Old Fashioned Cornbread Dressing With Pancetta

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Old Fashioned Cornbread Dressing with Pancetta- It’s not a holiday food spread without dressing! The usual classic cornbread dressing gets jazzed up with Pancetta, fresh herbs, and fresh veggies in this easy to make side dish. In this post, I’ll give you all the tips you need for dressing success, and recipe variation suggestions to really make this your own and customize it to your tastes. No boxed dressing mix here, this is homemade!

Cornbread dressing in a white baking dish.

Cornbread Dressing Recipe

This classic side brings back so many memories for me. My Grandma was the daughter of a Depression era farmer, and cornbread was always on the menu in her house growing up. She continued that into adulthood. All my life, there was never a time I walked into her kitchen where her cast iron skillet didn’t have some cornbread in it. 

It seemed only fitting that she would make dressing out of it. She grew a lot of herbs in her garden too, and she used those in the dressing also. Her cooking had a big impact on me, and if you have tried my Vegetable Soup recipe you know that very well. This site is all about approachable homemade food using fresh ingredients. If you’d like more help or ideas for cooking this way, please visit the about page of the site to see how I can help you!

Why I Love This Old Fashioned Cornbread Dressing With Pancetta Recipe

No holiday in my childhood was complete unless my Grandma’s cornbread dressing was on the table. I have swapped the ham she always used for Pancetta, but it still tastes very much the same as what she always made.

I love this dressing not only for nostalgia. There are a few other reasons I love this recipe:

  • Very easy to make in advance. If you are looking for recipes for the holidays that you can prep ahead of time, you have found one right here! I have several great tips in the post for making this in advance.
  • Versatile- this dressing is really easy to customize, and you are not limited to the vegetables I use in the recipe. 
  • Goes well with turkey, chicken, ham, or roast pork.
  • This is easily doubled or made in an even larger quantity for a crowd.

What Is Cornbread Dressing?

Cornbread dressing is exactly what it sounds like- it is simply dressing made with cornbread instead of bread cubes. 

It does have one other difference: because the cornbread is more crumbly than cubed bread, cornbread dressing has a less chewy texture to it. I would not call it mushy by any means, but the texture is not the same as other dressings would be. That’s where the veggies come in. They add body and crunch.

Stuffing Vs Dressing

What makes it stuffing and what makes it dressing? Aren’t they the same thing? Yes and no. They are both the same dish, but where the distinction comes in is how it is cooked.

If it is cooked inside the bird, it is then considered a stuffing. If it is cooked in a separate dish and baked on its own, it is a dressing. That is really the only difference!

Ingredients For Old Fashioned Cornbread Dressing With Pancetta

Cornbread- I like using cornbread muffins for this recipe. I think they do a better job of drying out and going stale than just a square pan of cornbread does. It is also easier to cut the muffins into cubes.

On this blog, I typically minimize processed ingredients but this is one recipe where I see nothing wrong with using a boxed cornbread mix for this dish. 

If you don’t have a favorite cornbread recipe, just use your favorite boxed cornbread mix and follow the package instructions for making muffins. You can also buy cornbread at your grocery store bakery already made.

Shallots- I love the milder note of shallot here, it does not compete with the herbs and mushrooms the way onion might. I used to work at a local organic farm. Shallots were one of my favorite crops, and they were popular at the farm stand as well.

Celery- If you have any greens from your celery, feel free to chop them up and add them in, it adds an extra punch of flavor.

Mushrooms- I like using brown mushrooms for this recipe, they are more flavorful than white mushrooms. Be sure to use fresh mushrooms! I like to buy mine already sliced when I can to save a little time later on prep.

Pancetta- I like the subtle smoke of pancetta with the sweetness of the cornbread. Its a great combination!

Fresh Thyme- This herb is an important part of any dressing recipe!

Fresh Sage- My Grandma always had sage growing in her garden. Sage can be a strong herb, you won’t need much.

Chicken Stock- Homemade or store bought, whichever you have is fine.

Of course it goes without saying that there is salt and pepper in here too! You will also need some unsalted butter, just enough to grease the baking dish you are cooking the dressing in.

Ingredients for old fashioned cornbread dressing with pancetta.

How To Make Southern Cornbread Dressing

  1. Bake a batch of cornbread (or purchase some from a grocery store) and allow it to go stale.
  2. Cut the cornbread into cubes.
  3. Chop and saute the vegetables and add the fresh herbs and the salt and pepper.
  4. Stir together the vegetable mixture and the cornbread cubes.
  5. Put the dressing in a baking dish and bake until the top is golden brown.

This is not a comprehensive list of instructions. I have plenty of tips and detailed steps in the recipe card to help you make a great dressing for your holiday table that you will love!

Can Dressing Be Prepared Ahead Of Time?

Yes, this dressing can be made ahead! I have plenty of notes in the recipe card about how to prep this in advance. In fact, there is more than one way to make this ahead depending on what works best for you. I go over all that in the recipe card!

Recipe Variations

This is a recipe that is really easy to customize depending on your preferences. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Swap shallots for chopped leek (the white part of the leek) or yellow onion.
  • Use ham or sausage instead of pancetta.
  • Add in some dried cranberries or dried cherries.
  • Leave out the mushrooms if you don’t care for them.
  • Add a little fresh rosemary.

These are just a few suggestions, and you are by no means limited to what is listed here.

How To Store Cornbread Dressing

While this can be stored in the dish you bake it in, I don’t recommend that because even with foil or plastic wrap over it, refrigerator funk can still creep in and affect the flavor.

Instead, store the dressing in a plastic or glass container that has a tight fitting lid.

How Long Will Cornbread Dressing Last In The Fridge?

Your dressing will keep refrigerated for up to one week. To reheat, you can pop it in the microwave for a minute or two just to warm it through.

What To Serve With Cornbread Dressing

You don’t have to wait for a holiday celebration to serve this, but most of us seem to save this dish for such an occasion. Cornbread dressing goes with many things. Here are some ideas:

I want to thank you for stopping by! I hope you love this recipe for Old Fashioned Cornbread Dressing with Pancetta! I’d love to hear how this turned out for you if you made it! Just leave a rating or comment below. 

Don’t forget to share this recipe with your friends! If you’d like to receive my newsletter and a free ebook, you can sign up below. I have all sorts of exclusive content just for newsletter subscribers, and I’d love for you to join. Happy Cooking!

Cornbread dressing in a dish with a spoon.
Yield: 8 Servings

Old Fashioned Cornbread Dressing With Pancetta

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes

Smoky Pancetta and fresh mushrooms elevate this Cornbread Dressing and make it stand out. This recipe is easy to make ahead, making meal prep for your holiday meal just a little bit easier!

Ingredients

  • One Dozen stale Cornbread Muffins (or one 8x8 or 9x9 pan of cornbread)
  • 1 large Shallot
  • 2 stalks of Celery
  • 2 cups of Fresh Brown Mushrooms
  • 6 ounces of Pancetta
  • 3 tsp of Fresh Thyme Leaves
  • 2 tsp of Fresh Sage (about 3-5 leaves)
  • 2 cups of Chicken Stock (or less, see notes)
  • 2 tsp of Salt
  • 1 tsp of Black Pepper
  • Unsalted Butter for greasing the baking dish

Instructions

  1. Be sure the cornbread is stale before making the dressing. For more information, see the notes below.
  2. Chop the cornbread muffins into one inch cubes and set aside.
  3. If you are not making the dressing in advance, butter a 9x9 square or 11x7 rectangular baking dish. Turn the oven on to 350 degrees and start prepping the vegetables while the oven heats.
  4. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Chop the pancetta if you did not buy it pre chopped. Add the pancetta to the pan and start browning it while you chop the vegetables.
  5. Dice the shallot and celery, and slice the mushrooms if you did not buy them sliced.
  6. Remove the leaves from the thyme stems and chop the sage leaves.
  7. Add the vegetables, the 2 tsp of salt, the 1 tsp of pepper, and the sage and thyme to the skillet with the pancetta and cook until the pancetta is browned and the veggies are tender, about 5 minutes.
  8. Pour the veggies into a very large bowl and add the diced cornbread. Stir well, and pour in the chicken stock starting with one cup. Keep stirring to allow the cornbread to absorb the stock.
  9. Add another 1/2 cup of stock and stir again. The dressing should be wet but not oversaturated with stock. Add another 1/2 cup if you like your dressing on the moist side to equal 2 cups. If not, you can stop at 1 1/2 cups.
  10. Transfer the dressing into the greased baking dish and spread it evenly inside the dish. Bake uncovered for 25 to 30 minutes, until the top is a nice golden brown. See notes for make ahead and reheat tips.

Notes

Here are some tips for drying out the cornbread:

If you are using cornbread muffins (which I recommend), simply leave them out on the kitchen counter right in the muffin tin for a day or two to let them go stale. Then, you can proceed with the recipe.

If you don't have time to do that, cut the cornbread into cubes and put them on a rimmed baking sheet and bake them in a 275 degree oven for 30 minutes. This will dry it out.

If you are not cooking the dressing right away, you can skip buttering the baking dish and heating the oven. Simply refer back to the cooking instructions when you are ready to bake.

To make the dressing in advance, you can do this one of two ways:

First Method- Dry out the cornbread, cut into cubes and place in a sealed plastic freezer bag. Chop and saute the vegetables and place them in a bowl with a tight fitting lid and refrigerate. When you are ready to bake the dressing, just follow the instructions above starting with step 8, and heat your oven to 350 degrees to bake.

Second Method- You can assemble the whole dressing all the way up to the final step of baking it. Just wrap the baking dish tightly with foil or plastic wrap before refrigerating, and remove any wrapping before baking.

If you are making the dressing ahead, you can do so a couple of days in advance. Any more than that and the ingredients begin to lose freshness, and you reduce the amount of time that you can keep any leftovers.

For recipe variations, please see the blog post for suggestions.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

8

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 666Total Fat: 26gSaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 16gCholesterol: 61mgSodium: 1475mgCarbohydrates: 92gFiber: 7gSugar: 33gProtein: 15g

All information presented and written within this site are intended for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist or registered dietitian and any nutritional information should only be used as a general guideline. Statements within this site have not been evaluated or approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is provided for recipes contained on this site. This information comes from online calculators. Although The Copper Table attempts to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates.

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9 Comments

  1. This sounds so good, especially with those fresh herbs. This is how you do stuffing! (Or dressing.) 🙂 Thank you for sharing this post at the Will Blog for Comments #16 linkup. Hope to see you there next week, too.

  2. This is such a great recipe, I can’t wait to give it a try. Thanks for sharing on SSPS, I hope to see you again next week, where your recipe will get featured.

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