Thanksgiving Stuffing with Sausage
Stuffing has always been my favorite side dish for the holiday meal, and this is my family’s best Thanksgiving Stuffing recipe. It has fresh Italian pork sausage, fresh herbs, lots of butter, and veggies, and it uses ciabatta bread for the best texture. It’s simple, classic, and easy!
This could be my whole Thanksgiving dinner, right here. Just me and my 8×11 pan of homemade stuffing. This stuffing is just that darn good.
Except I still need my Lemon Buttermilk Pie, Pumpkin Roll, and Maple Pecan Bars afterwards for dessert, obviously. But when it comes to the savory part of the Thanksgiving table, I always look forward to stuffing the most.
I’ve tried many variations of Thanksgiving stuffing over the years, using different breads, herbs, seasonings, and other mix-in ingredients, and this is how we like it best. We no longer stray from this recipe. It has the best balance of simplicity and richness of flavor, and has been cemented as our family favorite and the best stuffing recipe ever.
Why This Is My Favorite Recipe
Sausage adds unmatched flavor and heartiness – I feel that stuffing recipes are much better and more flavorful with meat than without. Here we’ll use fresh Italian sausage, which has the best flavor base. The pork adds its rich fat and flavor, plus, the fennel seed and other spices in the sausage go really well with the other flavors in the dish.
Lots of texture – Using ciabatta bread gives us a more interesting and not-mushy texture than other options like bagged stuffing cubes. The fresh factor makes a big difference, and the cubes are both soft and tender but with a satisfying chew on the edges from the bread’s crust.
Classic flavors – The combination of the onion, celery, and parsley balances out the richness of the butter and chicken stock, and overall, it tastes like Thanksgiving. This is very much a classic stuffing recipe.
Ciabatta bread is my absolute favorite kind of bread to use here, but you may use any sturdy white bread that you enjoy. French bread and sourdough bread are close seconds.
You may even make cornbread stuffing using this recipe, so long as you as you follow the rules for using stale, day-old bread. The chicken broth will not absorb properly if the bread isn’t dry.
Step by Step Overview:
To get started, cook lots of chopped onion and celery with butter, salt, and black pepper in a large skillet set over medium heat, until the vegetables soften:
Make sure to use a good quality butter here, like Kerrygold, Vermont Creamery, or any other reputable brand. And make sure you do not substitute the butter for olive oil or other types of fat, as it will not taste right.
Now toss the veggies with stale bread cubes, cooked Italian sausage, parsley, egg, and chicken broth in a very large bowl. You’ll have about 12 cups of bread cubes here, so you’ll need plenty of room for mixing.
I make the ciabatta bread stale by cubing it the day before, then leaving the pieces out overnight, spread in a single layer on a baking sheet, uncovered.
Didn’t Stale the Bread In Advance?
You can also cut fresh bread into 1-inch cubes and bake them in a single layer on a sheet pan in a 300F oven for about 15 minutes, until you have dry bread cubes that are lightly golden brown.
For the chicken broth, I used to use the Swanson Tuscan Chicken Broth, which had sage, rosemary and thyme in it, but I think they discontinued it. So feel free to chop up those herbs and throw in as much as 1/4 cup, or, try adding 1 teaspoon of poultry seasoning, if you want more herb flavor. Personally, I find that the parsley, celery, and onion are sufficient for that traditional stuffing flavor.
If you prefer, you may also use turkey broth here, which I’ve started to see more often on the grocery store shelves. I do not recommend vegetable broth, which will not give you a classic flavor.
Pour the ingredients into an 8×11 baking dish, cover with aluminum foil, and bake it until the bread is golden and the liquid has been soaked up.
I personally leave the foil on the whole time I bake, but if you want a crispy top, remove the foil for the last 15 minutes of baking.
Slow Cooker Option
If you wish, you can finish this sausage stuffing in the slow cooker instead of the oven. Follow the instructions the same, cooking the veggies and sausage in a large pan on the stove, up to the point of placing the stuffing in the baking pan, and instead, put it directly into the crockpot. Cook on low for 4 hours.
Recipe FAQ and Tips
Technically it’s a dressing, because it’s made outside of the bird, but you can certainly put this into your turkey cavity if you prefer.
Yes, and I will often assemble it before Thanksgiving day. First of all, you can stale the bread a month in advance, by leaving the cubes out overnight, then putting them into a bag and storing in the freezer. You can also assemble the dish the day before, cover it with plastic wrap, then bake when you’re ready on the big day. It may need an extra 5 to 10 minutes in the oven if it’s straight cold from the fridge.
Keep in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
Yes, for up to 2 months. Make sure it’s well wrapped or stored in an airtight container, so it doesn’t absorb off flavors or get freezer burned. When ready to reheat, bake it in a 350F oven for about 15 minutes, until warmed through.
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Thanksgiving Stuffing with Sausage
- 1 loaf ciabatta bread* cut into cubes and left out overnight, uncovered
- 8 tbsp butter (1 stick, salted preferred)
- 3 cups chopped yellow onion
- 1.5 cups chopped celery
- black pepper
- 3/4 lb sweet Italian pork sausage casing removed
- 1/2 cup chopped parsley
- 2 large eggs beaten
- 2.5 cups chicken broth
- Preheat the oven to 375F.
- Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat, then add the onion, celery, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp black pepper. Cook for about 10 minutes, until the vegetables are soft and fragrant.
- Pour the cooked veggies into a large mixing bowl, and return the skillet to the heat. Turn the heat to medium high, and brown the pork sausage. Break the pork sausage up into small pieces with your spatula, if needed, and cook until fully cooked through, about 7-8 minutes. Add the cooked pork sausage to the mixing bowl.
- Add the bread cubes to the mixing bowl, as well as the parsley and eggs. Slowly pour the chicken broth over the bread cubes, then toss everything together to distribute the ingredients evenly.
- Pour the ingredients into an 8×11 baking dish, cover with aluminum foil, and bake for 40 minutes until golden on top. Enjoy!
Nutrition is estimated using a food database and is only intended to be used as a guideline for informational purposes.
Post updated in October 2021. Post originally published in November 2014. The video was sponsored by Swanson Chicken broths.