Cornbread. Stuffing. This is not an “either… or…” scenario. This is the tag team of your dreams. Light, crumbly, and subtly sweet cornbread from scratch PLUS the finest of all Thanksgiving sides. Cornbread Stuffing is proof that you can have it all.
Why You’ll Love This Cornbread Stuffing With Sausage Recipe
- A Stuffing for Staunch Stuffing Skeptics. I know many who think stuffing is just ho-hum, and I see you. Until I started making stuffing from scratch, I used to feel this way too. If you don’t care for stuffing, it’s because you haven’t found the right recipe yet. Or, you’ve only eaten stuffing from a box. Moist, flavorful homemade stuffing—like today’s cornbread stuffing and my wildly delicious Chestnut Stuffing—are game-changers.
- Sausage Adds Substance. The beauty of stuffing is that it’s bread—and everyone loves bread. However! This also makes stuffing a little one-note. Sausage adds texture and lots of flavor, making this Southern cornbread stuffing hearty and satisfying, like these Stuffing Muffins.
- Classic Flavors. Savory herbs bring the classic Thanksgiving flavors home, while apples and cranberries add texture, dimension, and a bit of sweetness.
- It’s Not Just for Thanksgiving. Why do we save stuffing for Thanksgiving when we could (and SHOULD!) be eating it year round?! This cornbread stuffing pairs perfectly with turkey, but is equally as delectable on its own. I once paired ours with a bowl of rich Crockpot Butternut Squash Soup, and it was one of our favorite fall dinners to date.
- Made With Love. Making cornbread stuffing without a mix takes a little extra effort BUT that effort is minimal and the payoff is maximal. The holidays are the right time to slow down and find more quality time with family and friends. And few things show them your love more than cooking from scratch. Plus, the taste difference when using a cornbread mix recipe cannot compare to homemade cornbread!
5 Star Review
“Loved this stuffing recipe! The cranberries give it a surprise sweetness! This is definitely a keeper for years to come.— Angela T. —
A Note on Cornbread for Stuffing
The backbone of this easy cornbread stuffing is the most delicious homemade cornbread from scratch.
If you haven’t tried stuffing made with cornbread before, it is nothing short of fantastic. Cornmeal gives the stuffing a wonderful texture, and the flavor of the cornbread itself while slightly unexpected (in a refreshing way), fits right in at the table.
The cornbread recipe I’m using here is simple. It has a touch of honey to let the flavors of the stuffing shine, and it is fast and impressive enough to be TOTALLY worth the effort. You don’t even need to dirty a mixer.
To get your cornbread fix with a simple side, try these Cornbread Muffins.
How to Make Cornbread Stuffing
- Cornmeal. The base of our easy, from-scratch cornbread. I recommend a medium grind to give the stuffing a little texture. (Wondering if you can use a mix instead? See Substitution Tip below).
- Eggs. You put eggs in dressing to keep the stuffing moist and ensure the cornbread holds together when folded with the other ingredients.
- Sweet Italian Chicken Sausage. I love the extra pop of flavor that Italian chicken (or turkey) sausage brings to the stuffing. It makes it hearty and a standout. To make cornbread stuffing vegan, use a plant-based sausage and a vegan cornbread recipe.
- Onion + Celery. The perfect veggies to add to our cornbread stuffing. They give it complexity and depth.
- Dried Cranberries. A chewy and sweet element that adds color, a fun holiday vibe, and an additional dimension.
- Apple. I like a tart Granny Smith, but any firm apple will do.
- Herbs. Fresh sage and thyme are quintessential holiday flavors. I also added some parsley flakes.
- Start the Cornbread. Melt the butter, then let it come to room temperature.
- Mix the Wet Ingredients. I use milk and vinegar for a shortcut buttermilk.
- Finish the Batter. Whisk together the dry ingredients. Fold in the wet ingredients.
- Bake. Bake the cornbread for 16 to 20 minutes at 425 degrees F.
- Cube and Toast. This dries the cornbread so it can absorb the flavorful stuffing liquid.
- Prep the Mix-Ins. Saute the sausage mixture.
- Mix the Sausage and Wet Ingredients. Now we’re ready for the cornbread.
- Add the Cornbread. Fold gently.
- Finish. Transfer the stuffing to a baking dish, and bake cornbread stuffing for 35 to 40 minutes at 375 degrees F. ENJOY!
Make Ahead Cornbread Stuffing Tips
Get ahead on your Thanksgiving menu with these make ahead stuffing tips!
- Bake the Cornbread Ahead. You can make cornbread up to 2 days in advance and toast the cubes up to 1 day in advance. Store them in a container at room temperature.
- Cook the Mix-Ins Ahead. Sauté the onion, celery, sausage, and apple in the skillet (Steps 7-9 of the recipe below) the day before. Refrigerate in an airtight container.
- Make the Recipe Ahead. Really crunched on the big day? You can make the cornbread stuffing 1 to 2 days ahead of time and refrigerate it. (Leftover cornbread stuffing can be refrigerated for up to 4 days, but personally, I prefer it most on day 1 or 2, so wait as long as is feasible.)
- To Store. Transfer leftover Southern cornbread stuffing to an airtight container and refrigerate for 3 to 4 days.
- To Freeze. Freeze leftovers in an airtight container or zip-top bag for up to 3 months. Let it thaw in the refrigerator before reheating according to the instructions below.
If you make your cornbread fully in advance, here is the best way to reheat it:
- Reheating. Remove it from the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature so it will cook more evenly. Cover the pan with foil, then place it in a 350 degrees F oven and reheat to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F. Depending on how much you’re reheating, this will take about 30 minutes.
- Crispy Top. To recreate the crispy top after storing it in the fridge (a critical stuffing factor!), remove the foil for the last 10-15 minutes of reheating; you can also pop it under the broiler for a few minutes.
- Keep the Stuffing Moist. If the stuffing feels dry, add a splash of stock (or even turkey juices) before reheating.
Leftovers might just be the very best part of Thanksgiving. Turn your leftover stuffing into these tasty Cheesy Breakfast Stuffing Cakes.
What to Serve with Cornbread Stuffing
- Turkey. For your classic Thanksgiving dinner! Try my classic Thanksgiving Turkey, Air Fryer Turkey Breast, or Spatchcock Turkey.
- Chicken. Air Fryer Whole Chicken and Baked Chicken Thighs would also pair well with the flavors in this cornbread stuffing.
- Traditional Holiday Sides. We’re talking Cranberry Orange Sauce, Crockpot Green Bean Casserole, and Instant Pot Mashed Potatoes.
- Roasted Vegetables. Since this stuffing has sausage in it, you can totally make it a light meal by pairing it with Roasted Brussels Sprouts or Roasted Acorn Squash.
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
- Mixing Bowls. A variety of sizes that are easy to store and clean.
- Baking Dish. You’ll find yourself using this dish on repeat.
- Large Skillet. Great for sautéeing, browning, and so much more.
The Difference Between Dressing and Stuffing
The words “stuffing” and “dressing” are often used interchangeably (this usually varies by family and region), but there is a technical difference between the two.
- Stuffing refers to when the recipe is stuffed and cooked inside the poultry cavity.
- Dressing is used when it is cooked in a separate pan outside of the poultry cavity.
Thus, technically this recipe is for cornbread dressing, but since I grew up using the term “stuffing” to encompass both forms of preparations, I’ll do that here too.
(We could debate this; or we could agree to disagree and help ourselves to extra helpings. I prefer the second idea. I hope you do too.)
Recipe Tips and Tricks
- Use Your Own Favorite Cornbread. If you have a preferred cornbread recipe, you can use that instead of the one I’ve suggested. Just be sure to bake it in an 8×8 or 9×9-inch pan so you end up with the correct number of cubes; I’d also suggest choosing a recipe that doesn’t have too many extras so that the flavors of the stuffing itself can shine.
- Don’t Add Regular Bread. I’ve seen various iterations of Southern cornbread stuffing (like the cornbread stuffing recipe from the Pioneer Woman) call for half cornbread and half regular bread in the stuffing. After testing it both ways, I prefer using entirely cornbread. The plain bread felt like a distraction.
- Toast the Cornbread. Cornbread does not need to be stale for stuffing; it only needs to be toasted. Cut the cornbread into cubes, then toast it for a few minutes in the oven to dry the outsides. I like this approach, because it gives you the best control over the results (and doesn’t take as much advance planning).
For the Cornbread:
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 cup nonfat milk at room temperature
- 1 tablespoons white vinegar or lemon juice
- 1 cup yellow cornmeal (I use medium grind)
- 1 cup white whole wheat flour or all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 cup honey
- 2 large eggs at room temperature
For the Stuffing:
- 2 1/2 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
- 2 large eggs
- 1 pound sweet Italian sausage I use chicken or turkey sausage
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 medium yellow onion finely chopped
- 4 stalks celery cut in small dice
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 3 garlic cloves minced (about 1 tablespoon)
- 1 Granny smith apple peeled and 1/4- to 1/2-inch diced
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage or 2 teaspoons rubbed sage
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 tablespoon parsley flakes or 1/4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
- Bake the cornbread (do this up to 2 days in advance): Place a rack in the center of your oven and preheat the oven to 425 degrees F, with a baking rack on the middle level. Coat an 8×8-inch baking pan with nonstick spray. Melt the butter and let come to room temperature.
- In a medium bowl or large measuring cup, stir together the milk and vinegar. Allow it to sit for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the milk has curdled slightly (you can also swap the milk for buttermilk, omit the vinegar, and skip this step). Stir in the honey, eggs, and melted butter.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the wet ingredients and fold gently to combine.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for 16 to 20 minutes, until the cornbread is light and golden brown, with a deeper golden brown at the edges. A toothpick inserted into the middle should come out clean. Set aside to cool. Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees F.
- Once the cornbread is cool, cut it into 1-inch cubes (since the pan of cornbread is thicker than 1 inch, I cut mine into 1-inch cubes from the top, then turn each “row” of cubes on its side and then cut it in half again through the middle). Spread in a single layer on an ungreased or parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet. The cubes can touch, but don’t overlap them (if your pan is too small, divide them onto two pans). Toast in the oven for 15 minutes. Increase the oven temperature to 375 degrees F.
- Make the stuffing: Lightly coat a 9×13-inch baking dish with nonstick spray. In a very large bowl, whisk together the eggs and chicken broth.
- In a large skillet on the stove, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, salt, and pepper. Cook until the vegetables begin to soften, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 30 seconds, until fragrant.
- Add the sausage to the skillet (if it’s in its casing, you can squeeze them into the skillet directly). Cook, breaking up the meat into crumbles. Add the apple.
- Continue cooking until the sausage is cooked through almost completely, about 4 minutes more, then stir in the cranberries, sage, thyme, and parsley.
- Remove the pan from the heat and let it cool a few minutes. Pour into the bowl with the broth and eggs, along with any cooking juices.
- To the bowl, add the toasted cornbread cubes. With your largest spoon, stir very gently to combine the ingredients. Continue stirring and folding, until everything is evenly moistened.
- Spoon into the prepared baking dish. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until toasted on top and the center is moist but not overly damp. Serve warm.
- TO STORE: Transfer leftovers to an airtight container and refrigerate for 3 to 4 days.
- TO FREEZE: Freeze leftovers in an airtight container or zip-top bag for up to 3 months. Let it thaw in the refrigerator before reheating.
- TO REHEAT: Remove it from the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature so it will cook more evenly. Cover the pan with foil, then place it in a 350 degrees F oven and reheat to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F. Depending on how much you’re reheating, this will take about 30 minutes.
- FOR A CRISPY TOP:To recreate the crispy top after storing it in the fridge (a critical stuffing factor!), remove the foil for the last 10-15 minutes of reheating; you can also pop it under the broiler for a few minutes.
- TO KEEP IT MOIST: If the stuffing feels dry, add a splash of stock (or even turkey juices) before reheating.
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