Give Thanks To These Thanksgiving Stuffing Hacks

Can we have a moment of total honesty? While the turkey is definitely the centerpiece of a traditional Thanksgiving feast, doesn't everyone secretly just crave the stuffing? Whether you cook it in the bird or not, make it with meat or vegetarian, there's nothing like finding a stuffing that you love and sharing it with family and friends. Stuffing came about because adding a filling to the bird was a practical way to cook some extra goodies. Since early Americans cooked their turkey on a spit, and modern ovens and stoves were non-existent, it only made sense to take full advantage of the cooking methods they had available. The reason there are so many different types of stuffing is because people simply used what they had available. Culinary historian Andrew Smith credits Mrs. Cubbison's for making the first commercial stuffing in 1919, which paved the way for Stove Top and many more (via Yahoo! Movies).

Find out how to create crispy-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside stuffing, as well as ways you can enhance packaged stuffing mix. With a hack or two, you can upgrade your usual recipe by changing the bread, or even using a different carb altogether. What about a stuffing that's indulgently inspired by a pizza, or how you can turn leftovers into stuffing cupcakes? That's just a taste of what you'll get and more, thanks to these Thanksgiving stuffing hacks. 

Upgrade your boxed stuffing

There's no shame in using boxed stuffing for Thanksgiving — well, maybe a little bit. But what about using a packet of stuffing mix and upgrading it? That way, you can save time, say you've made it yourself, and not deal with all the fuss of following a recipe from scratch. It's a win-win, especially since there are so many other dishes to think about. Whether you choose to admit this to your guests is up to you, of course. You could just bask in the compliments of a splendid stuffing instead. 

A TikTok post by Tasty suggests adding a couple of simple ingredients to give boxed stuffing a flavor boost. Make the stuffing as directed, and then add in some sliced mushrooms that you've sautéed in butter. Once those are mixed in, transfer the stuffing to an oven-safe dish, and sprinkle on grated parmesan. Cover the dish with a lid so that the cheese melts, or, even better, put it in the oven for a few minutes.  

Even The Pioneer Woman isn't against using stuffing mix either. For her recipe, as seen on Food Network, she recommends first sautéing diced carrots, onion, and celery with some fennel in butter and oil, then adding garlic. Next, sauté parsnips, turnips, and celery root in another pan until softened. Add these to your first pan, along with your bag of stuffing mix and a bit of chicken broth for moisture. Season with salt, pepper, and parsley. Bake for 1 hour at 350 F in a greased, oven-safe dish.

Make crunchy stuffing muffins

What makes stuffing such a Thanksgiving must-have is not only the herby taste, but the texture. Think of it now — crunchy bits mixed with soft pieces that melt in your mouth. However, if you cook stuffing inside the turkey, which you should be weary about doing because of food safety, it's going to be soft. One way to get crispy stuffing is to cook it on a sheet pan so that it's spread out in a thin layer. 

Another great method, which not only creates crunch but also individual portions, is to make stuffing muffins, as Delish discusses on TikTok. Being able to offer a stuffing muffin means you can make sure everyone gets an equal share of stuffing, too. To do this, fry sausage meat in butter and, once browned, add chopped onion and celery. Sprinkle in dried rosemary, sage, and thyme, along with some minced garlic. Mix the ingredients with cubes of bread in a bowl and add chicken stock and a whisked egg. Put your stuffing mix into a muffin tray and bake at 375 F for 25 minutes, or until the bread pieces brown up and look lovely and crispy on top. 

Mix an easy Southern cornbread dressing

In the South, stuffing is called dressing and is made using cornbread. In most of the rest of the U.S., and certainly in the Northeast, it's called stuffing. As HuffPost explains, different regions of the country do stuffing their own way. Pennsylvania Dutch Country uses mashed potatoes, while coastal areas often incorporate oysters. If you want to make a classic Southern dressing and enjoy some real American comfort food, then you can make stuffing the easy way, using a packet of cornbread mix, chicken broth, and some cans of soup. 

Tara Bankz gives great instructions on TikTok. Start by making cornbread from a packet mix, and add homemade chicken broth and a can of both cream of celery soup and cream of chicken soup (condensed versions). Add in chopped up hard boiled egg, if you like, although this part of the recipe is optional. Season with ground black pepper, sage, and some poultry seasoning. Mix well and pour the stuffing into an oven-safe dish. Bake at 400 F for 45 minutes. Serve with gravy and cranberry sauce, alongside your Thanksgiving turkey. Cornbread stuffing doesn't get any easier than this.

Follow Ina Garten's key tips

What everyone loves about stuffing is the taste and the texture. It's got to be flavorful, crispy, and also soft and chewy. While it's not the most complex dish on the Thanksgiving menu, getting it just right isn't so simple. It's a lot easier if you have a great tip to add into the mix, and who better to inspire a sensational stuffing than the Barefoot Contessa herself, Ina Garten? The secret to her stuffing can be found in two things: the sausage and the bread she uses (via Food Network).

Tip one is to use a French boule in place of ordinary bread. Cut into cubes and toast in an oven for 7 minutes at 300 F.  That way, they soak up the other ingredients, but also have a wonderful crunchy texture. Tip two is to use a mixture of sweet and spicy Italian sausages. You can adjust your ratio of sweet to spicy depending on how much of a kick you want. Garten also uses Granny Smith apples in her stuffing recipe, sautéed with onions and celery stalks until soft. Add 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley and 1 tablespoon of salt and cook for 10 minutes. Combine all that with the cubed bread, along with 1 cup of dried cranberries and 1 cup of chicken stock. Lastly, fry up the sausage and add it to your mix. Bake in a dish for 30 minutes at 300 F, so it's lovely and brown on top.

Make a loaf for sliced stuffing

How you bake your stuffing can determine how it's served at the table, and also how it's presented on your plate too. If the idea of slices of stuffing appeals to you, then grab yourself a Bundt pan and follow a TikTok tip from Becki Pastor. Grease the pan with butter so that the stuffing get crispy all along the outside. When you pop out your stuffing Bundt as if it were a loaf, you'll be able to slice it to serve.

If you think about it, one of the main ingredients in a lot of stuffing recipes is actually bread, so it kind of makes sense to really celebrate this ingredient and make a bread that's also stuffing. A Thanksgiving culinary feature in The Independent suggest pre-making a quick dough for focaccia. Once it's risen, and you're ready to cook your bread stuffing, just add the dough to a greased baking tray and brush olive oil on top. Then, push your stuffing ingredients into the dough. These ingredients include cooked, ground Italian sausage (make sure it cools down before using), chopped apples, shallots, and fresh sage leaves. Let rest for 20 minutes, then add salt flakes on top before baking. 

Cook cheesy pizza stuffing

Don't you just love it when you come across a recipe hack that basically turns a classic dish into something totally different? This tip, courtesy of New York Times food writer Eric Kim, gives you permission to make a cheesy pizza stuffing without feeling as if you're lowering the tone of Thanksgiving tradition with a fast-food-style element. Actually, there's a practical reason behind the concept. Not only is this stuffing innovative, but it also conveniently cooks at the same temperature as your other dishes, which makes cooking so much easier (via NPR).

Sauté a chopped onion, and then add 2 tablespoons of tomato paste and 1 teaspoon of oregano. Sounding like pizza yet? A cup of vegetable stock goes in next. Beat an egg and a cup of milk in a bowl and pour over pieces of a brioche loaf that have been dried overnight or in the oven. Add in the tomato stock as well. Next mix in 2 cups of grated mozzarella. After the bread has absorbed the liquid, put it in a greased oven-safe dish. All this can be done way in advance, just refrigerate it until you're ready to cook. Bake at 350 F for about 15 to 25 minutes, sprinkle oregano on top, and serve.

Swap out bread for rice

Whether you're cooking for someone who's gluten intolerant, or if you just want to ditch the bread on Thanksgiving, you don't have to forgo your favorite side of stuffing. With a culinary tip from TODAY, make a scrumptious stuffing using rice instead. It's a great way to still get that carb fix without eating bread. You can cook it on the stovetop so it's ready to eat, or stuff your turkey with it and bake it in the oven. It's super flexible on ingredients too. Sauté chopped onion for a few minutes, add seasoning, herbs, uncooked rice, and chicken stock. If you're planning to eat it straight away, simmer until the rice is tender. Or, if you intend to use it to stuff your bird, stop simmering when rice is slightly undercooked. 

Of course, you don't have to stick to the classic herby stuffing flavors either. You can bring in an Asian culinary twist to the holiday too, which is what some Chinese-American folks do already, according to the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center. After boiling rice, so it's not quite cooked and there's still some water left, add sautéed onion, along with steamed and cut up Chinese sausages, slices of rehydrated dried black mushrooms, chopped water chestnuts, and cooked chestnuts. Cover with a lid and continue to cook for another 15 to 20 minutes before adding soy sauce, sesame oil, and black pepper and cooking for another 10 minutes. Stir and add turkey juices if it's a little dry.

Temper eggs with some broth

There's more than one way to prepare stuffing, from a vegetarian 20-minute stovetop stuffing to an easy sausage stuffing. Many recipes include eggs too, which no doubt bind the ingredients, as well as add some richness to the flavor. However, if you want to make sure that eggs don't become scrambled when they're added to the mix, then follow a culinary technique highlighted by Justin Chapple of Food & Wine. Using his hack, you're going to temper your eggs to make a rustic bread stuffing with Swiss chard and chestnuts. Here's how:

Infuse vegetable stock with dried porcini mushrooms to add an umami boost. Tear bread into pieces and let them dry out or toast in the oven. Sauté chopped onion and celery in butter and add chopped Swiss chard stems. Cook for 10 minutes. Add the Swiss chard leaves and thinly sliced sage. Combine the cooked veggies, bread, and roasted and peeled chestnuts, and chopped parsley in a large bowl. Make sure your broth is strained and ready to use. Now comes the egg tempering part. As you beat eggs in a bowl, slowly pour in your mushroom-infused broth until you've added about half. Then add this eggy broth to the rest of the stock. Whisk together and pour into the bowl with stuffing. Season and leave for 45 minutes in a greased oven-safe dish that's covered with foil, so everything soaks in. Bake at 375 F for 30 minutes, taking the foil off halfway through to brown the top.

Serve monkey bread stuffing

If you're familiar with monkey bread, then you'll have probably come across a sweet monkey bread recipe that involves soft pieces of dough baked into a dessert-style loaf. It's not the most obvious way to serve up Thanksgiving stuffing, but it totally works. Culinary Lion on TikTok takes us through a great recipe that's also vegetarian. Once your monkey bread stuffing is ready, pop it onto a big plate and pour gravy over the top before serving. 

To make this savory stuffing monkey bread, break up a packet of Stove Top stuffing mix in a blender so the pieces are finer. In a bowl, add chopped apple, dried cranberries, and some melted butter, along with pieces of uncooked dinner rolls cut into chunks, and a sprinkling of dried herbs. Drizzle with oil before adding in your stuffing mix, tossing so that all dough pieces are evenly coated. Add to a greased baking mold and bake in the oven. Once it's baked, cover with foil securely. Do this by pressing a tea towel over the top of the foil so that you can really fit it snuggly around the top of the hot bread. Uncover and put a serving plate over the top before flipping and removing the mold. 

Make sourdough stuffing

If you love sourdough — and what bread-lover doesn't? — then you could celebrate its tangy taste by adding it to your Thanksgiving meal. Instead of a standard loaf of bread, use sourdough bread to make cubes for your stuffing instead. If you're from Northern California, then this isn't news to you, as sourdough is a common ingredient for stuffing in the region (via HuffPost). If you're a fan of making life easier, especially during the holidays, then you may want to cut some corners and avoid having to cut-up and dry-out bread, and use a packet stuffing mix instead. This doesn't have to be a compromise either, as people — especially Costco shoppers — are just loving the Boudin Sourdough Classic Herb Stuffing mix.

The mix is filled with sourdough bread cubes with parsley, sage, garlic, salt, and thyme to give that Thanksgiving stuffing flavor everyone knows and loves. All you need to do is sauté onion and celery and add it to the mix, along with stock, parsley, and lemon juice. Simply bake in the oven and that's it! Of course, there's nothing stopping you from adding some extra ingredients like spices or other vegetables, but with the unique sourdough flavor, it's a winner all on its own. 

Shape stuffing into balls

If you're considering how best to make your stuffing for Thanksgiving, then remember it's not just the recipe that's important, but also how you cook it. A great way to portion out your stuffing, rather than serving it as one loaf or pan, is to make balls. Then, you can dish them out equally. They're also perfectly sized for spearing with a fork and dipping into gravy. And if you just can't get enough, then stuffing balls also make for a flavorsome snack after Thanksgiving too. Check out this recipe for sausage stuffing balls with sage and apple from Don't Go Bacon My Heart. Grate apple and onion into a bowl, and add minced garlic, fresh breadcrumbs, dried sage, and sausage meat. Sprinkle in some nutmeg and salt and pepper. Mix well and shape a spoonful at a time into balls and position them evenly on a baking tray. Spray with oil, and then bake at 390 F for about 20 minutes. 

Or, you can follow an idea posted on Facebook by Munchies, which makes balls from stuffing that's already been cooked and cooled down. It's a perfect tip for leftovers. Shape the cooked stuffing into balls and dip them in an egg and milk wash, and then breadcrumbs. Deep fry them for a few minutes and serve with gravy and cranberry sauce.

Bake breakfast stuffing cup eggs

Even if your stuffing was a hit, chances are you'll still have plenty leftover after Thanksgiving dinner. Of course, you could just heat it up and enjoy it the same way as you've already done, or you could try other ways to use leftover stuffing. One of the most creative ways involves turning it into a breakfast dish for the following morning. Stuffing for breakfast? That's right, and the stuffing cup eggs posted on TikTok by Tastemade look pretty tasty, and are so easy to make. 

Grab yourself a muffin tin and a bowl to start. Mix a ½ cup of gravy into 3 cups of stuffing and add 6 slices of chopped up bacon. Once this is mixed together well, divide the mixture between the muffin cups. Crack an egg on top of each, without breaking the yolk. Bake at 350 F for 12 minutes. Serve hot, and add a sprinkling of chives on the top. The yolk should be cooked but still soft and a little runny. This is the perfect way to wake up the day after Thanksgiving, and a lovely stuffing surprise for all. 

Layer leftovers for Thanksgiving cupcakes

If you have stuffing left over, then you probably have remnants of the other Thanksgiving dishes also on hand. If you've got turkey, mashed potatoes, and gravy as well, then you why not make Thanksgiving cupcakes you can freeze and store for later use? It's not as strange as it sounds, and as Lorafied explained on TikTok, it means you can have your own mini Thanksgiving meal whenever you like — beyond just the holidays.

Putting cupcake liners down first, start with a layer of stuffing at the bottom. You're going to layer-up from here. Next you want a good slice of turkey that fits across the stuffing, covering most of it. Top with a scoop of mashed potatoes, and use a knife to smooth it out and seal it all in. Pour some gravy on the top of each cupcake, cover with parchment paper and plastic wrap, and freeze. When you feel like a taste of the holidays, simply grab one of your frozen Thanksgiving cupcakes and heat it in the oven or microwave.