This easy sausage stuffing recipe takes a classic Thanksgiving side dish to the next level. Ground pork is sauteed with crisp vegetables and apples for a sweet and savory combination. A generous amount of fresh herbs gives an enticing fragrant aroma as the casserole bakes.
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Everyone has their favorite holiday side dish they look forward to each year. This one is mine. When I set this sausage stuffing on the table, it tends to disappear quickly! I’ve taken my classic stuffing recipe and turned it into a heartier dish. Each serving includes savory pork and bits of sweet and tangy cranberries, apples, and crunchy nuts. It’s like a full Thanksgiving feast in just one forkful.
The good news is that it’s easy to prepare, and I include a few make-ahead options to lessen the stress on the day of your big feast. The base of the recipe is dried bread cubes soaked in custard. When baked, the eggs help bind everything together while puffing up to create a light souffle texture. It’s the perfect pairing next to pieces of roast turkey and a pile of mashed potatoes.
Use a large loaf of French or sourdough bread. The light texture and airy crumb keep the casserole from becoming too dense. Sourdough adds a nice tangy flavor, which would complement the sweeter ingredients.
Typically, you use day-old bread. But it’s okay to grab a fresh loaf since we slice and dry it using a quick staling process. For convenience, if you want to use store-bought products, you’ll need 12 cups of dried bread or stuffing mix.
Drying the bread
Cut the bread into ¾-inch cubes. This size allows the starches to absorb the liquid while maintaining their shape. It’s essential to dry out the moisture from the crumb. I use the oven at 350 degrees to quickly remove the water. It only takes 10 minutes, similar to making croutons.
Driving off moisture allows the bread to make space to soak up the more flavorful chicken stock, infusing it into the stuffing. You could dry the bread five days in advance and store it in an airtight container to save oven space on the day you plan to cook.
Sausage selection and cooking
You can use any type of mild sausage consisting of pork, chicken, or turkey. And for those who like a spicy kick, use hot Italian sausage or sprinkle in some red pepper flakes or cayenne.
Cook the sausage in a large skillet over medium heat until the surface lightly browns and the meat is no longer pink. The fat drippings will add a ton of depth to the dish.
Saute the fruit and vegetables
I use chopped green apples to balance out the sweet and savory flavors. However, other types of apples like Honeycrisp or Fuji are also delicious choices. Saute them until tender with onions, celery, and garlic. These ingredients are going to add nice crisp bites throughout the stuffing.
Using fresh or dried herbs
I use a trio of fresh herbs that pair well with turkey, such as sage, rosemary, and thyme. If you only have dried options available, use half the amount called for since they are more concentrated in flavor. Herbs de Provence or pre-blended poultry seasoning also works for a quick swap. I like the addition of lavender in the French-style seasoning.
Blooming the herbs in hot fat will dissolve their fat-soluble compounds, making a more substantial taste and aroma impact. Salt and pepper help to enhance the savory taste of the ingredients.
Soak the stuffing mixture
In a large bowl, combine the sausage mixture, cranberry, walnuts, and dried bread. Pour a simple savory custard on top. For every 4 cups of bread, you need 1 large egg and 1 cup of chicken stock or broth. This combination creates an airy souffle-like custard inside the crumb while locking the pieces together in the casserole once baked.
Make sure to let the mixture sit for at least 5 minutes for the bread to soak. At this point, you can place the mixture in a casserole dish, cover it, and refrigerate it for 1 day before baking.
Bake the stuffing
To ensure that the sausage stuffing cooks all the way through and the custard puffs up, bake the dish covered with foil. This technique traps the steam and creates a hot environment, gently cooking the egg mixture. The foil prevents a rubbery texture when only exposed to the oven’s dry heat.
Remove the cover and dry out the surface for a golden appearance and some contrast in texture. I like to sprinkle some extra chopped herbs, berries, and nuts on top to add a pop of color.
What to serve this with
- Roast turkey
- Spatchcock turkey
- Crock-pot turkey breast
- Green bean casserole
- Homemade mashed potatoes
Frequently asked questions
Eggs are added to the stuffing to create a lighter and creamier texture. The egg combined with stock creates a custard that bakes inside the bread. Eggs also help to bind the stuffing together.
Pieces of diced precooked sausage can be added to the stuffing. It can be lightly browned in butter for more flavor or added directly to the stuffing mixture.
Cover for the first 20 minutes. This allows the eggs to puff up for a lighter texture. Remove the foil and bake for about 15 minutes. This helps create a more golden surface and gives texture contrast.
Checking to see if the stuffing cooks properly
The stuffing mixture contains raw eggs. Therefore it’s imperative to ensure that it’s cooked to a specific temperature. Eggs cook when they reach 144ºF (62ºC). I use an instant-read thermometer to check the center of the casserole reaches that minimum temperature. However, I usually bake to about 160ºF (71ºC) when the surface becomes golden and the center is nice and hot.
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Herb Sausage Stuffing
- 1 pound french loaf, or sourdough loaf
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
- 1 pound mild Italian sausage, casing removed
- 1 cup diced yellow onion, ¼" dice
- 1 cup diced celery, ¼" dice
- 1 cup diced green apple, ¼" dice
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 2 teaspoons chopped sage
- 2 teaspoons chopped rosemary
- 2 teaspoons chopped thyme
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ cup dried cranberries, plus more for garnish
- ½ cup walnuts, roughly chopped, plus more for garnish
- 3 large eggs
- 3 cups unsalted chicken stock, or broth
- Preheat the Oven – Set the oven rack to the lower and upper-middle position. Preheat to 350ºF (177ºC).
- Dry the Bread – Slice the bread into ¾" cubes and then spread in a single layer on two large sheet pans. There should be about 16 cups.Toast the cubes in the oven until the edges are dry and crisp, about 10 minutes, gently stirring after 5 minutes. Allow them to cool completely on the sheet pan while cooking the rest of the stuffing.
- Cook the Sausage – Heat a large 12" skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of butter. Once hot, add the sausage. Brown the surface and break it into smaller pieces. Cook until no longer pink, about 7 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl.
- Saute Vegetables and Apples – Melt 2 tablespoons butter in the pan, then add onions, celery, and apples. Saute until the vegetables and apples are tender, 7 to 8 minutes. Add garlic, and saute until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add sage, rosemary, thyme, salt, and pepper, stir and cook for 30 seconds. Transfer the mixture to the bowl with the sausage.
- Soak the Stuffing – Stir in the cranberries and chopped walnuts. Gently stir in 12 cups of toasted bread cubes. There will be extra bread to use as desired.In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs and chicken stock. Pour the liquid evenly over the bread and gently stir to combine. Soak for 5 minutes.
- Prepare the Casserole – Grease a 9×13-inch pan with vegetable oil, softened butter, or cooking spray. Evenly spread the stuffing mixture into the pan. Sprinkle more cranberries, chopped walnuts, and herbs on top if desired.
- Bake – Set the oven rack to the middle position. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake until the internal temperature reaches at least 144ºF (62ºC), about 10 to 15 minutes. Serve the stuffing warm.
- Recipe Yield: 12 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 fresh herbs (sage, thyme, and rosemary), a total of 1 tablespoon dried. You can also use poultry seasonings or herbs de Provence, add 1 tablespoon.
- Make-Ahead: Cut and dry bread up to 5 days before using. 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.
- Storing: Cool, cover, and refrigerate for up to 4 days. Freeze in a resealable plastic bag for up to 3 months.
- Reheating: Cover 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 Gluten-Free: Use gluten-free bread.
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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