This apple, sausage, and cornbread dressing/stuffing is without a doubt my all-time, very favorite, holiday side dish, and I’m so excited to share it with you.
My in-laws will be out of the country during both Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, so we celebrated this past weekend, complete with a (downsized) holiday meal, present exchange, and a sparkly house full of poinsettias, mercury glass, pine boughs, Santas, and a merry soundtrack to boot.
We may still have a week and a half to go until Turkey day, and I may still be baking a bevy of pumpkin and apple centered desserts, but Christmas carols are on in the background. It’s been a confusing season so far, to say the least.
While it didn’t make sense to roast a whole turkey for the four of us (we did a rosemary lamb roast studded with garlic cloves instead), as part of our family dinner, I made a batch of this cornbread dressing, and was reminded once again why I love it so much.
(I also made this pie, and though I’m quite biased, it’s still the very best pumpkin pie I’ve ever come across. Many of you agree!)
This is my version of my mother’s glorious cornbread dressing, plump with sausage, tangy apple bits, and aromatic herbs. She’s made it for as long as I can remember – it’s a delicious, savory accompaniment to our traditional Thanksgiving (and Christmas) dinners, and if I’m honest, outshines even the main event: the roast turkey.
While dressing/stuffing may not be the most photogenic of dishes to grace the table, I hope you’ll take my word for it that this version, packed with sweet chunks of apple, savory spices, and flavorful pork sausage, is as good as it gets.
The apples really make this dressing. They add a wonderful sweetness, which complements the crumbled cornbread, and balances the sweet and spicy Italian sausage and fragrant herbs.
We are practically swimming in apples here in the Pacific Northwest, with lots of varieties to choose from, and I like to use a firm, tart variety, like Honeycrisp or Pink Lady, that retains some structure after being cooked.
You can buy store-bought cornbread stuffing cubes, or make your own, although I honestly don’t believe it’s worth the effort.
We’ve got some really good ingredients convening here along with the cornbread. The dressing begins with sautéed onion, celery, and apple, followed by tempting golden sausage, rich chicken broth, and a generous amount of melted butter (two whole luscious sticks). Between all that, and a dash of aromatic spices, I think you’d be hard pressed to notice the difference.
But, if you’re a purist and do choose to make homemade cornbread, you’ll want to be sure to make it a day or two before, crumble it, then let it dry out slightly, so that it can absorb the liquids without getting overly mushy.
I however, grew up with Mrs. Cubbison’s, and that’s just fine by me. There are also more and more gluten free bread options available, and that’s an easy switch to make this cornbread stuffing available for everyone at the table.
Either way, I hope you love this flavorful, crispy-topped, crumbly cornbread dressing as much as we do!
What’s on your holiday menu(s) this year?
Originally published on November 17th, 2012. I’m (slowly) going back through my recipe archives, updating some of my favorites with new photos and information.
- 12 oz cornbread stuffing mix¹
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted (plus more for the pan)
- 1 lb. sweet Italian-style sausage
- 1 medium yellow or sweet onion, minced
- 1/2 cup celery, diced
- 1 medium apple,² diced
- 1 tsp ground sage
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1 Tbsp fresh parsley, finely-minced
- 1–1/2 cups chicken broth or water³
- kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9×13-inch baking dish with butter. Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, drizzle the cornbread cubes with the melted butter, and stir to combine.
- Meanwhile, cook the sausage in a medium skillet over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until browned and cooked through, about 6-8 minutes. Transfer the cooked sausage to a plate.
- Add the onion to the skillet, and cook over medium heat, stirring often, until beginning to soften, 2-3 minutes. Add the celery and apple, and continue to cook, until tender and just golden, another 2-3 minutes.
- Add the cooked sausage, onion, celery, and apple to the cornbread mixture, followed by the spices, and stir to combine. Slowly pour the broth or water over top, and stir until evenly moistened. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
- Pour the dressing into the prepared baking dish, and spread into an even layer.
- May be prepared in advance: at this point, simply cover tightly with aluminum foil, and refrigerate for up to two days before baking.
- When ready to bake: cover with aluminum foil, and bake until cooked through, about 35 minutes.⁴ Remove the foil, and continue baking for an additional 10-15 minutes, until the top is crisp and golden. Serve warm.
¹ If you prefer to make your own cornbread stuffing, you’ll need about 8 cups, and I recommend making the cornbread in advance, crumbling it into large pieces, and letting it dry out for a day or two.
² Choose a firm, sweet-tart variety of apple, such as Honeycrisp, Pink Lady or Granny Smith.
³ For a moister, more stuffing-like texture, add up to another 1/2 cup of broth or water.
⁴ Add an extra 5-10 minutes to the baking time if the baking dish has been made in advance and refrigerated.
I prefer my dressing hot with a crispy top, but if you’re accustomed to a more stuffing-like texture (cooked in the bird), you can add a little more stock or water, or bake for a few less minutes.