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 on my own. It was my senior year of college and I was on a ski trip 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. Needless to say, it turned out it was harder than it looked. I'll spare you the details but let's just say 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, many years ago. As soon as I read the ingredients....cornbread, pancetta, sundried tomatoes, 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.
This stuffing is 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!
The full list of ingredients and quantities can be found in the recipe card below.
Don't let the longish list of ingredients intimidate you. To make this cornbread stuffing you'll need:
Cornbread mix: Along with milk and eggs, to make the cornbread.
Pancetta: I prefer to use thinly sliced pancetta for this recipe. Since it's thin, it crisps up nicely.
Produce: yellow onion, celery, Italian parsley, garlic
Sun-dried tomatoes: You'll want the kind packed in oil. The oil keeps them from drying out when you cook the stuffing.
Chicken broth: Low sodium broth is the preference for this recipe.
Water chestnuts: If you buy the pre-sliced kind you'll save a little bit of prep time.
Butter: You'll want the unsalted version.
Spices: dried basil, rosemary, sage, thyme, salt, and ground pepper
How to make cornbread stuffing
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 it 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. I use two half-sheet pans to make the cornbread.
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: To keep dishes to a minimum, you can slice up the cornbread in the sheet pan and then mix all of the ingredients in right in the same pan. 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.
Spoon into a baking dish and bake. Spoon or pour all of the stuffing into a large 9x13 baking dish.
Make-ahead tip: You can make the entire dish a day ahead and then cover and refrigerate until you are ready to cook it. Be sure to review the recipe notes for tips on cooking if you make the stuffing ahead of time.
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!!
Tools you'll 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 18x13. It's great to have several of these in your kitchen for various baking tasks, including making cookies.
More Thanksgiving side dishes
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 tablespoon dried basil
- 2 tablespoon dried rosemary
- 1 tablespoon dried sage
- 1 tablespoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon ground pepper
- 3 tablespoon 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.
- If you refrigerate the stuffing prior to baking, increase baking time to 40-45 minutes, keeping the stuffing covered for the first 30 minutes.
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.