Essential Thanksgiving Recipe: Classic Sage & Onion Bread Dressing (Stuffing)

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(Image credit: Rachel Joy Barehl)

On Thanksgiving, I don’t think any dish inspires quite as much love and jealousy as stuffing. Or, for that matter, technical debate over stuffing vs. dressing. Sure, if it’s baked inside the turkey it’s stuffing, and if it’s not, it’s dressing. But to me, it will always be stuffing — it sounds so much more satisfying than dressing, which brings to mind vinaigrette.

And on my table, the stuffing is always some version of this classic sage and onion mix. No cornbread, oysters, or dried fruit for me. This is Pepperidge-esque, Stovetop-style stuffing — but all homemade and full of toasty flavor from good bread, and savor from turkey stock. This recipe is surprisingly simple; in fact, why not make some tonight? It never hurts to practice your stuffing, whatever you call it.

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(Image credit: Rachel Joy Barehl)

Let me describe this stuffing (dressing, if you insist). It starts with toasted bread — the drier and toastier the better. I don’t bother with leaving it out all night; why leave crisp bread to the vagaries of the atmosphere. No, I bake it until browned and crisp in a low oven.

From there, bread dressing is almost laughably easy. It has one of these ingredient lists that seem weirdly bare; how could they possibly turn into that seductively delicious centerpiece of Thanksgiving dinner? But all it takes is some onion, garlic, celery, and a bracing quantity of butter, along with turkey stock, which turns everything it touches to gold.

I like to make this ahead of time; I’ll whip it up the night before Thanksgiving and leave it in the refrigerator, unbaked. Then I’ll slip it into the oven when the turkey is done. This gives a stuffing with a slightly moister interior, and it may need to bake a few minutes longer. But I like a moist stuffing, just as if it baked inside the bird, and the convenience is a gift.

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(Image credit: Rachel Joy Barehl)
42 Ratings

Classic Sage Dressing

Serves6 to 8

Ingredients

  • 1 (16- to 18-ounce) loaf

    rustic white bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 10 cups)

  • 4 tablespoons

    unsalted butter, plus an additional 2 tablespoons melted

  • 1 pound

    yellow onions, diced

  • 4 large stalks

    celery, diced

  • 4 cloves

    garlic, minced

  • 1/4 cup

    finely chopped fresh sage leaves

  • Leaves from 4 fresh thyme sprigs

  • 2 cups

    low-sodium turkey, chicken, or vegetable broth

  • 2

    large eggs

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • Freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 225°F. Spread the bread cubes on a large rimmed baking sheet. Bake until quite crisp, stirring every 30 minutes, about 90 minutes total. Meanwhile, prepare the remaining ingredients.

  2. Lightly grease a 9x13-inch or 3-quart baking dish; set aside. Melt the 4 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions, celery, and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are very soft, about 10 minutes. Stir in the sage and thyme and cook for 2 minutes more. Remove from the heat. Place the broth, eggs, salt, and a generous quantity of fresh black pepper in a medium bowl and whisk to combine; set aside.

  3. Transfer the toasted bread cubes and onion mixture to a large bowl and fold to combine. Drizzle the egg mixture into the bowl and fold until evenly moistened. Transfer to the prepared baking dish and spread into an even layer. Drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons melted butter. Cover tightly with aluminum foil. (At this point, the dressing can be refrigerated overnight or up to 24 hours.)

  4. When ready to bake, arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 375°F. Bake covered for 25 minutes. Uncover and bake until the top is lightly browned, about 15 minutes more. If you are baking the dressing directly from the refrigerator, expect to add 10 extra minutes baking time. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The assembled stuffing can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours before baking.

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated for up to 4 days.

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(Image credit: Rachel Joy Barehl)
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(Image credit: The Splendid Table)

Hear The Kitchn on The Splendid Table

Listen to Faith talk to Lynn Rossetto Kasper about our Thanksgiving menu on
  • Air date: Saturday November 23
  • Listen online or on your local NPR station

Photos by Rachel Joy Photos of Columbus, Ohio

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