Follow Our Step-by-Step Guide to Make Perfect Stuffing Every Single Time
It's the most important Thanksgiving side. Follow our formula to learn how to make stuffing. You'll find that it's easy and the possibilities are endless.
Many lovers of stuffing think it's the best part of the Thanksgiving feast. In fact, many will tell you that stuffing—not the turkey—is what they really look forward to when the holiday rolls around. Do you fall into this camp? Whether you've made this classic side dish many times before or are new to the stuffing game, this guide will give you all the information you need to make delicious stuffing every time. What's more, with our help, you'll find the confidence to mix up the formula with your favorite flavor combinations, meaning you'll be able to make stuffing to go with any meal you like.
Although the terms stuffing and dressing are often used interchangeably, often stuffing refers to when the mixture is cooked inside the cavity of the turkey, which is what we'll show you in this guide. Taking this route means that your stuffing will 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 another shallow dish, and it will have a crisper top from being exposed more directly to the heat of the oven.
Most stuffing has the same foundation: bread. Cornbread comes in as a close second. This guide to how to make stuffing explains how much bread or cornbread you'll need and how to prep it. Experiment by adding favorite flavor pairings to your stuffing once you've got the basic formula down. You can 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, from stock or water to eggs to wine. Once you've mastered our basic formula for stuffing, the possibilities really are as endless as your imagination.
What You'll Need
- 1 one-pound loaf of bread set out overnight (or 1 1/2 pounds cornbread)
- 4 cups (2 pounds) chopped vegetables
- 1 cup fresh herbs, predominantly parsley, sage, and thyme
- 2 cups or less liquid (or 3 eggs)
- 1 pound meat
- Butter and/or olive oil
- 4 cups or less fruit, vegetables, and nuts
- 3 tablespoons seasoning
Prep the 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.
If using cornbread, break 1/2-inch slices into 1-inch pieces.
Prep the Ingredients
Chop a variety of vegetables and fresh herbs, and set out liquid. For exact amounts, refer to our Basic Bread Stuffing recipe.
Sauté the Meat
If you plan on using meat in your stuffing, cooking it will be the first step: Sauté sausage, pork, or beef until cooked through, and remove from skillet with a slotted spoon.
Sauté the Vegetables
Next, sauté the chopped vegetables. Here, we use 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.
Put It Together
Combine the cooked meat (alternatively, use cured meat, such as ham) with all the vegetables, fruit, nuts, and bread; toss to combine.
Add herbs and salt and pepper; toss again.
Add the liquid; taste and adjust seasoning. If using eggs or raw oysters, adjust seasoning first, then decrease any other liquid and add three beaten eggs.
Toss just until combined, do not overmix as this produces a gummy texture.
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 degrees F; remove as soon as turkey comes out of oven. Bake any extra stuffing in a covered buttered baking dish at 375 degrees until heated through and top is golden, 30 to 40 minutes.
Once you're familiar with this formula, 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. Either way, you'll end up with a stellar stuffing. Use 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 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.
Herbs and Spices
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
It might sound out of the box 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 not only richness but bite.
The most important ingredient of stuffing may be the binder, for it 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).