This Cornbread Stuffing puts a twist on the traditional by adding crispy pancetta and tangy sun-dried tomatoes for a delicious Thanksgiving side dish!
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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.
Why You'll Love this Stuffing
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!
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!!
Are you ready for the ultimate Thanksgiving side dish? This unique stuffing is just the thing to add to your Turkey Day menu! Read on to learn more about how to make this Cornbread Stuffing, or jump straight to the recipe to start cooking!
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 - while it does have a few steps, this recipe is not overly complicated to make. To make this 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. You can also use chopped (cubed) pancetta.
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 preferred for this recipe.
Water chestnuts: If you buy the pre-sliced kind you'll save a little bit of prep time. You need one can.
Butter: You'll want the unsalted version.
Spices: dried basil, rosemary, sage, thyme, salt, and ground pepper
Tips for the best stuffing
With everything you might be thinking about prepping for Thanksgiving, here are a few tips to ensure making this recipe goes smoothly.
- Do some prep work: Make the cornbread a day or two in advance. It won't crumble as much as when it's fresh so you get a better texture in your stuffing.
- Plan enough time: You need to allow about 2 hours total time which includes baking the cornbread, letting it cool and preparing and baking the stuffing.
- Make it in advance: Since the flavors come together nicely when it sits overnight, this is an ideal dish to prep the day before Thanksgiving.
Step-by-step instructions for making cornbread stuffing (dressing)
There are a couple of key steps to making stuffing. The full printable recipe card is below, but let’s walk through it so you understand each step before you get started.
Step 1 | Make the cornbread: 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 a half-sheet pan to make the cornbread.
Step 2 | 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. This helps it to absorb some of the liquid ingredients so you'll get better consistency in your stuffing.
Step 3 | Sauté the veggies: Even though the veggies continue to cook when you bake the stuffing, sautéing them adds extra flavor.
Step 4 | 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 right in the same pan. The more evenly distributed all the ingredients are, the better your stuffing will taste
Step 5 | 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. Use less if you prefer it a bit more crunchy.
Step 6 | Spoon into a baking dish and bake. Spoon or pour all of the stuffing into a large 9x13 baking dish and bake at 250°F for 20 minutes.
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.
Frequently asked questions
Technically, according to the dictionary definition, stuffing is a mixture used to stuff another food. In reality, stuffing and dressing are the same thing - a side dish made with bread cubes. I think what you call it really depends on where you grew up and/or live now.....in the South and Midwest it's typically called dressing and in the Northeast and on the West Coast it's usually called stuffing, regardless of whether or not it's stuffed into the turkey!
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.
Large baking dish - You'll need a 9x13-inch baking dish for this recipe. I like to use a nicer dish so you can serve the stuffing from the same dish you bake it in. I particularly like this one from Crate & Barrel as you can put the hot dish directly into the wire rack and take it straight to the table.
More Thanksgiving side dishes
If you are looking for additional side dishes to add to your Thanksgiving table, check out these reader favorites.
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Sundried Tomato Pancetta Cornbread Stuffing
For the cornbread:
- 3 boxes Jiffy Corn muffin mix
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup 2% milk
For the stuffing:
- 6 ounces thinly sliced pancetta, chopped
- 2 cups chopped onion
- 1 cup finely chopped celery
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup sundried tomatoes, chopped
- 1 (8 ounce) can water chestnuts, chopped
- ½ cup Italian parsley leaves, chopped
- 2 tablespoons dried basil
- 2 tablespoons dried rosemary
- 1 tablespoon dried sage
- 1 tablespoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon ground pepper
- 3 tablespoons 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.
- Make the cornbread. Pour the corn muffin mixes into a large mixing bowl. Add eggs and milk. Stir until combined. The 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:
- Toast the cornbread. Pre-heat oven to 350°F. 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.
- Cook the Pancetta. 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.
- Saute the veggies. 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.
- Make the stuffing. 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.
- Bake the stuffing. 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 2023 with some new information and photos. No changes were made to the original recipe.