A little sweet and a little tangy, this Cranberry Apple Stuffing is the perfect addition to your Thanksgiving table. Bake in a casserole dish or use this dressing to stuff your turkey. Either way, this is a side dish the entire family will love!
A Classic Thanksgiving Side Dish
When it comes to Thanksgiving dinner must-haves, a good stuffing is very close to the top of my list. A perfectly cooked, moist turkey might be the priority but when it comes to side dish, I would argue that the stuffing is one of the most important.
And I’m not talking about a box of Stouffer’s either! In my house, we make the Thanksgiving dressing from scratch. Over the years, I’ve rotated through a handful of recipes but in the end, this cranberry apple dressing was the winner. Made with crisp apples, tangy but sweet dried cranberries, and all the classic seasonings, it’s both tangy and sweet, while holding all the savory flavor you’d expect from stuffing.
This easy side dish can be baked in the oven by itself or stuffed inside the turkey (or both). My personal favorite part of the stuffing is the crispy edges, which you can’t get when baking it inside the turkey. However, not everyone agrees with me so I’ve included instructions for both below. Whichever you choose, this cranberry apple stuffing is guaranteed to be a hit!
What You’ll Need
This homemade stuffing is made with stale bread, apples, cranberries, and a few traditional stuffing ingredients.
- Salted butter – Salted butter is the only butter I keep in my kitchen and for the holidays I spring for the good stuff – Kerry Gold.
- Diced onions & celery – Add flavor and texture to the stuffing.
- Chopped apples – Honey crisp, Granny Smith, and Pink Lady are all good apple variety options to use here.
- Dried cranberries – The dried cranberries add a little sweet but tart flavor to the dish.
- Herbs – A combination of fresh sage, thyme, and parsley provide the flavor of this Thanksgiving stuffing.
- Turkey stock – Use a low sodium or no-salt added stock. Chicken stock can also be used if you don’t have turkey.
- Salt and pepper
- Cubed stale bread – Check the bakery section of your local grocery. You can buy loaves, cut them up, and let them dry a day or two, or look for plain bakery stuffing mix. The stuffing mix in the bakery is made from the same made-in-house loaves, but they do the work for you.
- Eggs – Eggs act as a binder to hold all of the other ingredients together.
How to Make Cranberry Apple Stuffing
Making homemade dressing for Thanksgiving is surprisingly easy, with just 20 minutes or so of hands-on time required!
- Saute the ingredients. Melt 1/2 cup of butter and then add onions, celery, apples, cranberries, sage, and thyme. Stir often, until the veggies have softened.
- Simmer. Add the stock and bring to a simmer for 5 minutes.
- Combine all ingredients. Beat eggs, parsley, salt, and pepper. Then add the stale bread and toss to coat. Pour the vegetable mixture over the bread mixture and mix to combine.
- Bake. Transfer to the greased baking dish. Dot the top with pats of the remaining butter. Cover either with the lid or foil and bake for 30 minutes. Then uncover (key for getting those crispy edges) and bake for an additional 25 to 35 minutes.
How to Bake Stuffing in a Turkey
If you’d prefer to bake your cranberry apple dressing directly inside your turkey, follow the preparation listed above (steps 1 to 3) and then the following.
- Add dressing to the turkey. Transfer as much stuffing as needed to fill the turkey cavity. The amount needed will depend on the size of the turkey. Transfer any extra mixture to a smaller baking dish.
- Bake the turkey. Bake the turkey according to directions for a stuffed turkey. The center of the stuffing must reach 165F on an internal thermometer.
- Bake the remaining stuffed. For any extra stuffing, bake as directed above while adjusting the pan size and cook time as needed. For example, if you’re baking just 1/2 of the full recipe, remove the lid after 20 minutes and check for doneness at 15 minutes.
Tips for Success
If this is your first time making homemade stuffing, here are a few things to keep in mind.
- Dried herbs vs Fresh herbs. Dried and fresh can be used interchangeably. Standard rule of thumb is to use 1/3 the amount of dried in place of fresh. For example, 4 teaspoons of dried parsley equals 1/4 cup fresh parsley and 1 teaspoon of dried sage or dried thyme equals 1 tablespoon of fresh sage or thyme.
- Don’t add too much salt. The amount of salt needed in the final product greatly depends on the stock used. I use homemade turkey stock with no salt added. I recommend a low sodium or no salt added stock but if yours does have salt, you may not need any more salt in the dish.
- Be sure the veggies soften when cooking. It’s important to cook the onions and celery until softened, as they won’t softened much more during baking.
- Always use stale bread. Stale bread chunks are a key part of making homemade stuffing. Fresh bread will absorbs liquid too quickly and turn to mushy.
Recommended Kitchen Tools
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This cranberry apple stuffing is obviously perfect at your Thanksgiving table next to an herb infused buttermilk brined turkey, which was my inspiration for creating it. The cranberries and apples perfectly complement other Thanksgiving staples and it never fails to impress guests who are expecting basic stuffing with their meal.
Of course, this cranberry apple dressing doesn’t have to be JUST for Thanskgiving! You can enjoy it anytime with some roast chicken (rotisserie chicken to make it super easy!) and vegetables.
How to Store Leftovers
Leftover stuffing should be covered tightly and place in the fridge. Reheat in the microwave or in the oven until just warmed through. It will last for 3 to 4 days in the fridge.
My favorite way to repurposed this leftover stuffing is to reheat it in a waffle iron and serve it with sausage links and eggs.
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- 3/4 cup (6 ounces) salted butter - divided
- 2 cups diced onions
- 2 cups diced celery
- 2 cups chopped apples
- 1 cup dried cranberries
- 1 tablespoon fresh sage*
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme*
- 3 cups low sodium or no-salt added turkey or chicken stock*
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley*
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 16 cups cubed stale bread or plain bakery stuffing mix
- Preheat oven to 375º and prepare a 3-quart casserole by greasing with butter or cooking spray.
- In a large skillet, melt 1/2 cup (4 ounces) of butter over medium heat. Add onions, celery, apples, and cranberries, sage, and thyme. Cook, stirring often, until the veggies have softened, about 10 - 15 minutes. Add stock, bring to a simmer and cook 5 minutes.
- In a large mixing bowl beat the eggs, parsley, salt, and pepper. Add the stale bread and toss to coat. Pour vegetable and stock mixture over bread and mix to combine.
To Bake in a Baking Dish
- Transfer the bread mixture to the prepared baking dish. Chop the remaining 2 ounces of butter into squares or slice it into thin pats then dot it around the top of the stuffing.
- Cover with an oven safe lid or aluminum foil and bake at 375º for 30 minutes. Uncover and continue to bake until golden brown, approximately 25 - 35 minutes more.
To Bake in a Stuffed Turkey
- Transfer as much as needed to fill the turkey cavity. Transfer any remaining mixture into a smaller baking dish, adjusted for size as needed.
- Bake turkey according to the instructions for a stuffed turkey, checking that the center of the stuffing reaches a 165º internal temperature to ensure food safety.
- Bake the remaining stuffing mixture as indicated above, reducing the amount of butter dotted on top and reducing the cooking time as needed. If baking 1/2 of the full recipe size, remove lid after 20 minutes and check for doneness after 10 - 15 minutes of baking uncovered. Time will vary based on the volume of stuffing and the size and shape of the pan.
*If you prefer dried herbs, use 1/3 the amount dried in place of the fresh - 4 teaspoons of dried parsley instead of 1/4 cup and 1 teaspoon of sage and thyme instead of 1 tablespoon.
*I use homemade turkey stock, with no salt added. If your stock contains salt you may not need any additional salt in the final dish.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 409Total Fat: 8gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 66mgSodium: 43264mgCarbohydrates: 70gFiber: 5gSugar: 26gProtein: 15g
Nutrition information is automatically calculated by Nutritionix and is for general information purposes only. For the most accurate information, calculate using your select brands and exact measurements.
For the step by step version of this recipe, check out the How to Make Cranberry Apple Stuffing Story.