I updated this post in November 2015, four years after I originally posted it. The photos are new and it’s now in my new format, but the recipe remains the original, wonderful cornbread stuffing balls that I made the first time around. I’ve also left references to how I felt when I first made it. The cornbread stuffing balls remain one of my family’s most requested Thanksgiving dishes and definitely my favorite Thanksgiving stuffing.
My friend Lafe Solomon is a multi-talented guy, as well as a great friend. Among his many talents, Lafe is a fabulous cook. Plus, he has a trove of recipes that he is generous about sharing with those of us who know to ask. Two years ago, Lafe gave me his recipe for cornbread stuffing balls. They were an immediate hit. Last year they were just as popular, and I didn’t wait for a request this year before putting them on the menu.
Although this stuffing isn’t yet traditional in our family, it’s only a matter of time. By next year, I’m betting that we won’t be able to figure out how we ever had Thanksgiving dinner without it.
The stuffing is made into balls and baked, so it’s much easier to figure out portions than a stuffing made as a casserole. The original recipe calls for chicken broth. I substituted vegetable broth for the vegetarians in our family. As a meat-eater, I can vouch that this vegetarian version tastes wonderful with turkey.
This recipe makes a lot of stuffing. If you are only having a small group for dinner, cut the proportions in half and make a smaller batch. The recipe calls for cornbread. Normally, I use a mix, Trader Joe’s, which is just about the best cornbread I’ve ever tasted – from a box or homemade. (And if you don’t want to take my word for it, Serious Eats agrees.) Of course, you’re welcome to make homemade cornbread. On the other hand, if you’re in a hurry and need a shortcut, substitute ready-made cornbread from a grocery or bakery. Lafe’s directions were sketchy. I’ve expanded and slightly modified the directions to make them suitable for cooks who aren’t as experienced as Lafe.
It’s a simple concept – begin with crumbled cornbread mixed with bread crumbs and crushed saltine crackers.
Then sauté vegetables and add seasoning, eggs, apple chunks, and chopped nuts.
Form the mixture into balls, drizzle broth over them, and bake the cornbread stuffing balls until they are slightly crispy on the outside, while remaining soft on the inside.
The cornbread stuffing balls are great with gravy, super with cranberry sauce, and they re-heat just fine. I haven’t yet had a family member or guest turn one down and most times, they come back for more. Not a bad batting average for a holiday food if you ask me.
Lafe's Cornbread Stuffing Balls
- 1 cup box cornbread mix – enough to make an 8” x 8” x 2” square (Trader Joe’s mix requires 1 egg ½ oil and ¾ milk pictured, but not listed separately below.)
- 2 cups plain breadcrumbs
- 2 cups saltines cracker crumbs a bit more than 1 of the 4 individually wrapped packages in a box of saltines.
- 3-4 tablespoons of butter
- 3 onions finely chopped, approximately 4½ cups
- 3 celery stalks washed and finely chopped, approximately 1⅓ - 1½ cups
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1/2 cup fresh parsley finely chopped
- 2 eggs
- teaspoon salt pepper and dried thyme to taste – I use about 1of salt, 1of dried thyme crushed between my fingertips, and a heavy sprinkling of pepper.
- 3 cups broth see above – chicken or vegetable
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans optional
- 1 pieces apple peeled and chopped into small(optional)
- Make the cornbread, using the instructions on the box. After it has cooled, crumble it into the bowl with your hands. Go ahead, it's fun.
- Crumble the saltines. (To keep the saltines from getting too messy, I use a closed plastic sandwich or food storage bag, crunching them with my hands.) Add the breadcrumbs and saltines to the cornbread and mix until combined. Set aside.
- Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees and butter or oil 2-3 large baking sheets with sides.
- Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in the pan. Add the chopped onions, chopped celery, and the minced garlic. Sauté those veggies on medium heat for approximately 10 minutes, until they are translucent, but not brown. Take the pan off the heat and let the veggies cool.
- Add the eggs, parsley, salt, pepper, and thyme to the onion, celery and garlic mixture. Mix all those ingredients.
- Add the vegetables and seasoning mixture to the bread/cracker mixture and combine them.
- Add 2 cups of broth to that mixture and gently toss it until the liquid is distributed throughout.
- Add chopped pecans and apple pieces to the stuffing mixture if using them.
- Using your hands, form the mixture into balls somewhat larger than golf balls, but smaller than baseballs.
- Place the stuffing balls on the baking sheets approximately 2-inches apart. (The stuffing balls need space around them so the heat circulates and they cook on all sides.)
- Spoon additional broth over them before baking.
- Bake for 30-50 minutes (depending on ball size), until the cornbread stuffing balls are browned. You may want to add additional broth as the stuffing cooks.
- Remove the balls from the baking sheet with a metal spatula. If you have buttered or oiled the pan well enough, they should release without much difficulty.
I forgot to buy breadcrumbs, so I used a few pieces of stale bread, chopped up in a food processor. You can bake them slowly for 10-15 minutes at 300 degrees to dry the bread out, but I didn't.
If you don't have a food processor, use stale or toasted bread; you can crumble it with your hands or cut into small cubes and then crumble.