Our family's favorite sausage stuffing with herbs and savory sausage makes the perfect side dish for your Thanksgiving turkey or other large feasts. This smaller recipe fits our current lifestyle, but it is easy to increase for a larger holiday feast. Or make this delicious and easy side dish for everyday meals.
This easy sausage stuffing recipe is our family favorite that we have used for over 40 years. I originally published this like we usually cooked it, making the "small army" amount. I have now cut it down to the "smaller household" amount. But it is easy to double if needed.
This recipe is my wife's development. She did some tweaking early on, but it has not changed in decades—it is perfect and makes an appearance at all our family homes on Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners every year. And to make a full feast, we combine it with a Roasted Turkey Breast.
👨🍳How to make this recipe
- Cook sausage in a Dutch oven; remove the sausage and leave 2 tablespoons of fat in the pan.
- Cook the vegetables in the fat.
- Beat the eggs with the milk and the spices.
- Combine about ⅔ of the bread with the sausage with the cooked vegetables.
- Pour in the liquid and mix until all the bread is slightly moist. Add more broth or milk if needed.
- Add more bread if the is enough moisture to get it moist too. You want the bread all coated but dry and not mushy.
- Place in baking dish. You can bake or refrigerate at this point to cook later.
- Bake in 350° oven until brown and 165°—about one hour.
We usually use standard white bread, but use the bread you want. You will need about 15 normal slices of bread, more if thinly sliced. This will be a little under one loaf.
We have tried a variety of special "stuffing" bread over the years, but they did not add anything to the final results. So now we stick to a cheap loaf of white bread.
If you use pre-made spiced up "stuffing" bread, you may need to adjust the spices since they are frequently seasoned.
We either hand rip it into small pieces or dice it into small bread cubes.
We do the bread first and let it set out exposed to the air while doing the rest of the preparation. More drying does not seem necessary.
We are a Bob Evan's sausage household, but use the sausage you love for sausage stuffing. The sausage seasoning will be a significant contributor to the taste.
I recommend breakfast pork sausage, although many recipes will use Italian sausage.
A lot of the taste will come from your choice of sausage and any special bread.
In addition to salt and pepper, the savory flavors of thyme, sage, and parsley are used. Some people will add rosemary or poultry seasoning.
If you have them available, fresh is preferred, but the dried version makes a good substitute.
The standard celery and onion are added after sauteing a bit in the sausage fat. Some people will prefer to use butter, and that is fine.
Part of the fluid comes from the eggs needed to hold the stuffing together. You only need a small amount of liquid, so generally, we use milk.
You can substitute broth for the milk if you wish. We use Penzey's turkey base to make our turkey broth for the gravy and commonly use that.
When adding the liquid/egg/herb mixture, be sure to get all the bread coated but do not over-mix.
This version is a cut-down version of the sausage stuffing recipe we have made for years. This smaller-size recipe makes about six medium servings. Great for a smaller household with a turkey breast or a smaller bird.
This fits in a casserole dish of about 1 ½ quarts, and the double size fits in a 2 ½ quart dish. The exact volume can vary due to the type of bread you use. A 9 by 9 dish will usually hold this recipe.
Sausage stuffing has eggs, so it must reach 165° to be safe to consume. But even without the egg, the turkey's cavity is a contaminated area, and the cavity and everything in it must also reach 165° to be safe to eat.
So you have four choices.
- If you stuff the cavity and cook to the 165° temperature for the center of the dressing. But the meat will be way overcooked and dry. (Not good from the taste standpoint.)
- Stuff the turkey and cook the turkey to the correct endpoint of 165° in the breast, and the dressing will never reach a safe temperature to consume. (Not good and very dangerous.)
- Use the Cook Illustrated (CI) method of putting the stuffing in the cavity in cheesecloth, then remove it halfway through the cooking. Put it in a baking dish and finish cooking to a safe temperature. (Very CI, very fussy.)
- Or cook the turkey and the sausage stuffing/dressing separately and safely. (Great all around.)
For more about holiday safety, please see Thanksgiving Food Safety and Food Help.
👨🍳Dressing vs. Stuffing
I grew up using the term stuffing—that was over 50 years ago. It was always cooked in the cavity of the turkey. Many differentiated the two terms in those years by using "stuffing" if cooked in the bird and "dressing" if cooked outside the bird.
But in recent years, we also developed a better understanding of food safety, and the two terms have merged. They are now used interchangeably, even by the National Turkey Federation.
So, use the term you want. I seem to go back and forth frequently, but stuffing is the term I tend to use since I grew up using that term.
For many years, stuffing went in the bird. Now it is baked in a pan for safety, but still a great treat at holiday gatherings with lots of herbs, celery, sausage, and now with crunchy bread thanks to the baking.
The egg is there to stick things together. Without eggs holding the stuffing together, it will just fall apart.
I prefer to get the sausage cooked, veggies cut, and bread ready. Then mix and cook on the day. The stuffing "can" be made up and refrigerated before cooking for up to a day. I don't do this with the eggs in the dish—I have seen too many food safety issues over my 40 years in medicine.
The short answer is that it is not safe. To be safe to eat, the dressing must reach 165° in all parts of the stuffing. This is due to the eggs and the location inside the turkey.
To reach 165° in the center of the stuffing, the turkey will be way overcooked and dry out.
❄️How to Store Leftovers
After cooking, sausage stuffing is good for 3-4 days, sealed airtight in the refrigerator. Reheat in the oven or microwave and serve with gravy.
For more extended storage, use your freezer after cooking. Do not freeze uncooked stuffing. Store in an airtight container and freeze for up to 3 months.
This recipe is listed in these categories. See them for more similar recipes.
🖼️Step-by-Step Photo Instructions
Note: Images are for a double recipe. The discussion and the recipe card are not doubled.
Start by ripping or cutting about 15 slices of bread (about one loaf) into small pieces or cubes—dice 2 ribs of celery to make about 1 cup and one small onion.
Prepare spices if fresh—¾ teaspoon dry thyme leaves or 3 times that if fresh. ¾ teaspoon dry ground sage or double if fresh. And dry parsley 3 tablespoons or ½ cup of fresh parsley.
In a Dutch oven or large skillet over medium heat, cook 1 lb sausage until brown. With a slotted spoon, remove the sausage to a medium bowl and set aside.
Pour all but 2 tablespoons of the drippings from the pan. Cook the onion and celery in the pan until tender (about ten minutes), stirring occasionally.
In a separate bowl, mix two eggs-beat slightly, ¼ cups milk, the parsley, thyme, sage, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. You can use turkey or chicken broth instead of milk if you wish.
Mix all together in a large bowl with a wooden spoon or clean hands, but reserve about ⅓ of the bread and add it in slowly at the end of mixing to get a completely covered but very dry mix. You may not need all the bread. You may need to add a bit more milk or broth if you add too much bread and can't get it all moist.
Place in an oven-safe pan. You can refrigerate at this point. Bake at 350° for about 1 hour until well browned and at 165° internal temperature.
Easy Sausage Stuffing
- 15 slices bread - a little under a loaf, do a little extra
- 2 ribs celery - diced
- 1 onion - small
- ¾ teaspoon dry thyme
- ¾ teaspoon dry sage
- 3 tablespoons dry parsley
- 1 lb breakfast sausage
- 2 eggs - slightly beaten
- ¼ cup milk - or broth
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- Start by ripping or cutting about 15 slices of bread (about one loaf) into small pieces or cubes—dice 2 ribs of celery to make about 1 cup and one small onion.
- Prepare spices: ¾ teaspoon dry thyme leaves or 3 times that if fresh. ¾ teaspoon dry ground sage or double if fresh. And dry parsley 3 tablespoons or ½ cup of fresh parsley.
- In a Dutch oven or large skillet over medium heat, cook 1 lb sausage until brown. With a slotted spoon, remove the sausage to a medium bowl and set aside.
- Pour all but 2 tablespoons of the drippings from the pan. Cook the onion and celery in the pan until tender (about ten minutes), stirring occasionally.
- In a separate bowl, mix two eggs-beat slightly, ¼ cups milk, the parsley, thyme, sage, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. You can use turkey or chicken broth instead of milk if you wish.
- Mix all together in a large bowl with a wooden spoon or clean hands, but reserve about ⅓ of the bread and add it in slowly at the end of mixing to get a completely covered but very dry mix. You may not need all the bread. You may need to add a bit more milk or broth if you add too much bread and can't get it all moist.
- Place in an oven-safe pan. You can refrigerate at this point.
- Bake at 350° for about 1 hour until well browned and 165° internal temperature.
My Private Notes
- Use the bread and sausage you like. Feel free to change the ingredient for your taste. We use just white bread and Bob Evans breakfast sausage.
- Do a little extra bread, you may want it.
- The recipe as written is cut down. It is easy to double if you are having a larger meal.
- A single recipe will usually fit in a 1 ½ quart casserole dish or a 9 by 9 dish. A double recipe needs about a 2 ½ quart dish. This will vary some by the type of bread used.
- Do not try to cook inside the turkey. It is not safe.
- You can cook the giblets on the stove-top ahead and add the broth for the milk and add the cooked meat.
- I prefer to dice up the bread first and let it dry some while getting the sausage cooked, veggies cut. and wet components mixed.
- Cook until golden brown and 165° internal temperature (for food safety.)
- Leftovers are good refrigerated for 3-4 days. Or frozen for about 3 months.
To adjust the recipe size:
You may adjust the number of servings in this recipe card under servings. This does the math for the ingredients for you. BUT it does NOT adjust the text of the instructions. So you need to do that yourself.
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Editor's note: Originally Published November 29, 2011. Updated with expanded options, refreshed photos, and a table of contents to help navigation. Enjoy this Thanksgiving Classic.