Holiday dinners wouldn’t be the same without my family’s favorite Southern Style Dressing. It shares the same name as a salad topping, but it’s definitely not to be confused. This is a side dish (or main dish when meat is added) made from a pan of cornbread, prepared ahead of time, and a few other simple ingredients.
I use a few components from multiple family recipes when I make my dressing, but everyone in my family basically uses the same ingredients. My grandmother uses cream of chicken soup in her dressing. While my mother always makes her dressing with some of the turkey that she leaves in large bite sized chunks and never adds the cream of chicken soup. My stepmom follows her late mother’s recipe, and bakes her dressing with diced hard boiled eggs in it. As you can see, home chefs all around the South have a favorite recipe for making Southern Style Dressing.
If you prefer vegetarian recipes, this Dressing could be adapted by subbing the cream of chicken soup for cream of celery soup or leave it out completely, using vegetable broth instead of chicken broth, and using an egg substitute such as flax meal, in place of the egg.
Although I have enjoyed the savory flavor of this southern style cornbread dressing my entire life, it was only as an adult that I realized this side dish can be served on days other than Thanksgiving and Christmas because growing up meant I had to wait all year long to enjoy my favorite side dish. Now I make cornbread dressing throughout the year as a satisfying Chicken and Dressing dinner with a couple of sides like green beans and creamed corn.
To make this dish a quick week night casserole, I freeze pieces of leftover cornbread when I make a pan for chili, soup, or beans. Any extra pieces go into a freezer bag and are tossed into the freezer. I usually forget about them until I decide that it’s time to make some meals by cleaning out the freezer. The bags of cornbread go into the fridge to thaw and then I use them for this southern style dressing. If I have a couple of leftover frozen biscuits, I crumble them up as well to get rid of the random bread hanging out in the freezer.
If you don’t have frozen cornbread just bake a pan of it. I prefer to cook my cornbread the day before I make my dressing so it has time to dry out and I am not overwhelmed with cooking all of the sides on the day of our holiday meal. I have a couple of favorite Cornbread recipes, but feel free to use your favorite recipe or the recipe on the back of the bag of cornmeal.
I hope that you will try this southern style dressing and make it your own by adding in whatever makes your family happy. Don’t wait until a special holiday gathering to enjoy its savory goodness. For daily updates follow @lifeabovethecafe on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest.
This makes a large portion that will easily serve 8 or more people a large scoop.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a 9×13 casserole dish.
Dice the celery and onion into small pieces. You can saute the celery and onion in a skillet with a tbsp. of butter until softened (about 5 minutes) if you want a milder flavor or if you don’t like either of these feel free to leave them out. My grandmother uses about a tsp. dried celery seed and a tbsp. dried onion flakes in place of fresh. I love the stronger flavor of the raw celery and onion but I sometimes saute them since my kids prefer that I cook the raw onion and celery.
In a large bowl crumble up the previously cooked and cooled cornbread but don’t pulverize it. Add the celery, onion, beaten eggs, and cream of chicken soup to the bowl of crumbs and stir. Next add the chicken broth one cup at a time, stirring after each addition, until you reach the desired consistency which is similar to thick cake batter. If it’s not wet enough add a little more broth so that you have a light and fluffy dressing rather than one that’s dense and dry. I always buy or make extra broth because depending on the weather, you may need to add more broth to keep the mixture from being too dry. This pan of dressing took 4 cups of chicken broth.
Add anything else you want at this point, 2 – 3 cups of diced or shredded chicken or turkey, 3 or 4 diced boiled eggs or leave it as is without the meat or boiled eggs. If I’m serving this as a side dish I don’t add meat and I never add diced boiled eggs since I put sliced eggs in my giblet gravy.
Once mixed, pour the dressing into the greased casserole dish and sprinkle a little poultry seasoning over the top and mix it up into the dressing mixture that’s in the casserole dish. I wait and do this step after I pour it into the casserole dish so that I don’t use too much or too little of the poultry seasoning, and so that it’s evenly distributed. Smooth the top and sprinkle a little more poultry seasoning over the surface. I don’t add extra salt because the broth has plenty for our taste and gravy is usually salty, but if you want to add some I would go easy.
Bake the Southern Style Dressing in your preheated oven at 350 degrees for about 30 – 45 minutes. All ovens bake differently so baking times will vary. If you use a larger aluminum pan or casserole dish which makes a thinner layer of dressing, it will bake faster. Likewise, if you bake it in a smaller casserole dish your dressing could take longer to bake. Don’t overcook your dressing. You want it be golden brown on the top but it should be moist in the center and fluffy.
If this is the first time you’re making dressing start checking on it around 30 minutes. The dressing pictured took 45 minutes in an electric oven and the 9 x 13 pan was full so it was a thick dressing. I always test my dressing in the center by using a fork to move it around a little and scoop a tiny bite out to make sure that it’s warmed through to the center.
Serve the dressing with or without gravy. We like our gravy to have a couple of sliced boiled eggs and I will often add a little meat from the chicken or turkey. Many people add the giblets to their gravy.
Note – I use yellow cornmeal for my cornbread because I like the golden color. This Dressing can be mixed up the day before and stored in the refrigerator and then poured into the casserole dish and baked the day you want to serve it.