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The Right Stuff: Stuffings & Dressings for Your Thanksgiving Dinner

Updated on November 17, 2017
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Exploring food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes... one ingredient at a time.

Much Ado About Stuffing

In the North, they eat stuffing, those in the South prefer the more genteel term “dressing”. Philadelphians have their “filling.”

There are regional influences as well, based on the availability of local ingredients.

  • Boston Grandmas always include oysters.
  • Mennonite moms add leftover (?) mashed potatoes.
  • In the South, it’s not a true dressing without cornbread (or bits of leftover stale biscuits. And the addition of a little salt pork would be OK too).
  • San Francisco cooks add another dimension with sourdough bread.
  • In the Great Lake States, wild rice and cranberries are so much more healthy.

And then, there is the never-ending controversy over whether or not stuffing (or dressing) is actually STUFFED.

Please stop the merry-go-round. I’m getting dizzy.

Who's To Blame?

Did the Pilgrims inflict this controversy on us? The “first Thanksgiving” has been romanticized ever since, well, the 1st Thanksgiving, or at least the proclamation of the fourth Thursday of November as a National Day of Thanks (and that happened in 1864 under the pen of President Abraham Lincoln).

Actually the story begins long before Lincoln, long before the Pilgrims, and long before explorers crossed the Atlantic.

Sometime between the 2nd and 1st centuries B.C. there was a Roman gourmet named Marcus Gavius Apicius, a lover of all the finer things in life. He is credited with compiling a cookbook, but the sources I have read doubt that he was the actual author. However, his name became synonymous with all things gourmand; Apicius de re Coquinaria was published in the late 4th or early 5th century A.D.

The aforementioned cookbook contains recipes for stuffed chicken, rabbit, pig, and (can you believe it?), even dormouse. The main ingredients in those tasty treats included (but were not limited to) vegetables, herbs, nuts, chopped liver, and BRAINS.

Thank Goodness Our Tastes Have Improved...

…or at least changed (although personally, the thought of oysters in stuffing/dressing makes me feel a bit queasy).

I don't intend to resolve this controversy. Like the polemics of Creationism vs. Darwinism, faith vs. good works, or ketchup vs. mustard on hot dogs, some beliefs can never be shaken. But what I can do is provide you with a robust sampling of the very best examples of stuffing, dressing, and filling available.

However, May I Share One More Story?

I fondly remember Thanksgiving Day dinners in our home. My brother, sister, and their children would all gather around the table with us to feast on Mom's wonderful turkey, mashed potatoes, and gravy. But then...there was the stuffing. For some "I don't know why!" reason, Mom always added raisins to her bread stuffing.

Look around the table. Every one of us would have a polite little pile of raisins on the edge of our plates (we hated the raisins!), all except for Daddy.

And so one day I asked my Dad about the stuffing. "Do you love raisins in your stuffing?" "No," he answered, "but I love your Momma."

Recipes In This Article

  • Simple bread stuffing
  • Wild rice stuffing
  • Southern cornbread dressing
  • Butternut-sausage stuffing
  • Slow-cooker stuffing
  • Stuffing in a bundt pan
  • Vegan cauliflower sage stuffing
  • Amish potato filling
  • Savannah seafood stuffing
  • Oyster stuffing
  • Mom's celery bread stuffing

Simple Bread Stuffing

This simple bread stuffing from Bon Appetit magazine is flavored with onions and fresh herbs, showing that sometimes less is more.

Wild Rice Stuffing

Kristen (IowaGirlEats) has celiac disease and so needs to remove gluten from her diet. But, don't assume that her cooking is bland and boring. She creates tasty foods for her family, like this wild-rice and dried cranberry stuffing.

Southern Cornbread Dressing

Cornbread AND stale biscuits star in this authentic southern cornbread dressing recipe from Robyn's AddAPinch blog.

Butternut-Sausage Stuffing

Can you be on a paleo diet and still enjoy a hearty stuffing? You can if you follow Michele's recipe for this side dish filled with sweet butternut squash, savory sausage, and tart apples and cranberries.

Slow-Cooker Stuffing

This slow-cooker stuffing from CookingClassy has all of the right stuff (sorry, I couldn't resist) AND it cooks in your crock pot, freeing up room in your oven for other Thanksgiving treats.

Stuffing in a Bundt Pan

Let's face it, bread stuffing tastes great but sometimes it isn't very pretty. KimsHealthyEats has found a way to turn simple stuffing into a show-stopper by baking it in a Bundt pan.

Vegan Cauliflower Sage Stuffing

This vegan cauliflower sage stuffing will surprise you. A variety if dried herbs pack it with flavor, and chopped almonds provide a satisfying crunch. Thanks to healthyblenderrecipes for this innovative recipe.

Amish Potato Filling

Pamela (the BrooklynFarmGirl) is a "recipe maker, urban farmer, vegetable grower, film director, mama to 5 cats, and she makes a mean dish of Amish potato stuffing

Savannah Seafood Stuffing

This recipe from SpicySouthernKitchen for seafood stuffing proves that you really can have it all. Imagine fresh vegetables, wheat bread, corn bread, herbs, spices, shrimp and crab all in one delectable dish?

Oyster Stuffing

This recipe appeared in the final issue of Gourmet Magazine:

Ingredients

  • 4 cups coarse fresh bread crumbs (from 8 slices firm white sandwich bread)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 dozen shucked oysters (preferably medium; halved if large; about 1 cup), drained if necessary and gently patted dry

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F with rack in middle. Butter a 2-quart shallow baking dish.
  2. Spread bread crumbs in a 4-sided sheet pan and bake, stirring occasionally, until golden-brown, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool slightly.
  3. Whisk together eggs, cream, milk, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, parsley, and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Gently stir in oysters and bread crumbs.
  4. Pour into baking dish and bake until custard is set and top is golden, 25 to 30 minutes.

Cooks' note: Bread crumbs can be toasted 3 days ahead and kept in an airtight container at room temperature.


Mom's Celery Bread Stuffing (Without the Raisins)

And finally, here is the recipe for my mom's bread stuffing. She always used day-old bread. If your bread isn't stale, you can dry the cubes in a 200 degrees F oven for about 1 hour.

Ingredients

  • 10-12 cups of day-old bread cubes (this is about 1 loaf)
  • 3/4 cup butter or margarine
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 4 stalks celery, finely minced
  • 2 teaspoons poultry seasoning
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 to 1 cup turkey broth

Directions

  1. Place bread cubes in large mixing bowl; set aside.
  2. Melt butter or margarine in large saute pan over medium heat. Add onions and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened. Stir in seasonings.
  3. Pour onion/butter mixture over bread cubes. Toss to coat. Taste for seasoning.
  4. If mixture seems dry, add a bit of broth.
  5. Makes enough stuffing for a 12-pound bird, or bake in a greased casserole dish and bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes.

© 2017 Linda Lum

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    • k@ri profile image

      Kari Poulsen 3 weeks ago from Ohio

      Yes I do. :)

    • Carb Diva profile image
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      Linda Lum 3 weeks ago from Washington State, USA

      Kari - Thank you for your sweet comments. My mother always "stuffed", but I must refrain because, although they love stuffing (especially mine) both of my daughters are vegetarian, so the stuffing dare not come in contact with turkey flesh. I should probably take the time to post MY recipe, don't you think?

    • k@ri profile image

      Kari Poulsen 3 weeks ago from Ohio

      Linda, You are so clever! I love that first header. The poem is one of the best Thanksgiving poems ever. Especially the with to keep it off your thighs, lol. I didn't see where you weighed in on the to stuff or not to stuff controversy. Personally, I always stuff then cook the leftover in a pan. :)

    • Carb Diva profile image
      Author

      Linda Lum 3 weeks ago from Washington State, USA

      Angel, thank you for your kind words. I'm game for just about anything except for the oyster stuffing (but that's just me). We had the wild rice stuffing last night, putting it in acorn squash after mixing in a bit of turkey sage sausage. A complete meal of solid comfort food on a cold stormy night.

    • Angel Guzman profile image

      Angel Guzman 3 weeks ago from Joliet, Illinois

      These recipes look amazing!

    • Carb Diva profile image
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      Linda Lum 3 weeks ago from Washington State, USA

      Eric, you have a very ready, willing, and able little helper at your side. I hope you and he find a recipe you like, work on it together, and then can sit back and be amazed.

    • Carb Diva profile image
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      Linda Lum 3 weeks ago from Washington State, USA

      Mary, don't wait for a special celebration. Have some chicken tonight and whip up some stuffing to have on the side instead of potatoes (hmmm, I think that's the tag line to an advertisement for Stove Top stuffing).

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 3 weeks ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      I don't think I have eaten stuffing/dressing in far over 20 years. I am just prejudice against the stuff.

      Now I feel lousy about that. "Decision prior to investigation." I bet I missed some really good ones. So thanks to you I am sworn to make it and eat it on the wonder filled day of thanks.

      Savanna for me!

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 3 weeks ago from Brazil

      Oh how I miss a good stuffing. LOL

      When I lived in the UK everyone made it using a box and it wasn't even chunks of bread, more like crumbs.

      For holiday meals, it was one of my favorite parts and then one year, my mother decided to expand her repertoire and added oysters. Let's just say, the following year, we were back to our normal stuffing.

    • Carb Diva profile image
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      Linda Lum 3 weeks ago from Washington State, USA

      Bill, for once you and I an in agreement. I want simple bread stuffing. Onions and celery, no frills or embellishments. Have a wonderful day dear sir.

    • Carb Diva profile image
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      Linda Lum 3 weeks ago from Washington State, USA

      Thanks Flourish - Isn't it amazing how one simple food can bring back so many memories? That's why I write about food as I do.

      Food (like songs, your specialty) capture our senses and help us record emotions. It's one of those things that connects us, unites us, and gives us common ground.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      As you might guess, I have simple tastes regarding stuffing. The less ingredients the better for me, but I'm the only member of the family who feels like that, so I usually just grin and bear it. Or is that bare it? Nah, I'll go with bear. :) Happy Tuesday my friend.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 weeks ago from USA

      This was wonderful! I can’t imagine oysters in my stuffing either, but that’s a matter of personal taste. My husband’s late mother had a special recipe similar to the bread stuffing that I always make for him. It brings back memories for him, and my father and sister love it too. All I can remember about when my mother in law would make stuffing was how people would dig in and snack on it before it was fully baked. OMG. I’d skip it after seeing how many mouths had touched it before it even got to the table. I’m a bit of a clean freak that way.

      I enjoyed seeing all of the various types of dressings and comparing what was in them. Loved that last little poem too.