Classical type 1 dendritic cells (cDC1s) are required for antiviral and antitumor immunity, which necessitates an understanding of their development. Development of the cDC1 progenitor requires an E-protein-dependent enhancer located 41 kilobases downstream of the transcription start site of the transcription factor Irf8 (+41-kb Irf8 enhancer), but its maturation instead requires the Batf3-dependent +32-kb Irf8 enhancer. To understand this switch, we performed single-cell RNA sequencing of the common dendritic cell progenitor (CDP) and identified a cluster of cells that expressed transcription factors that influence cDC1 development, such as Nfil3, Id2 and Zeb2. Genetic epistasis among these factors revealed that Nfil3 expression is required for the transition from Zeb2hi and Id2lo CDPs to Zeb2lo and Id2hi CDPs, which represent the earliest committed cDC1 progenitors. This genetic circuit blocks E-protein activity to exclude plasmacytoid dendritic cell potential and explains the switch in Irf8 enhancer usage during cDC1 development.