Call it stuffing. Call it dressing. Either way, there is no doubt that it is one of the most iconic dishes on the holiday table.
Here is a version that's perfect for any gluten-free or Paleo guests at your table!
This stuffing is full of rich ingredients, like sweet potatoes and ground pork, and it has plenty of big holiday flavor. And yes, it's great with turkey!
I’ll admit, my first attempts at this Paleo stuffing came out a bit too heavy and one-note.
I found myself missing the bread, which is off limits to anyone on a gluten-free or grain-free diet, of course. I still wanted to bring in some toasty flavors and starchy goodness, and I ultimately settled on roasted sweet potatoes as the perfect stand-in.
The other thing I truly missed was that crunch you get at the edges of a traditional stuffing where the bread gets crisped and toasty. I solved this problem by adding a pecan crumble to the top! This addition adds both crunchy texture and another layer of holiday flavor.
If you are allergic to nuts, just skip the pecan topping. I'd recommending add extra garlic and herbs to the stuffing instead.
Finally, I wanted to really boost the richness and savory flavor of the whole dish. I did this by browning the ground pork really thoroughly, sautéing the vegetables in the rendered pork fat, and then deglazing the pan with a little port wine.
In the end, I ended up with a Paleo stuffing that I think could rival any traditional stuffing I have made. You can bet it will be on our table this holiday season.
Sweet Potato & Pork Thanksgiving Stuffing
- Stuffing ingredients:
- 2 large (8 to 10 ounce) sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, ghee, or duck fat (divided)
- 2 pounds ground pork
- 1 cup diced yellow onion (from 1/2 medium onion)
- 1 cup diced carrots (from 1 large carrot or 2 small carrots)
- 1 cup diced celery (from 2 to 3 celery stalks)
- 1/2 cup port or sweet sherry
- 2 large pears, peeled and diced
- 1 cup dried cranberries or cherries (optional – leave this out if you’re avoiding sugars)
- 1 cup chopped fresh herbs (I used 3/4 cups flat parsley and 1/4 cup mixed fresh sage, chervil, and thyme).
- 3 large eggs
- Pecan crumble ingredient
- 1 1/2 cups unsalted pecans
- 1/4 cup dried cranberries or cherries
- 1 tablespoon olive oil, ghee, or duck fat (room temperature, if it was in the refrigerator)
- 2 to 3 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
- 1/4 cup fresh herbs (I used mostly parsley with just a couple rosemary needles and a few thyme leaves)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Roast the sweet potatoes
Preheat oven to 425F and line a large baking sheet with parchment or a Silpat. Toss the sweet potato cubes with 1/2 tablespoon of your cooking fat (if it is ghee or duck fat, melt it first) and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Spread them evenly on the baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes, stirring the potatoes halfway through the cooking time.
When done, they should be golden brown and easily pierced with a fork.
Brown the meat
While sweet potatoes are roasting, melt another tablespoon of your cooking fat in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
Brown the ground pork in 2 to 3 batches. Break up the pork as it cooks to make small crumbles. Cook until the meat is well-browned and no longer pink, 5 to 7 minutes per batch. Add additional cooking fat as needed if the pan becomes dry.
As each batch is finished, transfer it to a large bowl with a slotted spoon.
Sauté the vegetables
In the same skillet used for the pork, melt a small amount (1 to 2 teaspoons) of cooking fat. Add the diced onion, carrot, and celery to the hot skillet.
Season with salt and sauté for 5 to 7 minutes or until the onions begin to turn translucent. Transfer to the bowl with the pork.
Deglaze the pan
Place the empty pan back over high heat and add the port. Simmer the port for about a minute, scraping up any browned bits that have gotten stuck to the bottom of the pan. Pour the port over the vegetables and pork in the bowl.
Heat the oven to 350F
Grease a 9x13-inch or other 3-quart baking dish.
Combine the stuffing ingredients
Add the roasted sweet potatoes, sautéed veggies, pears, cranberries, and herbs to the bowl with the browned meat. Mix well. Taste and add more salt, pepper, or herbs, if needed.
At this point, the stuffing can be covered and refrigerated for 1 to 2 days before cooking.
When you're ready to bake the stuffing, add the eggs and mix thoroughly to combine. Transfer the stuffing to the greased baking dish and spread into an even layer.
Bake the stuffing for 20 minutes, uncovered
Prepare the pecan crumble topping
While the stuffing cooks, pulse all ingredients in a food processor until the mixture is crumbly. Be careful not to over process or you’ll end up with garlicky nut butter!
Top the stuffing with the crumble:
Remove the stuffing from the oven and scatter the pecan crumble evenly over the top. Bake for 20 more minutes, uncovered. The top should be toasted and smell very fragrant. (If you're not adding the pecan crumble, just bake the stuffing for 30 minutes total.)
Cool and serve
Let the stuffing cool briefly before serving.