My Grandma’s Cornbread Dressing Is Simple, Moist Perfection (No Other Recipe Tops It) (2024)

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Laurel Randolph

Laurel Randolph

Laurel is a food writer, recipe developer, and editor. She is the author of four cookbooks, one of which was a #2 best-seller of 2017.

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published Nov 18, 2021

Kitchn Love Letters

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My Grandma’s Cornbread Dressing Is Simple, Moist Perfection (No Other Recipe Tops It) (1)

This is a fluffy, crumbly dressing made with a simple homemade cornbread. The buttermilk-y flavor pairs perfectly with the savory broth, buttery vegetables, and herbs.

Serves8 to 10Prep15 minutes to 25 minutesCook1 hour to 1 hour 10 minutes

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My Grandma’s Cornbread Dressing Is Simple, Moist Perfection (No Other Recipe Tops It) (2)

My Tennessee grandmother, fondly known by family members of all ages as Nannie June, was always happy to feed hungry visitors. In her heyday, she cooked up large spreads every Sunday afternoon and every holiday, or anytime the occasion called for it.

I remember bowls of tomato and cucumber salad (grown by my grandfather), creamed corn, pinto beans with ham hock, and crispy fried chicken. When Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Easter rolled around, the number of dishes would double, and some platters would have to move from the dining table to the sideboard to make room for table settings. And while Christmas called for a big glazed ham and coconut cake, Thanksgiving was the real eating holiday.

One dish I associate the most with my grandmother is her cornbread. I think it’s because I have such vivid memories of this tiny woman pulling the piping-hot cast iron skillet from the oven, tilting it so the oil coated the bottom, and pouring the batter into the sizzling pan. Upon my request, she’d pull out the heavy pan with the corn cob-shaped indentations and make crispy corn sticks just for me.

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She used her homemade cornbread to make cornbread dressing every Thanksgiving (we Southerners call it dressing whenever it’s cooked outside of the bird), a dish we simply had to have every year. One year, some of the family gathered at my sister’s apartment for the holiday and, while attempting to flip the cornbread out of the skillet and into the bowl, I somehow managed to wedge it between the window blinds. It just hung there, suspended, as we all cackled. I’ve yet to live that one down.

While the official family recipe is scant (“1 small skillet egg cornbread, onion, celery, 2 cups herb stuffing mix, 3/4 stick of butter, hot stock to moisten, bake”), I pieced together the details from memory and by questioning my family. It’s a fluffy, crumbly dressing, the cornbread giving the mixture a buttermilk-y flavor to go with the savory broth, buttery vegetables, and herbs. I added a bit of fresh herbs, but otherwise left it untouched. It’s just as I remember it.

A Few Tips for Making My Grandma’s Cornbread Dressing

Over the years of eating and then making this recipe, I’ve learned a few things.

  1. Use Martha White Self-Rising Cornmeal Mix, if you can find it. My family insists on making cornbread with this mix. In fact, my grandmother’s go-to cornbread recipe is the one on the back of the sack. Martha White is an old-school brand that was advertised on the Grand Ole Opry, and holds a special place in many-a-Southerner’s heart. If you have trouble finding it (as I do), use your favorite self-rising cornmeal or add a little flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar to finely-milled cornmeal to make your own (see Recipe Notes for specifics).
  2. Use your favorite store-bought herb stuffing. My grandmother specifically calls for Kellogg’s Croutettes Stuffing Mix in her recipe, but this product is sadly no longer available. I use Stove Top Savory Herb Stuffing Mix instead.
  3. Add the broth gradually (and taste as you go). When mixing everything together, you’re looking for a very moist texture but not so moist that liquid pools at the bottom of the bowl. Add the broth gradually until you reach a saturated mixture with no crunchy bits, using your hands to gauge the moisture level — my grandmother always had her hands wrists-deep in the dressing bowl. Give it a taste (there’s no raw egg, so it’s safe) and add seasoning as needed. This will vary depending on how salty your cornbread, stuffing mix, and broth are.
  4. Make the cornbread in advance. Save yourself some time and effort on Thanksgiving day and make the cornbread a day ahead. While fresh, piping-hot cornbread is a must when you’re serving it as a side dish, leftover cornbread is perfect for dressing.

At Kitchn, our editors develop and debut brand-new recipes on the site every single week. But at home, we also have our own tried-and-true dishes that we make over and over again — because quite simply? We love them.Kitchn Love Lettersis a series that shares our favorite, over-and-over recipes.

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Nannie June's Cornbread Dressing Recipe

This is a fluffy, crumbly dressing made with a simple homemade cornbread. The buttermilk-y flavor pairs perfectly with the savory broth, buttery vegetables, and herbs.

Prep time 15 minutes to 25 minutes

Cook time 1 hour to 1 hour 10 minutes

Serves 8 to 10

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

For the cornbread:

  • 1/4 cup

    plus 1 teaspoon canola or vegetable oil, divided

  • 1

    large egg

  • 2 cups

    self-rising enriched cornmeal mix, such as Martha White or White Lily

  • 1 3/4 cups

    buttermilk, plus more as needed

For the dressing:

  • 1

    (32-ounce) carton low-sodium chicken or turkey broth (4 cups)

  • 1

    medium yellow onion

  • 2

    large stalks celery

  • 4 to 5 sprigs

    fresh parsley

  • 1/4 bunch

    fresh sage

  • 6 tablespoons

    (3/4 stick) unsalted butter

  • 1

    (6-ounce) box herb stuffing mix, such as Stove Top Savory Herbs

  • Kosher salt

  • Freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

Make the cornbread:

  1. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 425ºF.

  2. Add 1 teaspoon of the canola oil to an 8-inch cast iron skillet. Place the skillet in the oven for 5 to 10 minutes while you mix up the batter.

  3. Whisk 1 large egg in a medium bowl just until lightly beaten. Add 2 cups self-rising cornmeal mix, the remaining 1/4 cup canola oil, and 1 3/4 cups buttermilk. Whisk just until well-combined. It’s OK if there are a few small lumps — the batter should be thick and pourable. If too thick, add a little more buttermilk.

  4. Remove the hot skillet from the oven and carefully tilt it so the oil coats the bottom completely. Pour in the batter. Return the skillet to the oven and bake until browned on top and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Let cool in the pan until lukewarm or room temperature, about 1 hour.

Make the dressing:

  1. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350ºF.

  2. Heat 1 carton low-sodium chicken or turkey broth (4 cups) in a medium saucepan and over medium heat just until hot. (Don’t let it boil.) Meanwhile, dice 1 medium yellow onion (about 2 cups) and 2 large celery stalks (about 1 1/2 cups). Pick the leaves from 4 to 5 sprigs fresh parsley until you have 1/4 cup, then coarsely chop. Pick the leaves from 1/4 bunch fresh sage leaves until you have 2 tablespoons, then coarsely chop.

  3. Melt 6 tablespoons unsalted butter in a medium skillet and heat over medium heat. Add the onion and celery and sauté until softened, 5 to 8 minutes. Add the parsley and sage and stir to combine. Remove the skillet from the heat.

  4. Run a knife around the cornbread to loosen. Gently crumble the cornbread into a large bowl, the largest pieces can be up to 1-inch wide — no need to over-crumble. Add 1 (6-ounce) box herb stuffing mix and the sautéed vegetables.

  5. Add 2 1/2 cups of the hot broth and toss gently with a wooden spoon until combined. Add up to 1 1/2 cups more broth, a splash at a time, until the mixture feels very moist and you can no longer feel the dry stuffing mix. (If you add too much broth, the liquid will pool at the bottom of the bowl.) Taste and season with kosher salt and black pepper as needed.

  6. Transfer the mixture into an ungreased 9x13-inch baking dish and spread into an even layer. Bake until warmed through and toasty and browned on top, 30 to 35 minutes.

Recipe Notes

Homemade cornmeal mix: If you can’t find Martha White Self-Rising Cornmeal Mix, make your own. Replace the mix in the ingredients with 1 1/2 cups fine white cornmeal, 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, 1 tablespoon baking powder, 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, and 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt.

Buttermilk cornmeal mix: If you use Martha White Self-Rising Buttermilk Cornmeal Mix or another buttermilk cornmeal mix, follow the recipe on the back for cornbread, which calls for a smaller amount of regular milk since it already contains buttermilk powder.

For a firmer dressing that scoops out of the pan in neater servings, add 2 lightly beaten large eggs to the final mixture and add 5 minutes to the baking time.

Vegetarian dressing: Use low-sodium vegetable broth to make this dressing vegetarian.

Make ahead: The cornbread can be baked up to 1 day ahead. Once cool, cover and store at room temperature.

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days, or tightly wrapped and frozen for up to 1 month. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.

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