Southern Cornbread Dressing Starts with Real Cornbread

by R.B. Quinn and Min Merrell
southern cornbread dressing

Here’s the cornbread dressing recipe you won’t need to look up again.  

When pulling together your holiday menus think about this: when the 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.

cornbread dressing

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. 

cornbread dressing

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. 

cornbread dressing

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