Old Fashioned Thanksgiving Dressing Recipe
My mother’s old fashioned thanksgiving dressing recipe is our family’s favorite side dish! We have always said that Ida had the best stuffing recipe. It was an old fashioned bread dressing made with celery, onions, sage, butter and bread. The only seasoning was salt and pepper. Simple, and delicous.
Although we have been tempted to make Southern cornbread dressing, now that we live in the South, my mom’s dressing is a family tradition. It is a classic dressing that has stood the test of time! We look forward to seeing it on the Thanksgiving dinner table. We don’t stuff our bird with it. We just make a double batch so there is plenty leftover for the next day!
My mother grew up in Western Kansas, during the depression and the Dust Bowl. Ida was the last girl of 12 children and I think that made our family what I would call scrappy, and resourceful! She knew what it meant to make every meal count. There was never a time when any part of a meal went to waste.
Ida was able to make a meal out of any ingredients to make any holiday meal special. She had the easiest, most delicious Thanksgiving stuffing recipe. Not only did she stuff the turkey with it, but she also made extra in a casserole dish. And the next day we would smother leftover stuffing and the Thanksgiving turkey with gravy.
Although we love to have this traditional stuffing on our Thanksgiving menu, in it is the perfect side dish served with roast chicken, roast turkey or any main dish.
Dressing or Stuffing-What’s the difference?
The terms “dressing” and “stuffing” are often used interchangeably, but there can be some regional and cultural variations in their preparation and usage. However, here are some general differences between the two:
Location and Terminology:
Dressing: In many Southern regions of the United States, it is more common to refer to the side dish made from bread, vegetables, and seasonings as “dressing.” It is typically baked in a separate dish, not inside the turkey.
Stuffing: In many Northern regions of the United States and in other parts of the world, this dish is known as “stuffing” and is traditionally placed inside the turkey’s cavity to cook.
Ingredients and Preparation:
Dressing: Dressing typically includes ingredients like cornbread, white bread, or biscuits, mixed with vegetables, herbs, spices, and sometimes sausage or other meats. It is often moistened with broth or stock and baked in a casserole dish until it forms a crust on top.
Stuffing: Stuffing is similar in terms of ingredients, but it is designed to be placed inside the turkey’s cavity before roasting. The turkey juices help flavor the stuffing, and it can become quite moist and dense as a result.
Dressing: This is usually baked in a separate dish, either covered or uncovered, depending on the desired texture. It can be baked until it’s slightly crispy on top or more moist and tender.
Stuffing: As the name suggests, stuffing is stuffed into the turkey’s cavity and cooked together with the bird during roasting. It absorbs the turkey’s juices and takes on a different flavor and texture compared to dressing.
Dressing: Dressing is considered safer from a food safety perspective because it doesn’t come into direct contact with raw poultry. It is cooked separately and can be safely prepared ahead of time.
Stuffing: Stuffing cooked inside the turkey can potentially pose food safety risks if it doesn’t reach a safe internal temperature (165°F or 74°C) due to the insulating effect of the bird’s cavity. Ensuring that both the turkey and stuffing reach the appropriate temperature is crucial to prevent the risk of foodborne illness.
Ultimately, the choice between dressing and stuffing is a matter of tradition, personal preference, and regional customs. Some people prefer the flavor and texture of stuffing cooked inside the turkey, while others prefer dressing baked separately for its different texture and safety advantages. Both can be delicious additions to a Thanksgiving meal.
Old fashioned Thanksgiving Dressing Recipe Ingredients:
- Bread: The type of bread you use for this homemade stuffing recipe really does not matter. You can use wheat bread, white bread, french bread, sourdough bread or even gluten-free bread. We think the best bread to use should have a slight chew to it, and not too fluffy.
- Butter: For the richest, classic stuffing recipe, butter is a must! Use unsalted butter so that you can control the sodium content in the stuffing.
- Celery and Onions: This is the classic base for bread stuffing. Use yellow or white onions, not red or sweet onions when making stuffing.
- Chicken Stock: We like to use chicken stock vs chicken broth, as it gives it a richer flavor. You can use vegetable stock, or turkey broth as well.
- Seasonings: Fresh sage, salt and pepper are the seasonings we use. Be sure to look for fresh sage a week ahead of Thanksgiving, or you may not find it. You can use dried sage, but fresh just tastes so much better!
Old Fashioned Thanksgiving Dressing Recipe Instructions:
Step One: Dry Out Bread
A key step to making the best stuffing is to allow the bread to dry out. We tear the bread into small pieces the day before and leave it out to dry. This is a fun job for the kiddos (or mother in law) to do!
Step Two: Saute Onions and Celery
When you are ready to prepare the stuffing, melt the butter in a large saute pan over medium-low heat. Add in the minced onion, diced celery, and minced sage. The smell of melted butter with onions and celery takes me back to my mother’s kitchen in Kansas.
Step Three: Combine
Once the onions and celery have softened in the butter, it is time to combine the vegetable mixture with the cups of bread. You can use a large mixing bowl to do this. If we are making a double or triple batch we use a large turkey pan to mix this up. We then add the mixture to a large casserole pan that has been lined with aluminum foil. This makes for easier clean up! We are all about that after a long Thanksgiving dinner!
Step Four: Bake
We have the turkey in the oven before we start the stuffing. We then add the stuffing, covered in foil to the oven, to bake along with the turkey. We remove the foil on the stuffing to allow it to get golden brown. The crispy edges are what everyone fights over!
What kind of bread should I use for Old Fashioned Thanksgiving Dressing Recipe?
We have used store bought sandwich bread for years in this recipe. Recently we used the home made wheat bread that Bruce makes. If you are using sourdough, do not let it dry out like you would for the softer bread. The first time I used sourdough, I let it dry out too long, and then I had to soak it for longer than usual! You can use almost any type of high-quality bread: unsliced French or Italian bread, sturdy sandwich loaf, brioche, challah, or even corn bread.
Should I prepare uncooked dressing ahead of time and refrigerate?
The short answer is If dressing is prepared ahead of time, it must be either frozen or cooked immediately. To use cooked stuffing later, cool in shallow container till it comes to room temperature and refrigerate it within 2 hours. Use it within 3 to 4 days. However, you can chop the celery and onions ahead of time, which will save you time. We tear up the white bread into smaller pieces the day before, and let it set out to dry.
My moms recipe doesn’t even have measurements for the most part. It is a little of this, a bit of that, and a whole lot of love. This stuffing recipe is our favorite thing on Thanksgiving day, coming out of the oven with crunchy corners, and a warm and tender middle. Drenched in gravy, or cold the next day on a turkey sandwich, our boys love it. We think you will too.
- Sharp knife
- Cutting board
- Baking Dish
- large mixing bowl
- 1 loaf bread day old, torn into pieces
- 2 sticks salted butter use plant based butter for vegan version
- 2 cups yellow onions chopped
- 2 cups celery chopped
- 32 ounce chicken stock use vegatable stock for vegan version
- 2 tablespoons Fresh Sage If you use dried sage, use 2 teaspoons
- 1 teaspoon Salt
- 10 grinds black pepper
- Non stick spray
- If using store bought white or wheat soft bread, tear apart night before and let sit out1 loaf bread
- Melt butter slowly in a large pan2 sticks salted butter
- While butter is slowly melting chop onion and celery.2 cups yellow onions, 2 cups celery
- Add in onion, and let cook at a low to medium heat for 5 minutes (slowly sweat, do not brown)2 cups yellow onions
- Add in chopped celery, and let sweat another 10 minutes or so-does not need to completely cook, as it will finish in the oven.2 cups celery
- Add chopped fresh sage, and salt and pepper to taste. Taste and add more sage if needed. You can use a combination of fresh and dried sage.2 tablespoons Fresh Sage, 1 teaspoon Salt
- Pull mixture off of heat, and allow to cool slightly, but still warm.
- At this point, if you are ready to bake the stuffing, pre-heat your oven to 350 F. If cooking turkey at 325 F, you can use the same temprature, you will just need to cook a bit longer.
- Pour this warm mixture over the cubed or torn bread in a large bowl, or turkey pan.
- Pour about half of the chicken broth over, and continue to mix gently (do not over mix)32 ounce chicken stock
- Continue to add the amount of broth until the stuffing is no longer dry, but not too sloppy. You are looking for it to still hold it's shape, but be moist.
- If you find that you made the mixture too wet, just add in some torn up bread, this will save it!
- Spray 2 baking pans with non-stick spray, or for easy clean up, spray foil or parchment and put into pans, and divide stuffing between the pans. Cover with foil that is slightly tented up so as not to stick to the dressing.
- Bake for 30 minutes at 350 F or 40 minutes at 325 F with foil on. Remove foil, and allow stuffing to get crunchy on the top by baking another 10-15 minutes.
- Serve with gravy over the top.
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