Homemade stuffing is the perfect side dish for your Thanksgiving dinner. Cubes of dried herb-infused bread pair nicely with a big plate of turkey and vegetables. Good news! -you can make many parts of this recipe ahead of time.
Table of Contents
With all the stress of preparing for a big holiday meal, it’s nice to have a few easy dishes on your to-do list. This Thanksgiving stuffing recipe combines fresh herbs, bread cubes, and colorful chopped vegetables for a flavorful side dish. Your guests are going to love having it alongside roasted turkey.
The components are simple; dried bread cubes, aromatics, and a liquid custard. Once baked, the eggs set and create a souffle-like texture. If you’re tight on stove and oven space, you can bake the bread in advance, assemble everything the day before, and chill until ready to bake and serve.
Grab a fresh French bread or sourdough loaf; you know, the large ones used to make garlic bread. The crumbs are light and airy, which makes for a stuffing that’s not too dense. Buying a large loaf and then cutting it down allows you to control the cube size.
I recommend buying about a 1-pound loaf, available at most grocery stores. The cubes will shrink down after drying, so it’s better to have extra. Typically, day-old white bread works best, but I use a fast oven-drying technique to stale the bread.
Cut and dry the bread
Cut the bread into ¾-inch cubes to keep the structure intact once soaked. If the pieces are too small, the texture becomes similar to store-bought boxed options with fine-sized crumbs that usually make a mushy mess.
Baking at a moderate 350ºF (177ºC) will quickly stale the bread and remove most moisture. I use a similar technique when making homemade croutons. Look for them to turn dry and crisp but not overly brown. Let them cool on the warm sheet pan to dry out further. If you’re tight on time, you can purchase dried cubed breadcrumbs. You will need about 16 cups.
Saute the aromatics
To build a flavorful breading stuffing base, saute the vegetables and herbs in a large skillet. The chopped onions and celery cook in hot butter to bring out their natural sweetness and add a light browning on the surface for more flavor.
This process also helps the fat-soluble compounds in the minced garlic, sage, rosemary, and thyme to enhance the butter’s taste. This process is called blooming. The herbs unlock many more aromatic oils.
Substituting dried herbs for fresh
You can easily substitute dried herbs for sage, rosemary, and thyme. Although, use half the amount called for since the dried products are more concentrated. Pre-blended poultry seasonings consist of a good swap. It contains various herbs like thyme, sage, marjoram, black pepper, and nutmeg. Use 1 tablespoon.
Add a savory custard
Mix whole eggs and chicken broth or stock in a large bowl to bind the bread cubes together. For every 4 cups of dried bread cubes, you need 1 large egg and 1 cup of liquid. This ratio creates a tender, airy custard structure that does not become curdled and rubbery in texture after baking.
Let the bread soak for at least 5 minutes before baking to absorb the egg mixture. Transfer the stuffing to a 9×13-inch baking dish. At this point, you can cover it with foil and refrigerate it for up to 1 day before baking. You may need to extend the bake time as the mixture will be cold.
Bake the stuffing
Cover the casserole dish with foil and bake for 20 minutes. This technique will allow the eggs to cook in a steamy environment trapped under the foil. Once you remove the cover, the surface will dry and create a nice contrast in texture.
It’s important to bake this classic stuffing recipe until the center reaches at least 144ºF (62ºC). This is the temperature that eggs cook and are no longer raw.
What to serve this with
Dry the bread for better flavor absorption
Fresh bread contains a lot of moisture and must be dried; otherwise, the stuffing texture will be soft. Once dried, the newly created spaces in the crumb act like a sponge, soaking up the flavorful liquid molecules from the custard’s seasonings.
- 1 pound french loaf, or sourdough loaf
- ¼ cup unsalted butter, or olive oil
- 1 cup diced red onion, or yellow onion, ¼" dice
- 1 cup diced celery, ¼" dice
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 2 teaspoons chopped sage
- 2 teaspoons chopped rosemary
- 2 teaspoons chopped thyme
- 1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 3 large eggs
- 3 cups unsalted chicken stock, or broth
- Toast Bread – Set the oven rack to the lower and upper-middle position. Preheat to 350ºF (177ºC). Slice the bread into ¾-inch cubes and then spread in a single layer on two large sheet pans. There should be about 16 cups of cubes.Toast the cubes in the oven until the edges are dry and crisp, about 10 minutes, gently stirring after 5 minutes. Allow it to cool completely on the sheet pan while cooking the aromatics. The bread will completely dry out.
- Saute Aromatics – Heat a large 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Melt the butter in the pan, add onions and celery, and saute until tender, 5 to 6 minutes. Add garlic, and saute until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add sage, rosemary, thyme, salt, and pepper, stir and cook for 30 seconds.
- Combine Bread & Aromatics – Transfer 12 cups of the toasted bread to a large bowl. There will be extra bread to use as desired. Transfer the sauteed aromatics to the bowl. Add parsley and garlic powder and gently stir to combine.
- Soak Bread – In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs and chicken stock. Pour the liquid evenly over the bread, and gently stir to combine. Allow soaking for 5 minutes.
- Bake Stuffing – Set the oven rack to the middle position. Grease a 9×13-inch baking dish with vegetable oil, softened butter, or cooking spray. Evenly spread the stuffing mixture into the dish.Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake until the internal temperature reaches at least 144ºF (62ºC) and the surface is slightly dry, about 15 to 20 minutes. Serve warm.
- Recipe Yield: 8 cups
- Serving Size: 1 cup
- Substituting store-bought bread: Use 12 cups of dried bread cubes instead of fresh bread loaf.
- Using dried herbs: Use half the amount of the fresh herbs (sage, thyme, and rosemary), a total of 1 tablespoon dried. Poultry seasonings can also be used; add 1 tablespoon.
- Make-ahead: Cut and dry bread up to 5 days before using, and store in an airtight container. Combine all of the stuffing ingredients, cover, refrigerate, and bake within 1 day. Bake covered for 30 minutes, then remove and bake until the internal temperature reaches at least 144ºF (62ºC) and the surface is dry.
- Reheating: Cool the baked stuffing, cover, and refrigerate. Warm individual portions on high power in the microwave in 30-second intervals until warm. Alternatively, heat in a 300ºF (149ºC) oven until warmed through.
- Make it DAIRY-FREE: Substitute olive oil for butter.
- Make it GLUTEN-FREE: Use gluten-free bread.
- Make it VEGETARIAN: Use unsalted vegetable stock or broth instead of chicken.
Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.
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