Our Customizable Recipe Will Help You Make Perfect Stuffing Just the Way You Like It (2024)

Many lovers of stuffing think it's the best part of the Thanksgiving feast, and aren't afraid to admit that it isn't the turkey they look forward to each year. Whether you're learning how to make stuffing for the first time or have made this classic side dish many times before, our recipe will give you the confidence to experiment with new flavor combinations.

Most stuffing has the same foundation: bread. Cornbread comes in as a close second. Once you have the basic formula down, you can try adding different flavor pairings to change up your stuffing. Try adding different vegetables, mushrooms (both fresh and dried will work), fresh or dried fruits, such as apples or dried apricots, and fresh or dried herbs or spices. Even the liquid you use to bind the stuffing can be varied, including stock, water, eggs, or wine. Once you've mastered this basic formula for stuffing, the possibilities really are endless.

Classic Stuffing

Stuffing or Dressing?

Although the terms stuffing and dressing are often used interchangeably, stuffing typically refers to cooking the mixture inside the cavity of the turkey, which is what we'll show you in this guide. Taking this route means that your stuffing will be tender and moist, infused with the juices and any rendered fat from the bird as it bakes inside the turkey. Dressing, on the other hand, is baked in a casserole or shallow dish, and it will have a crisper top from being exposed more directly to the heat of the oven.

Key Ingredients of Stuffing

Bread

The most popular base for stuffing is bread, with cornbread a close second. This recipe calls for white bread or cornbread. Whichever you use, be sure to cut it into cubes and leave it out overnight before making the stuffing. Stuffing requires slightly dry/stale bread—if the bread is too fresh it will soak up all the liquid.

Meat

Adding meat to a stuffing gives the dish more flavor and heft, but it's an option, not a required ingredient. Use ground pork or beef, or sausage meat removed from its casings. Alternatively, use cured meat, such as ham, which will add a decidedly different flavor, and will not require any cooking before adding to the stuffing.

Herbs and Spices

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As you season with herbs and spices, taste frequently and adjust accordingly to get a result you like. Used sparingly, dry mustard and cinnamon are good choices. Cayenne pepper and cumin add heat, whereas paprika and turmeric provide color.

Fruits, Nuts, and More

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  • It might sound unusual, but fresh or dried fruits are great additions to a stuffing. Think fresh apples, pears, or oranges, or dried apricots, cranberries, or raisins.
  • Reconstituted dried mushrooms, pine nuts, walnuts, and hazelnuts add heft.
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano imparts richness and bite.

Binders

The most important ingredient of stuffing may be the binder, which keeps all the other elements in place. For a fluffy texture, use eggs. Stock is the most-used binder. Less conventional possibilities include fruit juice (such as apple or orange) and alcohol (wine or liqueur).

Directions

  1. Prep bread:

    If using white bread, cut it into 1/4- to 1/2-inch-thick slices and set out overnight to dry. Break into 1/4-inch cubes once dried out.

    If using cornbread, break 1/2-inch slices into 1-inch pieces.

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  2. Prep other ingredients:

    Chop a variety of vegetables and fresh herbs, and set out liquid. (For exact amounts, refer to our Basic Bread Stuffing recipe.)

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  3. Sauté the meat:

    Sauté sausage, pork, or beef until cooked through, and remove from skillet with a slotted spoon.

  4. Sauté the vegetables:

    Sauté the chopped vegetables. (We used a mix of celery and onion, which gets cooked in the rendered fat from the meat until they are softened. You can also use butter or olive oil to sauté them.)

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  5. Combine meat, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and bread:

    Combine the cooked meat with all the vegetables, fruit, nuts, and bread. Toss to combine.

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  6. Season:

    Add herbs, salt, and pepper. Toss again.

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  7. Add liquid:

    Add the liquid. Taste and adjust seasoning. If using egg, adjust seasoning first, then decrease any other liquid and add three beaten eggs.

    Toss just until combined.

    Do not overmix, as this will produce a gummy texture.

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  8. Stuff the turkey:

    Stuff turkey just before roasting it. Use 1/2 to 3/4 cup stuffing for each pound of turkey. Don't pack stuffing tightly; it expands as it cooks.

    Use a thermometer to ensure that the stuffing reaches 165°F; remove as soon as turkey comes out of oven. Bake any extra stuffing in a covered buttered baking dish at 375°F until it's heated through and the top is golden, 30 to 40 minutes.

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    If you prefer to cook the stuffing in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish instead of inside the turkey, follow the baking instructions from our Basic Bread Stuffing recipe.

Variations

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Once you're familiar with this recipe, try something new. Start with the same bread or cornbread base, but mix it up with your choice of complementary flavors, such as citrus rind and fruit juice, or those that contrast, like pecans and dried cherries. You can experiment with a variety of colors and textures, too. For best results, include plenty of vegetables, herbs, and spices in your stuffing.

The vegetables add nuance to the flavor of the stuffing and can change its texture, depending on how they are cut and whether they are cooked before being added. Fennel gives a note of sweet anise; mushrooms yield an earthy flavor and a meaty texture.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it better to make stuffing with soft or dry bread?

Always use dry bread, not fresh or soft bread for making stuffing. Dry, slightly stale bread will keep its texture better after you add the broth or other binder. If you use fresh bread, it will soak up all the liquid and you'll end up with soggy, mushy stuffing.

What type of bread makes the best stuffing?

We prefer to use an unsliced white bread for this stuffing recipe. Its neutral flavor is a good base for the stuffing, Prepackaged sliced white sandwich bread is too soft, but a white pan loaf, country loaf, Italian bread, sourdough or even brioche all work well.

Other Stuffing Recipes to Try:

  • Test Kitchen's Favorite Stuffing
  • Smoked Oyster and Bacon Stuffing
  • Cornbread and Sausage Stuffing
  • Vegan Stuffing with Mushrooms and Leeks
  • Susan's Peach Stuffing
  • Tomato-Olive Stuffing
Our Customizable Recipe Will Help You Make Perfect Stuffing Just the Way You Like It (2024)

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