I recently realized that I’ve never posted the one dish that we had every Thanksgiving and Christmas when I was growing up–Cornbread Dressing. That’s mainly because I’ve always counted on my mother to make it. Even after I became vegetarian, my mother would set aside part of the dressing before she added the giblets or oysters or shrimp and bake it with vegetable broth separately for my vegan family and me. But because it’s a dish I love so much, I wanted to share it with you, so I took on the responsibility of making it myself this year.
As I mentioned, the traditional version usually has some kind of meat in it and a couple of eggs. Instead of meat, I make mine with diced portabella mushrooms, which mimic the meaty texture and add a deeper, umami flavor. And as for the eggs–well, I just leave them out and add a touch of nut butter for richness. The dressing is so full of the savory, herbal flavors of thyme, rosemary, and sage that nobody misses the eggs.
I start by making a very basic cornbread. My mother, wise woman that she is, always remembers to make it a couple of days ahead so that there’s one less thing to do right before the big holiday. She also taught me to start saving the ends of bread a couple of weeks beforehand; you can keep them in the freezer and defrost them right before you need them.
We always serve this dressing with a healthy drizzle of mushroom gravy, which also goes on top of the Baked Tofu that is almost always our holiday main dish. And it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without Cranberry Relish, Green Bean Casserole, and either Sweet Potato Casserole or Impossible Pumpkin Pie. What a feast!
- 1 cup white whole wheat flour (or your favorite gluten-free blend)
- 1 cup yellow corn meal
- 3 tsp baking powder
- 2 tsp corn starch, potato starch, or tapioca starch
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk
- 1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce
- 1/4 cup water
- 8 slices whole wheat bread or gluten-free bread (about 10 ounces)
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 cup chopped celery, including leaves (2-3 ribs)
- 1 large portabello mushroom, diced (about 2 cups)
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 tablespoon dried thyme
- 2 teaspoons rubbed sage
- 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced (or 1/2 tsp. dried)
- 1/2 to 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups hot vegetable broth or “no-chicken” broth
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce (omit for soy-free or substitute with tamari for gluten-free)
- 1 tablespoon almond butter, tahini, or cashew butter (optional)
- 1 cup additional broth, as needed
- salt and pepper, as needed
- hickory smoked salt, optional
- Prepare the cornbread: Spray or wipe a 8×8-inch baking dish with oil. Preheat oven to 400F. In a large bowl, mix the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, cornstarch, and salt well. In a smaller bowl, mix the milk, apple sauce, and 1/4 cup water. Add wet to the dry and stir gently until evenly distributed, but don’t over-mix. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 20-30 minutes. When a knife blade comes out clean, it’s done. Set aside to cool. (You can do this a day or two ahead of time.)
- Once the cornbread is cool, crumble it into a very large bowl. It does not have to be completely broken down into crumbs, but there should be few pieces larger than 1/2 inch. Tear the whole grain bread into small pieces (you can do this in two batches in the food processor, if you like) and add it to the cornbread.
- Heat a large non-stick skillet. Add the onions and celery and a splash of water and cook until the onions begin to soften, adding water by the tablespoon if necessary to prevent sticking. Add the mushrooms and garlic, a tablespoon or two of water, and cover. Cook until the mushrooms soften and shrink, about 4 minutes.
- Add the vegetables to the crumbled bread. Stir in the thyme, sage, rosemary, and black pepper, making sure the seasonings are evenly distributed.
- Stir the soy sauce and nut butter, if desired, into the hot broth. Pour it over the bread mixture, stirring as you go. Bread should be thoroughly moistened but not swimming in liquid. Check the moistness and add additional broth as needed. (I used an additional 2/3 cup broth.) Check the seasonings and add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with a little smoked salt, if desired.
- Preheat oven to 350. Oil a large, 9×13-inch baking dish. Transfer the dressing to the baking dish and smooth the top without packing it into the dish. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 20-30 more minutes, until top is brown but dressing is not dried out. Serve hot with Mushroom Gravy.
If you’re still making up your Thanksgiving menu, don’t forget to check out my master list of Thanksgiving Recipes, which has everything you need, from main dishes, to side dishes, to desserts.
Also, check out this terrific Vegan Thanksgiving Pinterest board filled with dozens of recipes pinned by a select group of vegan bloggers and cookbook authors. So many recipes, so few holidays!
I wish you all a happy, healthy Thanksgiving. Enjoy!