The Best-Kept Secrets for Perfect Homemade Stuffing

This year, make your side dishes shine. You won't be able to keep from stuffing your face!

Honestly, I’m not really sure why we only make homemade stuffing once a year. It’s so good, I can’t help but serve myself a second, heaping spoonful anytime it’s placed on the dinner table! After all, who could say no to a casserole that’s packed full of savory flavor? Not to mention the texture of those croutons, which soak up every bit of moisture to create a crunchy-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside bite filled with unforgettable flavor.

Luckily, it’s easy to make a homemade stuffing that’s so good, your family will ask you to make it all year long. Just follow these tips and tricks!

1. Use plenty of fresh herbs

If you’re only going to follow one tip from this article, make this the one. Dried herbs have their place in plenty of recipes, but stuffing isn’t one of them. Using a combination of parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme (isn’t there a song about that?) creates the ideal herbaceous backbone to support the savory flavors in the stuffing. So don’t skimp!

2. You don’t have to stuff it inside anything

We’d rather not get into the debate about stuffing vs. dressing, but technically the dish is only called stuffing if it’s (you guessed it) stuffed inside a turkey. Otherwise, it’s bread dressing. I’ve never called it that, and I’ve also never stuffed anything inside a turkey. There are some legitimate safety issues involved with cooking stuffing inside a turkey, and it also slows down the rate at which the turkey cooks. You’ll get plenty of flavor in your stuffing if you use poultry stock (preferably homemade), so don’t feel pressured to actually stuff anything.

3. Keep things simple

Some people make really complicated stuffing, adding ingredients like oysters, mixing up a 50/50 cornbread and white bread mixture or chucking in cranberries, pecans and pears. I’ve even seen sticky rice and tortilla chips in stuffing recipes! You can make your stuffing however you like, but the best versions I’ve ever had kept things simple. Bread, onions, celery, herbs, butter, broth, eggs and sausage. That’s really all you need!

4. Make your own broth

If you really want that stuffing to shine, use homemade broth. This is especially important if you’re following tip number 3! In the end, the richer the broth, the better the stuffing, so don’t be afraid to go all-out. I always have a container or two of homemade broth in the freezer for occasions like this, but you can also make an incredibly rich broth using the turkey neck.

5. While we’re at it, use homemade croutons

We know not everyone has time to make everything from scratch, so feel free to use boxed croutons if you’re feeling stressed. But, trust us: Homemade croutons will really make your stuffing shine. Any loaf of bread will work, but a country loaf, sourdough, brioche or rye loaf are my personal favorites. Cut the bread into 1-inch cubes and toss them into a 300°F oven until they’re dry and crisp, about 45 minutes.

6. Unless you’re vegetarian, don’t skip the sausage

There are some great vegetarian stuffing recipes out there, but there’s just something about the combination of sausage and sage that screams Thanksgiving! Plus, the pork fat binds with the breadcrumbs, adding an extra layer of delicious flavor. Choose the best sausage to fit your meal: spicy Italian sausage to add a nice kick to the dish, breakfast sausage for its sweet finish or smoky Andouille to create extra depth of flavor.

If you’re running short on time or oven space on Thanksgiving day, consider making your stuffing the day before. Like most casseroles, it will definitely taste better when reheated the next day. You could also pull out the slow cooker; this recipe makes an incredible, hands-off stuffing!

Stuffing recipes for Thanksgiving
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Lindsay D. Mattison
After years of working in professional kitchens, Lindsay traded her knives in for the pen. While she spends most of her time writing these days, she still exercises her culinary muscles on the regular, taking any opportunity to turn local, seasonal ingredients into beautiful meals for her family.