Ina Garten’s Thanksgiving Stuffing Alternative Is the Perfect Make-Ahead Side Dish: ‘It’s Not Soggy’

When it comes to Thanksgiving stuffing, Ina Garten likes to switch things up a little bit. The Barefoot Contessa star has found a perfect make-ahead alternative to the traditional side dish that’s a perfect blend of sweet and savory.

Ina Garten wears a blue button down shirt and motions with her hands on the Today show during a cooking segment
Ina Garten | Nathan Congleton/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

Ina Garten’s herb and apple bread pudding is perfect in place of Thanksgiving stuffing

Garten has some more traditional Thanksgiving stuffing recipes, but her herb and apple bread pudding is perfect when you want something a little different but in the same category as the classic side dish.

Garten demonstrated how to make her sweet and savory recipe on an episode of Barefoot Contessa. “Herb and apple bread pudding is fantastic instead of stuffing,” she explained. “You can make it ahead — in fact, I assembled it yesterday.”

The Barefoot Contessa star shared how she took her herb and apple stuffing recipe and modified it slightly to make a bread pudding. “So it’s going to be creamy on the inside and crispy on the outside,” she explained.

The ‘Barefoot Contessa’ star’s stuffing alternative has the best texture

To make her herb and apple bread pudding recipe, Garten cooked pancetta, butter, celery, onions, and granny smith apples in a saute pan for 8 to 10 minutes. Next, Garten added sherry, fresh rosemary, salt, and pepper. She cooked the mixture for 5 minutes until most of the liquid was evaporated. The Food Network host turned off the heat and added fresh parsley.

Garten made a custard by whisking together eggs, chicken stock, and heavy cream. Then she added grated gruyere cheese and bread cubes she roasted in the oven. The Barefoot Contessa star added the bread cubes and vegetable mixture to the custard and stirred everything together.

She poured the bread pudding into a baking dish, topped it with more gruyere, and refrigerated it overnight until she was ready to cook it. “And then I’m going to bake it tomorrow, so less stress on Thanksgiving Day,” Garten explained.

She baked the bread pudding in a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven for 45 minutes. Garten had fellow Food Network star Bobby Flay give the dish a taste. “So I made bread pudding, not stuffing,” she told Flay, who took a spoonful.

Garten shared that she prefers to make bread pudding “because it’s crisp on the top and it’s moist inside. It’s not soggy.”

Flay agreed, saying, “That’s how I feel! I love the crustiness of it.”

The full recipe is available on the Food Network website.

Garten’s bread pudding recipe earns rave reviews

Garten’s fans love her delicious herb and apple bread pudding, with the recipe earning 5 stars on the Food Network website.

“Wanted to add a new side to Thanksgiving this year to shake things up, so we gave this recipe a try,” one person commented. “We made it the day before Thanksgiving and then baked it as written on Turkey Day.  It was wonderful! Creamy, flavorful and cheesy delish!”

Another fan wrote, “AMAZING! I followed the recipe exactly as written and it was perfect! This will be on our Thanksgiving table for years to come!”

One fan didn’t think five stars was enough. “I wish I could give this 100 stars,” they wrote. “This will be my new go-to Thanksgiving side. No more heavy, dried out, tasteless the same-old same-old stuffing/dressing. This bread pudding was an explosion of flavors in your mouth that was so light and airy, yet had crisp edging and top.”

RELATED: Ina Garten Explains Why She Never Cooks Stuffing in Thanksgiving Turkey