Old Fashioned Thanksgiving Dressing (Stuffing)
Old fashioned Thanksgiving dressing has the flavor you crave with an easy to make method. Make it ahead then bake when you’re ready for the perfect accompaniment to your holiday meal.Jump to Recipe
Good food is for celebrating and this old fashioned Thanksgiving dressing is the perfect way to do it.
Use cornbread or a good crusty white loaf and make sure you dry it out well before mixing your stuffing so it doesn’t end up too wet or soupy, then dig in to arguably the best holiday side dish.
What’s the difference between stuffing and dressing?
The terms “stuffing” and “dressing” are often used interchangeably. They are very similar when it comes to ingredients and finished product, but they are slightly different in how you bake them.
Where dressing is cooked as its own dish, stuffing is cooked inside another ingredient (in many cases, inside the turkey).
Many households call dressing “dry stuffing” and stuffing “wet stuffing” due to the fact that it soaks up the juices of the turkey. Today, we are talking about dressing or “dry stuffing”.
Why are eggs used in stuffing?
Eggs are used in dressing as a binder. The eggs pull together the ingredients and when baked, firm up. This means everything stays together.
What bread is best for old fashioned dressing?
When it comes to bread for dressing, use tight-crumbed white bread such as challah, brioche, and even homemade white bread. Keep in mind that whatever you use will be moistened.
Because of this, it’s important to steer clear of products that might get slimy or dissolve. Grocery store sliced sandwich breads are prime offenders. Don’t use them here.
Once a suitable bread has been selected, you want to give it time to dry out. If you are starting with a fresh loaf, go ahead and cube it and lay it out on a cookie sheet covered with a dish towel for three days before preparing your dressing.
This will give it a chance to dry out, making it more absorbent.
Using cornbread? Give it a crumble instead of a cube and follow the same procedure.
Many stores sell pre-cubed, pre-dried bread in a bag as “stuffing mix” for a quick solution. I highly recommend resisting the temptation to cut this corner. These products are a poor, cardboard tasting substitute for the real deal.
Should I use broth or stock for stuffing?
Broth and stock are essentially the same thing and either one will work just fine here. Just make sure to check for MSG and other fillers. We don’t want those.
There are some good, organic boxed products out there, such as Kettle Fire and Pacific Foods. Do NOT reach for bouillon, powders or canned stock.
I am a big believer in making your own stock/broth if you have the time. It’s so easy and you really can taste the difference.
Tips for the best old fashioned thanksgiving stuffing
Time for some tips that will take your Thanksgiving dressing to the next level!
- Ingredients matter. Aim for the best quality you can afford for everything. When it comes to your herbs, grab fresh instead of dry if they are available. If using dry herbs, buy brands that have not been irradiated.
- Sage, sage, sage! Don’t be afraid to go heavy handed here. You will be happy you did.
- Eggs last. You want to be able to taste your stuffing before baking to make sure the seasoning is right so save the egg for after you’ve done that.
- DO NOT use store bought dried bread cubes in a bag. Buy a good quality, sturdy loaf or make your own! If you are using cornbread, try my favorite recipe here!
How to make old fashioned Thanksgiving dressing step by step
Step 1: Add dried bread cubes and crumbled cornbread to a large bowl. Cube or crumble then measure your bread.
Step 2: Add all ingredients except the egg (save it for last, after you’ve tasted your mixture for salt or more herbs).
Step 3: Transfer the mixture to a greased 2.5 quart baking dish or something that’s between an 8×8 and 9×13 pan size. You can also put part in an 8×8 and then bake the rest in a smaller dish of some kind.
How wet should stuffing be before baking?
You want to make sure everything is well moistened. We aren’t aiming for sopping wet and soupy, but it should be wet.
If you don’t dry your bread well before making old fashioned Thanksgiving dressing your stuffing may be pretty soupy, so take care to do that a day or two ahead.
Slowly add your stock or broth, equally moistening the entirety of the dressing, stirring as you go. The eggs will add some extra moisture as well.
About a cup of stock does the trick in this recipe.
Should dressing be baked covered or uncovered?
Bake your dressing covered with a layer of parchment paper then aluminum foil for the majority of the cook time.
This will help keep moisture in.
To achieve that prized golden brown finish, remove the paper and aluminum foil for the last few minutes of baking.
How to know when stuffing is done
It’s time to take the stuffing out of the oven when the center is hot and steamy and when a knife comes out relatively clean.
If you choose to remove the foil for the last few minutes of baking in order to achieve a golden-brown dressing, just keep an eye until you start to see the colors you are looking for.
Can Thanksgiving stuffing be made in advance?
Yes! In a way, it’s almost better as this gives a chance for the flavors to marry nicely. Make it 2-3 days in advance in the anticipated baking dish, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and store in the refrigerator (unbaked).
When it comes time to bake and enjoy, remove the dressing from the refrigerator and allow it to sit until it has reached room temperature before baking or put it in a cold oven, then turn it on and let the dish and the oven come up to temperature together. Just add a few minutes to the baking time.
Handy tip: Dry the bread in advance!
Stuffing is meant to be made with dried, stale bread. For best results, slice or cube your bread, cover it with a dish towel and leave it on your counter for one to two days before making your dressing.
How to fix a wet stuffing
If your stuffing comes out of the oven too wet, all is not lost. Spread the dressing out on a cookie sheet and break it into pieces before continuing to bake. This will dry the once-too-wet stuffing out and leave you with a delightful Thanksgiving side!
Recipes to serve with Thanksgiving dressing
Old Fashioned Thanksgiving Dressing
- 4 cups cooked cornbread dried a day or two if possible; crumbled then measured, see note 1 for no cornbread option
- 2 cups crusty white bread dried a day or two then cubed, not sandwich bread, see note 2
- 3/4 cup celery diced into 1/2" pieces
- 1/2 cup onion yellow or white; diced into 1/2" pieces
- 4 tablespoons butter melted
- 4 tablespoons fresh sage chopped, see note 3 for dried sage
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 cup chicken broth see note 4
- 1 egg lightly beaten
- Preheat the oven to 350
- In a large bowl mix all ingredients except the egg. Mix well and give it a taste. Add more salt, pepper or sage if extra seasoning is needed. This will depend a lot on the type of broth you use.
- Add the beaten egg once the seasoning is good and mix well.
- Transfer the mixture to a greased 2.5 quart casserole dish and bake until hot in the center and the bread is starting to get golden on top; 20-25 minutes. Keep an eye on it and cover with foil for the last few minutes of baking if it gets too dark.