The Make Ahead Gluten Free Dressing for Thanksgiving and Beyond | Whole30 & Paleo

Gluten Free Dressing - angled side view

We all know it’s the sides that really matter on Turkey Day. And the side with top billing alongside the star is the dressing (or stuffing?) A hot topic for both the name and the base ingredient, this side dish can be polarizing. But regardless of what you call it, once you make my extremely versatile Gluten Free Dressing, you will want to make it whether it’s Thanksgiving or not.

Difference Between Stuffing and Dressing

Let’s get this part of the debate out of the way. Growing up in the south, I only ever knew cornbread dressing. My world was small, I just didn’t know it. When I met my husband’s parents and we had Thanksgiving dinner together, I found out for the first time:

  1. There was dressing in this world made out of plain white bread AND
  2. “Stuffing” was an actual thing and it was different than dressing

So What is Stuffing?

Stuffing is a literal term meaning it is anything you “stuff” into the bird before cooking. It cooks along with the bird and absorbs the juices while it roasts. It looks amazing but is actually a very unsafe practice, especially with larger birds. Due to the density of stuffing inside a bird, the innermost part of the bird and stuffing may not get cooked all the way through leading to salmonella or other food-borne illnesses. YUCK!

And What is Dressing?

Dressing is typically baked in a separate container and served as a side dish. In reality, dressing and stuffing are used interchangeably depending on geography. Outside of name, they are very similar regardless of what they are called.

Traditional Dressing Ingredients

Growing up, my grandmother used her cast iron skillet to make cornbread for dressing. She would bake celery and onions right into it. Crumbled when cool, the cornbread was combined with lots of melted butter, chicken broth and herbs then baked until it was crispy on top and soft in the middle. Even after I found out I couldn’t have gluten, I made gluten free cornbread to continue this tradition. Then one day I found out corn and other grains were literally off the table for me.

Making Cornbread Without Grains

Eliminating grains from my diet definitely posed a problem but almond flour became the perfect sub for cornbread that tastes like it has corn in it. It’s especially good with a little butter and honey. You can make the recipe below as cornbread by using the “Cornbread” ingredients omitting the herbs and use a 9 x 13 pan to bake it.

How to Make Flavor-Filled Gluten Free Dressing

This dressing is so good even my extended, very traditional “Bread Stuffing” loving inlaws have accepted and LOVED. The dressing still has all the typical ingredients – celery, onion and herbs. But over the years I have perfected it by adding more flavor and texture with sausage. Oh, and making sure to dry out the cornbread a bit before mixing to make sure there are still some cubes still intact.

Steps for Making Gluten Free Dressing

Gluten Free Dressing Variations

If you love dressing, there is no reason to relegate it to one or two days a year, you can definitely change up the ingredients to make side dish for almost any meat.

  • Southwestern Dressing – use Chorizo instead of breakfast sausage and sub chopped green chiles or jalapenos for the celery. Omit the herbs and add 2 tsp cumin and 1 tsp oregano. Feel free to add 1 cup cubed cheddar cheese to the mixture before baking and another cup of shredded cheddar to the top after baking allowing it to melt on top. Serve with smoked meats or roasted chicken or pork.
  • Italian Dressing – Use Italian sausage instead of breakfast sausage. Sub chopped red pepper for the celery. Add 2 sprigs chopped rosemary along with thyme. Serve with roasted lamb or chicken.

Make Ahead Steps for Gluten Free Dressing

You can do several steps ahead so you aren’t doing it all on the big day:

  • Bake Cornbread – Follow steps #1-3 up to 3 days in advance or bake and freeze cornbread up to a month in advance
  • Cube cornbread and let it dry out – up to 3 days in advance. If cornbread is frozen, let it thaw first.
  • Chop veggies up to 4 days in advance or chop and freeze up to 1 month in advance. In a pinch, you can buy pre-chopped veggies in the produce apartment.
  • The entire recipe can be mixed together one day in advance and baked one to two hours before dinner.

Other Thanksgiving/Holiday Recipes on Healthy Happy Real

The Make Ahead Gluten Free Dressing for Thanksgiving and Beyond

Southern Style Cornbread Dressing tastes legit! No grains included. Omit the herbs in the cornbread ingredients if you want to make plain cornbread.


  • Cornbread Ingredients
  • 2 cups almond flour

  • ½ cup coconut flour

  • 2 tbsp baking powder

  • 1 tbsp dried sage

  • 1 ½ tbsp. dried thyme

  • 1 tsp salt

  • 6 eggs, lightly beaten

  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar plus almond milk to make 1 cup

  • 4 tbsp melted butter or coconut oil

  • Dressing Ingredients
  • 2 tbsp butter or ghee

  • 6 stalks celery, chopped (reserve trimmings for turkey)

  • 1 yellow onion, chopped

  • 1 lb breakfast sausage

  • 2 sprigs fresh sage, leaves removed and thinly sliced

  • 2 cups chicken broth or more as needed


  • Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place parchment in a large cookie sheet and set aside. If you’re making the cornbread to just eat as cornbread, use a buttered 9 x 13 pan.
  • Mix the almond flour with the other dry ingredients then add the eggs, almond milk/vinegar combination and melted butter or coconut oil
  • Pour into prepared pan and bake for 15-20 minutes until golden and a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  • Let cool until you are able to handle it then cut into cubes. Let the cubes dry out for several hours in the oven with the light on.
  • When you are ready to move forward and cornbread is dry, add it to a very large bowl.
  • Heat butter in a large skillet then add onion and celery. Cook over medium low heat until softened then add to the bowl with the cornbread.
  • Add the sausage to the skillet and break apart into small pieces. Add the sage and cook until the sausage is browned through.
  • Add the sausage along with all drippings to the crumbled cornbread. I also add any extra fat skimmed from the turkey drippings if I’m making for a holiday feast.
  • Add enough broth to make it just moistened. Start with one cup and add more as needed.
  • Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.
  • Bake at 350 until the top is very brown and crispy and the middle registers 165 on a digital thermometer.

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