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How to Make Bread Stuffing or Dressing

Many choices, infinite variety

Fine Cooking Issue 47

Mix and match the ingredients below to create your own signature stuffing, or use one of our Combinations. The suggested amounts will yield 12 to 16 cups of stuffing (see Stuffing math for the amount you’ll need to prepare).

Bread (10 to 12 cups diced or torn)

  • white sandwich
  • wheat
  • Italian
  • sourdough
  • rye
  • cornbread

Add-ins (total of 3 to 5 cups sliced or chopped; choose four to six)

  • onions (2 to 3 cups)
  • celery (1-1/2 to 2-1/2 cups)
  • garlic (1 to 2 Tbs.)
  • shallots (1/4 to 1/2 cup)
  • bell pepper (1/2 to 1 cup)
  • nuts (1/2 to 1 cup toasted)
  • mushrooms (1 to 2 cups)
  • greens (1 to 1-1/2 cups cooked)
  • leeks (1 to 1-1/2 cups)
  • carrots (1 to 2 cups)
  • dried fruit (1/2 cup)
  • apple (1 to 1-1/2 cups)
  • oysters (1 cup lightly cooked)
  • sausage (1/2 to 1 lb. cooked)
  • fennel (1 to 2 cups)

Seasonings (to taste)

  • sage (dried or fresh)
  • thyme (dried or fresh)
  • flat-leaf parsley (fresh)
  • rosemary (use sparingly)
  • ground cloves, allspice, nutmeg, mace (pinch)
  • chives (fresh)
  • salt and pepper

Liquid (as needed; see Tips)

  • broth
  • wine
  • melted butter
  • soaking liquid from
  • dried mushrooms
  • milk
  • beaten egg (firms the stuffing)


  • Classic bread stuffing: white bread, onion, celery, garlic, fresh sage and thyme, salt and pepper. 
  • Fennel and escarole: sourdough bread, chopped fennel, chopped escarole, onion, garlic, rosemary, thyme, fennel seed, pine nuts, lemon zest, black pepper.
  • Sweet fruit stuffing: wheat bread, apples, dried cherries, and parsley.
  • Cornbread and sausage stuffing: cornbread, cooked sweet Italian sausage, onion, celery, garlic, bell pepper, thyme, parsley, scallion, chives.
  • Southwestern stuffing: add some smoky dried chile powder and earthy cumin seed to a cornbread stuffing.

How to make stuffing

  1. Tear the bread into small pieces or cut it into 1/4- to 1/2-inch cubes. Dry the bread by spreading it out on a baking sheet and leaving it out uncovered overnight or heat it in a low (275°F) oven until it feels dry, 15 to 20 minutes. (Cornbread doesn’t need to be dried; just let it cool completely before breaking it into large crumbs.)
  2. Bring out the aromatic flavor of your vegetables by “sweating” them in a little fat. The idea is to soften the vegetables just enough to release their flavors; you want to leave them, especially the celery, a little crunchy to counter the softness of the bread. Covering them with foil or a lid as they cook traps moisture and keeps them from browning.
  3. Combine the bread, vegetables, and remaining ingredients with enough liquid to moisten; it should just hold together. It will absorb more juices as it cooks inside the turkey.
  4. Taste the stuffing to make sure it’s seasoned properly (don’t add any egg until you’re finished tasting). Stir in the egg, if using.

Stuffing math

Estimate 3/4 to 1 cup stuffing per person, but err on the side of too much rather than too little. After all, leftover stuffing is great on a turkey sandwich.

Stuffing tips

  • Regardless of the other ingredients, most stuffings benefit from the flavors of sweated onions, celery, and garlic.
  • A stuffing destined for inside the bird should have just enough moisture to barely cling together when mounded on a spoon. If it’s too wet, it can’t soak up the juices from the turkey. A stuffing baked in a casserole dish needs a cup or two of broth poured over it to keep it moist during baking.
  • Stuff the turkey just before roasting. You can make the stuffing ahead and refrigerate it for up to two days, but bring it to room temperature before stuffing the turkey because a cold stuffing will slow the cooking. If you like to add egg to your stuffing, don’t add it until just before stuffing the turkey.
  • Don’t overstuff the turkey. The stuffing expands as it absorbs juices, and if it’s too tightly packed, it won’t cook through. Leave enough room to fit your whole extended hand into the top of the bird’s cavity. Cook any extra stuffing alongside the bird in a casserole dish.
  • Cook the stuffing to at least 160°F. Check it with an instant-read thermometer inserted all the way into the center of the stuffing. If the turkey is done before the stuffing is, take the turkey out of the oven but spoon the stuffing into a casserole dish and continue to bake it while the turkey rests before carving.
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