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Whether you call it stuffing or dressing, it must be delicious
Learn how to prepare one of Thanksgiving’s standout dishes.
One of the staples on Thanksgiving tables across the country is stuffing. It is arguably one of the standout dishes on Turkey Day, and whether you are stuffing the turkey or serving it as a side dish, everyone can agree that there must be stuffing on the Thanksgiving table. Some argue that if it's not used to stuff the bird, it must be called dressing. But whatever you call the mixture of seasoned bread cubes and vegetables, we can all agree that it must be delicious.
There are a few options for how to prepare stuffing. If you want to make stuffing from scratch, you must leave several days ahead of time for the bread to dry out. Alternatively, to speed up the drying-out process, you can cut the bread into cubes and spread them in an even layer on a baking pan and bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes until slightly toasted. Then add sautéed vegetables, herbs, and chicken stock and bake in the oven for about 30 minutes. Some prefer to use cornbread instead of white bread. Any of these types of bread will work—you could even use gluten-free bread. For a quick and super easy alternative, simply use a store-bought stuffing mix, which can be ready in less than 10 minutes. Check out our list of the best store-bought stuffing mixes to make sure you choose the right brand.
So, what are the stuffing options? Frist, you can stuff the turkey. Remember if you are taking this route that the stuffing inside must be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees and this often requires a longer cooking time. Some argue that juices from the uncooked turkey can seep into the stuffing and therefore create the danger of salmonella poisoning. So for a safer route, you can cook the stuffing (or dressing) separately in a casserole dish.
Follow some of these tips and make sure that you make the standout dish right this holiday. For interesting twists on serving and using leftover stuffing, check out a few of these recipes.
Emily Jacobs is the Recipe editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @EmilyRecipes.
For more turkey talk, head over to The Daily Meal's Guide to Thanksgiving
How to Make Better Stuffing
Next to the turkey the stuffing is one of most important components of Thanksgiving. But, to get technical, if you want to call it stuffing, it should be baked inside the cavity of the turkey. “For me, stuffing is something that you actually stuff inside something, such as quail, chicken or turkey everything else we consider dressing,” says executive chef Joe Cervantez of Brennan’s of Houston.
Still, the terminology can be a regional thing. “Growing up in Michigan, I used to hear family and friends refer to stuffing as what was cooked inside the bird, and dressing was cooked outside [the bird] in another vessel,” says Jason Bamford, executive chef at the Epicurean Hotel in Tampa, Florida. “If you go south of the Mason-Dixon line, it’s all dressing.”
Whatever you call it, stuffing — and moist stuffing at that — is a must-have on any Thanksgiving table. Typically, baking the stuffing inside the bird helps keep the mixture moist. “I prefer stuffing (in the bird) to dressing (outside of the bird) because all those delicious drippings that come off the turkey gets absorbed right into the stuffing,” Bamford says. For a how-to primer on stuffing your bird, watch this stuffing tutorial.
If you’re cooking your stuffing outside the bird, there are two key ingredients for ensuring that the stuffing stays moist: fat and, yes, moisture. In stuffing recipes, fat is usually synonymous with butter, but turkey drippings can add an extra flavorful dose of fat, while olive oil can be subbed in for a vegan-friendly option. According to Cervantez, another trick for adding a double dose of fat and flavor to your stuffing is to incorporate Parmesan cheese. If your recipe calls for bacon, be sure to incorporate the rendered fat drippings into the stuffing mixture as well. Get the best of both worlds with this Bacon Parmesan Stuffing recipe.
You’ll also need to add in plenty of liquid moisture, such as chicken, turkey or vegetable stock, but white wine or Madeira also makes a flavorful complement to stock. Don’t believe us? Try The Best Stuffing recipe (pictured up top), which calls for a half-cup of white wine (plus stock) to keep the wild-mushroom-sausage stuffing moist.
Bread is another key consideration to ensure moist stuffing. “The type of bread you use is the roadmap to how much moisture you need to add to your stuffing,” says Bamford. “You should always add a little at a time, so each dose has the opportunity to get absorbed and [pulled] together. Kelly Bianchi, Wynn Las Vegas’ executive chef of catering and special events, advises testing out a small batch in a ramekin or small baking dish before baking the whole recipe to ensure that you have the right liquid-to-bread ratio. Working with day-old or toasted bread helps to ensure maximum moisture absorption. So, with the proper ratios of fat and stock, the choice of bread really comes down to personal preference and chefs aren’t afraid to play favorites.
Bamford pledges allegiance to cornbread. “It’s the perfect flavor for the fall,” he says. “I like to make cornbread and giblet dressing with sage. If I feel like making it extra special, I add in a little foie gras.”
Two sage-forward cornbread stuffing recipes to try include Katie’s Cornbread Stuffing (pictured), which also incorporates other herbs such as thyme, parsley and rosemary, and Anne’s Sausage Cornbread Stuffing, which pits finely chopped fresh sage against spicy sausage crumbles. Cornbread is a key component of classic Oyster Stuffing, which stays moist thanks to a combination of melted butter, dry white Vermouth and reserved oyster liquor. Ree’s seasonally on-point Cornbread Dressing with Pancetta, Apples, and Mushrooms marries tart-sweet Granny Smith apples with mushrooms, pancetta and buttery cubes of cornbread. For an extra dose of corn flavor, Michael pulls in fresh corn kernels for his corn-and-ham-studded Cornbread Stuffing.
“I like to use a good toasted ciabatta cut into a large crouton,” says Bianchi. “Ciabatta has a nice texture that absorbs the stock while also holding its shape. It has a bit of sour note—it’s not as strong as a sourdough but has just enough depth in flavor.” Try Giada’s Ciabatta Stuffing with Chestnuts and Pancetta or this Rosemary Focaccia Stuffing with Pancetta (which also calls for ciabatta) both recipes get an extra flavor jolt thanks to the addition of crisp pancetta and aromatics cooked in the rendered fat.
Derek Herre, chef de cuisine at Rhubarb in Asheville, defaults to brioche. “I believe that it makes a softer, more tender stuffing,” he says. “I have Crohn’s disease, so gluten is not something I eat often. Holidays are usually a treat for that, so I choose the most delicate, softest and tastiest bread possible.” This Mushroom Brioche Stuffing doubles down on the fluffiness factor by calling for a cup of heavy cream in the liquid mixture.
“I love a good sourdough loaf. The bread has a nice crust with a hearty crumb that will give the outside a good crunch while soaking up as much fat and stock as you can get into it,” says Sean Fogarty, executive chef of Steenbock’s on Orchard in Madison, Wisconsin. For a nice effect, pull in sourdough for Ina’s crowd-pleasing Sausage and Herb Stuffing.
Step 1: Select a Starchy Stuffing Base
Most holiday stuffing mixes use croutons, as in the classic stuffing recipe, which is a perfectly acceptable shortcut. It also goes to show that you can choose any form of cubed, dried out bread - as long as it soaks up stock and seasonings without getting overly soggy. It's a great use for day-old loaves, which you can purchase from any bakery at a reduced price. Or just use whatever you have laying around the house!
You&rsquoll never go wrong with a crusty white bread (hey look, you can even prepare this sausage stuffing recipe in a slow-cooker!). But why not think outside of the stuffing box, by using hearty whole wheat, rustic rye or pumpernickel raisin, which will really highlight the sweet and savory qualities that are frequently at play with turkey stuffing?
Try your hand at this artisanal version of this holiday classic - this bread stuffing with apples and sausage feature all the seasonings you've come to love, like thyme, rosemary, and parsley.
Then there&rsquos that southern-style favorite, cornbread stuffing. It lends a different texture &mdash crumbly instead of chewy &mdash but brings plenty to the party as far as flavor is concerned. Corn is also believed to be one of the original foods enjoyed on the first Thanksgiving.
Plus, this version is a smoky yet sweet, hearty twist on traditional corn stuffing it features brown sugar bourbon sausage baked in with the buttery goodness of crumbled cornbread.
That said, there&rsquos no rule that you even need to use bread at all. Not only is rice a naturally gluten-free choice, but it also has a nutty quality that pairs perfectly with classic holiday ingredients. We especially love this Thanksgiving stuffing recipe, which mixes brown and wild rice with creamy butternut squash and crunchy toasted pecans.
How to Make Box Stuffing Taste Great
While we've included a recipe below, the beauty of starting with boxed stuffing mix is that you can really make it your own!
Must-Have Ingredients for Semi-Homemade Stuffing:
- Boxed Stuffing – first, you'll need a 6-ounce box of stuffing mix, or you could even use plain stuffing croutons since we will be throwing out the seasoning package. We used this boxed stuffing for gluten-free.
- Spices – you can choose between either 1 tablespoon of minced fresh herbs (such as sage, fresh thyme, and rosemary) OR 1 teaspoon of dried herbs here.
- Eggs – we recommend using an egg to bind everything together!
- Stock – you'll also need 1 1/2 cups of chicken (or turkey!) stock. The higher-quality your stock, the better your stuffing will taste!
- Butter – of course, it isn't Thanksgiving without butter! 2 tablespoons of melted butter poured over top of the stuffing gives it a delicious crispy golden crust.
More Boxed Stuffing Additions
You can pick a few of these, or add multiple!
- Protein – 1/2 pound of breakfast sausage, Italian sausage, or even cooked and crumbled bacon (about 6 strips) work great here!
- Veggies – Using fresh onion and garlic instead of onion and garlic powder go a long way toward making this stuffing taste truly homemade. Diced celery, shallots, and carrots are also great additions!
- Fruit – about 1/4 cup of dried cranberries or 1/2 cup of fresh give a pop of tangynesss and sweetness with each bite. Dried figs would also make an unexpected sweet addition!
- Cheese – mix in about 1/2 cup of shredded parmesan for a fun cheesy spin on traditional stuffing!
- Mushrooms – mushrooms are another great stuffing addition. Simply saute them with your other veggies before mixing everything up.
- Nuts – about 1/2 cup of pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts, or pine nuts adds a wonderful flavor and satisfying crunch!
Welcome! You're just in time to learn the crucial difference between "stuffing" and "dressing" here in Turkey Terminology 101. While the two may look and taste quite similar and the terms are often used interchangeably, stuffing is cooked inside the turkey, while dressing is made in a separate casserole dish. Unless you're an expert chef, it is much safer to make dressing on the side, to avoid contaminating it with undercooked poultry, or overcooking your turkey while trying to get your stuffing to cook inside. Like the final look of a stuffed turkey? Go ahead and stuff it at the last minute, once everything is cooked to code. After all, no one is thankful for Salmonella.
Our Favorite Buttery Herb Stuffing.
Seriously, it’s our favorite stuffing and the only one I make now. The edges are golden and crunchy, the inside is soft. It’s wildly flavorful and buttery and filled with herbs and most importantly, a delicious neutral flavor that truly goes with any meal.
Stuffing is by FAR my favorite side dish. In fact, Thanksgiving is alllll about the side dishes for me. Each one gets better than the last. And yes, technically this would be considered dressing since I’m serving it outside the bird.
You can use this to stuff the bird if you wish. I’ve done it both ways, because we have a few family members who loved stuffing from inside the turkey.
I also think it’s a fairly regional thing? No one here calls stuffing “dressing” – really ever! It’s always stuffing, and that’s what I grew up with.
But that’s neither here nor there. I wanted to share my favorite best stuffing recipe with you today because we’re all about the classics this year. I want my Thanksgiving plate to taste like it did all those wonderful, comforting cozy years ago.
P.S. yes this is one of very few recipes you will find where I use celery. I still loathe it, but find it an important building block of flavor in stuffing!
My mom has always made delicious stuffing. It’s completely traditional and classic because as I’ve said every year, my family absolutely loses it if there is an unconventional dish on the table. I mean, remember the one year I tried to bring butternut squash lasagna?
Did not go over well.
But really, my mom’s stuffing is so good. This recipe is a modern twist on hers – very similar ingredients, but more fresh herbs. Also, still lots of butter. LOTS. It’s worth it! It’s Thanksgiving, and butter gives you that toasty, rich flavor with the crispy crunchy edges.
This recipe feeds about eight people, but I’ll be the first to tell you that in my house, stuffing always goes first. It’s one thing that people usually take seconds of, and it’s the one dish they also want to take home for leftovers! So because of that, I never mind making a lot.
If you’re scaling down your celebration this year, I’m happy to tell you that this recipe can be cut in half easily! And if you’re feeling more people, you can easily double this too. Honestly, I always double this for the reasons above. I liiiiive for stuffing.
If you have leftover stuffing…
I suggest using it for a breakfast hash skillet with eggs. I’ve also successfully thrown it in a waffle maker to create a stuffing waffle. Now that is incredible.
You can use it on a Thanksgiving leftover sandwich, stuff in inside of bell peppers or simply freeze it to bring it our on a chilly night in winter. It’s the best dinner time treat!
Now I know that I’m all about the classic stuffing this year. But if you’re craving more variety, I have quite the selection to choose from. Last year I showed you how to make this but grilled the bread , which adds a really great twist.
I’ve also done slow cooker stuffing before too, in case you don’t want to really bother with it!
And, this double bread stuffing recipe that so many of you use every year and love!
This Is The Easiest Stuffing Recipe You Will Find On The Internet
For many, stuffing has stolen the show from turkey and pumpkin pie as the unofficial best dish of Thanksgiving. But if I am being honest, the simplicity of this tasty side dish makes me wonder why more people don't think to come up with an easy stuffing recipe for just one person, so it can be enjoyed in a single serving at any time — even when it's not Thanksgiving. After all, stuffing is the best way to not only use up leftovers, but to also enjoy the best flavors of autumn. Plus, making stuffing barely requires "real" cooking skills, so it's super simple to put together.
Like mashed potatoes for one, you might argue that it is easier to make delicious stuffing from a box. But if you have the ingredients on hand, there is just no excuse. It calls for basics like bread, eggs, and butter, which you probably already have — in addition, you will also need vegetable, chicken, or beef broth, but even milk will do just fine. This recipe also calls for onion and celery, but you can feel free use whatever veggies you have in the refrigerator so you can really make this recipe your own. When you think about it, stuffing is basically perfect for reducing food waste.
Seriously, this easy stuffing recipe is excellent to keep in the back of your mind when a sudden craving for Thanksgiving food pops up. And whether you are spending Thanksgiving alone or just love a tasty homemade side when it's not Thanksgiving, you will be glad you learned how to make it.
- 3 pieces day-old or lightly toasted bread
- 1/4 cup chopped onion
- 1/4 cup chopped celery
- 1/4 cup dried cranberries
- 1/4 cup chicken broth
- 1 egg
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 teaspoon spices of your choice
- 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
Before starting, pre-heat the oven to 250 degree Fahrenheit.
1. Tear the bread into crouton-sized pieces. Place in a bowl and set aside.
2. Over medium heat, saute the chopped celery and onion in butter.
3. Continue until lightly browned and the onions are clear.
4. Combine the cooked celery and onion, dried cranberries, minced garlic, and spices in the bowl with the bread. Toss together.
5. Add the broth to the bowl.
6. Lightly beat one egg and fold into the mixture. Make sure the bread is evenly coated with egg.
7. Place in a small oven-safe container, such as Pyrex bowl or mini cake pan. Bake until the bread turns crispy, about 15 to 20 minutes.
Top it off with fresh herbs and dig into the beauty of stuffing for one.
Remember, stuffing is one of those foods that has a ton of room for customization, so don't be afraid to make it yours. Use your favorite ingredients, or whatever is left in the refrigerator! Here are some tasty ideas to get you started:
Classic Thanksgiving Stuffing
Yield: 8 servings
prep time: 15 minutes
cook time: 1 hour 5 minutes
total time: 1 hour 20 minutes
This will be the only stuffing recipe you will ever need! So much fresh herbs and so buttery. It’s simply the best EVER!
- 1 (16-ounce) loaf sourdough bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 (16-ounce) package breakfast sausage
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 sweet onion, diced
- 2 celery ribs, diced
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage leaves
- 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 2 1/2 cups chicken stock
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly oil a 9 x 13 baking dish or coat with nonstick spray.
- Spread bread cubes in a single layer on a baking sheet. Place into oven and bake until crisp and golden, about 10-13 minutes set aside.
- Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add sausage and cook until browned, about 5-8 minutes, making sure to crumble the sausage as it cooks. Drain excess fat transfer sausage to a paper towel-lined plate.
- Melt butter in the skillet. Add garlic, onion and celery, and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 4-5 minutes. Stir in parsley, sage, thyme and rosemary until fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Remove from heat stir in bread and sausage season with salt and pepper, to taste. Stir in chicken stock until absorbed and well combined. let stand 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until liquid is absorbed.*
- Spread bread mixture into the prepared baking dish. Place into oven and bake until top is browned, about 30-35 minutes.
- Serve immediately.
*This can be made 1 day ahead. Let cool cover and chill.
Did you Make This Recipe?
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1. Make Your Own Croutons
Resist the packages of seasoned bread stuffing cubes—we found their taste overpowering and a little chemical-y, and their shape too uniform. We got the best results from hand-tearing bread into 3/4-inch pieces and slowly drying it out in a low oven. You might be tempted to crank up the oven to speed up the job, but as we learned from this Cider, Bacon, and Golden Raisin Stuffing, the low temperature and longer bake time helps the bread get really dry all the way through without getting too much color. This prevents the crouton exteriors from over-browning and the interiors turning to mush during when you bake the stuffing. And the hand-tearing technique? That gives your stuffing tons of craggy, crunchy texture.
7 Show-Stopping Stuffing Recipes That Prove Why It's the Most Essential Thanksgiving Side
There are two types of people in this world: those who sleep on their stuffing recipe, and those who don't. Which side are you on?
While your prized turkey recipe may get most of the recognition come Thanksgiving Day, there are several other key components of this meal that make it worthy of being the nation&aposs biggest food holiday every year. Take mashed potatoes for instancen you imagine a tablescape without them? Cranberry sauce, gravy, roasted root veggies, and pumpkin pie are also all mandatory. But if you forget the stuffing𠅊ka the hero of Thanksgiving dinner—there will be a price to pay. Call it the sleeper side, see if we care. Stuffing is a non-negotiable: it&aposs carb-loaded, comforting, and filled with soft chunks of warm bread, toasty nuts, and dried fruit. It&aposs pretty easy to make, too. Here, our seven favorite stuffing recipes for Thanksgiving dinner. (Oh, and while the words “leftover stuffing” might sound like an oxymoron, it does happen. Find our collection of recipes for leftover stuffing here.)
Think of this simple stuffing recipe as your blank canvas. It's made from the classic combination of onions, celery, and sage—we also added white wine for brightness and a clean finish. Go ahead and use your standard white sandwich bread or swap it out for rustic sourdough, seeded rye, or torn challah (yes please).
This delicious stuffing recipe gets an extra sweet-and-spicy kick from Italian sausage, crisp chopped Granny Smith apples, and an entire quarter-cup of fresh sage.
There's no reason your non-carnivorous friends and family members should have to avoid the stuffing. This delicious recipe uses cremini (or Portobello) mushrooms, cooked chestnuts, and vegetable stock in place of meat-heavy ingredients.
This stuffing recipe is made with sourdough bread, which gives it a deliciously toasty tang. If desired, you can add bacon bits, pecan pieces, and fresh thyme for a heartier dish.
A delicious stuffing recipe shouldn’t require you to spend all day chopping and stirring. There are mashed potatoes to make and birds to roast! Enter this speedy sage apple stuffing, which only takes 20 minutes of hands-on time.
These flavors are perfect for celebrating fall: there are butter-crisped sage leaves tucked into each bite, sweet Italian sausage bits, and diced apples to lend a hint of sweetness without dragging the flavors too far in the direction of dessert. Dotting the top of the stuffing with butter before it goes into the oven ensures every bite has a bit of crave-worthy crust.
Golden raisins give this sausage and parsley-scented stuffing recipe a hint of sweetness. Don't forget to add the leeks, which will lend a smooth, earthy aroma.