Whether you’re serving your stuffing inside the turkey or baking your dressing on the side, this savory, buttery dish is a quintessential part of any Thanksgiving meal.
Cornbread and sausage stuffing is a Southern tradition, and this recipe comes courtesy of South Carolina chefs and Southern food experts.
- Sausage, cranberry, and cornbread stuffing is made by toasting chopped cornbread, frying shallots, garlic, and sausage, and combining these ingredients with a beaten egg and chicken broth.
- The stuffing is flavored with dried cranberries, rosemary, thyme, and crushed bay leaf.
It’s easy enough to make stuffing from a packet, but there’s nothing like the rich fragrance and delicious flavor of homemade stuffing.
Each family has its own fiercely guarded traditional dressing for Thanksgiving, handed down the generations. Still, this version, developed by a chef and enjoyed by her restaurant patrons, may well become your new family favorite.
Sausage, Cranberry, And Cornbread Stuffing Recipe
Cornbread stuffing or dressing has a long history, providing a tangible link to the “kush” or cornmeal scramble described by Michael Twitty, culinary historian, as a “critical part of Southern folk cuisine.” 
This dish has evolved into what is now a traditional Southern Thanksgiving recipe, as Ree Drummond, star of the Pioneer Woman blog and TV show, explains: “
Many south of the Mason-Dixon Line uses cornbread, a Southern staple, in their dressing, while Northeastern chefs prefer stuffing with a crusty baguette, challah, or white bread.” 
Wherever you’re from or what your history is, this cornbread stuffing is sweet, yummy, and light compared to the much more savory sage, bread, and onion stuffing beloved by those in the North.
It includes cranberries for festive fall flavor and sausage for robustness.
Tips For The Best Cornbread Stuffing
If you’ve never made cornbread stuffing before, there are a couple of things you need to know:
- You’ll need cornbread to make the stuffing. Make your own the day before, either from a packaged mix or scratch. The difference is in the taste and texture.
- For a spongy, dense stuffing, use the cornbread fresh. Otherwise, begin by toasting the cubed cornbread as below.
- Cornbread stuffing is always baked in a separate dish – any Southerner will tell you not to stuff the turkey with cornbread. But don’t let me stop you.
- For food safety, ensure that the poultry is wholly thawed before stuffing. Stuff the bird just before roasting.
Preparation time: 20 minutes (assuming the cornbread has been made the day before)
Baking time: 20-25 minutes
- 6-8 cups cubed cornbread (see recipe below)
- 1/3 -1/2 cup butter
- 1 cup diced scallions
- ½ cup finely chopped celery
- 2 crushed cloves of garlic
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup dried cranberries
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 bay leaf, crumbled
- 1/3-1 cup chicken broth
- Salt and pepper
- 1 teaspoon dried rosemary (or use 1 tablespoon fresh, minced rosemary)
- 1 cup breakfast sausage meat or Italian sausage
(I prefer to get my sausages from ButcherBox meat delivery)
- Preheat the oven to a moderate 350⁰F (180⁰C).
- Butter a large, shallow baking dish if you’re making a separate dressing.
- Lay the cubed cornbread on a baking pan and toast in the oven until light brown and crispy.
- Heat the butter in a heavy skillet.
- Sweat the chopped scallions and celery.
- Remove the sausage from its casings. Crumble the sausage meat or chopped sausage into the pan and cook thoroughly. Drain off the excess fat.
- Add cornbread to the pan.
- Beat the eggs.
- Add eggs, cranberries, rosemary, thyme, and bay leaf to the pan. Season.
- Slowly add chicken broth to the pan, mixing the stuffing until lightly moist but not packed together. The dressing mixture should be just wet enough that the breadsticks together when pinched.
- Stuff the bird and roast immediately, or turn the stuffing into the baking dish.
- If you’ve made the stuffing in advance, you can cover and refrigerate the dressing until needed. Bring it to room temperature before proceeding.
- Bake for 30-40 minutes until your stuffing is heated through. For the moist dressing, cover for the entire baking time. For a crisp stuffing, do not cover and bake until the stuffing has formed a crust.
- Serve immediately.
Alternative Ingredients and Substitutions
- If you want to make a gluten-free stuffing, use stone-ground cornmeal, which is naturally gluten-free. Most other cornmeal and cornbread mixes do contain wheat flour.
- Replace the scallions with leeks or caramelized onions (or combine for additional layers of flavor).
- Use spicy Italian sausage for a bit of heat, or try chorizo.
- For a tarter cranberry flavor, use fresh or thawed, frozen cranberries. You may want to add ¼ cup sugar or maple syrup to avoid tasting too sour.
- Replace the dried herbs with ½ cup fresh parsley for a brighter flavor. This herb goes well with fresh cranberries.
- Add a cup of toasted pecan nuts. Just take care that none of your guests have a nut allergy.
The best cornbread for stuffing is the old-fashioned unsweetened, relatively dry skillet cornbread, rather than the more muffin-like cornbread you can also find.
It’s inspired by the Southern Cornbread recipe in the iconic Joy of Cooking.
This classic recipe makes great cornbread for stuffing. You can make it in advance, freeze the bread, or make it a day or so and let it dry out for dressing.
If you want to enjoy it as cornbread, eat it immediately as it dries out quickly. Reheat leftovers in the oven.
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Baking time: 20-25 minutes
- 1 tablespoon bacon fat, lard, or shortening
- 1 tablespoon sugar (optional)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups buttermilk
- 2 ¼ cups stone-ground cornmeal (white cornmeal is traditional, but yellow is fine)
- Preheat the oven to a hot 450⁰F (230⁰C).
- Heat the fat or lard in a heavy cast-iron skillet.
- Combine the dry ingredients (cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt) in a large bowl.
- Break the eggs into a separate bowl. Beat until foamy.
- Add the buttermilk to the eggs and whisk.
- Pour the buttermilk-egg mixture into the dry ingredients. Mix to combine – do not beat.
- Place your skillet in the oven until the fat starts smoking.
- Pour in the batter at once.
- Bake the cornbread for 20-25 minutes. The top should be browned and the center firm to the touch.
- Serve immediately from the pan.
- For stuffing, leave the cornbread to dry for 24 hours so that it’s crunchy on top and soft at the bottom.
Sausage, cranberry, and cornbread stuffing is a Thanksgiving or fall delight, with the cornbread's sweetness, the sausage's richness, and the bright, festive red of cranberries.
A step up from the usual cornbread stuffing will brighten up any event. Be prepared for guests to beg for seconds and ask for the recipe.