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!
If you need help with your turkey, here is my How to Dry Brine Turkey for a Stress-Free Thanksgiving post.
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Sage Sausage Stuffing – the Cornerstone of a Great Thanksgiving Meal
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, my family gets a bit agitated.
But as with all recipes, this one has evolved. After reading a 2001 Sheila Lukins recipe in Parade Magazine, I added dried cherries and apricots to the stuffing, in addition to fresh apples. I also started making my own bread cubes.
I've 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.
Why you'll love this recipe (as much as we do!)
Make-ahead and flexibility are probably the two best characteristics of this recipe. Of course it depends on who you talk to - the consumer or the cook. If you ask my niece, it's the sausage. But my guests who don't eat meat and choose the sausage-free version, will say it's the texture and flavor. And from me, the cook - I love that I can prepare it all ahead of time and just pop it in the oven while the turkey rests.
Want to see the recipe that inspired this one over 30 years ago? See the original Silver Palate recipe in this Serious Eats post.
Ingredients you'll need
- Homemade Bread Cubes: Make your own bread cubes - I insist! It is not hard and they taste so good. I use up to three kinds of bread but we always use cornbread - homemade or store-bought. In addition to the cornbread, I use challah, which is an eggy Jewish bread that you can find year round at Trader Joe's and on Friday's at bakeries in both grocery stores and specialty stores. Or you can make my challah recipe or my friend Lonni's recipe. Whole wheat and white bread also work.
- Sage 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.
- Turkey 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.
- Apples: Use firm apples that can hold up under some high heat - like Granny Smith.
- Dried Fruit: I have fallen in love with dried cherries and apricots but feel free to try other options like cranberries.
Steps to make this recipe
1. If possible, make your turkey stock (can be weeks in advance and frozen)
2. Prepare stuffing cubes from cornbread and challah. Can also be done the day before or even a few days before.
3. Have a very large bowl ready with bread cubes in it.
4. Sauté the sausage first so you can use some of the drippings to sauté the onions and apples. Add the sausage to the large bowl. (see note #8 below if you are making a separate pan of stuffing without sausage - then you should either brown the sausage in a separate pan or do it last.
5. Sauté the onions – low and slow. Add to large bowl.
6. Sauté the apples – high heat for a quick sear and color. Add to large bowl.
7. Add herbs and spices and stock to large bowl and mix it all together.
8. If you are serving vegetarians, saute the sausage separately and set it aside until you mix everything but the sausage together. Otherwise, feel free to saute everything in the same pan and use those sausage drippings for flavor!
9. Place in oiled or buttered casserole pans, cover with foil and refrigerate until you are ready to bake them
Expert Tips and FAQs
Prep the stuffing ahead
- As mentioned above, this cornbread sausage stuffing 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 your own stock
- You can absolutely use store-bought stock, but really, make your own. It can be done well in advance and refrigerated or frozen and it just tastes better.
Make the bread cubes
- Again, as mentioned above, making your own stuffing cubes is so easy but adds so much flavor to your stuffing. Give it a try - you'll wonder why you haven't been doing this forever!
Don't buy the sausage at the last minute
- For the sausage - I use Jimmy Dean's Breakfast Sausage with Sage. But apparently we're not the only ones that do because stores often run out near Thanksgiving. Plan your shopping accordingly.
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 and rests.
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.
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.
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.
What else to serve for Thanksgiving
Want all my best tips, tricks and recipes for hosting and preparing for Thanksgiving? Head over to this comprehensive Thanksgiving menu-planning post with links to all of my best recipes and a planning guide so you won't be doing all the work at the last minute!
- Homemade Refrigerated Pie Crust
- Cranberry Orange Jam: A Simple Staple for the Holiday Season
- Vegetable Wellington: An Elegant Vegetarian Entree for your Holiday Meals
- Roasted Delicata Squash with Pomegranate Molasses and Date Syrup
- Homemade Stuffing Cubes -- A Simple Way to Elevate your Thanksgiving Meal
- How to Cook Green Cauliflower – Roast your Way to Success
- Orange Thyme Cocktail Cookies - A Unique Holiday Appetizer
- Squash Soup Shooters to Toast the Arrival of Fall
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Sage Sausage StuffingBeth Lee
- 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
- ½ cup dried apricots chopped
- ½ 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 ½ 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".
Could I bake the stuffing in one large baking pan instead of txo pans?
Are you making all 16 cups of cubes? I usually use one extra large pan and then a 9X13 pan and then a square one. But it really depends on how much you make and what your pan sizes are. I could probably fill my pans a bit more. And since there is no egg in this or anything raw, you are really just trying to heat the stuffing through. Just keep in mind that if the pan is deeper, perhaps the warm up time will be a bit longer. Let me know if you have any other questions!
Homemade stuffing is the best! And you have all of my favorite flavors in your recipe - thank you!
This stuffing looks amazing for the holidays. Wishing there was a good gluten free challah to try it.
Love the ingredients and flavors in this stuffing!
Thank you! And thanks for stopping by to let me know!
Thanksgiving was made for stuffing like this one! Love, love the addition of sausage and dried cherries - delicious!
So glad you like it - we look forward to it every year!
I never have enough oven space on the day of Thanksgiving so this recipe is going to be a time saver making it in advance. Love all those delicious flavors, especially the sausage!
Exactly! Just throwing it in while the turkey rests but having it all ready to go is the best!
What a delicious stuffing.
I made this for our Christmas in July (I'm in Australia) and it was perfect.
Came back to find the link so I can send it to some friends for their Christmas feast this year.
It had such a great mix of sweet and savory
Yay! I am so glad to know you are enjoying it all the way in Australia and sharing it with friends. This really puts a smile on my face and we needed that today in the US!
Your site looks great – the food looks delicious! Thank you for sharing the resource.
Cool Kitchen Utensil
Little Cooking Tips
It's been so long since our last visit, it's embarrassing. So glad to be back here to read your new post! Gorgeous stuffing.
We hope everything is better, we just read your reply to our comment 2 posts back (in April), it didn't reach our mailbox for some reason:/ We understand that you didn't want to comment publicly of course. And honestly wish things are now better, from the bottom of our hearts.
It's been crazy here as well, and it has been a tough, difficult year. We managed to post recipes every now and then though, and share the positive things in life, like we always try to do.
Sending you lots (and lots) of greetings from Athens!
Mirella and Panos
Always a bright spot in my day when I see your comments Mirella and Panos. I am sorry to hear that your year was/is so difficult. Though I am still unable to write at great length about our situation, I have been speaking about it I guess through food and cooking - on Instagram more than on my blog. You can see how infrequent my posting has been. We tragically lost our son on March 3. My husband, my daughter, and I struggle every day but also choose to live life and find joy as we know that is exactly what he would want us to do. My heart is broken, sometimes I think literally -- he was also my companion in food with his incredible taste buds, eye behind the camera and marketing genius all at the young age of 22. He had a brain and personality that just lit up the room and energized everyone he met. If you want to get to know him, I can send you his memory web site. I know this is hard to read almost as much as it is hard for me to write. But it is my reality now and we try every single day to somehow form our life around this giant hole that is in our hearts. With love and hope from San Jose --- Beth
Little Cooking Tips
Sometimes words are not enough to express one's feelings... These are devasting news and we are literally out of words. We are so so so sorry to hear about this tragedy Beth... You have our sincere, deepest sympathy for this profound loss...we really mean it.
He will still live in your beautiful memories...! Try to think that he is with God now dear Beth. Of course, this offers little comfort for you and your family, we know, and please don't get this the wrong way. It's one of the thoughts we have ourselves, for good people that we loved and lost.
Please, do send us the link for the site in his memory.
And you are right: living life and finding joy is indeed what he would want you to do.
Such horrible news, literally brought tears in our eyes.
Sending you our love, our deepest sympathies, and a huge hug...!
This is quite like my husband's traditional turkey stuffing, minus the dried fruit. He's Italian, so of course sausage!
I hope we get a chance to cook and share a meal together soon. I am just so pleased to have met you through SFPFS Rita.