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


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.


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.


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).


  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.


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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)


Should you put an egg in stuffing? ›

Eggs: Two lightly beaten eggs help hold the dressing together and add moisture. Water: You can add a few tablespoons of water, if you'd like, to achieve your desired consistency. Seasonings: This turkey dressing recipe is seasoned with salt, pepper, rubbed sage, and garlic powder.

What is the culinary term for stuffing? ›

Stuffing and dressing are commonly used as different names for the same thing—a dish consisting of bits of bread (or other starchy things) and various seasonings. The dish can be made by stuffing it (hence the name) inside a turkey or other bird that will be roasted, or by baking or cooking it separately.

How wet should stuffing be before baking? ›

The stuffing should be moist but not wet. If there is a puddle of broth at the bottom of the bowl, you've added too much. Add more bread to soak up the excess moisture. If the mix is still dry and crumbly, add more liquid and toss gently until it starts to clump together.

Is it OK to make stuffing a day ahead of time? ›

No matter where you fall, getting a head start on what can be prepared before the big day is essential. One question that always crops up: Can you make stuffing ahead of time? The short answer to whether you can making stuffing ahead of time is yes.

Can you mess up stuffing? ›

Your Bread Is Too Fresh

There's nothing better than soft, fresh bread—except for when it comes to stuffing. If you want your stuffing to hold up and not end up a soupy, soggy mess, make sure your bread is dried out or staled for a few days.

What do British people call stuffing? ›

In England, a stuffing is sometimes made of minced pork shoulder seasoned with various ingredients, such as sage, onion, bread, chestnuts, dried apricots, and dried cranberries. The stuffing mixture may be cooked separately and served as a side dish. This may still be called stuffing or it may be called dressing.

What is traditional stuffing made of? ›

Classic stuffing made with bread cubes, seasonings, and held together with chicken stock and eggs. A holiday staple!

Does stuffing have meat in it? ›

Stuffing is a mix of edible ingredients such as herbs, bread and a binder such as egg, traditionally stuffed into a meat cavity before it is cooked. Other ingredients in stuffing might be meat, nuts, butter, chopped vegetables and even fruit or oysters.

Why does my stuffing come out mushy? ›

If the stuffing came out too wet and soggy (aka bread soup!) try not to over mix it, otherwise it'll turn into mush.

Should stuffing be soft or crunchy? ›

Speaking of texture, that's what stuffing is all about--you want a mix of crispy and soft pieces. We recommend adding stock a little at a time--1/2 cup to 1 cup, depending on how much stuffing you're making--and waiting for the bread to absorb the liquid before adding more.

Does Pepperidge Farm stuffing go bad? ›

Does a stuffing mix go bad? If you mean the kind you buy in the store dry (such a Pepperidge Farm, no, it does not. It will last practically forever.

Can you use week old bread for stuffing? ›

In fact, using stale bread and fresh bread will both leave you with equal amounts of mush. The longstanding tip to use old, stale bread for the perfect stuffing is actually a myth. Letting bread go stale doesn't actually dry it out. After sitting out on your counter, bread goes through the process of retrogradation.

Why can't you refrigerate uncooked stuffing? ›

USDA recommends that you never refrigerate uncooked stuffing. Why? Remember, stuffing can harbor bacteria, and though bacteria grow slower in the refrigerator they can cause problems because stuffing is a good medium for bacteria growth, therefore a higher risk food in terms of cooking safely.

Can you prepare uncooked stuffing ahead of time and refrigerate? ›

Do not refrigerate uncooked stuffing. If stuffing is prepared ahead of time, it must be either frozen or cooked immediately. To use cooked stuffing later, cool in shallow containers and refrigerate it within 2 hours. Use it within 3 to 4 days.

What can I use instead of egg to bind stuffing? ›

Some common egg substitutes include:
  1. Mashed banana. Mashed banana can act as a binding agent when baking or making pancake batter. ...
  2. Applesauce. Applesauce can also act as a binding agent. ...
  3. Fruit puree. ...
  4. Avocado. ...
  5. Gelatin. ...
  6. Xanthan gum. ...
  7. Vegetable oil and baking powder. ...
  8. Margarine.
Mar 30, 2021

Why do we need to apply egg yolk in some dressing? ›

Egg yolks are especially recommended for their emulsifying and thickening properties in mayonnaise, salad dressings, ice cream, and baked goods, combined with their coloring properties.

How do you make stuffing moist after cooking? ›

Add Butter and Broth Before Reheating

Often upon refrigeration, the stuffing will soak up any excess moisture and will appear drier than when originally served. Depending on the amount of stuffing you plan to reheat, drizzle a few tablespoons or up to 1/4 cup of chicken or turkey broth into the stuffing to moisten it.


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