The Secrets to Sensational Homemade Stuffing

Publish Date October 4, 2023

The Basics of Homemade Stuffing

Though there will always be a debate about which Thanksgiving side is the best, there’s a strong argument for stuffing. Homemade stuffing may seem intimidating, but it’s really very easy…and once you know the basics, you can experiment with different flavors and textures to create your own homemade stuffing recipe.

There are several components to creating a crave-worthy stuffing recipe like bread, flavoring and texture.


Choosing the right bread to use for your stuffing is the first crucial step. You’ll want to avoid overly soft breads and choose something with body to it. A French or Italian bread works well, as do challah and cornbread. Pretzel bread is also a delicious option.

For best results, stay away from stale bread. Instead, dry fresh bread in the oven so it can absorb the flavors you pair it with later. Tear the bread (don’t slice) and spread it out on a sheet pan. Cook at a low temperature until the bread pieces are hard but not burnt.


Since the base of stuffing is just bread, the flavoring is entirely up to you, and there are many ways to add flavor.

  • Herbs: Since you’ll most likely be pairing your stuffing with turkey, it makes sense to use classic poultry seasonings. Fennel, rosemary, thyme, sage, salt and pepper create a classic aroma and flavor that pairs perfectly with any holiday meal.
  • Vegetables: Use onion, celery and carrots as a base. You can also add garlic, leek, fennel, mushrooms and apples.
  • Wet Ingredients: A nice stock or broth is perfect for moistening up the bread. You can certainly create your own stock while sautéing the vegetables above, or feel free to use your favorite pre-made stock to save time. Eggs have a binding effect, but you can always use an egg substitute (especially if you want to make your recipe vegan or vegetarian).


Tearing your bread into pieces creates little crannies and edges that can get crisp in the oven. The ingredients you add can also add texture. For example, this Cranberry and Apple Stuffing recipe has texture from the dried cranberries. You can also add pecans or walnuts for some crunch, or dried fruits for a sweet and tart touch.

Another way to add texture to your homemade stuffing recipe is to make sure the top and edges of the stuffing are cooked until crispy and well-browned. The smaller the pan you use to bake your stuffing, the crispier your edges will be. You can also butter the pan and add butter to the top of the stuffing before baking for optimal browning.

Dietary restrictions

Even if you know how to make stuffing, it can be difficult to adjust the recipe so that it can be enjoyed by all your guests. For vegetarians, go with a vegetable broth instead of chicken, and for vegans, use an egg substitute. This Vegetarian Mushroom Stuffing Recipe uses 3 kinds of mushrooms for the best flavor and texture, and this Vegetarian Tex-Mex Cornbread Stuffing Recipe is packed with flavor.

For gluten-free guests, stuffing can be a bit trickier. Any gluten-free bread option can be used, like we do in this Gluten-free Stuffing recipe. As long as you’re checking your ingredients to make sure they’re free from gluten, your flavor combinations are just as limitless as any other stuffing recipe.

Regional Varieties

Aside from your traditional Thanksgiving stuffing, there are lots of regional varieties that hold a special place in many hearts and on many tables.

Both New England and coastal parts of the South enjoy oyster stuffing. Oyster stuffing can be traced back to England and was brought over by settlers. Soon though, it became a popular choice for those along the coast, back when oysters were affordable and abundant. New England also has a deep love for traditional stuffing. A New England tradition is adding cranberries to stuffing for a sweet and savory effect.

And speaking of the South, aside from oysters, this region also loves using cornbread as their bread of choice. The crumbly nature crisps up well in the oven, and it absorbs broth and flavor perfectly. There are local variations throughout the southern states, including the addition of pecans in Georgia and Creole flavors like andouille sausage in Louisiana.

In the Midwest, there are many homemade stuffing recipes that celebrate the region. From potato-based stuffing that has German roots, to rice stuffing that makes use of a widely grown crop, the variety here speaks more to a melting pot of cultures than to one particular recipe.

While the West Coast does share a coastal love of oyster stuffing, there are many other local takes on this Thanksgiving staple. Hatch chilis are often added around New Mexico, and Tex-Mex varieties show up frequently.

More Stuffing Ideas

More Thanksgiving Inspiration

Stuffing, or dressing, is as quintessential to Thanksgiving as the turkey itself. It’s endlessly adaptable and easy to experiment with. You can find everything you need at our Thanksgiving shop, or visit our blog for hosting tips.