This sausage cornbread dressing is not the stuffing I grew up with; the stuffing I grew up with was wet, soft white bread mixed with celery and onion and about half of a container of stale poultry seasoning bought several Thanksgivings before and only used for the holiday.
Unlike the often untouched stuffing questionably cooked in the turkey growing up, this sausage cornbread dressing is packed with flavor and texture--it’s the dressing your family will be fighting over instead of politely taking a scoop of but not eating.
Dressing vs. Stuffing
Look, I’m not a southern grandma (no matter how much I try to be). I grew up calling it stuffing. I’ve typed and deleted the word stuffing at least 6 times while writing this post. You may be wondering what the difference is between the two. There’s not much difference, to be honest.
TECHNICALLY, stuffing is cooked in the turkey while dressing is cooked in a separate dish. A few years ago, it was all over the news and internet about the risks of cooking stuffing in your turkey.
The gist of it is that if you cook your stuffing in a turkey (or other raw food), you run the risk of salmonella because all of the juices get sucked up into your stuffing. You can use a second probe thermometer to ensure you don’t give anybody food poisoning, but I’ve literally never seen anybody do that.
Even now, after not cooking stuffing in the turkey for years, I still call stuffing stuffing. If I called this dressing at our Thanksgiving table, my family would be super confused and make fun of me.
The Mason Dixon line seems to divide the country on stuffing vs. dressing. From what I gather from all of you that read this, dressing is typically what Southern grandmas call it regardless. I, a wannabe Southern grandma, will call this dressing. Feel free to call it what you want.
Not my Grandma’s stuffing
I love cornbread, but I never had it in dressing. My grandmother (and other grandmothers I’ve known to make stuffing) would tear apart loaves and loaves of sliced white bread the night before Thanksgiving to leave out for stuffing.
This dressing has a base of cornbread which is arguably better. Unlike white bread, cornbread offers a different texture and flavor that stands up to the traditional Thanksgiving flavors but still brings its own, buttery delicious cornbread flavor. Southern grandmas know what they’re doing.
In this recipe, you’ll see I added Italian Sausage to this--something I never had before. I have been so intrigued by seeing recipes on TV and online for years when it came to putting sausage in their dressing. How was this Thanksgiving with Italian sausage? Um, it’s delicious.
I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did. Again, Southern Grandmas know what’s up. The sausage is not overpowering but complementary to the sage, thyme, and rosemary.
The fennel and smoked paprika are a nice addition thank round out the flavors more associated with Thanksgiving. I ate two cups of it after making it. Less than 24 hours later, the 12 serving stuffing is half gone at our house.
As you may know, I have two cornbread recipes: Southern Cornbread and Yankee Cornbread. The Yankee cornbread is a little sweeter with a little less butter. Since this is a southern sausage cornbread dressing, I decided to go with my Southern Cornbread to please the southern grandmas out there.
It’s more savory than sweet and it was perfect for this dressing. To keep the texture great for the dressing, you’re going to need to make a full cornbread and NOT EAT IT.
Cut it up in large cubes and let it dry out for 24-48 hours. I scattered mine on a baking sheet and let it dry out for about 36 hours. It’ll be staler but still a little soft. If you don’t have the time, you can cube the cornbread and toast in the oven.
Why Make it ahead? You’re going to be adding turkey stock to this cornbread. Soft cornbread will crumble and not hold up well in chunks. Make this with soft cornbread and you’ll have a big ol’ mess on your hands.
By letting it dry out, it will keep its shape and texture so you’ll have nice cubes that get a little crusty on top. Dressing and french toast are always better with stale bread.
Layers of flavor
What makes this sausage cornbread dressing tasty is that each component brings its own unique and delicious flavor and texture and comes together for a savory, herby dressing. After you have your cornbread made, you’ll need a big frying pan and a casserole dish (this recipe makes 12 cups).
You’re going to pan fry your sausage using a little bit of cooking spray and remove when it's done. Spray your pan again, and add the onions and celery together with a big pinch of salt.
As the onions cook, you’re going to scrape the bottom of the pan to get any brown bits from the sausage off and into the onions.
The onions and celery will take about 7-10 minutes to properly soften. Just as your onions and celery are ready to come off, that’s when you add your fresh herbs.
You only need to cook it for about another 30 seconds or so--just to coat the vegetables and make your house smell amazing. Once you’ve combined all your components, you are going to ladle in turkey stock.
Use right from the carton, or from fortified turkey stock (I’ll explain what I mean in my turkey post this week). Combine with eggs, pop in the oven, and you’re done. This recipe, by the way, can be made the day before. Keep this in mind when it comes to how long you store leftovers.
What if I’m not on WW?
I get it. Not everyone is looking for healthy recipes on Thanksgiving. For holidays, I don’t go the healthiest route because there are only so many indulgent meals I cook and eat with my family.
I don’t limit myself on holidays. If I was making this and throwing caution to the wind for a day, I’d take a half a stick of butter and fry the onions and celery in that. I’d also use regular Italian pork sausage or even breakfast sausage.
I’d also melt the remaining stick of butter and drizzle it on the cornbread stuffing. Fun fact, I buy about 8 pounds of butter for Thanksgiving. That being said, this sausage cornbread dressing does not taste like cutting corners. This doesn’t take “healthy”--this tastes damn delicious.
Looking for other Thanksgiving Recipes?
I’m working on them! We are not celebrating Thanksgiving at home this year, but that’s not stopping me from making recipes. This week I’ll be posting my recipes for perfect roasted green beans and the best, creamiest mashed potatoes ever.
In the meantime, check out this recipe for a delicious butternut squash soup your whole family will be super impressed by. A soup course for Thanksgiving? What am I, a king? Nope. Just extra as hell.
Dwardcooks Sausage Cornbread Dressing
- 1 full cornbread recipe (recipe below) cubed and dried for 24-48 hours
- 1 lb raw Italian turkey sausage (recipe below)
- 2 cups onion (roughly 2-3 onions) diced
- 3 cups celery (roughly 4-6 stalks) chopped
- 4 tbsp fresh sage
- 2 tbsp fresh parsley
- 2 tbsp fresh thyme
- 1 tbsp fresh rosemary
- 1 pinch nutmeg
- 2 eggs
- 2-3 cups turkey stock
- kosher salt
- Cube cornbread and let dry for 24-48 hours. Spray a casserole dish (that can hold 12 cups) with cooking spray and add dried cornbread to the dish.
- Spray a frying pan with cooking spray, and brown the Italian turkey sausage in a pan and remove when fully cooked. Add to the cornbread.
- Spray the pan again, and add onions and celery to the pan you cooked the sausage in. Add a big pinch of kosher salt to pan (about half a tbsp) and scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen brown bits. Cook until onions are translucent and celery is soft.
- Add all the fresh herbs and cook for about 30 seconds. Remove mix from heat and add to cornbread.
- Mix eggs and pour over dressing mix. Add turkey stock in increments until desired wetness--you want the dressing to be moist and a little crumbly, but still hold the shape of the cubes. Add more than 2 cups if needed. Toss ingredients until fully and evenly coated.
- Steps 1-5 can be done the day before. If assembling the day before, allow for extra time in the oven. If cooking after assembly, cook at 350 for 30-40 minutes and when the top is golden brown.
Italian-style Turkey Sausage
- 1 pound lean ground chicken or turkey
- 1/2 tbsp smoked paprika
- 1 tbsp Italian Seasoning
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
- 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
- Big pinch of salt and pepper
- Combine the spices together.
- Add the spices into the meat and mix well.
- Brown the ground turkey or ground chicken in a pan, using a little bit of cooking spray.
Dwardcooks Lightened Up Cornbread - Southern Edition
- 1 3/4 cup Coarse Cornmeal
- 1/4 cup self rising flour
- 1 cup Fat Free Greek Yogurt Fage
- 4 tbsp salter butter
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tbsp baking powder
- 1 cup Cashew Milk unsweetened
- 2 eggs
- Preheat the oven to 450 and put the cast iron in the oven to heat.
- Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl. Combine yogurt, cashew milk, and eggs in another bowl.
- When oven is preheated, take the cast iron out of the oven and pour 1 tbsp of the melted butter into the pan and swish it around to coat as much as possible. You can eyeball this. Also, make sure you use an oven mitt. Add remaining butter to the wet ingredients.
- Pour wet ingredients into dry, and mix together until everything is just barely combined. Try not to over mix. I find this is best done with a rubber spatula.
- Pour batter into the cast iron and place back into the oven.
- Reduce the heat to 375 and cook for 20-25 minutes. Test the cornbread to see if it is done by using a toothpick or fork. It will come out clean when it is done.
- Allow cornbread to cool for a few minutes and then remove the cornbread from the cast iron. Place a plate on the skillet and flip the pan so the cornbread comes out onto the pan. Once again, use an oven mitt.
- Allow cornbread to cool for about 5-10 minutes before slicing.