grandma estelle’s cornbread dressing

There are some recipes that must always appear at holiday dinners simply because of tradition. Somewhere along the line, my husband’s grandmother’s cornbread dressing showed up at their holiday dinner table, and it was there to stay.

grandma markham

Sam’s grandmother, always known to the entire family as Grandma, was the essential home cook. Grandma prepared one big meal each and every day, and this meal was the dinner meal. And in true Southern tradition, dinner was served around noon. The evening meal, supper, was much lighter fare, typically without much fuss. Supper usually consisted of leftovers, soup, or sandwiches.

As Grandma became older and more frail, my sister-in-law was diligent about compiling and documenting the famous family recipes. You see, Grandma was the type of cook who had been doing it for so long that she didn’t follow recipes. She added a bit of this and a little of that, and the dish always came out just right.

grandma estelle's cornbread dressing | the merry gourmet

Grandma died in 1993 when she was in her late 80s, but we still have her cornbread dressing at every Thanksgiving meal. For the last several years, I have been making her recipe, following the instructions to a tee.

I’m often tempted to tweak recipes to make them my own, but I just can’t do that with Grandma’s cornbread dressing. Her recipe calls for cornbread mix – but not Jiffy (because it’s too sweet) – and refrigerated biscuit mix. I’ve been tempted to make my own cornbread or bake my own biscuits for the recipe. But I haven’t.

Part of the beauty of this recipe is that, in addition to the flavors of this savory dressing, we also taste memories when we eat it. I don’t want to mess with that.

cornbread dressing | the merry gourmet

Yield: Serves 8-10.

Cook Time: 60 minutes

Grandma Estelle's Cornbread Dressing

This recipe has graced our Thanksgiving table for years, and when you try it, you'll understand why.

Cook's Notes:
-- For best results, use Martha White cornbread mix; avoid Jiffy -- it's too sweet.
-- The recipe works even better if the biscuits and cornbread are made at least one day in advance. In fact, I often bake the biscuits and cornbread two days in advance and do the rest of the prep one day in advance, refrigerating the ready-to-bake dressing in a tightly-covered container until the next day.
-- If you can't find a 5.5 ounce can of biscuits, a 7.5 ounce can will do just fine.


2 (6 oz) packages cornbread mix (Martha White brand preferred)
1 (5.5 oz) can refrigerated buttermilk biscuits
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 cup finely chopped celery
1/4 cup butter
5 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth (or homemade chicken stock)
5 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 teaspoon sage
1 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon Kosher salt


Prepare cornbread mix and biscuits according to package directions and let cool. Crumble cornbread and biscuits in a large bowl, set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a skillet over medium heat, melt butter then sauté onion and celery until translucent and tender, stirring frequently.

Add celery and onion, chicken broth (or stock), and remaining ingredients to cornbread and biscuit mixture. Stir well until combined.

Spoon mixture into a greased 9 x 13 baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees for about 1 hour or until golden brown and set.

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19 Responses to “grandma estelle’s cornbread dressing”

  1. 1
    Liren — April 25, 2010 @ 12:07 pm

    What a beautiful post and a lovely tribute to Grandma Estelle! I can totally identify with how there are just some recipes that can not be left out, for tradition, or tweaked, for the same reason. We have some family recipes on my husband’s side that call for ingredients such as cream of mushroom soup, and you know, I don’t dare to mess with it, even though i know I can make it from scratch! Sometimes it’s just better that way 🙂

    I think I need a tissue now – and now I a also have a craving for cornbread dressing. It looks almost cake like, but savory!

  2. 2
    Macaroni Mama — April 25, 2010 @ 7:09 pm

    We were lucky that Merry Jennifer made an extra batch of dressing and we had it for dinner tonight. It’s my favorite part of a Thanksgiving meal…or any meal for that matter.

  3. 3
    merrygourmet — April 25, 2010 @ 10:03 pm

    Liren – Thanks! Yes, it really does have a cake-like texture but completely savory.

    Mom – I’m glad you liked it, and glad that I had an extra batch to share. 🙂

  4. 4
    Belinda — April 26, 2010 @ 8:44 am

    Great post and a sweet tribute to our grandmother! 🙂 I totally think you should do it with homemade biscuits and cormbread cooked in a cast iron skillet!! Just NO Jiffy!

  5. 5
    Carol (CG the Foodie) — April 26, 2010 @ 12:25 pm

    Wow that is a beautiful story (and a delicious sounding recipe). Thank you for sharing!!!

  6. 6
    Kathleen — April 26, 2010 @ 8:23 pm

    I love that story! You are so fortunate to have her recipes written down to enjoy! Her dressing sounds really yummy!

  7. 7
    Renee (Kudos Kitchen) — October 31, 2010 @ 11:06 am

    I loved reading this post. It’s truly wonderful how grandma Estelle still graces your Thanksgiving table even thought she is no longer of this earth. That’s what family recipes are for and that’s definitely something to be thankful for!

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  13. 8
    Lisa | Dust with Flour — November 20, 2011 @ 7:03 pm

    My grandmother also was the chief baker of dressing. I enjoyed this post, especially your comment about Thanksgiving dinner being eaten midday. Same with my Southern family, too. Sometimes even 11:30, which gives one time for leftovers at supper. I’ve never had dressing with both cornbread and biscuits — sounds good. Your photo of the ingredients all mixed up in a bowl was right on. That’s how it should look.

  14. 9
    Kimberley Smith — November 24, 2011 @ 3:09 pm

    THANK YOU SO MUCH!! I lost my recipe and even though I knew most of the ingredients I need still needed the details. I must have googled every combination of Cornbread dressing, biscuit cornbread dressing, etc. But everyone had random stuff in there that wasn’t in mine. THEN I FOUND YOURS!! As soon as I saw “Grandma”, I said “I bet this is it!” and it was. It really is the best and wouldnt be Thanksgiving without it. It reminds me of my Grandmothers, long pasted, as well. Happy Thanksgiving and Thank you!!

    • 9.1
      Merry-Jennifer — November 24, 2011 @ 5:36 pm

      Oh, I’m so glad that you found this one! You’re very welcome – and happy Thanksgiving to you, too! 🙂

  15. 10
    Di — November 19, 2013 @ 2:34 pm

    My mom and dad had the same recliner in their den! Brought back memories of my own. Thanks for sharing. Happy Turkey day to you and yours.

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  18. 11
    Sonya — November 7, 2015 @ 7:38 am

    This is the best recipe for cornbread dressing.  My mother makes very good dressing, but she never really follows a recipe so it is difficult to duplicate what she does.  I have made Grandma Estelle’s cornbread dressing a few times now and it is just right every time.  Thank you for sharing the recipe with us.

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