This Cornbread Stuffing puts a twist on the traditional by adding crispy pancetta and tangy sun-dried tomatoes for a delicious Thanksgiving side dish!
Thanksgiving can be a bit daunting…..so much planning, so much cooking. So much mess……. and so much that can potentially go wrong!
I still remember the first time I made Thanksgiving dinner. It was my senior year of college and I was in Vail, Colorado skiing with some friends. I’d watched my grandmother cook turkey and all the trimmings many, many times but I’d never actually done it myself. It didn’t seem all that hard – prepare the bird and then put the turkey in the oven for the appropriate number of hours. Well, when we checked on our lovely little turkey after a few hours, something seemed amiss. Turns out we put the turkey in the roasting pan upside down! Don’t ask!! The turkey sort of “exploded” from being upside down. That was my first experience with a significant kitchen mishap!
While I’ve cooked many turkeys, without incident since then, I actually prefer making the side sides! Side dishes give you the ability to be creative and try new things each year though I do stick with a few modified staples I make over and over again. Having some unique versions of traditional side dishes makes for a much more interesting Thanksgiving dinner!
I came across the original recipe for this stuffing in Sunset Magazine many years ago. As soon as I read the ingredients….cornbread, pancetta, sundried tomatoes, water chestnuts, I immediately knew it would be a winner! I’ve modified it a bit since to add more flavor and make it a little less complex to prepare.
Making cornbread stuffing
This cornbread stuffing is one of those recipes. It’s a great staple Thanksgiving side dish that’s easy to make but much more interesting than your average stuffing. Let’s face it, stuffing can be pretty boring….bread, celery, chicken broth, sausage….sound familiar? This cornbread stuffing with pancetta and sun-dried tomatoes is definitely not boring!
There are a couple of key steps to making stuffing:
Make the cornbread a day ahead of time: Ideally, you want the cornbread to be a bit on the dry side so it doesn’t fall apart when you are mixing with the other ingredients. If you forget to make it the day before, no worries just mix any crumbs into the stuffing with the other ingredients.
Toast the cornbread: Even if the cornbread is a day old, still take the time to toast it before mixing it with the other ingredients. You’ll get better consistency in your stuffing.
Sauté the veggies: Even though the veggies would cook when you bake the stuffing, take the time to sauté them as this step adds extra flavor.
Mix well before baking: The more evenly distributed all the ingredients are, the better your stuffing will taste
Add chicken broth slowly: How much chicken broth you use in your stuffing depends on the consistency you prefer. Add more broth for a creamy, moist stuffing, add less if you prefer it a bit more crunchy.
A note about the ingredients
To make this cornbread stuffing you’ll need:
- cornbread mix, milk and eggs to make the cornbread
- yellow onion
- sun-dried tomatoes
- water chestnuts
- Italian parsley
- dried basil, rosemary, sage and thyme
- salt and ground pepper
- unsalted butter
- chicken broth
Whether you are cooking for two or twenty, putting together a small collection of side dishes you can make year after year will help to simplify your Thanksgiving and take at least some of the stress out of the day. Perfecting those dishes and making them your own will leave people asking you for the recipes and you’ll look like a rock-star chef!!
More Thanksgiving side dishes
- Cranberry Brie Tarts
- Simple Roasted Honey Ricotta Carrots
- Parmesan Truffle Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes
- Simple Cranberry Sauce
things you may want for this recipe
Rimmed Baking Sheet – A rimmed baking sheet, or half sheet pan, is a cookie sheet with sides. A half sheet, which is the ideal size for this recipe, measures approximately 18×13. It’s great to have several these in your kitchen for various baking tasks, including making cookies.
Sundried Tomato Pancetta Cornbread Stuffing
For the cornbread:
- 3 boxes Jiffy Corn muffin mix
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup 2% milk
For the stuffing:
- 6 oz thinly sliced pancetta, chopped
- 2 cups chopped onion
- 1 cup finely chopped celery
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup sundried tomatoes, chopped
- 1 8 oz can water chestnuts, chopped
- ½ cup Italian parsley leaves, chopped
- 2 tbsp dried basil
- 2 tbsp dried rosemary
- 1 tbsp dried sage
- 1 tbsp dried thyme
- 1 tsp ground pepper
- 3 tbsp butter, melted
- 1 ½ - 2 cups chicken broth
For the cornbread:
- This step is ideally completed the day before you assemble the rest of the stuffing. Pre-heat oven to 400°F. Pour the corn muffin mixes into a large mixing bowl. Add eggs and milk.
- Stir until combined; batter will be slightly lumpy. Spray a half sheet baking pan (18x13) with cooking spray. Pour the batter into the pan. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until the edges begin to turn slightly golden brown and a knife or toothpick comes out clean.
For the stuffing:
- Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Using a sharp knife, cut the cornbread into ~ ¾" cubes. Place cubes on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes until edges begin to turn golden brown.
- While cornbread cubes are baking, heat a saute pan over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook 8-9 minutes, stirring frequently. Using a slotted spoon remove the pancetta from the pan and drain on a plate lined with paper towels. Leave the cooking fat in the pan.
- Add the onion and celery to the saute pan. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute. Remove pan from heat.
- When the cornbread is done toasting remove from oven. If serving the stuffing immediately reduce oven temperature to 250 degrees.
- Add pancetta, onion and celery mixture, water chestnuts, tomatoes, parsley, dried spices to the pan and melted butter to the pan. Carefully mix all ingredients together. Slowly add the chicken broth, about a ½ cup at a time, mixing after each addition, until desired consistency is reached. For more crunchy stuffing you'll want to use about 1 ¼ to 1 ½ cups of broth. For chewier stuffing you'll use the entire 2 cups.
- Spoon the stuffing into a 13x9 (or larger) baking dish. Either cover tightly with aluminum foil and refrigerate until ready to bake, or place in an oven heated to 250 degrees and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes. Serve immediately.
This post was originally published in November 2016. It was updated in November 2020 with some new information and photos. No changes were made to the original recipe.