Let's get one thing out of the way: Whether the dish we're discussing is called "stuffing" or "dressing," and whether those terms actually refer to the same dish or two different ones, is a topic of hot debate, but frankly, we don't care all that much. Here's what we do care about: a moist, savory, bread pudding–like dish, covered in crispy nubs on the outside and fluffy and custardy inside, studded with bits of meaty sausage and fragrant sage, chewy dried fruits, crunchy nuts, or any other seasonal add-ins that strike our fancy.
All in all, stuffing just might be our favorite part of the Thanksgiving table, and we take it pretty seriously around these parts. That's why we've taken the time to develop recipes for all your stuffing needs. The collection below includes classic white-bread and cornbread stuffings, old-school oyster varieties, and a completely vegan (and completely delicious!) version, just for starters. We also have a few, shall we say, novelty options for the true stuffing enthusiast: pull-apart stuffing-flavored rolls, latke-crusted stuffing fritters with a gooey cranberry-sauce core, and crispy-on-the-outside, tender-on-the-inside stuffing waffles. Read on and start salivating.
This tried-and-true recipe featuring aromatic sage and hearty sausage is easy to make your own by choosing a different type of bread. Though we prefer white breads for the rich, custard-like texture they lend to the stuffing, whole-grain breads will impart their own nutty flavor. Regardless of which you like, oven-dried bread is always a better option than stale bread if you want the best results.
Under most circumstances, we prefer a Dutch oven or pressure cooker to a slow cooker, as Kenji has explained at length. But stuffing is one realm in which slow cookers perform superbly. If your Thanksgiving menu plans mean that oven space will be hard to come by, consider this method, which requires only a bit of extra counter space and time, and produces stuffing that's terrifically moist on the inside and well crisped on the surface. The recipe is almost identical to the classic formula we give above, though you can also add chopped nuts or dried fruit for extra flavor.
Cook stuffing in a muffin tin? Why not? It's an approach with two distinct advantages over using a traditional casserole: You'll get 12 perfectly portioned servings out of each tray, and each serving will have an unbeatable ratio of crispy edges to moist interior—and those crispy edges are exactly why we all love stuffing, right? One batch of our Classic Sage and Sausage Stuffing should translate to at least 20 stuffin's.
This is hands down our favorite way to use up leftover stuffing (if you're blessed with such a rare gift): Pressing stuffing in a waffle iron yields a tremendous expanse of crisp surface area, pocked with little wells that just cry out to collect gravy, and a modest amount of tender center. Can't count on leftovers in your household? Just be sure to make extra stuffing, and whip up a few of these on Thanksgiving Day.
If you're planning to make a cornbread-based stuffing this year, put aside your personal stance in the sweetened-versus-unsweetened battle and choose our Southern-style cornbread, which will give you the savory base you need. Here, we lightly toast the cornbread chunks before folding in sausage, fresh herbs, aromatics, and homemade chicken stock. For a more complex flavor profile, try other traditional mix-ins, like mushrooms or chestnuts.
Oysters may be thought of as a luxury these days, but early New Englanders had more of them than they knew what to do with. That's how this dish came about hundreds of years ago, and though it's now a relative rarity, it's worth a revival: The brininess of the oysters boosts the savoriness of the stuffing without adding any obvious seafood-y flavor, much like a dash of fish sauce in a pot of French Onion Soup. We combine them and their liquor with cubes of toasted white bread, sausage, fragrant fennel and tarragon, aromatics, and stock for an out-of-the-ordinary stuffing that will surprise you in a good way.
Oysters are just as tasty in a cornbread stuffing as in a white-bread one, and this recipe combines the best of both our oyster dressing with fennel and our Southern-style cornbread dressing. Here, we've altered the latter to incorporate aromatic fennel and tarragon, working in the anise flavor that pairs so well with oysters. There's no need to shuck fresh oysters for this—canned ones will work fine.
This festive stuffing was created to accompany rich, flavorful roast goose, but it works just as well with any other poultry, turkey included. Tart Granny Smith apples, sherry-soaked prunes, and chopped chestnuts add sweet flavors to balance out the savory ones, while a pinch each of cloves and nutmeg warms it up just a bit.
Traditional stuffing recipes tend to be far from vegan-friendly—ours calls for butter, eggs, chicken broth, and sausage! But by swapping in plant-based ingredients that offer comparably savory flavors, you can indeed make a great stuffing that's 100% vegan. This recipe replaces the chicken stock with our homemade Hearty Vegetable Stock and replicates the meatiness of sausage with earthy browned mushrooms. Toasted pecans do a good job of absorbing all the flavorful juices and help bulk up the stuffing's texture besides.
No vegans at your Thanksgiving table this year? Try enriching your stuffing with a purée of fatty chicken livers. We know, we know—it sounds extreme—but blending the sautéed livers with stock and eggs results in a rich, creamy liquid that soaks into the bread and leaves your stuffing far meatier than any sausage-based version. If you can, save some stuffing for the next day—when served cold, it bears a striking resemblance to pâté.
A few years back, we had the bright idea to make an entire Thanksgiving dinner based on fast food. When it came time to develop a stuffing recipe, there was no question on what we'd use as our base: We're unabashedly crazy about the buttery, tender biscuits from Popeye's. Sure enough, oven-drying the biscuits into a crouton-like state and cooking them with Italian sausage, fennel, herbs, and aromatics produces a stuffing so good, you'd never guess its fast food roots.
No, there's no actual stuffing in these golden rolls. That part of the name comes from the flavorings—classic stuffing seasonings and add-ins, like sausage, onion, celery, and sage, which we fold into pizza dough, then rise and bake in a casserole. (Essentially, it's a holiday-themed version of our Easy Pepperoni Garlic Knots, for stuffing fanatics only.) The result is a moist, fluffy bread that's as fun to pull apart as it is to eat.
Akin to a stuffing-flavored hush puppy, these light, savory fritters, flavored with onions, celery, apples, and herbs, are ideal for serving as a Thanksgiving appetizer. If you like, adjust the recipe to reflect your personal taste in stuffing ingredients—sausage, cranberries, nuts, and mushrooms are all solid mix-ins.
True, none of us will be alive for the next Thanksgivukkah event, but just because Thanksgiving and Hanukkah don't overlap this year doesn't mean that their traditional foods can't mix and mingle. These over-the-top (read: slightly insane) fritters are a mashup of the two holidays' best dishes, with stuffing on the inside and a crispy latke coating on the outside. The best part? Well, it's either the little molten glob of tangy cranberry sauce hidden inside each fritter, or the hot schmaltz gravy we serve alongside. You decide which.
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