Classic bread stuffing is as synonymous with Thanksgiving as turkey. Cubes of dried bread mixed with celery, onions and sage are baked in the oven until golden brown. It is my favorite Thanksgiving side dish, along with the easiest 5 ingredient corn casserole that everyone loves.
As we are all gearing up for this holiday, the only one that is all about food, I am planning our Thanksgiving menu.
I may even make a few pumpkin rum balls for after dinner. Can you really ask for anything else? Carbs with a side of carbs. (it’s one day, indulge!)
Classic Bread Stuffing
A traditional stuffing recipe isn’t complicated, nor should it be. It is holiday comfort food. The variations on stuffing are endless, but a classic bread stuffing with onions, celery and sage is always my favorite.
My grandmother’s old fashioned bread stuffing is something I have to have on Thanksgiving and if I don’t have it, it just doesn’t feel like Thanksgiving to me. I don’t often mess with the traditional Thanksgiving dinner. It’s the one meal that I think is perfect as is.
My grandma wasn’t the best cook, that’s as nicely as I can put it. I’m not spilling any deep family secret, cooking just wasn’t her forte, but the one home-run she could hit out of the park every single time was stuffing.
It may not be for everyone, but this is worth every carb-lovin’ bite for me. It is simple, basic bread stuffing with celery, onion and sage. It isn’t anything fancy or “modern” in the least and that is why I love it.
It reminds me of being a kid and the anticipation of all of us sitting down together to feast.
How to dry bread for stuffing
Good stuffing starts with dry bread. If you start with fresh, soft bread, you’ll have a mushy mess on your hands. So, the first step in making stuffing from scratch is to dry out the bread. You have two options for drying out the bread or making it stale.
After you’ve cut your bread into cubes, you can leave those cubes of bread out on the counter for a couple of days or you can toast them in the oven.
Generally, I toast mine in the oven because I need the counter space. Also, just drying them out doesn’t lightly brown them and it is personal preference that a few cubes are a little toasty. Think of how a plain piece of bread tastes and then what a pieces of toasted bread tastes like.
This is the big difference and that will be the difference you taste in the stuffing as well.
You can choose what kind of bread for homemade stuffing you like best, but my grandma always used white bread, so that is what I use too.
How wet should stuffing be before baking?
If you are new to cooking Thanksgiving dinner, it can be daunting, to say the least. Trying to figure out how to make stuffing that is neither mushy nor dry can be a small challenge, if you’ve never made it before.
Here are a couple of tips or guidelines to help you: In order to keep your stuffing moist and ensure that it doesn’t dry out during baking, make sure to cover it with foil. Also, you may need to pour a cup or two of stock over the top of it as it is baking in the oven.
The eggs in the stuffing will serve as a binder to help hold it together and also give it a little lift as it bakes.
Making classic bread stuffing the day before Thanksgiving
Because of the raw eggs, stock and vegetables, it isn’t “food safe” to make and refrigerate stuffing ahead of time. Have I done it? Yes. I’m sure plenty of people have too.
I’ve never had any issues with this, but because of bacteria growth, it is best to be cautious – especially if you are feeding young kids and older people with weak immune systems.
If you want to make stuffing ahead of time, you can freeze it and then thaw overnight and heat before serving.
My best tip for making classic bread stuffing ahead of time is this: get everything ready to go so all you have to do in the morning is mix and bake. Depending on how much room you have in your refrigerator, you can put all of your ingredients (except bread) on a baking sheet, wrap it up with plastic wrap and keep it in the fridge overnight until you’re ready to mix and bake in the morning.
When I’m ready to make a certain dish, everything I need is on that baking sheet. I grab it and go. There is no measuring, no looking for ingredients when I need them because it is already done. We do this in professional kitchens every day. It is a huge timesaver when you have a lot on your plate, so to speak.
What do I need to make classic bread stuffing?
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• a serrated bread knife – a good serrated knife makes all the difference
• a Chef’s knife – for chopping onions and celery
• a casserole dish to bake the stuffing/dressing in
• liquid measuring cup for the stock
• baking sheets for toasting bread in the oven
Thanksgiving isn’t just about the food, it is about the time spent with the people you love and being thankful. The size of my family has dwindled as I’ve gotten older, as I’m sure is the case with most of us.
The recipes I have from my family are one of the things I treasure most. They provide a tangible link to family members that I can no longer share a meal with.
Thanksgiving is the meal I really love. It is consistent and comforting, the smells and tastes are a rush of memories for me from my childhood up to present day. So, this Thanksgiving and every Thanksgiving, I will be making my Grandma’s stuffing and remembering my family with every bite.
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I hope you love this recipe as much as we do! Please consider rating and/or commenting. I love hearing from you! Did you make this classic bread stuffing recipe? Tag me on instagram @pookspantry or share it in the Fabulous Foodie Friends Facebook group! I can’t wait to see your version!
- 1 (large) loaf hearty white bread, cut into 1/2 in cubes (20 oz loaf of bread)
- 2 eggs
- 2 tsp ground sage
- 4 stalks celery, diced
- 2 medium onions, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tbsp fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
- 3 - 4 cups chicken stock
- 1 tbsp. salt
- 1 tsp. pepper
- 6 tbsp. butter + more for baking dish
- Toast the bread: Preheat oven to 275°F. Spread the cubed bread out in an even layer on a baking sheet. Stir after 30 minutes. Bake for 30 minutes more until very crunchy. Remove bread from oven and set aside to cool. Increase oven temperature to 350°F.
- Cook onion, celery and garlic: Melt 3 tbsp of butter in a medium sauté pan. Add garlic, onions and celery. Sauté until onions and celery are soft, about 10 minutes.
- Add fresh sage: Add fresh sage, stir to combine and remove from heat.
- Mix bread and onion mixture: In a large bowl, toss toasted bread with onion mixture until well combined.
- Add liquid: Whisk eggs with 2 cups of chicken stock, salt, pepper and ground sage. Pour over bread and mix to combine.
- Prepare to bake: Lightly grease a 3 or 4 quart baking dish. Add stuffing mixture to dish and spread into an even layer. Melt the remaining 3 tbsp of butter and drizzle over the top.
- Cover and bake: Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 35 - 40 minutes, checking after 25 minutes to baste with additional stock, if necessary.
- Uncover to finish: Remove foil and continue baking an additional 15 minutes to brown the top.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 261 Total Fat: 15g Saturated Fat: 7g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 7g Cholesterol: 103mg Sodium: 1523mg Carbohydrates: 19g Net Carbohydrates: 0g Fiber: 1g Sugar: 8g Sugar Alcohols: 0g Protein: 13g