When it comes to Thanksgiving side dishes, stuffing (or dressing, if you prefer) ranks up there at the top of my list. Holiday dinner simply isn't complete without it.
At its core, stuffing isn't a tricky dish to make, and this version is made even easier by using your slow cooker. No more vying for oven space. It's a set-it-and-forget-it side that requires just a little room on the counter and a few hours. And what you get in return is a classic stuffing filled with homey flavors, and plenty of crispy, toasty edges.
Start with a Classic Recipe
Stuffing can take on so many different iterations, so I thought it best to start with something basic and classic — a stuffing loaded with cubes of extra-dry bread, onion, celery, fresh herbs, stock, and a couple eggs to bring it together. It feels homey and comforting, with plenty of savory flavors; exactly the kind of stuffing I grew up eating year after year.
But should you want something more in your stuffing — diced apple, dried fruit, chopped nuts, crumbled sausage — there's room for that, too. This is just your starting point. Go ahead and add in some of your favorite goodies. Do remember that if you're adding sausage or any other type of meat, it should be cooked before mixing it into the stuffing.
A Balanced Blend of Soft Bread and Crispy Edges
My favorite part of oven-baked stuffing is the crisp, crunchy, extra-toasty layer that blankets the top of the dish. And it seems like everyone in my family loves this layer — it's a race to make sure we all get our share.
But I also love the soft pieces of bread, well-soaked with stock and infused with flavor from the fresh herbs and seasoning. Really, I want a little bit of each on my plate.
And here is where slow-cooker stuffing does not disappoint: The mix and blend of textures, both crisp and toasty, and soft and squishy, is really well-balanced. While this version doesn't yield a crunchy, toasted layer on top, that layer exists across the bottom and all around the sides of the slow-cooker bowl. Yes, you get even more crisp cubes of bread than you would when using the oven. And of course, the center of the bowl is packed with all the well-soaked, soft pieces. There's something for everyone, and plenty of it.
How To Make Stuffing in a Slow Cooker
Makes approximately 12 cups
What You Need
16- to 18-ounce loaf rustic white or sourdough bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 10 cups)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 medium onions, diced
4 large stalks celery, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh sage leaves
Leaves from 4 stalks thyme
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 cups turkey, chicken, or vegetable stock
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup diced apple, dried fruit, nuts (optional)
Large sauté pan
7-quart slow cooker
- Toast the bread: If the bread is not already completely stale and dried out, preheat the oven to 225°F. Spread the bread cubes on a large baking sheet and bake for 90 minutes or until quite crisp, stirring every half hour.
- Cook the vegetables: Heat the butter in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the onions, celery, and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes or until the vegetables are very soft. Stir in the sage and thyme and cook for 2 more minutes, then remove the pan from the heat.
- Combine the ingredients: Beat the eggs with the broth, salt, fresh black pepper, and dried fruit or nuts, if using. In a large bowl, fold together the toasted bread cubes with the cooked onions and celery, then stir in the egg-broth mixture.
- Add the mix to the slow cooker: Transfer to the bowl of a 7-quart slow cooker that's been lightly greased with cooking spray.
- Cook the stuffing: Cover the slow cooker with the lid and cook the stuffing on low for 3 to 4 hours, until crisp around the edges.