vegetables, parsley, herbs and black pepper. Blend well.
- Stir in the broth and eggs. Add enough broth so that the mixture is moist, but not soupy.
- Grease a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with about 1 to 2 tablespoons of the remaining butter.
- Pour the dressing into the prepared dish. Dot with the remaining butter.
- Bake the dressing right away or cover and refrigerate it overnight and cook it the next day.
- Cover lightly with foil and bake in a 375°F oven. Baking time will vary (if baked right away it should take about 45 minutes, out of the refrigerator closer to an hour).
- Remove the foil during the last 15 minutes for a nice crispy brown top.
- To be sure that the dressing is cooked through, check the internal temperature with an instant read thermometer. It should read at least 165°F.
- Leftovers reheat well in the microwave or oven.
- Southwestern--Add chopped green chilies and a can of hominy. Omit the herbs. Serve with a grilled flank steak.
- Italian—Add a pound of cooked and crumbled Italian sausage. Add some rosemary, red bell pepper and pine nuts.
- Sausage, Apple, Pecan--Add a finely chopped apple, 1 pound of cooked and crumbled sausage and 1 cup of toasted pecans to the mix.
- Leek and Country Ham--Use leeks instead of the onions and add bits of country ham.
- Clams or Oysters --Add fresh chopped clams or oysters to the mix and a sautéed green bell pepper.
- Cajun—Add chopped cooked Andouille sausage and sautéed red and/or green bell peppers.
- Mushrooms--Saute 12 ounces chopped mushrooms with the onions and celery.
- Dried fruits—Add apples, chopped dried apricots, raisins or cranberries for a nice sweetness.