No holiday feast complete in my kitchen without my loaded Soul Food Cornbread Dressing taking center stage. Lovingly baked with the Holy Trinity – green pepper, onions, celery – and amplified by sage, chicken pieces, and hearty chunks of ground chuck, it’s my tribute to Southern soul food traditions.

Let’s Make A Whole Feast Together

Let’s switch it up a bit and add a few more stars to this southern feast. Here’s an updated list of belly-filling goodness that’s gonna make our Soul Food Style Cornbread Dressing shine even brighter.

Entree – Rosemary Garlic Brick Chicken: This flavorful dish is basted in a buttery herb blend that gives it a crispy, golden skin and mouthwateringly juicy meat.

Side – Southern Greens: Slow-cooked till they’re tender, these greens are seasoned with a bit of spice and a whole lot of love.

Veg – Southern-Style Candied Yams: These sweet treats are a Southern staple, glazed with brown sugar and spices, then slow-roasted to perfection.

Soul Food Cornbread Dressing

Raise your hand if, like me, you get all hyped about the side dishes during the holidays. Yeah, that’s right, I see you! Well, I’m here to dish on one of my all-time faves – cornbread dressing. I’m so obsessed with it that I whip up 2-3 different types of dressings and stuffings during the holiday season – no lie!

However, this particular Soul Food Style Cornbread Dressing recipe is loaded to the brim with hearty chunks of ground beef, and turkey/chicken giblets (no waste here), all sautéed with fresh veggies and spices. The flavor is out of this world, it’s the perfect balance of savory, spicy, and just a touch of sweet from the cornbread. It’s moist, it’s crunchy, it’s everything you want in a side dish and more.

So yeah, it’s a real shame this diva only makes an appearance once a year (although my waistline does breathe a sigh of relief!). Let’s dig into the recipe, shall we?

What is Cornbread Dressing?

When we’re talking about southern style cornbread dressing, what we’re really diving into is a flavor-filled cornerstone of soul food. This classic Southern dish starts life as good ole homemade cornbread. We ain’t talkin’ fresh off the skillet cornbread, no. This is day-old, dried out, ready to soak up a symphony of flavors cornbread. In the dressing mixture you’ll find a host of sautéed vegetables, authentic spices, herbs, and chicken or turkey broth, you’ve got yourself the beginnings of a hearty side dish.

But what makes this stuffing a standout? I’m glad you asked! It’s all about the ‘add-ins’, my darlings. Here’s where you get to flex your culinary muscles and experiment. From the hearty chunks of ground beef to the traditional giblets and gizzards, you can turn up the flavor profile as per your heart’s desire. Want to take it up a notch? Try adding shredded chicken, sausage, mushrooms, seafood, or even some mirliton and dirty rice. The possibilities are endless!

The history of this dish traces back to African American culinary traditions. In the words of author Toni Tipton-Martin in “Jubilee: Recipes from Two Centuries of African American Cooking”, “Cornbread dressing is Southern; it is also African,” “It descends from a memory dish some of the enslaved called kush (also spelled cush), made from cooked cornmeal mush or crumbled cornbread. The one-pot meal reminded West African captives of kusha, a couscous-like dish of steamed or boiled grains of millet or sorghum.”

Indeed, southern cornbread dressing is more than a dish—it’s a narrative of shared histories, communal joy, and soulful comfort wrapped up in every bite.

What is the Difference between Cornbread Dressing and Stuffing?

Now, let’s address that age-old debate – what’s the difference between cornbread dressing and stuffing? The basic divide here is simple. Stuffing gets a ride in the bird, while dressing struts its stuff in a baking dish or casserole dish. Now, if you’re from the Deep South, you’re more likely to call this dish ‘dressing’. Up North, you might hear it called ‘stuffing’.

This savory medley of cornbread, veggies, and an array of your favorite add-ins, when nestled inside the turkey, is lovingly known as stuffing. But take a similar mixture, and bake it separately in its own dish, it transforms into what us Southerners call ‘dressing’.

But wait—there’s more. In modern culinary circles, the type of bread used has become a notable point of difference. Southern dressing often involves cornbread, while stuffing tends to use white bread, croutons or grain focused.

The names may be different, but the end game is the same – a flavorful, comforting side that shines on any holiday table.

What You’ll Need For This Recipe

  • Unsalted Butter: Butter adds that richness and ensures all the flavors blend seamlessly. Room temperature butter is also easier to work with, ensuring a smoother mix.
  • Turkey or Chicken Giblets: Boiled, sinew removed, and chopped, giblets are a resourceful way of utilizing every part of the bird, reflecting the ingenuity of traditional soul food cooking. These morsels add a complex, meaty flavor, along with an exciting texture variance that enriches your dressing.ring.
  • Oil: I use olive oil but you can use any neutral oil.
  • Lean Ground Chuck: The ground chuck adds a hefty, umami-rich punch to your dressing.
  • Chopped Onion, Bell Pepper, Celery Stalks: These three form the holy trinity of Southern cooking, giving your dressing a deeply aromatic and flavorful base.
  • Chopped Fine Garlic: Small but mighty! The fine chop guarantees a hint of garlic in every bite.
  • Chopped Sage and Dry Thyme: These herbs bring a distinct, slightly peppery warmth. The perfect festive poultry seasoning flavor to your dressing.
  • Kosher Salt, Ground Black Pepper, Cayenne: The seasoning trio that adds balance, a kick, and a bite. They help bring out the unique flavors of each ingredient.
  • Worcestershire Sauce: Worcestershire sauce adds a delightful zing, elevating the overall flavor profile of your dressing.
  • Cornbread: The undeniable star of the show. Using day-old cornbread is a game changer, as it soaks up all the lovely flavors while retaining a crumbly texture.
  • Giblet Stock: This ingredient infuses every bite with an old-fashioned, savory charm. It also adds moisture, ensuring your dressing is deliciously tender. If you aren’t including giblets you substitute in store bought chicken broth or chicken stock.

How To Make Soul Food Cornbread Dressing Recipe From Scratch

Remember, for more detailed step-by-step instructions, refer to the recipe card below.

  1. First you want to start out with a good southern cornbread recipe. Make sure to dry out as much as possible before beginning the recipe.
  2. Heat the oven to 400°F and smear your 9 x 13 baking dish with butter.
  3. Boil giblets in water, reserve 1 cup of the liquid, remove sinew, then pulse them in a food processor or chop fine.
  4. In a skillet, sizzle the ground chuck in oil until it gets a brown coat.
  5. Toss in your onion, bell pepper, and celery, let them mingle till softened.
  6. Next, stir in garlic, sage, thyme, salt, pepper, cayenne, and Worcestershire sauce; let it cook for 15 seconds.
  7. Crumble the cornbread in a big bowl, toss in the skillet mixture, and add the giblets. Mix ’em well!
  8. Pour in some giblet stock, enough to keep the mixture moist but not watery.
  9. Spread the cornbread mixture in the buttered baking dish.
  10. Bake until the top crust browns, let it cool a bit, then serve it up hot.

Make Ahead, Storage, & Reheating Instructions

Make Ahead:

  • Prepare your cornbread dressing up to the baking step, cover it tightly, and stash it in the fridge. You can do this up to two days in advance. When you’re ready to feast, bake it as directed.

Storage:

  • Your cornbread dressing should be cooled down before storing. Once cooled, cover it tightly and store it in the fridge for up to four days.

Reheating:

Depending on how much you are reheating, I recommend adding a few tablespoons of stock over the top of your dressing before warming up.

Oven:

  • For the best results, reheat in a preheated oven (325°F) until it’s warmed through, about 20 minutes.

Microwave:

  • For a quick heat, divide into portions and microwave for 1-2 minutes, checking every 30 seconds.

Air Fryer:

  • Warm it up in an air fryer at 350°F for around 5 minutes, or until thoroughly hot. Be sure not to overload the basket to allow for even reheating.

How to Prep Cornbread For Dressing Recipe

Preparing cornbread for dressing is an art in itself. After you’ve made your delicious homemade cornbread, it’s important to let it dry out properly. Staring a day ahead always works best. Here’s how to go about it:

  1. Day-Old Cornbread is Best: If you have time, make your cornbread a day or two before you plan on making your dressing. This gives it ample time to dry out naturally.
  2. Slice and Spread: Once your cornbread has cooled completely, slice it into squares and then spread them out on a baking sheet.
  3. Let it Air-Dry: If you have the luxury of time, let the cornbread sit out at room temperature, uncovered, for 24 hours. The air will dry out the cornbread gradually, providing the best texture for your dressing.
  4. Use Your Oven: If you’re in a hurry, you can speed up the drying process by popping the baking sheet into an oven set to a low temperature (say, 200°F) for about 30-45 minutes or until it feels dry to the touch. Be sure to flip the pieces halfway through to ensure even drying.
  5. To speed up the process: You can use your toaster oven or air fryer to dry out the cornbread. Be careful to monitor it closely to avoid burning.

Why go through this process of drying out the cornbread? It’s all about texture and flavor absorption. Dried-out cornbread provides a sturdy base that can soak up all the beautiful flavors from your other ingredients without turning to mush. It’s this firm yet moist, richly flavored end result that truly distinguishes an authentic Southern cornbread dressing. So, don’t skip this crucial step. Let that cornbread dry out and prepare to wow your guests with your next-level dressing.

Meiko’s Recipe Tips For Success

  • Make it Fresh Then Dry it Out: Homemade cornbread over store bought cornbread is always going to be my top recommendations. The key here is to let it dry out a bit.
  • Using Store-Bought Cornbread: Don’t have the time or ingredients to make homemade cornbread? Store-bought cornbread can be a time-saver. If possible, go for plain, unsweetened cornbread as some store versions can be quite sweet, which could alter the flavor profile of your dressing.
  • Respect the Gizzards: When boiling the turkey or chicken giblets, skim off any foam that appears on top. This isn’t just for looks; it’s a chance to remove impurities for the cleanest flavor possible.
  • Savor the Stock: That reserved cup of gizzard stock? It’s not just a clever way to use all parts of the bird; it adds depth, flavor, and a savory hit that takes your dressing to the next level.
  • Watch Your Moisture: You want moist dressing, not wet dressing. If you see liquid pooling at the bottom of the bowl when you add the stock, hold off on adding more until you’ve given the cornbread a chance to absorb what’s already there.
  • Add a Layer of Broth: To ensure your dressing is extra moist and flavorful, consider pouring a thin layer of broth over the top before you pop it in the oven.
  • Avoid Overbaking: Nothing ruins a good dressing quicker than letting it dry out in the oven. To prevent this, keep an eye on your dish as it bakes. Once you notice a beautiful golden brown crust forming on the top and the dressing setting (but still maintaining its moisture), it’s time to take it out.

What Are Giblets & How Do You Use Them?

Giblets, also known as the ‘edible offal’ (lovely term, isn’t it?), are the heart, gizzard, liver, and neck. You’ll typically find these neatly packed inside the cavity of your store-bought turkey or chicken. These parts might be overlooked by some, but they’re the unsung heroes of this southern cornbread dressing recipe, delivering serious flavor and embodying a no-waste cooking ethos.

Here’s the lowdown on each:

  1. Gizzard: Gizzard are the muscular part of a bird’s stomach. After boiling remove the tough sinew, chop or blitz it before adding it to the cornbread dressing.
  2. Heart and Liver: Both the heart and liver are filled with flavor.The liver, in particular, brings a distinct richness that adds complexity to your dish. After boiling, chop or blitz it before adding to the cornbread dressing.
  3. Neck: Not always included in the giblet package, the neck is superb for making a flavorful stock. After boiling, you can separate the meat from the bone. Discard the bone and add the meat to the southern dressing recipe.

Boiling the giblets not only tenderizes them but gives you a delightful giblet stock. Remember, giblets are flavor powerhouses that make our cornbread dressing utterly irresistible!

More Frequently Asked Recipe Questions

  • Can I make this cornbread dressing ahead of time?
    Absolutely! In fact, it tastes even better when the flavors have time to marry. Just hold off on adding the broth until right before you bake it.
  • Can I freeze my cornbread dressing?
    Yes, you can! Just make sure it’s well-wrapped to avoid freezer burn, and defrost it thoroughly before you reheat it.
  • What if I don’t have day-old cornbread?
    No worries! You can dry out freshly baked cornbread in a low oven until it’s crumbly and slightly toasted.
  • Can I use store-bought cornbread?
    If you’re strapped for time or just want to simplify things, box cornbread mix can be can be substituted in, in a pinch. Now, I wouldn’t recommend running to Jiffy cornbread – no shade to them, just a little too sweet for this dish. Instead, opt for a quality brand with minimal added sugar.
  • Can I use other meats besides giblets and ground beef?
    Feel free! This recipe is flexible. You can sub the gizzards for other meats like sausage, chopped chicken, ground turkey, or seafood.
  • Can I make this dressing vegetarian?
    Swap out those giblets and ground beef for your favorite sautéed veggies. Think mushrooms, mirliton, or eggplant. Don’t forget to replace the giblet stock with a robust vegetable broth.
  • Why is my cornbread dressing dry?
    It could be that there wasn’t enough broth or that it was baked for too long. Remember, we want it golden and crusty on top but still moist within.
  • Why is my cornbread dressing mushy?
    This typically happens if too much broth is added or the cornbread isn’t dried out enough before mixing. Remember, add the broth gradually, you can always add more if needed.
  • What size baking pan should I use for cornbread dressing?
    A standard 9×13-inch baking dish works perfectly. It gives you the right balance between a crispy top and a soft, moist interior.
  • Can I substitute cream of chicken soup for giblet stock in cornbread dressing?
    This ain’t the traditional way! If you want authentic soul food cornbread dressing it doesn’t typically include cream of chicken soup. I think a more suitable sub is premade chicken stock but if you end up giving the soup a try report back! Would love to hear how it turns out!

Add Some Flair: Recipe Variations & Customization Ideas

Remember, a recipe is merely a blueprint. Don’t be afraid to let your culinary creativity shine through and truly make this cornbread dressing your own.

  • Go Veggie: To create a vegetarian-friendly version of this dressing, simply replace the giblets and beef with a hearty blend of sautéed veggies. Mushrooms, mirliton, and eggplant make fantastic meat substitutes, offering a satisfying bite and soaking up all those delicious flavors. Be sure to switch the giblet stock for a rich vegetable stock too.
  • Bring on the Sausage: If you’re a fan of sausage dressing, you can easily swap the ground chuck for your favorite sausage. Whether it’s spicy Andouille, Italian sausage, or classic smoked sausage, this addition will add a whole new dimension of flavor.
  • Try it with Chicken: You can also opt to make a chicken dressing by swapping out the ground chuck and giblets for shredded, cooked chicken. You could even use a store-bought rotisserie chicken to save on time.
  • Spice It Up: If you’re a heat lover, why not add a diced jalapeño to the sautéed veggies or a splash of hot sauce to the mixture?
  • Go Gourmet with Seafood: Fancy a bit of decadence? You could experiment by adding cooked and crumbled shrimp, crabmeat, or even oysters,

More Delicious Soul Food Holiday Side Dishes

Prep Your Tools & Ingredients

Here is a quick list of things to do before the recipe to ensure everything goes smoothly. This list may contain affiliate links which won’t change your price but will share some commission to help support this blog.

Gather Your Tools:

  • 9×13 baking dish or casserole dish
  • Food Processor

Recipe Prep

  • Always read the recipe through at least 1 time before you start. It helps you move faster when you already know what step is coming next. 
  • Measure out all of your ingredients.
  • Prepare giblet stock and remove sinew.
  • Brown the ground beef.

Now It’s Your Turn!

If you’ve been on the hunt for the ultimate soul food cornbread dressing recipe, you’ve hit the jackpot! This here is a heritage-inspired, flavor-packed concoction that’s just oozing Southern charm. So, it’s time to roll up those sleeves, and bring this comfort food classic to life.! Remember, I’m just a holler away if you need any help.

Once you’ve put this masterpiece together, do your girl a solid – leave a rating and drop a comment below. It’s how you help the blog grow and, more importantly, it’s the best way to share the love. Plus, I absolutely adore seeing your recreations – don’t forget to tag @meikoandthedish on your social media posts. Can’t wait to see what you create!

Soul Food Cornbread Dressing with Giblets and Ground Beef

Author: Meiko Temple
No holiday feast is complete in my kitchen without my loaded Soul Food Cornbread Dressing taking center stage. Lovingly baked with the Holy Trinity – green pepper, onions, celery – and amplified by sage, chicken pieces, and hearty chunks of ground chuck, it's my tribute to Southern soul food traditions.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Course Dinner, Side Dish
Cuisine African American, comfort food, Soul Food, Southern
Servings 15 side servings
Calories 251 kcal

Ingredients
 

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 lb. giblets from turkey or chicken, boiled, sinew removed, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 lb. lean ground chuck
  • 1 medium onion, chopped medium
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped medium
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped medium
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped fine
  • 1 tablespoon chopped sage
  • 1 teaspoon dry thyme
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 lb. cornbread
  • 1 cup giblet stock

Instructions
 

  • Preheat your oven to 400°F and grease a 9 x 13 baking pan with room temperature butter.

Prepare Giblets

  • Place the giblets in a medium pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and skim off any foam that floats to the top. Strain the liquid and reserve 1 cup to use as giblet stock. Remove the tough sinew from the gizzards. Add the gizzards, heart and liver to the food processor, and blitz for 1 minute until they are chopped into medium-sized pieces.
  • Remove tender meat from the neck bone and set aside.

Prepare Ground Meat

  • In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the ground chuck and cook until browned, about 7 minutes.
  • To the skillet, add the onion, bell pepper, and celery. Cook for 3 minutes, or until the vegetables start to soften.
  • Add the garlic, sage, thyme, salt, pepper, cayenne, and Worcestershire sauce to the skillet. Stir to combine and cook for an additional 15 seconds.

Assemble Cornbread Dressing

  • In a large bowl, crumble the cornbread. Add the cooked ground beef mixture, turkey neck meat and and the processed giblets. Mix well to combine.
  • Pour in ½ cup of the giblet stock and stir again. If the dressing appears dry, add an additional ¼ cup of giblet stock. The cornbread should be moist but there should be no extra liquid at the bottom of the bowl.
  • Pour the cornbread dressing into the prepared baking dish, spreading it out evenly.
  • Bake the cornbread dressing in the preheated oven for 20 minutes, or until the top is brown and crusty. Remove the dressing from the oven and allow it to cool for 15 minutes before serving hot.

Nutrition

Calories: 251kcalCarbohydrates: 19gProtein: 13gFat: 13gSaturated Fat: 5gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0.5gCholesterol: 142mgSodium: 591mgPotassium: 247mgFiber: 1gSugar: 6gVitamin A: 4359IUVitamin C: 11mgCalcium: 62mgIron: 3mg
Keyword 1 hour or less
did you make this recipe???Tell me all about it! And tag @meikoandthedish with hashtag on Instagram – I’d love to see what you make!

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