This is my grandmother's recipe, which my mother has been using to make our Thanksgiving turkey stuffing for more than 40 years.
I've never tasted any turkey stuffing that has come close to as good as my mom's. It includes cubed French bread toasted in butter, walnuts, onions, celery, apples, green olives, and is made on the stovetop.
To Stuff or Not Stuff the Turkey?
Years ago we used to cook the turkey with the stuffing inside. (That's why it's called "stuffing," right?) That said, these days we cook the stuffing separately from the turkey.
Why? Two reasons.
- It is much easier to get even cooking of the turkey (and safer, too) if you do not stuff it.
- You can make as much stuffing as you want, as you are not limited to the amount the cavity of the turkey can hold.
However, if you want to stuff your turkey with this stuffing, go ahead! This recipe makes more stuffing than a regular-sized turkey can hold, in which case you can cook some of the stuffing inside the turkey and cook the rest on the stovetop.
Tips for the Best Turkey Stuffing
- Dry the cubed bread before toasting in butter: The best bread to use for making stuffing is crusty French bread that is stale — somewhat dried out, otherwise the bread may fall apart in the stuffing. Lay the cubes of bread in a baking pan and put them in a 200°F oven for 10 minutes to dry them out first, before toasting them in butter on the stovetop.
- Blanch the walnuts: Walnut skins can be bitter and have tannins in them that can turn your stuffing dark. Blanch the raw walnuts in water before toasting them to remove the bitter tannins.
- Make turkey stock from giblets: You can still get a rich turkey flavor in this stovetop stuffing method by using a turkey stock made with the turkey's giblets. Just open the packet of giblets that come with your turkey and simmer the heart, gizzard, and the turkey neck in water for an hour to make a light turkey stock with which to flavor the stuffing.
Make-Ahead Tips for This Turkey Stuffing
This turkey stuffing is best made the same day as the turkey, but you can easily prep some of it in advance.
- Two days before: Cube the bread and let it sit to dry out. When dry enough, put the cubes in a plastic bag.
- One day before: Make the stock and assemble the ingredients through step four. Then add all the rest of the stuffing ingredients to the pot and when you're ready to start cooking on Thanksgiving Day.
- Keep it warm: If you want to make it earlier in the day, you can. We just keep it warm on the stovetop, with a little added water at the bottom so it doesn’t stick or burn. You can also put it in an ovenproof dish, cover it with foil, and warm it in the oven while the turkey is resting after it has been cooked.
Storing Turkey Stuffing
Store leftover stuffing, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Reheat in the microwave or uncovered in a low oven.
More Recipes for Your Thanksgiving Dinner
- How to Make Gravy
- Cranberry Relish
- Instant Pot Mashed Potatoes
- Old Fashioned Pumpkin Pie
- Green Beans with Almonds and Thyme
Mom's Stovetop Turkey Stuffing
Save time by making the giblet stock while you prep the other ingredients.
- Neck and giblets from 1 turkey to make a light stock (or 2 to 3 cups of chicken stock)
- 1 cup walnuts
- 1 loaf of day old French or Italian bread, cut into 3/4-inch cubes (about 10 to 12 cups)
- 2 cups each, chopped onion and celery
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 green apple, peeled, cored, chopped
- 3/4 cup currants or raisins
- Several (5 to 10) chopped green olives (martini/pimento olives; pimento removed)
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning or ground sage (to taste)
- Salt and freshly ground pepper (to taste)
Make turkey stock with giblets (or skip this step and use 2 to 3 cups chicken stock if you don't have giblets):
Take the turkey giblets–heart and gizzard–and neck, and put them in a small saucepan. Cover with a few cups of water and add a little salt.
Bring to a simmer. Simmer for about an hour, uncovered. Strain the stock into a container for use with the stuffing. You should have 2 to 3 cups of stock.
Alternatively, you can use chicken stock or just plain water with this recipe.
Prepare the walnuts:
Place the walnuts in a small saucepan with enough water to cover them by an inch, and bring them to a boil. Boil them for 3 to 4 minutes. This will remove some of the tannins from the walnut skins. (The tannins can be bitter and also cause the stuffing to turn a dark color.)
Let the walnuts dry, then toast them by heating them in a frying pan on medium high heat for a few minutes, stirring until they are slightly browned (not burned). Or put them in the microwave on high until you can smell the aroma of them toasting, about a minute or two.
Let the toasted walnuts cool while you are toasting the bread, then roughly chop them.
Toast the bread:
Dry the cubed bread in the oven first. Spread the cubed bread on a baking pan and dry it in a 200°F oven for 10 minutes. (If your cubed bread is already very dry, you can skip this.)
Heat a large sauté pan on medium heat. Melt 3 tablespoons butter in the pan, add the bread cubes, and stir to coat the bread pieces with the melted butter.
Then let them toast; only turn them when they have become a little browned on a side.
Sauté onions and celery:
In a large Dutch oven, sauté chopped onions and celery on medium high heat with the remaining 3 tablespoons butter until cooked through, about 5 to 10 minutes.
Combine the stuffing ingredients:
Add the bread, cooked chopped walnuts, chopped green apple, currants or raisins, olives, and parsley. Add one cup of the stock from cooking the turkey giblets or chicken stock (enough to keep the stuffing moist while you are cooking it). Add sage, poultry seasoning, salt, and pepper.
Cook on low heat:
Cover and turn heat to low. Cook for an hour or until the apples are cooked through. Check every 15 or 20 minutes or so and add water or stock as needed while cooking to keep the stuffing moist and keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
You'll likely need to add at least one more cup of stock or water, if not two. The stuffing should not be crispy or crunchy, but softened, as it would be if it had been cooked entirely inside the turkey.