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There’s only so much you can do to turkey. And people tend to get a bit grumpy if you fool around with the mashed potatoes. When done correctly, Thanksgiving stuffing gives the creative cook a real opportunity to shine by customizing the dish to suit the tastes and preferences of their guests.
That said, having too many options can be intimidating. Understanding the basics of making stuffing will ultimately give you tremendous freedom to mix and match, without getting overwhelmed. Here’s how to make stuffing from scratch:
Using stuffing mixes, croutons or dry bread cubes as your base is a perfectly acceptable shortcut. Traditional recipes like this classic herb stuffing show that you can choose any form of cubed, dried out bread - as long as it soaks up stock and seasonings without getting overly soggy. It's a great use for day-old loaves, which you can purchase from any bakery at a reduced price. Or you can make it easy for yourself and buy a pre-made bag of bread cubes!
That said, there’s no rule that you even need to use bread at all. Not only is rice a naturally gluten-free choice, but it also has a nutty quality that pairs perfectly with classic holiday ingredients. We especially love this herbed wild rice and butternut squash stuffing recipe, which mixes brown and wild rice with creamy butternut squash and crunchy toasted pecans.
Stuffing is more than just bread (or rice) and broth. What makes it a substantial side dish are all the other yummy additions. Of course, it’s important that they complement — instead of pulling attention away from — the turkey, which is the true star of the show. That’s why sausages are a popular option, whether they're Italian links or spicy Spanish chorizo - this herbed turkey stuffing with sausage is a perfect example of how well it works as a hearty addition to your stuffing recipe. Sausages can be broken up into tiny, juicy crumbles, to play a tasty supporting role in your stuffing.
Though you'll want to avoid poultry, other ground meats work well too. Bring a bit of Latin American flair to the Thanksgiving table with this pork and beef picadillo. Often used to stuff empanadas, this cumin, oregano, black pepper, and clove seasoned treat will pair equally well with your bird.
And don’t forget about oysters! While seafood may not scream Thanksgiving, oyster “dressing” is actually a beloved New England tradition. You’ll understand why, once you try this silky, briny oyster stuffing, studded with smoky bacon and complemented by the warm, sweet flavour of nutmeg.
Not that you need meat at all- veggies and fruits work too! Fruit stuffing, like a fall-friendly cranberry apple stuffing or a sweet and savoury slow cooker cranberry apple stuffing are sure to be a hit at your Thanksgiving table.
Always start with aromatics. This means a mix of onions, garlic, peppers, celery or carrots cooked together until tender, which will add incredible flavour to your dish.
Besides acting as a binder, stock is chock full of seasonings. Chicken or turkey stock seasoned with thyme is a favourite, but depending on your add-ins, consider vegetable or seafood as well.
Don’t bother putting it in your turkey! Baking it in a dish allows the stuffing to cook thoroughly and evenly and gives it those crispy edges everyone craves. You can even use a muffin tin, to cut down on cooking time, and form an even crunchier crust!
Now that you've made your own homemade stuffing, discover even more Thanksgiving recipes here!