Healthy Cornbread Sausage Stuffing

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Healthy Cornbread Sausage Stuffing made with chicken sausage, cornbread, and dried cranberries is a lightened up version of everyone's favorite side dish.

224 CAL 62g CARBS 7g FAT 13g PROTEIN

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.   

Cornbread sausage stuffing with cranberries and thyme in a baking dish with a striped napkin.

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.

Cornbread stuffing with chicken sausage and cranberries in a dish with thyme.

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.

The Recipe
Healthy cornbread sausage stuffing with dried cranberries and thyme in a baking dish.

Healthy Cornbread Sausage Stuffing

224 CAL 62g CARBS 7g FAT 13g PROTEIN
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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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Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Heat a pan over medium high heat. Add the butter. Once melted, add the onions and celery. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for 6-8 minutes until tender. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute until very fragrant.


Remove the sausage from the casing and add to the pan. Break up with a spoon and cook until browned and fully cooked. Stir in the sage and thyme. Cook for 1 minute. Taste and season with salt and pepper if needed.


In a large bowl, toss together the sausage mixture, dried cornbread stuffing mix, and cranberries. Pour in the chicken broth and mix well. The mixture should be moist, almost wet. Add extra broth if needed. You can also taste the mixture to check if you need more salt and/or pepper at this step.


Spray a baking dish with cooking spray. Add the stuffing. Bake for 25-30 minutes until stuffing is hot all the way through and browned on top.

Nutritional Facts
Serving Size: 1/2-2/3 cup
Amount Per Serving
Calories 224
Calories from Fat 64
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 7g
Saturated Fat 2g
Monounsaturated Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Cholesterol 18mg
Sodium 469mg
Total Carbohydrate 62g
Dietary Fiber 11g
Sugars 12g
Protein 13g

* 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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About the author Meet Kristen McCaffrey
Hi, I’m the cookbook author, recipe developer, and food enthusiast behind Slender Kitchen. I am obsessed with making healthy food that is easy to prepare and absolutely delicious. Meal planning is my secret weapon and I hope I can make meal time easier for you with our tried and tested recipes and foolproof meal plans. Learn More
On Healthy Cornbread Sausage Stuffing
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Marie Radtke
November 14, 2020 - 06:39
Either I am blind or you did not post temperature to bake recipe? Help please!
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November 18, 2020 - 09:01
Just updated the post! Thank you. It should be cooked at 375.
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Marie Radtke
November 26, 2020 - 11:51
Thanks bunches!! Will comment after dinner tonight. BTW...absolutely love your recipes and I am thankful!
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November 14, 2019 - 14:32
Can you tell me what you mean by dried cranberries? Do you mean like the Craisin kind of berries?
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November 14, 2019 - 15:12
Exactly! You can buy unsweetened dried cranberries in most supermarkets. Craisins also work, but they have a bit of added sugar.
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