How to Make Stuffing That'll Win Thanksgiving

Consider this your complete guide to making the classic holiday dish.

Stuffing is a crucial part of any Thanksgiving feast, but it can be intimidating to make homemade stuffing from scratch. Luckily, everything you need to know about making stuffing is right here including our must-have tips for stuffing a turkey. If you're still on the lookout for a delicious stuffing recipe to use for the holidays, you can try our classic bread stuffing recipe, check out our flavor variations, or create your own recipe! We've even got ideas for gluten-free stuffing. Don't stress about the stuffing this holiday season, because we've got all of your questions covered.

Classic Roast Turkey with Stuffing on platter with rosemary and citrus, bowl of cranberry sauce in background
Andy Lyons

If you just want stuffing, there's no requirement for a bird. You can bake most stuffing recipes separately in a casserole dish and then serve them alongside dinner. This separately baked version is generally deemed "dressing." Stuffingrequires these elements:

  • Starch, such as bread, cornbread, rice, or potatoes
  • Liquid, such as broth, wine, or liquor (or a combination of these)
  • Other additions can include herbs, onions, dried or fresh fruits, or sausage or other meats (optional)
  • Seafood such as oysters, crab, or shrimp (optional)

Be creative with what you put into your stuffing—you won't be disappointed. Create your own Thanksgiving stuffing recipe by keeping these proportions in mind:

  • For each pound of uncooked poultry, you will need about 3/4 cup stuffing.
  • For every 1 cup starch, add about 2 tablespoons liquid, just enough to moisten the bread.

How to Make Stuffing

We have all the info you need on how to make a traditional bread stuffing, plus suggestions for other recipes to try for more dressed-up versions, like sausage stuffing and veggie-filled stuffing. Try one of our easy Thanksgiving stuffing recipes.

To Stuff or Not to Stuff

Stuffing baked inside the cavity of a roast turkey is generally moister than stuffing baked in a casserole (thanks, drippings!). That means it will likely contain more fat and calories since the stuffing absorbs juices from the turkey as it bakes. If stuffing is baked inside the turkey, it is essential to check the temperature of the stuffing as well as the turkey. The stuffing must reach a temperature of at least 165°F.

Buy It: Instant Read Thermometer ($15, The Home Depot)

If you prefer not to stuff, place quartered onions and celery in the body cavity to add flavor to the drippings that can then be used in gravy. Pull the neck skin to the back; fasten with a short skewer. Then bake an entire recipe of stuffing in a casserole dish instead of using it to stuff the bird. Bake the casserole, covered, in a 325°F oven 30 to 45 minutes or until heated through.

Practice Proper Food Safety with Your Stuffing

If you don't have an accurate meat thermometer, cook the stuffing separately in a covered casserole, because there is no visual test for stuffing doneness. Mix the stuffing just before you stuff and roast the bird. Loosely spoon stuffing into the body and neck cavities rather than packing it. Otherwise, it won't get hot enough by the time the turkey is cooked. Spoon any remaining stuffing into a casserole; cover and chill until ready to bake.

Stuffing Steps

  • To stuff, first measure out the amount of stuffing that will go into the bird, allowing 3/4 cup per pound of bird. (That's 11 cups for a 15-pound bird.)
  • Release drumsticks from the band of skin, unhooking the tail or leg clamp if one is provided.
  • The clamp may be removed if you prefer not to use it.
  • Remove neck and giblets. Check inside the neck as well as in the body cavity.

Spoon some stuffing loosely into the neck cavity. Pull the neck skin over stuffing; fasten to turkey's back with a short skewer. Loosely spoon stuffing into the body cavity to allow room for expansion during roasting. If the stuffing is too tightly packed, it will not reach a safe temperature by the time the turkey is done.

tying turkey legs together to hold in stuffing
Marty Baldwin

Tuck the legs under the band of skin that crosses the tail or reset the legs into the leg clamp. Or, tie the legs to the tail with kitchen string. Twist the wing tips under the back. The stuffing temperature should reach at least 165°F. Use a meat thermometer to test for doneness. Insert the thermometer through the body cavity into the thickest part of the stuffing and let it stand for five minutes. Or, after removing the stuffed bird from the oven, use a dial or digital instant-read thermometer to check the temperature in the center of the stuffing.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can I stuff the turkey the night before I roast it?

    It is unsafe to stuff the turkey ahead of time. The chilled stuffing in the turkey will not reach a safe temperature before the turkey is done. To be safe, the turkey should reach a temperature of 180°F and the stuffing in the body cavity of the bird should reach 165°F.

  • Can I just make the stuffing and chill it?

    It's fine to make the crumbs or homemade bread cubes ahead, but the stuffing should not be completely prepared ahead if it will be used to stuff a turkey. If the stuffing is to be baked in a casserole, it can be prepared in advance and chilled. The baking time will need to be increased by about 15 to 20 minutes if you're starting with chilled stuffing.

  • What can I do with all my leftover turkey and stuffing?

    Before carving your turkey, be sure to remove all stuffing. The leftover stuffing can be refrigerated for up to 2 days. Stuffing must be heated to at least 160°F. After dinner remove all meat from the carcass (this should be done within 2 hours of the turkey's removal from the oven). Leftover turkey can be refrigerated and used within 2 days or frozen in small portions. Be sure to label and date the wrapped packages and use them within 6 months. Leftover turkey can be used in any recipe calling for cooked chicken or turkey. Try making one of our delicious Thanksgiving leftover recipes.

  • Why do recipes say to spoon the stuffing into turkey loosely?

    Stuffing will expand as it roasts. If stuffing is too tightly packed, it will not reach a safe temperature by the time the turkey is done.

  • How do I get stuffing crispy on the top?

    If the stuffing you've baked outside the bird in a casserole dish isn't crisp on top when it's done baking, put it under the broiler for a minute or two. You can do the same thing with the stuffing that's been baked inside the turkey; after it's done, just transfer it to a large oiled baking dish. Bake it at 450°F for 10 minutes, then broil it for a minute or two. It will be crisp on top and moist inside.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles