Cornbread dressing with chicken is a traditional dish served at holiday and family gatherings across the South. Crumbled homemade cornbread, sautéed vegetables, hard boiled eggs, shredded chicken are baked in a casserole dish until golden brown.
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Which type of dressing do you prefer? Every Thanksgiving, there is a great divide in my house. It is the issue over stuffing – or dressing – whatever you prefer to call it. I grew up eating stuffing of the cubed bread variety. I love the taste of sage, the little bite of crispiness on the top and the warm gooeyness underneath. My husband refers to my brand of stuffing as “soggy bread dressing.”
He swears by his mom’s recipe for cornbread dressing, passed down by his grandmother. It has a permanent place in the buffet lineup every Thanksgiving, Christmas, and any other family get-together in between.
What is the difference between stuffing and dressing?
This question comes up quite a bit. The answer, however, is very simple. Stuffing is “stuffed” into the cavity of a bird and cooks while the bird is cooking. Dressing, not to be confused with the sauce poured over a salad, is baked in a casserole dish and served on the side.
Ingredients and tools you’ll need
Cornbread dressing with chicken requires less than 10 ingredients. If you will be short on time the day you plan to serve this, you can prep many of these ingredients ahead. To make this recipe, you’ll need:
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter – I like to be able to control the amount of salt in my dish, which is why I prefer to use unsalted butter. However, you may use salted if that’s all you have on hand.
- 2 cups chopped celery
- 2 cups chopped onion
- 6 – 8 cups crumbled cornbread – this can be store bought or homemade cornbread. Just make sure the cornbread is not sweet.
- 1/2 cup breadcrumbs or two slices of day old bread, torn – you can use store bought breadcrumbs or make your own homemade breadcrumbs.
- 2 cups chicken broth, plus more as needed – again, store bought or homemade chicken stock is fine. I prefer to use unsalted or low sodium broth.
- 2 large eggs slightly beaten
- 2 hardboiled eggs, chopped – check out this post for making easy peel hard boiled eggs.
- 1 cup shredded cooked chicken – To save time, use a rotisserie chicken. You could also boil raw chicken and save the water it was cooked in to use as your chicken broth.
- Salt and pepper, to taste
Making this casserole from start to finish can take a few hours. That’s why I like to break the process up into stages. I find it’s easier to plan ahead and work over the course of a few days rather than trying to get everything done at once. Once you’ve prepped, the dressing comes together pretty quickly.
Make the Cornbread
This recipe calls for 6-8 cups of crumbled cornbread. One batch of my homemade skillet cornbread makes the perfect amount. To save time, the cornbread can be made a few days in advance, wrapped in plastic wrap and stored in the fridge until you are ready to use it. The cornbread can also be frozen. Often, if I have a few pieces leftover after a meal, I’ll toss it in a freezer bag and save it for a later use.
Boil the Chicken
You will also need one cup of cooked and shredded chicken. I like to use chicken thighs with the skin removed. We also need two cups of chicken broth. I like to “kill two birds with one stone” by boiling my raw chicken thighs in four cups of water for 20 minutes. If you have any vegetables that are past their prime in the vegetable drawer, toss those into the water too for more flavor.
After 20 minutes, remove the chicken thighs and set them aside to cool. Strain any vegetables or aromatics you may have used to season the broth and discard. Once the chicken has cooled enough to handle, remove it from the bone and shred. Store the chicken and the broth separately in airtight containers in the refrigerator. The broth and the chicken can be made four days in advance.
Boil the Eggs
Peeling eggs can be a pain, so be sure to read my post on how to make easy peel hard boiled eggs. After you boil two eggs, let them cool completely. Leave them in their shells – they will last longer — then store them in the refrigerator. Hardboiled eggs will last up to a week in the refrigerator.
Chop Your Veggies
Save even more time by chopping two cups of celery and two cups of onions 2-3 days in advance. These will also need to be stored in an airtight container of freezer bag in the fridge. You can store them together, as they will be going into the pan at the same time.
How to make Southern Cornbread Dressing with Chicken
Go ahead and preheat your oven to 450 degrees F. While the oven is heating, melt the butter in a large skillet. Add the diced celery and onion and sauté until the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes. Remove the vegetables from the heat and allow them to cool.
If you haven’t crumbled your cornbread yet, go ahead and do that now. I find clean hands are the best tool for this. Once you’ve broken the cornbread up into medium-sized chunks, add the breadcrumbs or torn day-old bread. Pour in the chicken broth. Use a spoon, potato masher or even your hands to break up the cornbread pieces even more. When you are done, the cornbread should be soupy and kind of squishy.
Peel and chop the hardboiled eggs. Add them to the cornbread mixture, along with two raw eggs, the sauteed vegetables and the shredded chicken. Season with salt and pepper and stir everything together until it is well combined.
Coat one 9 x 13 x 2-inch casserole dish (or two 8 x 8-inch dishes) with non-stick cooking spray. Pour the cornbread mixture into the casserole dish and spread it around until it’s in an even layer. You do not need to cover it. Adjust your oven rack so that it is in the middle of the oven. Bake the cornbread dressing for one hour until it is set and the top is golden brown. The dressing is going to be pretty hot right when you first pull it out of the oven, so I suggest letting it sit for about 15 minutes before serving. This also gives any residual chicken broth additional time to get soaked into the bread.
Storage, freezing and reheating instructions
Storage: Baked cornbread dressing should be placed in a covered dish or airtight container and can be stored in the fridge for up to four days.
Freezing: Cornbread dressing with chicken can be frozen either baked or unbaked. I recommend storing it in a disposable freezer pan so you’re not tying up your good casserole dishes. Write the cooking or reheating instructions on the lid so you don’t have to hunt the recipe. Thaw the dressing overnight in the refrigerator. Consume within three months.
Reheating: Cornbread dressing can be reheated in the microwave for 1-2 minutes until heated through. Alternately, it can be reheated in a 350 degree F oven. If baking from refrigerated, let the dressing sit on the counter for 30 minutes to take the chill off. Bake in an oven safe dish for 10-15 minutes.
Frequently asked questions
Sometimes difference in altitude can affect cooking time. If you’ve followed the recipe instructions and your dressing still looks a bit watery, continue to cook it uncovered, checking it every 10 minutes to make sure the top isn’t getting too brown.
Yes, cooked and shredded turkey or pork would be a good substitute. You could also used ground turkey or pork, but it will need to be cooked first.
Yes, the chicken can be left out without affecting the rest of the recipe.
Cornbread dressing can be assembled up to two days in advance and stored unbaked in the refrigerator. Cover the top with foil or plastic wrap to prevent any of the chicken broth from evaporating, just be sure to remove the cover before baking. Set the dressing out at room temperature for about 30 minutes to take the chill off. Then follow the directions for baking as instructed.
I have never tried making this with sage or stuffing mix so I can’t guarantee you will get the same results.
Looking for more dressing ideas?
Serve Southern Cornbread Dressing with chicken alongside
- Pineapple Glazed Ham
- Wild Rice Stuffed Turkey Breast
- Sweet Tea Brined Cast Iron Roast Chicken
- Bourbon Glazed Baked Ham
Check out more Thanksgiving recipe ideas.
Southern Cornbread Dressing with Chicken
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
- 2 cups chopped celery
- 2 cups chopped onion
- 6 – 8 cups crumbled cornbread
- 1/2 cup breadcrumbs or two slices of day old bread, torn
- 2 cups chicken broth plus more as needed
- 2 raw eggs slightly beaten
- 2 hardboiled eggs chopped
- 1 cup shredded cooked chicken
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
- In large skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add celery and onion and sauté for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Combine cornbread with the breadcrumbs in a large bowl. Pour in the chicken broth. Using a potato masher, begin mashing the bread – adding additional broth as needed – until the mixture is slightly soupy.
- Mix in raw eggs. Add hardboiled eggs, sautéed vegetables, and shredded chicken. Stir until all ingredients are well combined. Season with salt and pepper.
- Pour cornbread mixture into a 9 x 13 x 2 inch casserole dish coated with nonstick cooking spray. Place dish on the middle rack of the oven and cook for 1 hour. You can broil for 5-10 minutes if the does not brown.
- Remove from oven and let sit for 15 minutes before serving.