Healthy Cornbread Sausage Stuffing made with chicken sausage, cornbread, and dried cranberries is a lightened up version of everyone's favorite side dish.
If I had to choose one thing to eat at Thanksgiving, it would always be the stuffing and my favorite is stuffing made with sausage and cornbread. The sweetness of the cornbread with the savory sausage and some tart cranberries immediately gets me in the holiday spirit.
With that said, one thing I don't love about stuffing, especially sausage stuffing, is that it can be really heavy. Between all the butter and higher calorie pork sausage, it is a dish that can easily top 500 calories a serving. This healthier option has the same amazing flavor but is much lighter.
There are a few key ingredients that give this stuffing so much flavor. Like all good stuffing, it starts with onion and celery. To that, you will add some ground chicken sausage. It's important that you choose a really flavorful chicken sausage since this will give the entire dish flavor. You want something that tastes amazing. Normally I like to use a sweet Italian chicken sausage since it has a touch of sweetness and lots of herbs like fennel, thyme, and sage.
Once that is cooked, it's time to add some fresh herbs. This is another way to build flavor without lots of fat and calories. I like to use fresh thyme and sage, but you can add any fresh herbs you like. Many people like using parsley, rosemary, or marjoram.
Now it's time for the bread. Honestly, I usually take the shortcut here and use store-bought dried cubed bread made for stuffing. It saves so much time and since it's how my Mom made it growing up, it's actually what I prefer. I look for a cornbread stuffing mix. You won't need the spice packet that comes with it, just the dried bread. You can also make your own by cooking cornbread a few days in advance and drying it out in the oven.
To finish this yummy stuffing, all you need is chicken broth and dried cranberries. Make sure to choose a really flavorful chicken stock. This is another place you are building flavor. Bland chicken broth means bland stuffing.
Recipe Tips and Ideas
There are lots of ways to customize this cornbread sausage stuffing and make it your own special holiday dish.
- Add nuts: Add some crunch with toasted walnuts, pecans, or almonds. Fold them in with the dried cranberries and sprinkle some extra on top.
- Try different herbs: Switch out the thyme and sage for any fresh or dried herbs you like. Many people like adding parsley to their stuffing.
- Make it spicy: For a spicy option, choose a spicy Italian chicken sausage. It's a great way to create a tiny hint of heat.
- Use homemade cornbread: If you prefer homemade bread in your stuffing, just bake some cornbread a few days before. Cut it into cubes and let it dry. Then toast it before using it in the stuffing so it is nice and dry.
- Lower calories: For a lower calorie and point option, you can use 99% lean ground turkey flavored with homemade Italian sausage seasoning. You may need to add an extra pat of butter or some olive oil.
- Add veggies: If you want more veggies, consider adding chopped carrots or bell peppers to the onion and celery.
- Make it healthier: For a healthier version, swap in whole wheat bread for some or all of the cornbread.
- Looking for a gluten-free option? Try this delicious gluten-free stuffing.
Can I make this in advance?
This can be assembled the day before and then simply baked the day off. However, I will warn you that the stuffing won't be quite as crispy since cornbread tends to absorb a lot of moisture. Therefore a better option is to simply cook the ingredients 1-2 days before and assemble right before cooking. Saute the celery, onion, sausage, and herbs. Store in an airtight container. Toss with the bread, cranberries, and chicken broth right before baking.
Can I freeze cornbread stuffing?
Generally speaking, stuffing can be frozen once it is cooked. It will keep for 3-4 months in an airtight container and be defrosted in the fridge overnight or in the microwave. However, the texture may change slightly with the bread softened. It will also lose any crunch it had.
How to use homemade cornbread for this stuffing?
If you prefer homemade cornbread, start by cooking the cornbread 1-2 days in advance. Leave it out on the counter to dry overnight. Then cut it into small cubes and bake at 350 degrees for 25-35 minutes until it is very dry. It should basically be a crouton, without any moisture.
Can I make this without the sausage?
Absolutely! This stuffing will turn out great without the sausage. Just make sure to add some extra herbs and seasoning since you won't have the sausage to add flavor.
Healthy Cornbread Sausage Stuffing
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1 tbsp butter
1/2 onion, diced
1 cup celery, diced
2 garlic cloves
3 lean sweet Italian turkey sausage links
1/2 tbsp fresh sage, minced
1/2 tbsp fresh thyme, minced
8 cups cornbread stuffing mix (without spice packets)
1/4 cup dried cranberries
3 cups chicken broth (more if needed)
Salt and pepper
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* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
The Nutritional Values provided are estimates only and may vary based on the preparation method.
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