This is, quite simply, the best sausage stuffing recipe! Rich with fresh herbs, chicken Italian sausage and tender cubes of bread, it’s my family’s favorite Thanksgiving side dish. And a bonus – it can be made ahead of time!
This sausage stuffing recipe is family-approved, across generations and many, many years! Full of fresh herbs, tender cubes of bread and savory pieces of brown sausage, it's a crowd pleaser at every single holiday meal. Doused in turkey gravy and eaten with homemade cranberry sauce, this stuffing is easily my favorite part of the feast.
If you prefer a vegetarian bread stuffing, leave out the sausage and substitute vegetable broth for the chicken broth. Either way, you will be treated to a savory stuffing, filled with all of the flavors of the holidays.
💙What’s to love about this turkey stuffing with sausage:
▪️Best sausage stuffing: Okay, maybe I’m biased, but my family and I can not get enough of this stuffing. It’s the first side dish to disappear! Rich with herbs and elevated with Italian sausage. It’s just SO GOOD.
▪️Make ahead: As I talk about in detail later on, this stuffing can be made ahead. I’m all for prepping Thanksgiving sides ahead of time. Less cooking on the actually day means less stress and more time to enjoy my family.
▪️Lighter: By using chicken sausage, swapping olive oil for some of the butter and using a lower calorie bread (Franz), this stuffing is lower in calories and cholesterol than many butter-rich recipes. And I promise you won’t be able to tell the difference!
What you need for this homemade sausage stuffing recipe:
See recipe card below for full ingredients list & recipe directions.
These are the main ingredients for this recipe (affiliate links included):
- BREAD: To “up” the fiber count and for color contrast, I like to use a mixture of whole wheat and whole grain white bread. More on bread selection in the section below. For a lower calorie version, I use Franz whole wheat.
- SAUSAGE: Sweet Italian chicken sausage has wonderful flavor with significantly less saturated fat than pork sausage. Use raw sausage, which is then squeezed out of the casings – not precooked chicken sausage.
- VEGETABLES: Sliced yellow onion, a few stalks celery and green onions make up a simple savory base for this recipe.
- HERBS: I prefer fresh herbs for stuffing. Most supermarkets carry fresh parsley, thyme and sage year-round. If you aren’t able to find fresh marjoram, it’s okay to use dried marjoram.
- NUTMEG: The secret ingredient! Ground nutmeg adds a wonderful holiday flavor to stuffing, but isn’t overwhelming. Freshly grated nutmeg is wonderful (grate whole nutmeg on a zester), but bottled ground nutmeg can be used, too.
- BROTH: Either chicken broth or turkey broth, homemade or store-bought, can be used. If the broth is unsalted or lightly salted, be sure to taste the stuffing before baking to adjust the seasonings.
- BUTTER AND OIL: This stuffing recipe uses a fraction of the butter compared to most recipes. Use a combination of unsalted butter and olive oil.
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Best bread for stuffing:
Bread stuffing can be made with a variety of types of bread. Cornbread, sourdough bread, challah, brioche and plain ol’ white or seedless whole wheat bread.
To lower the calorie count in this stuffing, I used Franz breads, found in the bread aisle of many grocery stores.
The idea is to avoid soggy bread stuffing. The key is to NOT use bread that is freshly baked that day. Bread that is on the verge of becoming stale (not moldy, of course) has a more solid consistency that holds up to the other ingredients.
You have a few options:
- Buy the bread a few days before. It should be the right consistency when it’s time to make the stuffing.
- Buy bread the “day of” or the day before. It will likely be too soft. Cut the bread into cubes the day before and arrange the cubes in a single layer on a couple of baking sheets. They will firm up as they air dry.
- Buy bread the “day of” or the day before. Cube the bread and bake the bread cubes for about 5 minutes in an oven set to 350 degrees F.
How to make bread stuffing:
OVEN AND DISH: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and lightly coat a 9- by 13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Place the bread cubes in a large bowl.
COOK ONIONS AND SAUSAGE: Heat a couple of teaspoons of olive oil in a large skillet set over medium-high heat. I suggest a nonstick, such as my favorite Everyday Pan, so you can cut down on the amount of oil used. Add the onion slices. Using your hands, squeeze the sausages out of their casings into the skillet. Discard the casings. Use your handy-dandy wooden spoon or spatula (I use one like this) to crumble the sausage as it cooks. The goal is for the sausage to be in fairly small pieces, but not ground. Transfer the cooked sausage and onions to the bowl with the bread cubes.
COOK THE VEGGIES AND HERBS: Place the skillet over medium heat and add the remaining olive oil and the butter to the skillet. Once the butter melts, add the celery, green onion, sage, thyme, marjoram, parsley and nutmeg. Sauté this mixture until the celery is tender. That should take about 5 minutes. Use a rubber spatula to scrape all of the celery mixture and any remaining butter, oil and herbs into the bread cube bowl. You don’t want to miss a bit of flavor!
TOSS TOGETHER: Using your (well-washed!) hands or large salad paddles, toss the bread cubes with the sausage and celery mixtures. If using your hands, be careful – some of the ingredients may still be hot. Pour in the chicken broth and toss to the bread. If the bread cubes are quite dry, add additional chicken broth to moisten all of the bread. The last thing you want is dry stuffing!
BAKE IT: Transfer to the prepared baking dish, spreading the stuffing evenly. Bake until the stuffing is heated through and it starts to lightly brown on top. That should take about 20 to 25 minutes. Serve it up right away or keep it warm until ready to serve.
Frequently Asked Questions:
The beauty of this easy sausage stuffing recipe is that it can be made ahead of time, making your holiday meal prep so much easier!
Make the stuffing according to the recipe, but do not bake it. Once the stuffing is spread in the baking dish and cooled, cover it well with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator. I typically do this about 24 hours in advance, but can be done up to 48 hours before baking.
Remove the stuffing from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before baking. Remove the plastic wrap and bake as instructed. If the stuffing is still quite cold before baking, add 5 to 10 minutes to the baking time.
If you find that the bread has dried out a bit when you remove the casserole from the refrigerator, drizzle in some additional chicken broth.
Yes. If you can’t find Italian chicken or turkey sausage links (not the precooked ones) at your grocery store, sweet Italian pork sausage is a good substitute.
Sure! This recipe is fantastic as a sausage-less herb bread stuffing. In step 2 of the recipe below, cook the onions on their own until tender and starting to brown.
Homemade Sausage Stuffing
- 4 teaspoons olive oil divided
- 4 links mild Italian chicken sausage
- 1 large yellow onion cut in half and thinly sliced (use the whole onion)
- 6 cups white whole wheat sandwich bread cubes crusts removed (See Note)
- 6 cups whole wheat sandwich bread cubes crusts removed
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 cup chopped celery
- ½ cup sliced scallions green onions
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage
- 1 ½ tablespoons finely chopped fresh marjoram or 1 ½ teaspoons dried
- 1 ½ tablespoons finely chopped fresh thyme or 1 ½ teaspoons dried
- ½ cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
- ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 ¾ to 2 cups chicken broth
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Heat 2 teaspoons olive oil in a large skillet set over medium-high heat. Add yellow onion and squeeze the sausages out of their casings into the skillet. Cook until the sausage is no longer pink, crumbling with a wooden spoon.
- In a large bowl, combine the sausage mixture with the bread cubes.
- Turn the heat to medium. Melt butter and add remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil. Add chopped celery, green onion, sage, marjoram, parsley, and ground nutmeg. Cook, stirring frequently, until the celery is soft, about 5 minutes.
- Toss with the bread mixture. Season with salt and pepper. Pour in chicken broth and toss again.
- Lightly coat a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Transfer the stuffing to the baking dish and bake until the stuffing is heated through and a light crust forms on top, 20 to 25 minutes.
A little history:
My dad gets full credit for this recipe, for good reason! There are times in your life when you are faced with situations that yank you out of your comfort zone. On Christmas Eve, many years ago, my dad found himself in such a position. My mum was curled up in bed, covers pulled tightly around her, trying to banish a bad case of bronchitis. The next night, we were due to host the annual family Christmas feast and neither my dad nor I had ever cooked anything more complicated than sandwiches or scrambled eggs.
I walked into the dining room to find my dad surrounded by open cookbooks, diligently searching for a holiday-worthy stuffing recipe to go with the roast turkey. He looked like a college student hunkering down for a long night of cramming for a tough exam. Thankfully, our angels of the kitchen, Fannie Farmer, Betty Crocker and Julia Child, were all there to lend a hand.
Pulling from five or six recipes, my dad concocted a recipe that immediately became a family classic. From that day forward, my dad took charge of the stuffing for every major holiday.
The search for the perfect bread starts one day in advance. He looks for loaves of whole wheat and white bread, preferably unsliced, that are fresh, but not too soft.
On feast day, he diligently tears the bread with a fork into rough, rustic pieces. The kitchen then fills with the aroma of celery, green onion, sage, marjoram, and parsley cooking in butter. The mixture is tossed with the bread and some chicken stock, and baked in the oven. The aroma and the flavor are what the holidays are all about in our house!
Now, why mess with perfection, right? Believe me, my dad’s stuffing is perfect in every way. Just for kicks, I added some browned Italian sausage and freshly grated nutmeg for a slightly different take on our classic favorite.
This post was originally published on November 5, 2010. It was updated with photos, text, tips and small recipe modifications on November 17, 2022.
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