Thanksgiving is my favorite food time of year, and dressing is my FAVORITE dish. It’s hearty, delicious, and surprisingly simple to make. But…did you know there is a difference between stuffing and dressing? Read below for the ultimate guide on Traditional Thanksgiving Dressing!
Thanksgiving Dressing is a mixture of dried cubed bread, savory herbs, and chopped vegetables tossed in a broth/egg/butter mixture. Often times it includes browned sausage but can include other sweet and savory options as well, including cranberries and apples.
What’s the difference between Dressing and Stuffing?
Stuffing is quite literally, stuffed in a bird’s cavity. Dressing is served as a standalone dish, normally in a baking dish. We prefer dressing to stuffing. The most important part to making proper dressing is to make sure you leave your bread out long enough to really get dried out- this will help it soak up that delicious savory egg & chicken broth liquid.
We used a loaf of French bread from our local grocery store and cubed it. To get your bread totally dry, leave it out for a day or two on a wire rack, which will allow air to circulate all the way through it. You want it to crunch like a dried up crouton. If you don’t have time to dry our your bread, place it on a sheet pan in a 200 degree oven until it is dried out. Check it often, though…You don’t want it to get too toasty.
Once you got yourself a big ole crusty pile of cubed bread, it’s time to brown the Italian sausage, then add in celery, onion, and butter along with the fresh herbs. Once the onion is translucent, remove from heat. Add the bread to a bowl, with the skillet of onion/celery/sausage/butter, and pour a mixture of eggs & chicken stock over it. Give it a good toss, ensuring the bread really soaks up the liquid evenly throughout all pieces.
Once fully mixed, pour it into a greased casserole dish and bake.
Bake covered with foil for about 30 minutes, then remove the foil and bake again until golden brown and enjoy!
More questions about this Thanksgiving staple? Let’s see if we can answer them below!
- Can I stuff my Turkey with this dressing recipe?
- We advise against stuffing your turkey in general for a few reasons. Mostly because of what Alton Brown talks about here. Also- it just plain old doesn’t add a lot of flavor to your turkey.
- Speaking of Turkey- do you have a favorite recipe?
- There are a ton of ways you can cook a turkey and have it turn out great. Food and Wine put out this list of their favorite 38 Best Thanksgiving Turkey recipes. We are a small family of 3 so instead of cooking a full turkey, we’d often do an Herb Stuffed Turkey Breast wrapped in Proscuitto. Easy cleanup, perfect amount of meat, and really just a pretty main course. You could also use a turkey tenderloin breast, they are delicious.
- Can I make this ahead of time?
- You could do everything ahead of time besides mix it up with the chicken stock/egg mixture. Do that last minute and then bake. But we really don’t recommend making this ahead of time and then reheating it- it will dry out.
- What else can I add to make this recipe unique?
- Add cubed apples; we like Granny Smith for their tartness with the bread.
- Add raisins (sounds weird, tastes great!).
- Butternut squash; even roast it with some cinnamon beforehand for a unique twist.
- Use cornbread instead of traditional French bread.
- Feeling fancy? Add carmelized onions and goat cheese for a gourmet spin.
- Saute mushrooms with garlic and 1 tbsp olive oil and add them to your mixture for a hearty flavor.
- Did you know Oysters in Stuffing is a tradition for some? Add 1 tablespoon Old Bay instead of sage; add 1/4 cup dry white wine and 1/2 cup oyster juice, use remaining chicken broth. Toss in 1 pound shucked oysters with the bread.
- Make it Italian! Use Foccacia bread, add sun-dried tomatoes, globs of mozzarella, and some pesto drizzled into your broth mixture.
- Where else can I find your favorite Thanksgiving recipes?
- You’re in luck! We list all of them here in this Ultimate Thanksgiving Side Dish Recipe guide.
- A few others we love:
Cheers to happy holidays!
We think visuals are helpful- here’s a video on how we made this dish!
Traditional Thanksgiving Dressing
- 10 cups cubed dried bread we used a loaf of french bread
- 1/2 cup salted butter
- 2 cups chopped white onion
- 1.5 cups chopped celery
- 1 lb ground Italian sausage
- 1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 tbsp chopped fresh sage
- 1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
- 1 tsp salt and pepper to taste
- 2 large eggs
- 2 cups chicken stock
- Cube bread and dry out for 1-2 days. If short on time, toast bread on wire rack in 200 degree oven, tossing every 10 minutes, until bread is fully dried out.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9x13 dish with nonstick spray.
- Sautee sausage in skillet in 1 tbsp olive oil until fully cooked (breaking apart into pieces as you cook). Once browned, add onion, celery, butter, sage, rosemary, thyme and butter and sautee until onion is translucent. Remove from heat and set aside.
- In a separate medium bowl, whisk together eggs and chicken broth.
- In a separate large mixingbowl, add bread cubes, and sausage/vegetable mixture. Pour egg/chicken broth mixture contents of bowl. Mix well, ensuring bread soaks up liquid.
- Pour dressing mixture into pregreased casserole dish. Cover with foil. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil, and bake for another 10-15 minutes or until top is golden brown, and middle is set.