Herbed Sausage, Cranberry, and Apple Stuffing
A flavorful medley of herbs, sweet apples, dried cranberries, browned sausage and mushrooms, and whole grain bread. No stuffing compares!
Photos updated in 2016.
Hello hello! What do we have here?!
A big plate of Thanksgiving hugs, that’s what. But not just Thanksgiving. A cold-weather staple, full of herby comforting flavors, contrasting textures, and oodles of meaty mushrooms, whole grain bread, sweet dried cranberries, peppery sausage, and warm apples. All of this baked together in your most favorite casserole dish, then finished with a sprinkling fresh rosemary. Hi Fall, I love you.
Is your mouth watering yet?!
This is the stuffing I enjoyed every year at every Thanksgiving holiday that I can remember. Mom prepped it the night before, stuffed some into the turkey, and served the rest as dressing alongside sweet potato and green bean casserole. This herbed sausage, cranberry, and apple stuffing stole the show each and every year to the point where mom just began making it on the regular. Kevin’s become even a bigger fan than I am– if that’s even possible at this point. With just two of us, this dish makes a ton of leftovers and practically nothing can outshine its flavor, texture, and comfort-food-level. 1 million heart eyed smileys now.
So, basically, this Thanksgiving stuffing = life.
And I know you and your family will love it just as much.
Let me walk you through the recipe real quick so you know exactly what’s about to happen in your kitchen. It all starts with bread. Now you can use white bread, which is what mom used growing up. These days, we’ve all switched over to whole grain bread. Really, you can use whatever bread your family loves. The ONLY thing about the bread that is a must? It has to be somewhat stale. Day-old bread makes the most wonderful stuffing because it has texture. Fresh bread will become soggy in the baked stuffing– and we certainly don’t want that! Grab a loaf of bread, cut it up into cubes, then leave it out on the counter for a day. I usually cover it with paper towels. Then, I toast it for 15 minutes in the oven. Easy easy easy.
Now it’s time to get things started on the stove. The stuffing begins on the stove, but finishes up in the oven. Into a large skillet will go butter, onion, and celery. This is the flavorful base of the stuffing and will make your entire kitchen smell magical. Literally magical. In fact, your kitchen will smell amazing for the next few hours. Then add mushrooms and some herbs: thyme, sage, and parsley. A trio of Thanksgiving musts, right? Now add the sausage. I like to use sweet Italian sausage, but spicy Italian sausage works just as well. Then a couple diced apples. I usually 1 Granny Smith and 1 Honeycrisp, Piñata, or Fuji. A red and green, two reds, two greens, whatever is easiest for you. This stuffing recipe is super forgiving.
Get all this nice and heated together in the skillet. The sausage will lightly brown, the apples will slightly soften and release their sweet juices. Then mix all of this together with the cubed bread, some chicken broth to bind it all in the oven, and dried cranberries for a pop of tartness. (And color, of course!)
Scoop into a casserole dish and bake if serving as dressing alongside the turkey. Stuffing it into the Thanksgiving turkey? Allow the prepared mixture to cool before stuffing into the turkey.
Save time and maximize flavor by making it ahead!
The most wonderful part about this Thanksgiving stuffing recipe is that it’s BEST prepared ahead of time. By that I mean, all the savory herbs, browed sausage, and sweet apples soak together overnight to maximize flavor. We’re talking extreme flavor. Make sure you read the make-ahead instructions in the recipe for details.
Thanksgiving done right. A pan of savory herbs, sweet apples and cranberries, browned sausage and mushrooms, and whole grain bread. Nothing compares. Like really… nothing.
Herbed Sausage, Cranberry, and Apple Stuffing
Maximum flavor in every single bite! This is my family's favorite Thanksgiving stuffing recipe.
- 10 cups cubed whole grain day-old bread (or your favorite bread)
- 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 3 stalks celery, thinly sliced
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup roughly chopped mushrooms
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves (or leaves from about 3 stalks fresh thyme)
- 1 teaspoon dried sage (or about 2 Tbsp chopped fresh)
- 2 teaspoons dried parsley (or about 2-3 Tbsp chopped fresh)
- 1 pound sweet or spicy Italian sausage
- 2 cups diced apples (about 2 medium)
- 2 and 1/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 2/3 cup dried cranberries
- optional: fresh herbs to garnish
- Preheat oven to 300°F (149°C). Spread bread cubes out on two large baking sheets and bake for 15 minutes until browned and crisp. Transfer to a large bowl.
- Place butter in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, celery, salt, and pepper. Sauté for about 4 minutes until vegetables begin to soften. Add mushrooms, thyme, sage, and parsley. Continue cooking for another 3 minutes. Squeeze the sausage meat out of the casings into the skillet. Break up with spoon, then add the apples. Cook for about 4 minutes, until sausage meat is just about cooked through.
- Remove from heat and stir the sausage/apple mixture in with the toasted bread. Pour the broth on top, then the cranberries. Give everything a stir.
- If using to stuff a turkey, allow to cool completely before stuffing. If baking the stuffing separately like I did in these photos, heat oven to 350°F (177°C). Grease a casserole dish (I use an 11x7-inch-- use a similar size) or spray with nonstick spray. Spoon stuffing into the dish, then bake for 40-45 minutes or until lightly browned and crisp on top. Garnish with fresh herbs before serving, if desired. Serve warm. Cover leftovers tightly and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Reheat in the microwave.
Make ahead tip: If you make this stuffing ahead of time, be prepared for maximum flavor! The stuffing is actually BEST made ahead and here's how to do it. The bread loses a lot of texture if you make the stuffing completely ahead of time. Instead, prepare the recipe through step 2. Store the cooked veggies/apples/sausage in the refrigerator overnight and store the crisp bread cubes at room temperature. Continue with step 3 the next morning. For long storage, freeze the baked stuffing up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, allow to come to room temperature, then reheat it in a 350°F (177°C) oven for 20-25 minutes, or until warmed through, before serving.
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Follow me on Instagram and tag #sallysbakingaddiction so I can see all the Thanksgiving recipes you make. And try these three other Thanksgiving musts:
- From-scratch creamy green bean casserole including garlic, fresh green beans, homemade crispy onions on top!
- Simple sweet potato casserole with the crunchiest, toastiest brown sugar cinnamon pecan topping.
- And slow cooker apple cider to sip on! Made from real apples and spices.
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