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Southern Cornbread Dressing in sheet pan with spatula.
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Mom's Southern Cornbread Dressing Recipe

This recipe is exactly the way my mom has always made it - who learned it from my Grandma B! It's thin, crispy around the edges, and is a staple at every single holiday get together.
Course Side Dish
Cuisine Southern
Prep Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Servings 24
Calories 308kcal
Author Gary White

Ingredients

Turkey Stock

  • 3 lbs turkey thighs
  • 2 large yellow onions roughly chopped
  • 6 stalks celery roughly chopped
  • 1 Tbsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper

Dressing

  • 1.5 cups yellow onions diced
  • 1.5 cups celery diced
  • 1.5 cups green peppers diced
  • 2 Tbsp bacon fat
  • 15 oz canned very young small sweet peas drained
  • 6 cups cooked cornbread crumbled
  • 12 oz Pepperidge Farm herb stuffing mix
  • 8 cups turkey stock
  • 1 Tbsp ground sage
  • 2 Tbsp poultry seasoning
  • 8 Tbsp melted butter

Instructions

Turkey Stock

  • Add turkey thighs, 2 large yellow onions (roughly chopped), 6 stalks of celery, 1 tablespoon sea salt, and 1 teaspoon ground black pepper to pot. Add 12 cups of water, cover with lid, and bring up to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer until the turkey thighs are falling apart (about 90 minutes).
  • Remove turkey and (once cool enough to touch) finely shred the meat. Discard the skin and bones.
  • Pass the stock through a strainer to remove any onions and celery. Note: If you're making the stock ahead of time (like I always do), transfer to airtight containers and allow to cool for a while. Then refrigerate until ready to use. I also like to store the meat submerged in stock so that it doesn't dry out.

Dressing

  • Using medium-high heat, add 2 tablespoons of bacon fat to large pan along with diced onions, peppers, and celery. Season with 1 teaspoon of salt and ½ teaspoon of black pepper. Cook just until vegetables release their juices, about 5 minutes. You're not trying to cook them fully, you just want them to release their liquids. This step can also be done well in advance and refrigerated until ready to bake.
  • Preheat oven to 375 F. In a very large mixing bowl, add shredded turkey, sautéed veggies, and peas - mix well to combine.
  • Add crumbled cornbread and stuffing mix to bowl, along with 4 cups of the turkey stock, and mix well to combine.
  • Then add poultry seasoning, sage, and melted butter to bowl and mix again.
  • Finally, add remaining 4 cups of turkey stock and mix one last time. I know it seems like a lot of mixing, but you really want everything evenly distributed in every bite.
  • Spray two half size sheet pans (18"x13") with nonstick cooking spray. Pour dressing mixture into pans, divided as evenly as possible.
  • Place pans on the middle and lower racks of oven and bake for 30 minutes. Then rotate the pans, bring the pan on the bottom up (and vice versa), and bake for another 30 minutes or so. It's almost impossible (within reason) to overcook this, so you may way to leave it in longer if you prefer crispier edges like my family.

Notes

Expert Tips

  1. I recommend using a non-sweet cornbread for this dressing. I believe that sugar will take away from the savory goodness of what this recipe is all about.
  2. While it is entirely possible to use store-bought broth, the depth of flavor from making your own is unmatched; but, it should still work! And since you're not cooking you're own turkey, you may as well cut another corner and buy a rotisserie chicken. Use the meat for the dressing and discard the skin and bones.
  3. I recommend two specific brands in making this dressing. For the stuffing mix, my mom swears by Pepperidge Farm Herb Seasoned Stuffing. And Le Sueur Very Young Small Sweet Peas are the best peas on the market.
  4. I know they are a non-traditional ingredient in dressing/stuffing, but the peas really add depth in three different ways: heartiness, moisture, and texture.

FAQs

Can I leave out the peas? Yes, you can leave them out - I understand that they are not common in dressing. But you'll really be missing out on part of what sets this dressing apart from the rest.
Can I make this in a casserole dishes? Yes, you will want to use two 13x9 dishes. And the baking time will vary up, but probably needs an extra 15 minutes or so.
Can I make a smaller portion? If you halve all the ingredients, the proportion will equal a single casserole dish or a single half sheet pan. My family always demands leftovers, so this is barely enough!
Can I freeze the leftovers? Yes! This is a big portion. But the beauty is... If you make both pans at Thanksgiving, you can freeze the second to warm up and serve at Christmas! I would recommend slicing the dressing, wrapping in plastic wrap, and storing in an airtight container until you're ready to reheat.

Nutrition

Calories: 308kcal | Carbohydrates: 35g | Protein: 15g | Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 70mg | Sodium: 909mg | Potassium: 304mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 11g | Vitamin A: 220IU | Vitamin C: 9mg | Calcium: 100mg | Iron: 2mg