My mom’s traditional dressing– my absolute favorite part of Thanksgiving, is updated into a recipe for Make Ahead Stuffing that can be made in advance for a delicious jump start on the holiday.
This Thanksgiving, I’m all about recipes that give us some time to breathe and enjoy ourselves. I took a long, hard look at the parts of Thanksgiving dinner that can get frustrating: oven space, timing, and workload. I noticed that, of all the make-ahead Thanksgiving sides that take the stress out of Thanksgiving dinner, stuffing has the most leeway.
So, let’s make it easy on ourselves this year, shall we? I’m prepping a couple baking dishes stuffed full of stuffing, freezing them, and baking them up the day of.
Need Make Ahead Stuffing for the biggest Thanksgiving ever? Click and slide the number next to “servings” on the recipe card below to adjust the ingredients to match how many you are feeding—the recipe does the math for you, it’s that easy.
Can stuffing be made the day before?
As long as you’re making outside-of-the-bird stuffing, you can definitely whip up this recipe as early as a week before you serve it.
Can you stuff a turkey ahead of time?
If you’re trying to do all the things ahead of time, even the turkey, the big answer here is no.
I do not recommend stuffing a turkey ahead of time. The combination of moist stuffing and uncooked turkey invites the growth of salmonella, a type of bacteria common in poultry.
In my opinion, stuffing baked outside of the bird is the way to go: your turkey cooks faster and more evenly, your stuffing gets nice crisp edges, and you don’t have to worry about undercooking, either. And the best part is that you can make big batches of stuffing in advance, so you don’t run out.
How to make Stuffing:
1. Choose the bread: First, you have to find some good bread. Bread for stuffing includes good quality, substantial white bread, French bread, crusty, artisan style bread, Italian bread, and even pumpernickel.
Tear or cut the bread into 1/2-inch pieces or cubes until you have what you need. If making stuffing a day ahead, lay them out on a rack and leave uncovered on the counter to dry overnight.
Otherwise, spread the bread out on a rimmed baking sheet and bake in a 225 degree oven, stirring every 10 minutes or so, until crisp and mostly dry. It will continue to dry a bit as it cools. Depending on how moist the bread is to begin with, oven-drying takes 15-45 minutes.
2. Sautéing the vegetables: The best stuffing recipe ever starts with onions, sautéed until golden brown in butter, and aromatic celery. This gives my favorite stuffing flavor and depth. Fresh, chopped herbs are added at this stage and sautéed just for a minute, before everything is mixed together.
3. Moisten the stuffing: A mixture of eggs and broth is what magically turns the bread into stuffing. If the liquid isn’t immediately absorbed and pools at the bottom of the bowl, that should be enough.
Just toss the mixture occasionally for a few minutes and the liquid will soak in. At first, the bread cubes may feel wet on the outside and still be dry on the inside, but they’ll even out when the stuffing cooks.
4. Adjust the seasoning: A little salt, some freshly ground pepper…you got this! Everything gets added to a buttered baking dish (I love using a glass one, for extra crispy edges) All you have to do now is wrap it up and freeze it.
5. Bake it: When it’s time to bake, preheat an oven to 400 degrees and bake covered for 25 minutes, and then uncovered for another 20 minutes.
How do I prevent soggy stuffing?
Are you worried that you’ll have soggy stuffing on the big day if you make it in advance without baking it?
Don’t be. If you’ve bought a good quality bread to make the stuffing, the broth and eggs shouldn’t break down the mixture. When everything is incorporated, nothing should be soaking in liquid, either, just pleasantly moistened; so make sure you watch your proportions carefully.
Also, not all loaves of bread are the same size. Different types of stuffing bread will require different amounts of moisture to achieve the right texture, so add the liquid gradually, evaluating the mixture as you go.
The trick to making good stuffing is getting the moisture balance right. When it comes out of the oven, the stuffing should be golden and slightly crisp on top and moist inside.
Can you freeze uncooked stuffing?
It is safe to freeze uncooked stuffing. Ingredients can be combined, put into a shallow container, and frozen immediately. To use it safely, do not thaw it before cooking. Cook the frozen stuffing until it reaches 165 degrees.
Once you assemble the stuffing and get it into the baking dish, if need be, that’s the time to freeze the stuffing. Cover and wrap tightly in foil, or another airtight container and freeze up to a month. Then pop it into the oven to cook without thawing it out.
How to reheat frozen stuffing:
Of course, you can bake the stuffing as soon as you make it, and freeze it then, too. Reheat cooked stuffing in a 350 degree oven, covered, for 30 minutes or until warm throughout. The baking time really depends on the amount of stuffing, whether it’s just leftovers or you made the whole thing in advance.
Can you make stuffing in a crockpot?
If you have a crockpot you’d like to use on Thanksgiving, give this a try, and let me know how it goes! Once you bake the stuffing, dump the batch into a crockpot or slow cooker and set on “low” for the day until the meal is ready. This is a perfect solution if you need to keep everything warm for a progressive-style meal, or for late-arriving guests.
Of course, if you need the crockpot to make my Mom’s other famous recipe, Slow Cooker Cranberry Apple Cider, I completely understand.
This Thanksgiving season is all about early and easy. For more make-ahead inspiration, see my Make-Ahead Roasted Turkey, Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes, (make a double batch!) and Make-Ahead Pumpkin Pie, all guaranteed to make the holiday feast delicious, memorable, and just a little bit easier.
Make Ahead Stuffing Recipe
- 1/2 cup butter, plus more for buttering baking dish 1 stick
- 1 large yellow onion chopped
- 4 stalks celery sliced lengthwise and chopped
- 3 eggs
- 2 cups chicken broth
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup fresh parsley minced
- 1 teaspoon fresh sage minced, or 1/2 teaspoon dried
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme minced, or 1/2 teaspoon dried
- 1 teaspoon fresh marjoram minced, or 1/2 teaspoon dried
- 1 large loaf of French bread cut into 1/2" cubes and dried overnight on counter
- Coat a 9" by 13" baking dish with butter. In a large skillet over medium high heat, melt butter until foaming. Add onion and celery and sauté until translucent, about 7 to 8 minutes.
- Meanwhile, whisk eggs in large bowl. Stir in broth, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.
- To skillet, add parsley, sage, thyme, and marjoram and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Transfer to bowl with eggs and mix well.
- Add bread cubes and toss to combine. Transfer to buttered baking dish and cover with foil. Refrigerate until ready to bake, or freeze if you're planning to bake it farther in advance than the next day.
- When ready to bake, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Keep stuffing tightly covered with foil and bake until mostly heated through, about 25 minutes. Remove foil and bake until crispy edges form, about 10 to 20 minutes longer.