If you think Thanksgiving dressing begins and ends with a bag of dried bread mix, you're probably not from the South. For Southerners, the foundation of dressing is cornbread, and the variations are endless from there, depending on what part of the South you call home. Here's a quick look at the different types of dressing you'll see on Thanksgiving tables throughout the region.
A favorite side dish in pecan-rich places like Texas and Georgia, this cornbread dressing is often lightened up with the addition of toasted bread cubes. Herbs—whether sage, rosemary, thyme, or all of the above—usually play a role in pecan dressing as well.
If you're not from the coastal South, specifically the Lowcountry and parts of Louisiana, you might be appalled to find oysters in your Thanksgiving dressing. But for Southerners who live near the water, the holiday wouldn't be the same without oyster dressing. Usually made with a base of bread and cornbread (or sometimes rice or crushed Saltines), canned or fresh oysters, a creamy sauce, and sometimes sausage, it is ultra-rich and savory.
Sausage often makes an appearance in dressing recipes across the Deep South. Depending on where you're from, it could be a smoky Conecuh sausage from Alabama or a regular old breakfast sausage with plenty of sage.
You've got ties to Cajun country if this dressing graces your table. Made with cornbread, crawfish meat, and plenty of garlic and ground spices, crawfish dressing has a creamy texture and a bit of heat.
Apples in Your Dressing
You'll find apples in parts of Virginia and North Carolina, which is why you'll also find them in Thanksgiving dressing recipes from this region as well. Many of these cornbread dressings include pecans or sausage to balance out the sweetness of the fruit.
Sorry, you're not Southern! Down here, we call it dressing because it is baked in a dish, rather than inside of the turkey. While it's unclear when we stopped stuffing the bird, according to Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking , the practice was likely motivated by food safety concerns: "We realized our temperate Thanksgiving weather necessitated removing the stuffing from a turkey immediately. The stuffing never reached 165˚F, the temperature necessary to kill the bacteria from turkey juices. The alternative was to put the stuffing in a dish alongside the turkey—maybe even in the same pan or under the turkey. From then, it was called dressing because it dressed the turkey."