Sage Sausage Stuffing is a staple in our annual Thanksgiving feast. Made with homemade cornbread and challah bread cubes, sage sausage and fresh and dried fruit. I know you will love this recipe as much as we do! (updated Nov 2019)
Sage Sausage Stuffing – the Cornerstone of a Great Thanksgiving Meal
In 2015 I started to document my family’s must-have Thanksgiving recipes – the ones that make the meal a tradition, at least for us. First it was the turkey stock, then the stuffing cubes, then I put it all together with this sage sausage stuffing recipe. Then of course came the turkey.
How this Cornbread Sausage Stuffing Recipe Evolved
When we started hosting Thanksgiving in the stone age a long time ago, we used The Silver Palate Cornbread Sausage stuffing recipe as our starting point. If I deviate too far from it, the natives get restless. But as with all recipes, this one has evolved. After reading a 2001 Sheila Lukins recipe in Parade Magazine, I started using dried cherries and apricots in my stuffing, in addition to fresh apples. I also started making my own bread cubes. Since then, I have tested new combinations of bread, variations on the sausage and improved my stock. This recipe’s roots are still visible, but you’ll see a very strong imprint from our family traditions in both the ingredients and techniques.
How to Make Sage Sausage Stuffing for Turkey
- Make your turkey stock (can be weeks in advance and frozen)
- Prepare stuffing cubes from cornbread and challah. Can also be done the day before or even a few days before.
- Have a very large bowl ready with bread cubes in it.
- Sauté the onions – low and slow. Add to large bowl.
- Sauté the apples – high heat for a quick sear and color. Add to large bowl.
- Optionally, throw your dried fruit in that hot pan and give it a quick warm up in that leftover buttery goodness. Add to large bowl.
- Add herbs and spices and stock to large bowl and mix it all together.
- Place in oiled or buttered casserole pans, cover with foil and refrigerate until you are ready to bake them
Can I Prepare this Cornbread Sausage Stuffing in Advance?
I always prepare this at least one day before Thanksgiving Day. All I have to do on the actual holiday, is bake it after the turkey comes out of the oven while the turkey rests.
Can I Freeze Sage Sausage Dressing?
Shhhh …. don’t tell my family, but I have hidden away a small bit of this stuffing and frozen it for a treat at another time of the year. Occasionally, I’ll admit, I have even forgotten about it. But it’s always been delicious when defrosted and reheated – like saving a little morsel of Thanksgiving past.
Substitutions that Work in this Sage Sausage Stuffing Recipe
Over the years I have used different types of bread in this stuffing from white to whole wheat to sourdough. Always cornbread but the other types have changed. I am now pretty settled on challah (egg bread) and cornbread. But definitely switch it up to your tastes.
I wouldn’t hesitate to change the dried fruits you use or the nuts. We love the apricots and cherries but I bet cranberries would be a nice change of pace. Pecans really work but taste is in the palate of the eater – don’t be afraid to try a different nut or leave the nuts out.
Can this Sausage Dressing be Vegetarian?
So how can a sage sausage stuffing be vegetarian? Well I almost always have at least one person who either won’t eat sausage or is a vegetarian. Since I make such a large volume of this stuffing, I just mix it all together without the sausage, portion out a bit of it in a small pan, and then mix the sausage in to the rest of the mixture.
If you are feeding a vegetarian, you need to portion out the stuffing mixture before you add the turkey stock and use vegetable stock instead.
Beth’s Favorite Supplies for Making Challah Bread Stuffing
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Helpful Tips and Tricks for Sage Sausage Stuffing:
- As mentioned above, this recipe can be completely prepared the day before so all you have to do is pop it in the oven while your turkey is resting. We are able to “run” the 5K Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving Day because the only thing left to do is cook the turkey and bake the sides while the bird rests.
Make the Stock
- You can absolutely cut corners and buy store-bought stock, but really, make your own turkey stock. It can be done well in advance and refrigerated or frozen and it just tastes better.
Make the Bread Cubes
- Make your own bread cubes – this step is a must. It is not hard and they taste so good. The variety is up to you. I have used up to three kinds of bread but we always use cornbread (I make my own and just let it sit on the counter and dry out a bit.) If you use a packaged mix or find a store with prepared cornbread, it will work fine. In addition to the cornbread, I used to use white bread and whole wheat but tried challah bread a few years ago and have become a convert. Challah and cornbread are now our standard. If you are not familiar, challah is an eggy Jewish bread that is fairly easy to find year round at Trader Joe’s and generally on Friday’s at bakeries in both grocery stores and specialty stores. Or you can make mine or my friend Lonni’s recipe.
Don’t Buy the Sausage at the Last Minute
- For the sausage – I use Jimmy Dean’s Breakfast Sausage with Sage. I have asked a meat department to make some for me or occasionally they will have it in the meat case, but Jimmy Dean’s can be purchased ahead and well, it tastes fantastic in the stuffing. But apparently we’re not the only ones that think so because stores often run out near Thanksgiving. Plan your shopping accordingly.
Appetizers and Cocktails
Turkey, Trimmings and a Vegetarian Main Course
The Finishing Touch
Sage Sausage Stuffing
This stuffing/dressing is layered with flavor starting with the homemade stuffing cubes which are enhanced with sage sausage, dried cherries and apricots, fresh seared apples, and toasted pecans. A mouthful of Thanksgiving flavor in every single bite.
- 16 cups bread cubes
- 1 ½ pounds breakfast sausage with sage either Jimmy Dean's which will sell out close to Thanksgiving or get your butcher to make it
- 1/2 cup dried apricots chopped
- 1/2 cup dried cherries
- 1 ½ cups pecans coarsely chopped and toasted
- 2 onions chopped, about 2.5 cups
- 3 tart apples chopped and not peeled
- 4 tablespoons butter 1/2 stick
- 2 - 3 teaspoons dried thyme or about double if fresh
- 1 -2 teaspoons dried sage or about double if fresh
- ½ cup Italian parsley chopped
- 1 - 2 cups turkey stock
- Salt and pepper to taste
Have a giant bowl ready for mixing it all up and to put the ingredients in as you saute them. I keep the sausage separate in case I have to make a small pan of stuffing without sausage in it.
Also prep your stuffing pans - probably not necessary but a little greasing couldn't hurt.
Brown sausage and drain. I leave a bit of drippings in the pans for flavor to kickstart the onions in the next step. (unless you are making a pan of stuffing vegetarian)
Saute the onions in 2 tablespoons of the butter - low and slow - I like to add some salt and pepper and thyme here to again layer the flavors. You want the onions translucent but not brown. They'll take a while - you can prep other stuff while they are working - just stir occasionally and make sure they are not browning.
Remove the onions from the pan and add the other 2 tablespoons of butter for sautéing the apple. Turn heat up to high or at least medium high. You want to sear the outside of the apples without turning them to mush. I add a pinch of thyme and sage to the apples.
Remove the apples to your bowl and now, totally optional, saute the dried fruit in the remains of the apple pan just to soften them up and use the flavor in the pan.
Mix everything together in the large bowl including adding the chopped parsley, sage, thyme, and salt and pepper. After thoroughly mixed, add about 1.5 cups of broth and mix again.
Put the stuffing in your stuffing pans, cover with foil and refrigerate. I always do this the day before. I usually bake them after the turkey has come out - at 375 for about 30 minutes. Check once for moistness. Can always add some stock. Also, if you like crisp edges, take foil off near the end and let it finish cooking "topless".
A loaf of Semifreddo's challah purchased at Trader Joe's will yield about 10 cups of bread cubes. 6 slices of store-bought sourdough bread will yield about 4 cups of bread cubes. One 8X8 pan of cornbread will yield 9 - 12 cups of bread cubes.