When the leaves have changed, Halloween has come and gone, and Black Friday talk for holiday gifts is on the horizon, you know that the year’s biggest feast is upon us. While the turkey usually steals the show at any Thanksgiving table, don’t let your side dishes go forgotten, as they can be as delicious as the poultry. When it comes to stuffing, you want to make sure your dish is moist, hearty, and packed full of flavor, whether you’re actually cooking it in the bird or leaving it separate. If you’re tired of the same old stuffing recipe you’ve been using year after year, then you’ll have to try these unique takes on stuffing that will wow everyone at the Thanksgiving table.
1. Spinach, Fennel, and Sausage Stuffing with Toasted Brioche
Fennel and sausage are usual suspects when it comes to Thanksgiving stuffing, so you may be wondering what’s so special about this particular dish. What really kicks this stuffing up a notch is the rich, buttery brioche bread. This spinach, fennel, and sausage stuffing with toasted brioche from Bon Appétit features the classic French bread, which adds tons of rich flavor. This dish will have you swooning at the table.
- 1 (12-ounce) loaf of brioche or challah bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 pound hot Italian sausage, casing removed
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided, plus more for greasing the dish
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 1 medium fennel bulb, cored and coarsely chopped
- 4 large eggs, beaten
- 2½ cups low-salt chicken broth
- 2 pounds frozen spinach, thawed, and squeezed, coarsely chopped
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 1½ teaspoons fennel seeds
Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Place your bread cubes on a rimmed baking sheet and toast them in the oven until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Let them cool completely. You can do this up to a day ahead of time as well — store in an airtight container at room temperature if preparing ahead.
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the sausage to the pan and cook, breaking it up into smaller pieces as it cooks, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove your sausage from the pan and drain on a paper towel-lined plate, and let it cool.
In the same skillet, add 2 tablespoons of butter and let it melt over medium-low heat. Add the onion and fennel and cook until soft, 10 to 12 minutes, while stirring occasionally. You can also cook your onion and fennel mixture up to a day ahead of time — just store it in the refrigerator in a covered container.
Butter a 3-quart shallow baking dish. In a large bowl, whisk together your eggs and broth. Stir in the sausage, onion and fennel mixture, spinach, salt, pepper, and fennel seeds. Then, add the bread, and toss it so that the bread evenly absorbs the liquid. Transfer stuffing mixture into the baking dish, and dot the top with the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter.
Bake the stuffing until it’s hot and the top has browned, about 40 minutes. Serve.
2. Whiskey Sausage Apple Stuffing
If you love a little bit of sweetness with your savory dishes, then you’ll have to try this whiskey sausage apple stuffing from Shannon Morrow, which was a finalist in America’s Best Stuffing recipe contest hosted by Delish and Country Living. Not only do you get chunks of apple in this delicious dish, but you’ll also get a hint of extra flavor from apple juice and whiskey. We guarantee this stuffing is going to be a hit with the guests at your Thanksgiving table.
- 4 cups diced apples
- ½ cup raisins
- 1½ cups apple juice
- 2 teaspoons nutmeg
- 1 pinch cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1½ cups butter
- ¼ cup whiskey
- 8 (2-ounce) chicken, pork, or turkey sausage links
- 8 cups cornbread stuffing
- 1½ cups pecans
Directions: Begin by preheating your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. In a medium bowl, combine apples, raisins, apple juice, nutmeg, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, sage, salt, butter, and whiskey. Toss everything together to combine, and set aside.
Cook sausage in a medium skillet, breaking it up into medium-sized chunks. Once the sausage is cooked, grab a separate large bowl and add your cooked chunked sausage, cornbread stuffing, and pecans. Combine the mixture together.
Ladle apple-raisin mixture over bread and sausage mixture, and thoroughly mix to combine all ingredients. Transfer to a greased casserole or cast-iron skillet. Bake the stuffing, uncovered, for 35 to 45 minutes, or until a crust begins to form on the top and the stuffing has set.
3. Pear, Toasted Walnut, and Blue Cheese Stuffing
We know blue cheese on your Thanksgiving table may be a new addition, but this stuffing from Fake Food Free might be the unusual yet delicious take we’ve all been waiting for. The combination of pears, blue cheese, and walnuts is a classic one, so when you add other classic Thanksgiving flavors to the mix, it makes for quite the delicious combination. For those who like a little twist, this recipe will be a hit.
- ½ tablespoon olive oil
- ¼ cup butter
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 large pear, chopped
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon rubbed sage
- ½ cup walnuts, chopped and toasted
- 8 cups dried bread cubes
- 2-3 cups chicken stock
- 1 egg, beaten
- ½ cup blue cheese, crumbled and divided
Directions: Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and buttering a 2-quart baking dish. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat, and then add in your butter to melt it. Add the onions and garlic into the skillet, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Then, add the pears and cook for about another 7 minutes, or until the pears are tender. Add salt, pepper, and sage, and stir everything to thoroughly combine. Remove this mixture from the heat and set aside.
To a large mixing bowl, add the bread cubes and onion-pear mixture together, and stir to combine. Add in the toasted walnuts next, and then one cup of chicken stock at a time until the stuffing reaches the consistency that you’re looking for. For drier stuffing, you’ll only need about 2 cups of stock; for wetter stuffing, add about 3 cups. Then, stir in the egg.
Incorporate about half of the blue cheese, then transfer the stuffing into the greased baking dish, pressing it down lightly. Add the rest of the blue cheese on top of the stuffing, pressing this into the mixture as well. Cover the stuffing and bake for about 30 minutes, and then remove the cover and bake for an additional 15 minutes, or until the top has browned.
4. Winter Fruit and Nut Stuffing
As much as we’ll miss fall, the season is on its way out, and we should start embracing the flavors we love during the coldest months. This winter fruit and nut stuffing from Epicurious is warming, slightly sweet, and totally unique thanks to dried fruit and a splash of wine. The pears, dried cranberries, prunes, and apricots all add bits of sweet flavor throughout the dish, and the rosemary and sage add just enough woodsy flavor.
- 12 tablespoons ( 1½ sticks) butter
- 2 large Anjou pears, peeled, cored, and cut into ½-inch cubes
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 4 cups chopped onions
- 1½ cups chopped celery
- 1½ cups sweet white wine
- 1½ cups chopped pitted prunes
- 1½ cups chopped dried apricots
- 1 cup dried cranberries
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
- 14 cups ½-inch cubes crustless firm white bread
- 1 cup pecans, toasted, chopped
Directions: Begin by preheating your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and buttering a 13-by-9-by-2-inch glass baking dish.
In a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter and add your pears, sprinkling the sugar on top for caramelization. Sauté the pears until they’re golden brown, about 5 minutes. Then, remove them from the heat and place them in a large bowl, and add cinnamon.
In the same skillet over medium heat, melt the remaining 10 tablespoons of butter. Then, add the onions and celery and sauté until golden, about 15 minutes. Add wine, prunes, apricots, dried cranberries, rosemary, and sage to the skillet, and simmer it all together until the liquids reduce down to a glaze. The mixture should take about 15 minutes to cook, and it can be made up to a day ahead of time.
In a large bowl, combine the bread, pecans, and fruit mixture, and season with salt and pepper. Transfer this stuffing into the greased dish, and bake uncovered for about 35 minutes, or until it’s completely heated through.
5. Cheesy Spinach Stuffing
Spinach and cheese may not first come to mind when you’re thinking about your Thanksgiving stuffing, but if you’re looking for something new, then you’ll have to give this cheesy spinach stuffing from SheKnows a try. This stuffing looks impressive once cooked, but the execution couldn’t be simpler. You don’t even need to use the oven.
- 10 ounces frozen spinach
- 4 cups herb stuffing mix
- 1⅓ cups chicken broth
- ½ cup chopped red onion
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- ½ cup chopped celery
- Salt and pepper
- 1 tablespoon butter
- ⅔ to ¾ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- 2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese
Directions: Begin by defrosting your spinach according to the instructions on the package. Drain and set aside.
Add the butter to a large saucepan over medium-high heat and let melt. Then, add in the onion to cook for about 2 minutes, or until soft. Add the celery and garlic next, season well with salt and pepper, and cook for about 3 more minutes, or until everything is fragrant.
Add the broth next, and bring everything to a boil. Bring the heat down to medium-low, and stir in the stuffing mix. Cook this together until the stuffing mix has softened and all of the broth has been absorbed in the bread.
Remove this mixture from the heat, and add in the spinach and mozzarella. Stir to thoroughly combine, and garnish with shredded Parmesan.