Grandma’s Old Fashioned Bread Stuffing
This is the best stuffing recipe, very likely the same one your grandma used to make. Made with milk, turkey stock, onions, celery and herbs, this family recipe is the quintessential side dish for Thanksgiving.
This is the BEST Stuffing Recipe
You know how you hear about people taking recipes to their grave? My husband’s grandma seriously did that with her Thanksgiving bread stuffing.
It was the best turkey stuffing in the whole wide world, and I consider myself a stuffing aficionado. It had a simple, comforting flavor and was toasted to perfection.
Try as we might, we never got Mary Ellen to give up the recipe for her turkey stuffing. The only detail she ever gave us was “well, I just soak the bread in milk, really.”
So, ever since Mary Ellen passed, it’s been my mission to try to recreate this recipe. Using some flavor memories based on what Jeff and I can recall about Grandma’s stuffing, I first published my best educated guess of how this stuffing was created back in 2014.
Using reader comments and e-mails ever since, I’ve made revisions to the recipe to keep getting it closer and closer to the original.
The recipe card below reflects nine years of work, and at least a dozen tests. At this point, I think I’m a close as I can get to honoring the flavors of Mary Ellen’s stuffing.
The recipe in the card below will yield you a delicious old fashioned bread stuffing to serve alongside your Thanksgiving turkey, I guarantee it.
What is stuffing?
Stuffing, also known as dressing, is a quintessential part of holiday feasts, specially where turkey is served. It’s a mixture of cubed bread, vegetables, and seasonings, and it produces a very comforting blend of flavors and textures.
Technically, it’s called “stuffing” when it gets stuffed into the bird, and “dressing” when its cooked in a separate baking dish.
But, since you tend to have to overcook the turkey to make sure the stuffing reaches a safe temperature, we just cook ours in a baking dish, but we’ve always still called it stuffing.
Why you will love Grandma’s Old Fashioned Dressing
- This is a treasured family recipe that is very similar to what many people in the Midwest grew up eating at their own grandma’s table.
- There’s an option to use those giblets that come with your turkey, for extra flavor – or not.
- Make this a day or two before the holiday and bake it before dinner. I do this every year!
Homemade Stuffing Recipe ingredients
- hearty white sliced bread – this is the sturdy bread base that will absorb all the flavors. I usually use Pepperidge Farm Farmhouse Hearty White sliced bread or something similar.
- unseasoned cubed stuffing (the dried cubes in a bag) – these add an additional textural element to the dish. I usually use Brownberry Premium Unseasoned Cubed Stuffing or something similar.
- whole milk – this adds a creamy richness (and moisture) to the bread stuffing.
- eggs – these act as a binding agent, ensuring that the stuffing holds together as it bakes.
- turkey stock – infuses the stuffing with the essence of roasted turkey. If you can’t find turkey stock, chicken stock works, too!
- butter – it’s not Grandma’s stuffing without plenty of butter to make it irresistible!
- onion, celery, garlic – these aromatic ingredients add layers of complexity and depth of flavor.
- poultry seasoning, dried sage, salt and pepper – these seasonings add the perfect balance of savory and herbal notes to every bite. Yes, there is sage in poultry seasoning, but we use extra sage, too!
- giblets from 1 turkey (OPTIONAL) – you can use everything exept the neck, if you want to. These are optional but add a ton of flavor to the stuffing.
Best bread for Stuffing
The flavors of Mary Ellen’s stuffing were pretty easy to figure out (leaning on sage, butter, onion and celery). But figuring out the what type of bread to use has been much harder.
At one point, I believe Mary Ellen mentioned that she soaked white bread in milk, and then wrung it out. I’ve tried that several times, but the bread simply falls apart in my hands.
I’ve also tried making this turkey stuffing recipe with ALL toasted white bread, or ALL dried stuffing cubes. It’s fine both of those ways, but this BEST EVER version uses a combination of both.
The combination of fresh white bread (torn by hand, and then toasted in the oven), and a bag of dried stuffing cubes, creates the best flavor and texture for old fashioned bread stuffing.
How to make Stuffing
- SOAK. If you’re using the optional giblets, put them in a bowl with some milk and let them soak at room temperature for 15 minutes or so. This mellows the intense flavor of the giblets a little bit.
- TOAST. Divide the torn white bread between 2 baking pans and bake it for 12 to 15 minutes or until it’s lightly toasted and crisp.
- COMBINE. Toss the cubed stuffing with beaten eggs, stock and milk.
- MELT. Melt one stick of butter, and spray a casserole dish with cooking spray.
- CHOP. If you’re using the giblets, remove them from the milk and chop them up.
- SAUTE. Start by sauteeing the giblets in butter, if you are using the giblets, or skip straight to sauteeing the onion, celery and garlic. Add the salt, pepper, poultry seasoning and sage.
- ADD. Put the toasted white bread, the melted butter, and the sauteed vegetables and/or giblets in the bowl with the cubed stuffing, and stir everything together.
- BAKE. Transfer the mixture to a baking dish and bake it 45 minutes (start covered and then uncover), until the top is golden brown.
How to dry out bread for stuffing
I take the quick route and dry my bread in the oven (350 degrees F for 12 to 15 minutes).
You can also allow the torn bread to air-dry for a few days by simply leaving it uncovered in your kitchen, but I think drying it in the oven really gives you the best texture in the end.
How long to bake stuffing
Bake the stuffing at 350 degrees F for about 45 minutes or until the top of the stuffing is golden brown and the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F.
Home Chef Tips for this Traditional Stuffing Recipe
- To enhance the homemade flavor, use homemade turkey stock made with lots of aromatic vegetables and herbs.
- For a vegetarian stuffing, using homemade vegetable stock, and omit the giblets, of course.
- Feel free to make additions! Sometimes I’ll add a chopped apple or some sausage to this stuffing for even more flavor.
How to serve this Bread Stuffing Recipe
Serve this bread stuffing for Thanksgiving or Christmas alongside a showstopping main dish, lots of side dishes, and some beautiful desserts.
Bread Stuffing storage
- MAKE AHEAD. You can fully assemble this stuffing in advance, through the beginning of step 9 in the recipe card below. Cover and refrigerate up to 2 days. When you’re ready to bake the stuffing, remove it from the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature for 1 hour before baking according to the directions below.
- LEFTOVERS. Any cooked, leftover stuffing can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Classic Stuffing Recipe FAQs
To achieve a crispy-topped stuffing, make sure you remove the foil from the baking dish for the final 15 minutes of baking time.
Stuffing should be covered for the majority of the baking time to ensure even cooking and a moist texture, but the foil should be removed for the final 15 minutes of the bake so that you can get a golden brown, crispy top.
To maintain moisture, make sure you use as much liquid as the recipe calls for below, and don’t skimp on the butter!
To avoid a mushy texture, make sure your white bread is dried and toasted enough before you add liquid to it. You want the torn bread to be baked nice and crisp before you use it for this homemade stuffing recipe.
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Does your family have a stuffing or dressing recipe similar to Mary Ellen’s? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!
- Giblets from 1 turkey (except the neck) (optional)
- 1-1/4 cups whole milk plus 1 additional cup if using giblets, divided
- 1 loaf (24 ounces) hearty white sliced bread, torn into small pieces
- 2 eggs
- 1 bag (12 ounces) unseasoned cubed stuffing (the dried cubes in a bag)
- 4 cups turkey stock
- 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
- Nonstick cooking spray
- 1 medium white onion, finely chopped
- 1-1/2 cups finely chopped celery
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- Kosher salt and ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons poultry seasoning
- 1-1/2 teaspoons dried sage
- If using giblets, place giblets and 1 cup milk in medium bowl. Let stand at room temperature at least 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Divide torn white bread between 2 rimmed baking pans. Transfer to oven and bake 12 to 15 minutes or until crisp. Set toasted bread aside; leave oven on at 350 degrees F.
- Meanwhile, place eggs in large bowl and whisk until smooth. Add cubed stuffing, stock and remaining 1-1/4 cups milk; toss to combine.
- Melt 8 tablespoons butter in small pot or microwave-safe dish.
- Spray large casserole dish with cooking spray. If using giblets, proceed with Step 6 and then 8-9. If NOT using giblets, proceed with Steps 7-9.
- If using giblets, remove giblets from milk; discard milk. Finely chop giblets. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons butter in large skillet over medium heat. Add chopped giblets and cook 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add onion, celery and garlic; season with salt and pepper. Cook 5 to 7 minutes or until vegetables are softened, stirring occasionally. Add poultry seasoning and sage; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.
- If not using giblets, heat remaining 2 tablespoons butter in large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, celery and garlic; season with salt and pepper. Cook 5 to 7 minutes or until vegetables are softened, stirring occasionally. Add poultry seasoning and sage; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.
- Add toasted white bread, melted butter and onion mixture to bowl with cubed stuffing and milk. Stir for 1 minute or until toasted bread is very well moistened.
- Transfer mixture to prepared baking dish and cover with foil. Transfer to oven and bake 30 minutes. Remove foil; bake 15 minutes longer or until the top of the stuffing is golden brown and the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 12 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 249Total Fat: 16gSaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 209mgSodium: 294mgCarbohydrates: 11gFiber: 1gSugar: 7gProtein: 14g