How to make cornbread dressing like a real Southerner

Thanksgiving turkey isn’t complete without moist, yummy cornbread dressing. It’s taken me years to get this one right, so I’ll share my experience with you.

Patsy R. Brumfield The Southfacin' Cook

Patsy R. Brumfield
The Southfacin’ Cook

First, my wonderful mother, Betty – who adored Thanksgiving and cooked for weeks in anticipation of hosting a crowd that day – died on Halloween 1999 and left me, the eldest child, to make our first holiday meal without her. I had no idea what to do. Thank goodness she left recipes, although some have taken years to get just right. (You know how cooks are about secrets.)

This is her cornbread dressing, which I like topped with a splash of smooth turkey giblet gravy (recipe). It’s also fabulous to slice thinly onto leftover turkey sandwiches with homemade mayonnaise (recipe) and a sliver of cranberry sauce (easy recipe). Goodness, my mouth waters just thinking about it.

Header image via Angie’s Southern Kitchen and used in accordance with the Creative Common license agreement.

CORNBREAD DRESSING A LA BETTY

  • Servings: 8-10
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

CORNBREAD

how to make cornbread dressing (photo by Patsy R. Brumfield/Southfacin' Cook)

how to make cornbread dressing (photo by Patsy R. Brumfield/Southfacin’ Cook)

EQUIPMENT

  • Mixing bowl
  • Measuring equipment
  • Wooden spoon
  • Medium-size cast iron skillet

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups yellow corn meal (stone-ground, if you can get it)
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk
  • 3/4 teaspoon soda
  • 1 egg
  • 2 large tablespoon of cooking oil, melted shortening or bacon fat

(There is no salt in this because you’ll add salt to the dressing mixture.)

LET’S GET STARTED

Pre-heat oven to 400.  Put your iron skillet in oven.

Mix buttermilk and the egg. Dissolve baking soda in the buttermilk egg mixture. Stir and mix into corn meal. Add 1 tablespoon of melted oil/shortening/bacon fat.

how to make cornbread dressing (photo by Patsy R. Brumfield/Southfacin' Cook)

how to make cornbread dressing (photo by Patsy R. Brumfield/Southfacin’ Cook)

Into your hot skillet, pour 1 tablespoon of cooking oil, then pour cornbread mix. Smooth out evenly with wooden spoon.

how to make cornbread dressing (photo by Patsy R. Brumfield/Southfacin' Cook)

how to make cornbread dressing (photo by Patsy R. Brumfield/Southfacin’ Cook)

Bake 20-25 minutes until golden brown.

Remove from oven and cool. (You can make cornbread ahead of time, freeze it and bring it out when you’re ready to make the dressing.)

how to make cornbread dressing (photo by Patsy R. Brumfield/Southfacin' Cook)

how to make cornbread dressing (photo by Patsy R. Brumfield/Southfacin’ Cook)

CORNBREAD DRESSING

NOTE: When I make dressing, I make a lot of it – maybe 2-3 times as much as this recipe calls for, so I adjust ingredients accordingly. I also mix it in my 4-gallon gumbo pot with a long-handled wooden spoon. Alton Brown would love this multi-use.

EQUIPMENT

how to make cornbread dressing (photo by Patsy R. Brumfield/Southfacin' Cook)

how to make cornbread dressing (photo by Patsy R. Brumfield/Southfacin’ Cook)

  • large mixing bowl
  • large sauce pan or medium dutch oven
  • chopping board
  • chopping knife
  • measuring equipment
  • wooden spoon

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pan of cornbread (per recipe above)
  • 2 cups chopped celery (4-6 stalks)
  • 1 stick butter or margarine
  • 1 cup chopped onion (1 medium onion)
  • 1 package herb-seasoned bread croutons (Kellogg’s  and Pepperidge Farm are my favorites)
  • 2 teaspoons poultry seasoning
  • salt, pepper (1 teaspoon each)
  • chicken broth (total 10 cups)
  • 4 raw eggs

LET’S GET STARTED

In a large sauce pan or dutch oven, cook celery, onions and butter/margarine in about 4 cups of broth. Cook until tender (15-20 minutes).

how to make cornbread dressing (photo by Patsy R. Brumfield/Southfacin' Cook)

how to make cornbread dressing (photo by Patsy R. Brumfield/Southfacin’ Cook)

In large mixing bowl or stewpot (for me, that’s the gumbo pot), crumble corn bread and add seasoned croutons. Then add salt, pepper and poultry seasoning. Combine thoroughly.

how to make cornbread dressing (photo by Patsy R. Brumfield/Southfacin' Cook)

how to make cornbread dressing (photo by Patsy R. Brumfield/Southfacin’ Cook)

how to make cornbread dressing (photo by Patsy R. Brumfield/Southfacin' Cook)

how to make cornbread dressing (photo by Patsy R. Brumfield/Southfacin’ Cook)

Pour broth/celery/onions mixture into your cornbread pot and combine with wooden spoon.

how to make cornbread dressing (photo by Patsy R. Brumfield/Southfacin' Cook)

how to make cornbread dressing (photo by Patsy R. Brumfield/Southfacin’ Cook)

Add 6 cups broth and beaten eggs and combine thoroughly. Your dressing mixture will be almost “soupy.” Remember, you are making a pudding of sorts, and you will bake it until it’s the consistency you want. But it needs to start out “wet” or it will end up dry. (This wet state is important. Don’t be afraid of it. My children are sick of my annual invitation to them to “come, look at the dressing.” I want to make sure they know what it’s suppose to look out because I didn’t know when I first took on this responsibility.)

how to make cornbread dressing (photo by Patsy R. Brumfield/Southfacin' Cook)

how to make cornbread dressing (photo by Patsy R. Brumfield/Southfacin’ Cook)

Pour dressing mixture into 9×13” casserole and bake 45-60 mins.

how to make cornbread dressing (photo by Patsy R. Brumfield/Southfacin' Cook)

how to make cornbread dressing (photo by Patsy R. Brumfield/Southfacin’ Cook)

Start out with it covered by foil, then remove foil with 15 mins to go so the top can brown. Check it for doneness like you do a cake by sticking in toothpick. If it comes out clean, it’s ready.

Serves 8 to 10.  Click here for more Thanksgiving recipes from Patsy.

how to make cornbread dressing (photo by Patsy R. Brumfield/Southfacin' Cook)

how to make cornbread dressing (photo by Patsy R. Brumfield/Southfacin’ Cook)

Come back to NewinNOLA.com for “Southfacin’ Cook,” where Patsy explains the basics to Southern cooking and eating. Contact her with suggestions, questions or requests at patsy.brumfield@gmail.com.

Click here for previous recipes from Patsy.

Creative Commons License
This work by Patsy R. Brumfield is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

21 thoughts on “How to make cornbread dressing like a real Southerner

  1. Vicki says:

    I agree with Doug I am from the South and all of our Cornbread Dressing has lots of Sage,Celery and Onions. I have updated my Mom’s dressing somewhat, I have added chopped boiled eggs and herb stuffing mix(Pepperidge Farms). I also have started making a Cornbread Dressing for Easter and Christmas. I always bake hams however for those Holidays, in place of the Turkey I use a Boston Butt rather than chicken. I make a Pork Dressing, it goes much better with the ham. I usually boil the Boston Butt with fat still in tact. I put in fridge to chill so I can remove the hardened fat from it. Then tear it apart and add to dressing, it is a really great dressing..

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  5. kristie says:

    I got news for you lady…that is some crap…that is NOT how to make southern cornbread dressing!!!! Take that stuffing mix and dump it out to the birds.

    You don’t know what you’re talking about!

    If you are going to publish a “southern recipe” at least try and get it right!

  6. Nancy Lazenby says:

    Much like Jonnie Gordon’s– the Queen of Dressing, in my opinion. No offense to Betty, of course. Mother used a little sage — but not too much — salt and pepper, and I think that was it for seasoning. Oh, and green onions, which I am partial to my own self. I can make it close enough to hers to usually suit everyone. She insisted that it had to be SOUPY going into the pan. I make sure it fairly floats!

  7. Douglass Gilbert says:

    “Light bread” in any form was forbidden in our West Tennessee household dressing recipe. Like another comment, a liberal amount of sage is essential. Salt and pepper to taste as well. GOOD chicken stock was essential.

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