Cornbread Dressing

Pepperidge Farm cornbread dressing on the left, Homemade cornbread dressing on the right

Last year, I included a comparison of regular white-bread dressing in my round-up of Thanksgiving recipes  but this year I wanted to try something different.  Cornbread dressing has never been a part of my family’s traditional Thanksgiving meal, but it has always appealed to me as an alternative to the kind made with white bread.  Homemade dressing was the clear winner in last year’s comparison, does the same hold true for the cornbread version?

I had never actually made cornbread dressing before deciding to do this comparison, but I developed the recipe below after researching lots of different recipes and methods.  This dressing is fairly simple but many versions include half a pound of cooked, crumbled sausage or smoked oysters stirred into the stuffing right before baking and I may try one of those options on Thanksgiving this year.

Basic Cornbread Dressing

There are two schools of thought when it comes to dressing: Moist or dry?  Of course, no one wants a dressing that is too dry, but I like mine on the drier side of moist (if that makes any sense).  If you like dressing the moister side, just add another half a cup or so of broth and cover the dressing with foil until the last 15 minutes of baking.  I avoid ever actually using stuffing in a bird because of food safety concerns.  I have heard that in order to kill all the bacteria introduced into the stuffing from the poultry, it has to reach such a high temperature that the meat of the bird would be too dry and tough.  Therefore, I don’t know how well this recipe would work as stuffing, but please let me know how it works out if you decide to try it!

Serves 8


1 recipe homemade cornbread, cut into 1 inch cubes
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup onion, diced
1/2 cup celery, diced
1/2 cup parsley, minced
2 Tbsp. fresh sage, minced
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 stick butter, melted plus extra for greasing the pan
salt and pepper to taste

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Spread the cubes of cornbread in a single layer on a large baking sheet.  Bake the cornbread cubes in the preheated oven for about 10 minutes, just until they are dry but not yet browned.  Transfer cornbread to a large bowl and set aside to cool.

2.  Heat the oil in skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion and celery to the skillet and saute for about 5 minutes or until the onions begin to turn translucent.

3.  Add the cooked onion and celery, parsley and sage to the bowl containing the cornbread.  Pour the broth and melted butter over the cornbread mixture and stir gently with a wooden spoon until the bread is coated with liquid.  Season with salt and pepper.

4.  Lightly butter a 9 by 13 inch baking pan and tip the cornbread mixture into this prepared dish, gently spreading it out evenly in the pan.  Bake in the preheated oven for 40 to 45 minutes or until the top just begins to brown.

Pepperidge farm cornbread stuffing on the left, homemade on the right (after being baked)

Along with the recipe above, I also prepared a bag of Pepperidge Farm Cornbread stuffing mix according the package directions.  My sister brought over a roasted turkey breast from the supermarket deli and we all sat down for an early Thanksgiving dinner and cornbread dressing tasting.  The results were instantly clear and as dramatic as the differences we noticed last year in the white bread stuffing.  Homemade cornbread stuffing was the clear winner in the taste category.  The cornbread was crumbly but still moist with a pleasing texture while the dressing made from a mix was gummy and chewy.  The use of fresh herbs and lots of onion and celery also paid off in the homemade stuffing giving it a very full, fresh flavor.  In contrast, the directions on the packaged dressing called for far fewer fresh vegetables and it ended up having a musty, flat flavor.  All of us agreed that the packaged cornbread dressing really didn’t taste much different than the packaged white bread dressing.  I certainly would not have known that it was supposed to be cornbread dressing if I hadn’t made it myself.  The homemade cornbread dressing, on the other hand had a very distinctive texture and flavor making it a very different dish from regular dressing.

Although the homemade dressing was a clear winner when it came to flavor and texture, it definitely did not measure up in the time or cost areas.  While the packaged dressing only takes about 40 minutes to prepare, the homemade takes almost 2 hours because of the time it takes to make homemade cornbread and then dry it out in the oven.  Stuffing is a pretty economical side dish and the homemade and packaged were pretty close in price, but the homemade dressing did cost about one extra dollar.

Bottom Line: While homemade cornbread dressing takes much longer to prepare than packaged, it is definitely worth the extra effort and will make for a very special side dish on your Thanksgiving table this year.

Homemade Cornbread Dressing                 Pepperidge Farm Cornbread Dressing

Cost:  $4.90                                                                  Cost:  $3.80

Time: 1 hour 45 minutes                                            Time:  45 minutes