The holidays are almost here, and this easy and delicious Cornbread Stuffing is the perfect side dish. It is prep-ahead friendly and full of amazing savory and sweet flavors…the perfect balance! This cornbread stuffing is the ultimate comfort food side dish.
The holidays are here! It’s November already, and all I’m thinking about is what will be on my Thanksgiving table. We all know what the best part of Thanksgiving is: side dishes! This year, I’ll be making this easy and delicious cornbread stuffing with bacon!
This cornbread stuffing recipe is filled with amazing ingredients: homemade cornbread, Italian bread, apples, bacon, parsley, dried cranberries, onions, celery, garlic, and so much more.
Cornbread is one of my favorite things to eat, so using it for the stuffing was amazing! I love the perfect balance between the savory and sweet ingredients. It’s got so much texture and I also love the crispy, golden brown top. You’ll love it!
This year, I’ll be serving this cornbread stuffing with a delicious turkey roulade. SO GOOD!
Ingredients You’ll Need
Lots of amazing savory and sweet ingredients going on here! The apples and dried cranberries add delicious sweetness that balances really well with the rest of the savory ingredients.
Per usual, the specific ingredient quantities for the cornbread stuffing recipe can be found in the recipe card all the way down, but to give you an idea, here is an overview of the ingredients:
- 1 batch of cornbread recipe: Prepared the day before, preferably. This recipe says to make it in a cast iron skillet, but you don’t have to for the stuffing. Just use an 8×8 inch baking pan.
- Italian bread: Cut into cubes.
- Unsalted butter: For rich buttery flavors.
- Veggies for flavor base: Yellow onions, celery, garlic. You’ll cook these until softened and fragrant.
- Apples: I’d recommend using 1 Honeycrisp and 1 Granny Smith apple, or similar. Use firm apples.
- Fresh herbs: Thyme and rosemary for fragrant flavors.
- Italian parsley: To add lots of flavor.
- Dried cranberries: For delicious sweetness. This will help balance savory and sweet flavors.
- Cooked bacon: Bacon pairs really well with cornbread and the other ingredients. You can cook the bacon the day before and store it in the fridge.
- Egg: To bind all the ingredients together.
- Chicken broth: To add moisture to the mix.
- Salt and pepper to taste.
So much goodness here. I am already getting hungry reading through this list of ingredients!
Let’s Make It
Here is an overview of the core steps to make this cornbread stuffing (specific instructions in recipe card). There are 6 main steps, and many of these can be prepared in advance, 1 to 2 days ahead.
- Make the cornbread: Make a batch of my easy cornbread. For the cornbread stuffing, you don’t have to make it in a cast iron skillet like the original recipe says. You can just use an 8×8 inch baking dish.
- “Oven-dry” the bread: The bread will absorb a lot of liquid and moisture, so “oven-drying” the bread will help a lot with texture, otherwise you could end up with soggy stuffing. To oven-dry the bread, simply spread out the cubed Italian bread and cornbread on a large sheet pan and bake for 15-20 minutes at 375 degrees F.
- Cook the bacon: The bacon will add so much flavor and depth.
- Make the apple and veggie base: On a large skillet, melt butter and cook the apples, onions, celery, and garlic along with the fresh rosemary and thyme. Season with salt and pepper.
- Toss to combine: In a large bowl, toss the oven-dried cornbread and Italian bread cubes, along with the prepared veggie and apples mix, beaten egg, cooked bacon, dried cranberries, and fresh parsley. Gradually, add the broth, tossing, until moist.
- Bake: Transfer the mixture to a baking dish and bake for about 30 minutes until golden brown on top.
I have included a “Prep-Ahead Instructions” section below if you’re interested in my make-ahead game plan. I pretty much can’t get through Thanksgiving dinner prep without a make-ahead plan.
I love that this cornbread stuffing recipe is make-ahead friendly. There are a number of things that can be prepared ahead of time to make your life easier, especially if you are hosting!
Here are some tips for prep-ahead:
- Bake the cornbread up to 2 days in advance. In fact, it’s preferred to make it the day before so it has time to cool down completely and dry out a bit. Moist bread doesn’t work very well for stuffing.
- Cube the bread.
- Cook the bacon the day before. Store it in the fridge until ready to use.
- Dice or mince the onions, celery, and garlic. Don’t dice the apples in advance though, as they can turn brown quickly.
Amazing Holiday Side Dishes
I always struggle to decide which side dishes I am going to make for Thanksgiving because…well…the possibilities are endless.
I always just want to make everything! But that would be impossible, so I put together a list of my favorite holiday side dishes:
- Cauliflower Au Gratin
- Brussels Sprouts Au Gratin
- Butternut Squash and Brussels Sprouts Salad
- Mashed Sweet Potatoes
- Fall Harvest Salad
- Red Skin Mashed Potatoes
- Stuffed Acorn Squash with Wild Rice
I hope these ideas are helpful! I can’t wait to finalize my final Thanksgiving menu soon.
Holidays can be stressful. I always find myself scrambling in the kitchen, but if you plan everything out ahead of time, it’s always so much easier. That’s why I love prep-ahead friendly recipes so much! This cornbread stuffing recipe is definitely a great option if you plan on doing this.
Seriously, this cornbread stuffing is SO delicious! I love the perfect balance between savory and sweet ingredients, as well as the amazing texture. It’s not soggy, not dry…it’s just perfect.
Tips for Success
- Prep things ahead, 1 to 2 days before. It will save you lots of time and stress. Things that can be made ahead are the cornbread plus cubing the bread, cooking the bacon, and dicing the veggies.
- Shortcuts: If you have a favorite store-bought cornbread mix or bakery cornbread, feel free to use that. Also, you can also use store-bought pre-cooked bacon.
- Apples: Apples add sweetness and texture to the cornbread stuffing. Use firm apples, such as Honeycrisp, Fuji, or Granny Smith.
- 1 batch homemade cornbread (make the day before preferably, bake in an 8×8 inch pan if preferred)
- 4 cups Italian bread, cut into 1 inch cubes
- 8 slices bacon
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
- 1 medium yellow onions, diced
- 3 stalks celery, diced
- 1 Honeycrisp apples, diced (no need to peel)
- 1 granny smith apple, diced (no need to peel)
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
- 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary leaves
- Salt and pepper to taste
- ¼ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
- ½ cup dried cranberries (plus more to taste)
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 2 to 3 cups chicken broth (as needed)
- The day before, make the cornbread. Then, cut the cornbread into 1 inch cubes. Notes: If you are unable to make it the day before, no big deal. Just let it cool down enough until it holds its shape. Also, you can make it in an 8×8 inch baking pan.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
- In a large sheet pan, arrange the cubed cornbread and the cubed Italian bread. Bake for 15-20 minutes to oven-dry it. This will help the bread absorb the liquid better without getting soggy. Tip: use two sheet pans if too crowded.
- Meanwhile, cook the bacon on a large skillet over medium heat. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towel to drain the fat. Dice it and set aside. Note: this step can be made ahead the 1-2 days in advance. You can just store it in the fridge.
- In a large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of the unsalted butter over medium-high heat. Saute the onions, celery, and apples until softened, about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic, thyme and rosemary, and cook for another 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer this mixture to a large bowl.
- To the mixture, add the oven-dried Italian bread and cornbread cubes, along with the beaten egg, dried cranberries, cooked bacon, and chopped parsley. Add the broth, little by little, tossing, until moist. I used 2 ½ cups of broth, but feel free to adjust as needed.
- Transfer the mixture to a 9×13 inch baking dish. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and drizzle over the stuffing. Bake, uncovered, at 375 degrees F for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown on top. Let it cool for 10 minutes before serving. Enjoy!
- Special equipment: 8×8 inch baking pan, 9×13 baking pan.
- Why oven-dry the cornbread and Italian bread: Because you’ll need to add broth to the stuffing mixture, you want the bread to be drier. Pre-baking it will help the bread absorb the liquid better so you don’t get soggy stuffing.
- Make ahead: I’d recommend making the cornbread the day before so it has time to completely cool down. The bacon can also be cooked ahead of time. The celery, onions, and garlic can also be diced or minced ahead.
- Shortcuts: Your favorite store-bought cornbread would work – you’ll need about an 8×8 inch cornbread. You can also use your favorite cornbread mix. As for the bacon, feel free to buy fully cooked bacon.