A recipe for Grandma’s Old Fashioned Bread Stuffing, a classic and old fashioned Thanksgiving bread dressing made with milk, turkey stock, onions, celery and herbs.
This old fashioned bread stuffing is a secret family recipe. Really.
You know how you hear about people taking recipes to their grave? My husband’s grandma (my grandma-in-law?) seriously did that with her Thanksgiving bread stuffing (and yes, we know we’re supposed to say “dressing,” but we still always call if “stuffing” even if it’s not stuffed in the bird).
It was the best stuffing in the whole wide world, and I consider myself a stuffing aficionado, as it’s tied with mashed potatoes for my favorite holiday food. 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. Without fail, she made it for us every year (even, sweetly, one year when she was too sick to eat Thanksgiving dinner herself).
Knowing our time with her was getting shorter, we asked after the recipe for years, and she would only reply “well, I just soak the bread in milk, really.”
That’s the only detail she ever gave up! That the bread was soaked in milk. I mean, I guess it’s better than no details.
I thought that maybe she would write the recipe down, wrap it in a gift box and present it as a wedding present to Jeff and I, but that didn’t happen.
My history of recreating this traditional stuffing:
So, ever since Mary Ellen passed, it’s been my mission to try to recreate this recipe, even though I know it’ll never be as good as hers.
Using some educated guesses based on what Jeff’s family and I can remember about the flavor of Grandma’s stuffing, I published my best educated guess of how this stuffing was created.
The stuffing recipe was first published back in 2014, and using reader comments and e-mails from the last few years, I’ve made revisions to the recipe to keep getting it closer and closer to the original.
The recipe card below reflects six 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, I guarantee it.
What kind of bread is best 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 the recipe with ALL toasted white bread, or ALL dried stuffing cubes. It’s fine both of those ways, but the 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.
What are the ingredients in Grandma’s Old Fashioned Bread Stuffing?
- Giblets from 1 turkey (except the neck) (these are optional but add a ton of flavor)
- Whole milk
- Hearty white sliced bread
- Unseasoned cubed stuffing (the dried cubes in a bag)
- Turkey stock
- Cooking spray
- Salt and pepper
- Poultry seasoning
- Dried sage
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 top of stuffing is golden brown.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 249Total Fat: 16gSaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 209mgSodium: 294mgCarbohydrates: 11gFiber: 1gSugar: 7gProtein: 14g
More side dish recipes to round out your Thanksgiving dinner:
- Thanksgiving Rice Recipe – an easy pilaf with cranberries and pears.
- Lemon & Maple Glazed Roasted Brussels Sprouts – don’t forget your veggies!
- Crockpot Green Bean Casserole – with fresh green beans and no canned soup!
- Really Good Thanksgiving Salad – if I serve a salad, this is the one!
- Hard Cider Cranberry Sauce – my go-to recipe the past few years.
- Aged Cheddar Mashed Potatoes – because why make plain mashed potatoes when you can make cheesy ones?
- Roasted Acorn Squash with Pomegranate & Parsley – this might be the prettiest dish on your table!
- Lentil & Mushroom Stuffing – a gluten free alternative to bread dressing.
- Spiced Sweet Potato Rolls with Bourbon Honey Butter – show your family how much you love them with homemade rolls.
- Even more options in my Thanksgiving Recipes roundup!
- Creamy Garlic Mushrooms from Cakes Cottage
- Roasted Honey Glazed Carrots from Delicious Meets Healthy
P.S. As noted above, I’ve been working on this recipe since 2014! You may recognize the photos below. They were taken during one of my early attempts at recreating Grandma’s stuffing.
I think I added too much liquid on that try, and the stuffing came out kind of dense. I’ve since improved and updated the recipe to be way better, reflected in the photos above.