The BEST traditional Thanksgiving Stuffing recipe is easy to make dried bread cubes, sausage, diced vegetables, and chicken broth.  It’s a great side dish to make ahead of time and it definitely tastes best homemade!

Pair this easy homemade stuffing with our popular turkey recipe, homemade rolls, and Thanksgiving pie.

Homemade stuffing in a casserole dish with a wooden spoon.

A really good traditional stuffing recipe is absolutely essential on Thanksgiving, and this recipe has been tried and tested by hundreds of dinner guests over the years.

What makes it soo good? First, it has the traditional stuffing flavors that everyone loves from the combination of herbs, vegetables and ground sausage. Second, it’s light and fluffy, NOT gloopy, or mushy. No one likes soggy stuffing and I’m excited to share my best tips for avoiding common stuffing mistakes many people make. Third, it’s even more flavorful made ahead of time, saving you precious time on the busy day!

Difference between Stuffing and Dressing:

Although you could use the exact same ingredients to make both stuffing and dressing, it’s technically called “stuffing” when it’s stuffed and cooked inside of a turkey and “dressing” when it’s baked separately, in a casserole dish.

However, you will hear people generally call it “stuffing” when referring to the separately baked side dish (except those in the Southern United States who are passionate about their “dressing”).

I don’t recommend stuffing this recipe inside of a turkey, because by the time the stuffing heats to a safe temperature that you can eat it (165 degrees F), the turkey meat is usually overcooked.

Good Ingredients are Essential for Good Stuffing!

Remember these tips when you’re at the store shopping for stuffing ingredients:

  • Veggies: Look for crisp, fresh celery, carrots and onion, and not limp, soft vegetables. Look for brown spots or signs of rotting.
  • Bread: This may be the most important ingredient of all.  You want to buy hearty, slightly dense white bread for stuffing. If you can purchase freshly baked white bread at a bakery, that’s a great option, or Artisan or French bread will work.  Just be sure to avoid bread that is airy and flimsy or overly soft, like Wonder bread or similar sandwich breads.  Airy bread will soak up a lot of the chicken broth and result in mushy and soggy dressing.
  • Broth: Higher quality chicken broth will simply taste better.  I would recommend using better than bouillon chicken base, homemade broth,  or Swanson’s chicken broth.
Close up photo of stuffing and a wooden spoon holding up a spoonful.

How to make Stuffing:

Cut and dry bread. With a sharp serrated knife cut the loaf of bread in 1/2” cubes using 3-4 pieces of bread at a time. Try not to smash the bread too much as you cut. Spread bread cubes out onto a baking sheet to dry out. Leave them on your counter for 2-3 days, OR, put them in a 200 degree oven for 1-2 hours to dry, tossing occasionally.

Dried bread cubes on a baking sheet.

Dice the veggies and herbs. Finely dice the onion and celery. Grate the carrot and squeeze it out tightly inside a paper towel. Mince the parsley and sage.

Brown the sausage. Break it into small pieces with a wooden spoon as it cooks. Drain all of the grease and pat the sausage with paper towels to remove grease.

Skillet with cooked sausage and a bowl with bread cubes, sausage and parsley.

Cook veggies. In a large sauté pan melt the butter on medium heat. Add the onions and celery and cook 2-3 minutes until translucent. Add the carrots and cook for another 2 minutes. Add the sage and gently stir in, allowing the sage to wilt and release its flavor.

To a large bowl, add dried bread cubes, sausage, parsley, and cooked veggies and butter. Gently toss to combine.

Slowly pour chicken broth. Start with 1 ½ cups of the chicken broth and drizzle it very slowly all over the bread mixture, stirring gently as you go. It is important not to pour the liquid in all at once or it will make soggy spots in the bread. Add more chicken broth as needed, until all of the bread is lightly moistened, but not overly wet.

Saute pan with chopped veggies and a bowl with the veggies, dried bread cubes and chicken broth poured in.

Bake. Pour stuffing into a greased 9×13 inch pan or similar size casserole dish. Cover with aluminum foil. Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 10-15 minutes.

Overhead photo of white casserole dish with sausage stuffing baked in it.

Store leftover stuffing in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.  Reheat in the microwave.

Stuffing Variations:

  • Vegetarian stuffing:  Leave out the sausage, no substitute needed.
  • Vegan stuffing: Omit the sausage, use 2/3 cup of canola oil in place of the butter, and substitute vegetable broth for chicken broth.
  • Add Dried fruit: I recommend dried cranberries, or raisins.
  • Add nuts: Pecans, walnuts, or pine nuts are best.
  • Vary the Bread: you can use other types of dry bread or artisan bread for stuffing.  Just be sure the bread is dense, quality bread and not airy soft bread that will cause your stuffing to be soggy. You can also use cornbread to make cornbread dressing.

Make-Ahead and Freezing Instructions:

To make ahead:  Stuffing can be made in advance, and in fact, I recommend preparing it one day in advance to give the flavors time to settle.  The bread for stuffing can also be dried out 2 weeks in advance.

To make 1 to 2 days ahead of time, prepare the stuffing and pour into casserole dish, but don’t bake it.  Store it, covered, in the refrigerator. Remove the stuffing from the refrigerator 30 minutes prior to baking to allow it to come to room temperature. Bake at 35oF for 30 minutes.  Don’t miss my list of make-ahead Thanksgiving recipes.

To freeze: Add prepared stuffing to a freezer safe dish and cover well with alumium foil. Freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge, then bake as directed, adding 10-15 minutes to the bake time, if needed.

If you’re planning Thanksgiving dinner, be sure to check out my tips for making several Thanksgiving recipes ahead of time so that you can have a fancy meal and still relax on your holiday!

Sausage stuffing in a baking dish with a wooden spoon lifting up a serving.

Don’t miss my other traditional Thanksgiving Dishes and Pies! Some of my favorites include:

Recipe

Homemade stuffing in a casserole dish with a wooden spoon.
Prep 15 mins
Cook 40 mins
Bread drying time: 2 hrs
Total 2 hrs 55 mins
Add to Meal Plan

Ingredients
 
 

  • 1 loaf hearty white bread* , cut into 1/2' cubes (12 cups fresh or 10 cups dried)
  • 1/2 yellow onion , finely diced (about 1 cup)
  • 1 medium carrot , grated
  • 3-4 stalks celery , finely diced (about 1-½ cups)
  • ½ lb ground sausage
  • 3/4 cup butter*
  • 1/4 cup finely minced fresh parley
  • 3 teaspoons finely minced fresh sage
  • 2- 2 1/2 cups Chicken broth* , or stock (you may need up to 2 ½ cups total broth)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper , to taste

Instructions
 

  • Cut and Dry Bread Cubes. With a sharp serrated knife cut the loaf of bread in 1/2” cubes using 3-4 pieces of bread at a time. Try not to smash the bread too much as you cut. Spread bread cubes out onto a baking sheet to dry out. Leave them on your counter for 2-3 days, OR set your oven to 200 degrees F and place them in the preheated oven for 1-2 hours to dry, tossing them occasionally.
  • Chop veggies. Finely dice the onion and celery. Grate the carrot and squeeze it out tightly inside a paper towel.  Mince the parsley and sage.
  • Cook Sausage. In a saute pan, brown the sausage breaking it into small pieces as it cooks. Drain the sausage well and pour it onto a paper towel to soak up any excess grease.
  • Cook veggies. In a large sauté pan melt the butter on medium heat. Add the onions and celery and cook for 2-3 minutes until translucent. Add the carrots and cook for 2 more minutes. Add the sage and gently stir in, allowing the sage to wilt and release its flavor.
  • To a large mixing bowl: Add the dried bread cubes. Sprinkle the fresh parsley on top, and add the cooked and drained sausage. Toss to combine. Pour sauté pan with the butter and veggies over the dried bread cubes and sausage and toss to combine.
  • SLOWLY add chicken broth. Start with 1 ½ cups of the chicken broth and drizzle it very slowly all over the bread mixture, stirring gently as you go. It is important not to pour the liquid in all at once or it will make soggy spots in the bread. Add more chicken broth as needed, until all of the bread is lightly moistened, but the mixture is not overly wet. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  • Add to casserole dish. Pour stuffing into a greased 9×13 inch pan or similar size casserole dish. Cover with tinfoil.
  • Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 10-15 minutes.
  • Store leftover stuffing in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. 

Notes

Bread: For best results, use heavier white bread (possibly from the grocery bakery), not light and airy sandwich bread, like “Wonder bread”. The bread cubes can be dried out and stored in a resealable bag at room temperature up to 2 weeks in advance. The time it takes for bread to dry on the counter will largely depend on where you live and the humidity of the environment (bread will dry much quicker in the dessert). Three days should be long enough for most locations.
Butter: Salted or unsalted butter will work. If using salted butter, use low sodium chicken broth, and add additional salt later, if needed.
Make Ahead Instructions:  Stuffing can be made in advance, and in fact, I recommend preparing it 1 to 2 days in advance to give the flavors time to settle.  The bread for stuffing can also be dried out 2-3 weeks in advance. 
To make 1 to 2 days ahead of time, prepare as directed but don’t bake it.  Store it in a covered casserole dish or ziplock bag in the refrigerator.  Before your Thanksgiving meal, remove the stuffing from the refrigerator and allow it to sit on the counter for about 30 minutes (as it comes to room temperature). Then bake at 350 F for 30 minutes.
To Freeze: Add prepared stuffing to a freezer safe dish and cover well with aluminum foil. Freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge, then bake as directed, adding 10-15 minutes to the bake time, if needed.
Vegetarian stuffing:  Leave out the sausage, no substitute needed.
Vegan stuffing: Omit the sausage, use 2/3 cup of canola oil in place of the butter, and substitute vegetable broth for chicken broth.
Add-in Ideas:
  • Dried fruit: I recommend dried cranberries, or raisins.
  • Nuts: Pecans, walnuts, or pine nuts are best.
  • Various types of bread: My personal preference is old fashioned white bread for traditional white stuffing, but you can use different flavors if you’d like. You could even use cornbread to make Cornbread Stuffing.

Nutrition

Calories: 320kcalCarbohydrates: 30gProtein: 9gFat: 19gSaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 44mgSodium: 835mgPotassium: 242mgFiber: 2gSugar: 4gVitamin A: 1368IUVitamin C: 9mgCalcium: 169mgIron: 3mg

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I originally shared this recipe October 2019. Updated November 2021.

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About The Author

Lauren Allen

Welcome! I’m Lauren, a mom of four and lover of good food. Here you’ll find easy recipes and weeknight meal ideas made with real ingredients, with step-by-step photos and videos.

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Unbelievably good and easy! Used the whole pound of Jimmy Dean Regular sausage, didn’t drain to add more flavor. Also included about a teaspoon of fresh thyme. Thank you for this recipe! For bread I used Pepperidge Farm Farmhouse Hearty White Bread, worked beautifully, especially using convection setting on the oven.

  2. I’m doing my last minute recipe searching and came cross yours. Then I’ll head to the store to get the ingredients. I wonder what kind of sausage did you use?

  3. Wonderful baked turkey recipeII I was dreading the turkey thing. The I discovered your recepie! Herbed butter is so much better that store bought. I used it on my stuffed mushrooms and wow!!

    1. They definitely make a big difference in taste, but if necessary you can substitute dried (sub 1 teaspoon dried sage and 2 tablespoons dried parsley).

  4. Can I use homemade coconut bread? I know coconut likes trapping moisture and can be dense. I was wondering if it would be a good choice.

  5. If I use gluten free bread for this, do I need to adjust the liquid? GF bread tends to be more dense but never dried it so I’m not sure what it’s like.

  6. 5 stars
    I have made this several times now. This is the absolute best stuffing recipe! It’s simple, easy to put together, so flavorful, and I love that you can make it in advance. Love, love your recipes!

  7. To make the recipe vegetarian you also need to substitute vegetable stock for chicken stock. It’s not vegetarian if it has chicken stock.

  8. I cook Thanksgiving dinner the last 27 yrs. my wife likes me doing it. It was always very good. I stubbed on ur entire recipe on line. I read it about 4 times to make sure I got it! I cant wait to Thanksgiving morning to start, going to be great!! Thank u so much!

  9. Lauren, thank you for all your great recipes. I have never ‘commented’ on any recipe before, but after reading your story I had to smile Your dressing recipe is almost the same as mine. The only difference is that I don’t add the carrots. I even make my gravy the same except I baste my turkey half way through the cooking time with a bottle of beer. It really gives the gravy a rich flavour. When it comes to my mashed potatoes and gravy, I make a ‘lake’ for that perfect gravy.

  10. Lauren, the bread recipe is quick & the results delicious. I use the bread after a few days for bread crumbs for dressing or in meat loaf. You can season the crumbs & are so tasty! Thank you for sharing your reciipes!

  11. 5 stars
    Literally the best stuffing I’ve ever had. I will never go back to stovetop. Lol. I used a wide french bread loaf cause my store was out of hearty white, but it was still amazing. 10/10

    1. 5 stars
      I believe she says to dry the bread out on a tray for a couple days or in the oven if needed sooner. Then store in a resealable bag after the bread is dried out.

  12. Excited to try this! For the make ahead version, do you still bake it for 30 min, uncover tinfoil and bake an additional 10-15 min? Baking for 40-45 minutes total? Or are you baking uncovered only, for 30 minutes?
    Thank you!

    1. If you make it ahead of time you can still bake it as the recipe suggests! You are really just baking it to warm it, so depending on the depth of your pan, or how cold the stuffing is to begin with, you can decide how long you think it needs. Start with 30 minutes.

  13. In stead of baking the stuffing in a casserole dish can I stuff my turkey with it ? If so I’ll try it next time with turkey or chicken. I’ll let you know it turned out.

  14. Jimmy Dean sausage is the worst sausage! It’s waaay too greasy & full of fat. I bought it ONCE, cooked it, and threw it all out. I’d never feed that to my family.

  15. 5 stars
    I’m honestly a newbie cook and this was really easy to make! My dad usually doesn’t like stuffing but he enjoyed this recipe so much! Can’t wait to make it again for thanksgiving

  16. 4 stars
    Hey Lauren,
    I was going to make this recipe ahead of time but wasn’t sure if it was going to be soggy the next day so I ended up making this the day of thanksgiving. It was yummy. I added cranberries and one diced Golden Delicious Apple. I think next time I will try it with Sage Sausage instead of regular.

  17. 5 stars
    Made this for the first time, so delicious! The entire family loved it! Love that the recipe was simple and quick 🙂

  18. 5 stars
    Obsessed with this stuffing! I make stuffing every year and this is by far my favorite. I love the shredded carrots, simple tastes, but super yummy!

  19. What about using Pepperidge farms dried bread cubes? Would you recommend it as apposed to buying bakery bread. Also, if we are buying bakery bread, how many loaves of bread would you need for 12 cups?

    1. Hi Shari, yes you can use pepperidge farms bread cubes! (I like drying my own better) You will need one regular loaf of bread. Enjoy!

  20. 5 stars
    I tested this recipe before the big day and it was soooo good.  I used the oven method to dry out my bread crumbs (I purchased hearty white bread from Great Harvest) and I couldn’t believe how easy and yummy this was.  Never using stovetop again 🙂 …well at least for Thanksgiving.

    1. I’m so happy to hear that Julie! Thank you for commenting–I hope all of your guests LOVE it for Thanksgiving!