Gone are the days of pale, pasty stuffings inside overcooked turkeys and chickens. Say hello to the Stuffing recipe of your dreams!
Soft, custardy bread on the inside, crunchy golden on top, this sausage stuffing is loaded with pork sausage, apple, pecans, celery and the perfume of fresh herbs. An incredible combo of flavour and textures!
BEST Stuffing recipe ever!
And today, it is still the best stuffing I’ve had in my life. So I decided it’s high time to share it here!
Yes, I’ve tinkered with it slightly over the years. (I tinker with everything, I can’t help it). But it still remains very true to its original roots. I even shared mini Pancetta Stuffing Cups years ago using the same recipe.
And after making multiple promises last year to share my favourite stuffing recipe, I thought I’d better finally come good!
Stuffing vs Dressing
Technically, stuffing cooked inside turkey / chicken is called “stuffing” whereas stuffing cooked separately like this one is called “dressing”. But generally, people just call it “stuffing” either way (yours truly included!)
Why don’t you stuff this INSIDE chicken or turkey??
We all love the idea of stuffing inside turkey, but it poses a serious health hazard unless you overcook your turkey. Here’s why:
- Health authorities globally recommend that turkey and stuffing be cooked to 74°C/165°F for safe consumption;
- Stuffing inside the turkey cooks last ie after the turkey meat is cooked, which means by the time stuffing reaches the required temperature, the turkey meat is overcooked (even if it’s brined – as I found out first hand!);
- Why does stuffing have to be fully cooked too? Because it’s porous, and it gets soaked with raw turkey juices inside the cavity. So it absolutely must be fully cooked before being consumed, whether the stuffing has meat in it or not; and
- If you’re wondering if you can cook the stuffing meat to help it along – yes you can but it won’t help. It still gets soaked with raw turkey juices when it’s in the oven so it needs to come to 74°C/165°F again.
Reminder: overcooked turkey is really (really!) dry because turkey is such a lean cut of meat!
The answer? Make your stuffing this way – in a separate dish! (Besides, it’s so much tastier….)
What goes in stuffing
Here’s what you need. The sausage adds tons of rich flavour into this stuffing (and the cream and butter helps too ).
Best bread for stuffing? I truly believe stuffing is better made with ordinary white bread. Sandwich bread, French bread, baguettes, loafs, bread rolls – anything as long as it’s plain and it’s not a chewy, super crusty (expensive!) artisan bread.
I’ve tried stuffing with artisan breads like good quality sourdoughs and you know what? They are too hard and chewy for stuffing. Your grandma will struggle!
How to make stuffing
3 easy steps:
- lightly toast the bread to give it more structure so it doesn’t turn into mush – no need to use stale bread here!
- brown the sausage meat, then sauté the onion, apple and celery and mix with liquids and herbs;
- mix it all together, ensuring the bread is completely soaked through, then bake until golden!
I like to brush the top with extra butter towards the end for extra butteriness. Don’t tell my trainer
What it tastes like
This stuffing recipe is a sensational mash up of textures and flavours. You get:
- crunchy buttery golden bits from the surface (which is why I would never cut off the crust – the crust is the best bit!);
- moist, custardy soft bread on the inside that’s soaked up all the flavour;
- intense, juicy (oily!) golden bits of sausage littered throughout;
- barely identifiable little pieces of fresh tart-sweet apple and savouriness from the onion and celery; and
- subtle hint of flavour from fresh sage and thyme. It’s not overpowering, it’s in the background – enough to know something is there (most people can’t pick the herbs), and you’d miss it if you left it out (my rule is that you can leave ONE herb out but not both!).
It is very rich. I want to eat a bowl this big. ↓↓↓ But I can’t. Well, I could. But it would be too much!
When and what to serve with stuffing
Typically associated as a side dish you’d serve at Thanksgiving or Christmas alongside turkey, roast chicken or pork (basically, anything that you’d traditionally associate as things that you can stuff with stuffing!), and I’ve heard many people declare that it’s their favourite thing on the menu.
That’s a very big call. But sometimes I wonder if I’m in that camp too.
Here’s a few Thanksgiving and Christmas centrepieces that would be ideal served alongside this stuffing:
Christmas and Thanksgiving Mains
Though honestly? You could just serve this to me for Christmas lunch and I’d be one happy gal. Yep, it’s that good! – Nagi x
Watch how to make it
Recipe video above. Still the BEST stuffing recipe I’ve had in my life, adapted from this brilliant recipe by Hapa Nom. It’s got it all – golden, buttery crunchy top, soft and moist inside, big bold pops of salty sausage melded with juicy little bits of tart apple, a hint of crunch from pecans and subtle perfume from sage and thyme. The ultimate combo of flavour and textures. Amen!
- 8 heaped cups plain white bread (, crust on, cut into 2.5cm / 1 “ cubes (~600g/1.2lb) (Note 1))
- 500g/ 1 lb pork sausages (, good quality (Note 2))
- 50g/ 3 tbsp butter (, unsalted)
- 1/2 onion (, finely diced)
- 1 large celery stalk (, sliced 3mm / 1/8” thick)
- 1 granny smith apple (, skin left on, diced into 0.5 cm / 1/5” cubes)
- 1/3 cup pecans (, roughly chopped (Note 3))
- 1 cup (250 ml) chicken stock/broth (, low sodium)
- 1/3 cup (85 ml) cream (, heavy / thickened (low fat also ok))
- 1 tbsp fresh sage (, finely chopped)
- 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
- 1/4 tsp each salt and pepper
- 30g / 2 tbsp butter (, melted (extra for brushing))
- Thyme leaves, small sage leaves, chopped parsley (, optional garnish)
- Preheat oven to 160°C/320°F.
- Spread bread out on tray (squished is fine). Bake for 8 minutes until lightly toasted – pale gold ok, should be soft on inside but crispy on outside. Transfer into large bowl.
- Meanwhile, place about 1 tsp butter in a large skillet over high heat. Once melted, add sausage and cook, breaking it up as you go.
- Once cooked with a few golden bits, pour over bread (yes, including all the fat!).
- Return skillet to stove, turn down to medium. Add remaining butter. Once melted, add onion, cook 2 minutes.
- Add celery and apple, cook for 3 minutes.
- Add pecans, chicken stock, creamy, sage, thyme, salt and pepper. Stir.
- Bring to simmer, then cook for 2 minutes, then pour it into the bowl. Mix well, ensuring all the bread is evenly coated. Get in there with your hands if needed!
- Taste and add more salt if needed (depends on saltiness of sausage).
- Transfer into a 2 litre / 2 quarts baking dish. Cover with foil, bake 40 minutes.
Remove foil, brush with Extra melted butter if desired. Then broil/grill on high for 2 to 4 minutes until the top is nicely browned (watch it carefully – but be brave! Colour = flavour!).
- Serve warm, sprinkled with parsley, fresh thyme or some small fresh sage leaves if desired!
1. Bread – plain, boring, standard white sandwich bread is best here. I find Artisan breads like sourdough is too tough and chewy for this recipe, especially given stale bread is best. It’s just too much effort to eat!
Measuring – use heaped cups ie pile bread cubes in a mound in a cup (see photo in post). Weight isn’t the right measure here as breads vary in density and weight.
Day old if possible but not essential (ie take out of packet and leave out overnight). Best if slightly stale because fresh bread gets soaked into mush but for this recipe, it’s not so much an issue because the bread is lightly toasted anyway.
2. Pork Sausage – the better the sausage, the better the stuffing! While you can buy sausage meat not in sausage form (ie sold like ground/mince meat), you’ll find that good pork sausages have better meat. Look for pork sausages where you can see the speckles of meat and fat, avoid the ones that are a uniform pink colour (cheaper). Plain pork sausages are what I usually use, but I’ve made it with Italian flavoured, herb & garlic, apple & cider – all are tasty!
3. Pecans – or walnuts. Chop then measure.
4. Make ahead – store the bread separately, combine the sausage into the liquid mixture in the skillet. Cool completely with lid on then store in fridge. On the day of, warm the sausage mixture (to loosen), pour over bread, assemble and bake per recipe.
Leftovers – cover and store in fridge for 3 to 4 days. I love making Stuffing Muffins:
- For every 2 cups of stuffing, mix with 1 egg and 1 tbsp milk. Squidge together well with your hands (toss in some chopped ham or turkey, veg etc if you want!), then pile into a muffin tin. Bake 15 – 20 min at 180C/350F until golden. They taste like stuffing – except in breakfast muffin form! Should make 3 – 4.
5. Nutrition per serving. You don’t need much – it’s actually quite rich!! Serves 10 to 14 people depending on how many other sides you have.
Life of Dozer
Emergency Vet run (read on below…)
We had a bit of a drama the other day when Dozer got hooked by a fishing line at the dog park. The hook got caught in his shoulder, and unfortunately it didn’t come out the other side (which would’ve made removal much easier), it got buried in his shoulder muscle.
It seems he was attached to the fisherman’s line because the hook was bent and the line was snapped rather than cut. We think the force of him running away made the hook bend inside him
(I hope this photo doesn’t gross you out! I kept it because I’m going to petition council to BAN fishing at the dog beach!!)
It was buried so deep, only the little hole at the end was protruding which is why I didn’t notice. When we left the park, he leapt into the car to go home, leapt out, pranced around waiting for his bone, then dinner, then treats….. he showed no signs of pain or discomfort at all.
So I didn’t notice a thing until I saw his shoulder was bleeding which was later that evening. Once I realised what it was, and that it was buried almost vertically inside him, I knew I couldn’t remove it myself so off we dashed to the 24 hour Emergency Vet.
Dozer the Brave
Usually, the other side of the hook pierces through so they just cut the barb off then slide the hook out – no big deal. In this case, the hook was fully buried inside so they’d have to make an incision large enough to slide the hook out (ooowwwww!! )
Accordingly, the initial diagnosis was that he’d have to be put under a full sedative because it would be quite painful. I preferred that for Dozer’s sake too, because I didn’t want him to suffer.
But he surprised us all. After a mild sedative to calm him down, he walked into the surgery room and they were able to remove the hook without fully putting him under (while it avoids the pain, it’s always better to avoid a full sedative if you can). The vet was amazed – she said what they had to do would have been very painful, she couldn’t believe he let them do it!
So – Dozer the Brave. I was so proud of him. I know I couldn’t have done it!
I’m happy to report he’s on the mend. A quiet few days, letting that shoulder heal. Antibiotics and pain killers with mild sedatives. So he’s spending his days chill-axing like this. ↓↓↓ And getting LOTS of love and attention from everyone. Including early Christmas presents. Back to being a spoilt brat!! – N x
PS To those who spied and inquired about his bandaged foot, it was to minimise the damage he’d do to the wound by scratching himself with his hint paw!