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Traditional Stuffing 101: Make crowd pleasing bread stuffing for your Thanksgiving feast

traditional stuffing

Stuffing is arguably one of the most important dishes served in a Thanksgiving spread. Of course there is the turkey, cranberry, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, casseroles, veggies, soups, rolls, pies, and more… but without stuffing? A good stuffing makes or breaks Thanksgiving dinner. So what do you need to know in order to make a true crowd-pleaser?

What is traditional stuffing?

Stuffing is basically a seasoned bread cube mixture of onion and herbs (sage, thyme, rosemary, and more). Traditionally, it’s stuffed inside the turkey while it is roasting, but it can also be made in a separate baking dish. Cooked outside of the bird, it is sometimes called dressing. 

How is stuffing usually made?

To start, you will need to sauté celery and onion in butter until they have softened. Then you combine those sautéed aromatics with dried bread, chicken broth, and beaten eggs. Toss until everything is well coated and moist, then bake in a dish or stuff it in the bird.

Wait, what is an “aromatic”?

In cooking, aromatics are vegetables that form the scent and flavor base of the dish you are creating. They work in the background of soups, stocks, sauces, roasts, and more. Aromatics usually include vegetables such as onion, carrot, parsnip, leeks, shallots, scallions, peppers, fennel, celery, and more.

Where do I get bread cubes?

You can, of course, buy pre-made bread cubes in a box but who wants that flavorless stuff? The key to truly amazing stuffing is in the bread used. Simply take your favorite loaf of bread, cut it into 1/2″ cubes, lay them on a baking sheet and allow them to dry. You can let them dry on their own on the counter for about 48 hours or you can toast them in the oven at a low temperature (between 275° to 325°F) until they dry out. You want your bread cubes as stale as possible so that they will absorb all the flavors you are going to add to them—the chicken broth and veggies will help moisten them.

What kind of bread should I use?

The choice of bread is totally up to you. Rustic breads like a sourdough, baguettes, or French bread impart wonderful flavors to your stuffing. You can also use softer breads such as a good white loaf, a homemade sandwich bread loaf or challah bread.

Do I need to use eggs?

Eggs are totally optional actually. They simply act as a binder and add a bit of body and richness to your stuffing.

Can I substitute poultry seasoning for the fresh herbs?

Absolutely! Fresh herbs are always better tasting but play with the spices and try some dry herbs if you prefer. Poultry seasoning tends to sell out around Thanksgiving since it is an easy and flavorful way to season many Thanksgiving dishes as well as soups, stews, and casseroles.

Stuffing versus Dressing… are they the same?

Technically yes they are the same thing. The only difference is how the dish is cooked. Stuffing is literally stuffed into the body cavity of the turkey before it is roasted while dressing is baked in the oven separate from the turkey. All ingredients are still the same.

What if I want fancier stuffing?

One of the best things about stuffing is how versatile the dish is. Try adding sausage, nuts (such as chestnuts), carrots, raisins, or dried cranberries. Maybe make yours this year with cornbread instead of your go-to loaf. You really cannot go wrong with stuffing.

Do I have to use bread to make stuffing?

Of course not! There are wild rice stuffings that are truly divine, also vegetable-only stuffing recipes, squash-based stuffing, mushroom-based stuffing, and many more.

Here are four absolutely delicious bread-based stuffing recipes to help you make this year’s Thanksgiving truly memorable.

1.) Sensational Stuffing

Traditional recipe for savory bread stuffing.  

Get The Recipe>

2.) Stuffing with Cranberry, Walnuts, and Apple

Stuffing with Cranberry, Walnuts, and AppleThe perfect combination of sweet and savory! This delicious stuffing recipe features cranberries, walnuts, sautéed apples, onions, and rosemary.

Get The Recipe>

3.) Vegetarian Cornbread Stuffing

Vegetarian Cornbread StuffingThis easy vegetarian cornbread stuffing is flavorful, moist, and soft inside, yet crispy and golden on top.

Get The Recipe>

4.) Easy Homemade Baked Stuffing

Easy Homemade Baked StuffingThis classic stuffing recipe will complete just about any meal! Celery, onions, and butter are tossed with dried bread cubes, then topped with broth and baked until hot and golden brown.

Get The Recipe>

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

What is your favorite way to cook stuffing – do you prefer in the bird or in a separate dish?

Let us know in the comments!

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