While some may think Thanksgiving dinner wouldn’t be complete without turkey, true side dish fans know that stuffing is the clear staple of the holiday.
People obviously love the different versions of potatoes or perfectly glazed and roasted vegetables, but something about the crisp, crunchy, moist, herby, nutty and sometimes sweet and savory mix of roasted bread, vegetables and herbs is unmistakably made for Thanksgiving.
Whether you want to call it stuffing or dressing, eat it roasted in the turkey, or prefer to prepare it in a casserole dish for baking on its own, check out the handful of delicious interpretations and detailed recipes below.
Wild mushroom filling
This wild mushroom stuffing is Gaby Dalkin’s favorite part of Thanksgiving dinner from What’s Gaby Cooking. And for a good reason.
Check out the recipe here, which combines dried French country bread with a whole pound of mushrooms and lots of aromatic herbs. Plus, Dalkin offers plenty of additional tips to tackle the recipe like a pro.
Wild rice stuffing
Foolproof Living’s food content writer Aysegul Sanford shared this gluten-free holiday side dish option that she says is “guaranteed to impress.”
“Seasoned with apples, sage, dried cranberries, and pecans, this wild rice stuffing can be served as real stuffing, as a dressing, or baked as a casserole dish,” she explained. “It’s made with a wild rice blend and is the perfect gluten-free rice dressing for turkey.”
Cornbread stuffing, but make it a taco
Sohla El-Waylly created this filling for all the Taco Bell lovers out there.
“Cornbread and ground turkey (or beef and pork, or even crumbled tofu) are topped with my patented Bell seasoning blend. The filling is baked until brown and served with all the ingredients: sour cream, grated lettuce, diced pieces of out-of-season tomatoes and of course cold grated cheese. You can make a meal out of this dish or show it off on Thanksgiving,” she wrote along with the recipe.
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons smoked paprika powder
2 teaspoons ancho chile powder (or another mild, smoky chili powder, such as chipotle)
2 pounds cornbread, cut into 1 to 1 ½ inch pieces (about 8 cups)
3 tablespoons neutral oil (e.g. sunflower or grapeseed oil), divided
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided, plus more to taste
1 pound ground turkey, pork, or beef
3 to 4 cups chicken broth, divided
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons of tomato paste
8 ounces (about 2 cups) coarsely grated cheddar cheese, divided
Diced tomatoes for serving
Grated iceberg lettuce for serving
Sour cream for serving
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Toast cumin and oregano in a small skillet over medium-high heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. Finely puree the cumin and oregano in a spice mill. In a small bowl, mix with paprika and chili powder.
Spread the cornbread on a tray, drizzle with 1 tablespoon of oil and mix everything together. Sprinkle with half the spice mixture and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and toss until evenly coated. Taste and add more salt if necessary.
Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, stirring once, until toasted and crispy. Once the cornbread is out of the oven, increase the oven temperature to 375 degrees.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat 1 tablespoon oil until shimmering. Add the ground turkey and use a potato masher or whisk to break it into crumbles. Season with the remaining 1 teaspoon kosher salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until deeply browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Add 1/2 cup chicken broth and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits. Place the mixture and all the liquid in a large heatproof bowl and set aside.
Return the skillet to medium-high heat, add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, and heat until shimmering. Add onion, garlic, tomato paste, remaining spice mix and a large pinch of salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onion and garlic are wilted and the tomato paste looks dark and sticks to the bottom of the pan, about 5 minutes. Add 1/2 cup chicken broth, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Simmer until reduced and thickened and the fat begins to sizzle in the pan, about 5 minutes. Add this mixture to the bowl with the turkey.
Add the croutons to the bowl and mix well but gently. Add enough broth to keep the bread moist but not soggy (you may not need all of it), and half the cheddar cheese. Blend the mixture, taste the mixture and add more salt if necessary. Transfer the mixture to a 3- to 4-quart baking dish.
Bake until steamy and brown, 35 to 40 minutes.
Serve hot with diced tomatoes, shredded lettuce, sour cream and the remaining grated cheese (like at a taco bar!).
Brioche chestnut filling
Food writer, cookbook author and New York Times columnist Melissa Clark shared her classic recipe from New York Times Cooking’s Sidesgiving collection.
The egg brioche bread and roasted chestnuts are seasoned with celery, onion and sage, as well as a touch of diced fennel to add sweetness and depth.
Clark’s version can be stuffed into a turkey, but she said, “It’s even better to bake it separately in a shallow baking dish so the top gets nice and crispy.” Find the full recipe here.
Pretzel and sausage filling
This take on the traditional stuffing from Chicago-based Funkenhausen chef Mark Steuer draws on his German roots to reinvent his favorite meals and memories.
“The hearty casserole gets its tasty bite from soft pretzels from the day before. While it’s excellent when baked until crispy in a pan or roasting pan, it also makes a great stuffing for poultry or pork, he said. “If using as stuffing for whole birds, I recommend adding the mixture to the cavity immediately before roasting.”
Time: 1 hour, 50 minutes
10 cups (1 pound 12 ounces) soft, day-old pretzels, cut into 1-inch-thick pieces
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
1 cup (5 oz.) carrots, finely chopped
1 cup (4¾ oz.) celery, finely chopped
1 cup (5½ oz.) onions, finely chopped
2 medium garlic cloves, minced (2 tsp)
1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound bratwurst or other mild sausage, casing removed
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup chicken broth
An 11-oz. Can of condensed cream of celery soup
Preheat an oven to 350 degrees. Spread the pretzels in a single layer on two large baking sheets, then place them in the oven and roast for 15-17 minutes, until the pretzel pieces are lightly golden brown and crispy. Place the pretzel pieces in a large bowl and set aside to cool to room temperature.
In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. When the foam subsides, add the carrots, celery, and onions, season lightly with kosher salt, and cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are tender, 12–14 minutes. Add the garlic and poultry seasoning and continue cooking until fragrant, 2-3 minutes more. Stir in the sage, thyme, parsley and black pepper, remove from the heat and add the mixture to the bowl with the pretzel pieces.
Wipe out the pan and return it to medium heat. Add the sausage and cook, stirring frequently and breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until cooked through (10-12 minutes). Transfer the sausage and any drippings to the pretzel mixture. Stir gently, then add the eggs, chicken broth and cream of celery soup. Use a silicone spatula to fold the mixture together.
Butter a 12-inch cast iron skillet or roasting pan, then add the filling, pressing it down gently with a spatula. Cover with aluminum foil, place in the oven, and bake until heated through, about 30 minutes. Open the lid and continue baking for another 20-30 minutes, until golden brown and slightly crispy around the edges.
Stuffing made from New England sausage, leeks and herbs
During the pandemic, I’ve been recreating my mom’s stuffing from across the country, a tradition I’ll be practicing again this year thanks to this complete recipe. Not only is it delicious and easy to make the stuffing a day in advance, it’s perfect as a leftover base or for adding some moisture to a post-turkey sandwich.
This story was originally published on November 20, 2021.