The Best Simple Thanksgiving Dressing

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The ultimate BEST EVER simple (and you can make ahead!) Thanksgiving dressing! via chelseasmessyapron.com #thanksgiving #dressing #easy #dinner #fall #bread #quick #makeahead

A delicious Thanksgiving Dressing with thick, crusty sourdough, a winning combination of fresh herbs, and aromatics sautéed in butter. I’m a huge believer in less is more for dressing, and this recipe definitely delivers. Simple, high-quality ingredients with fresh herbs make for the best dressing.

As you plan your Thanksgiving menu, this simple Thanksgiving Dressing is a must-have on the table! We love Wild Rice Salad, these Crockpot Potatoes Au Gratin, Roasted Vegetables, and a Crockpot Turkey to go along with it!

 

Overhead photo of hands holding a casserole dish filled with Thanksgiving Dressing.

Thanksgiving Dressing

Thanksgiving Dressing (or stuffing, if you put it in the turkey) is a must-have for Thanksgiving dinner. There are so many different ways to make dressing — stuffing it in the turkey, baking it up to a firm consistency in a casserole dish, adding eggs to give it a more “light and airy” consistency, and others. Some dressings are loaded with tons of ingredients (mushrooms, wild rice, dried fruit, etc.) while others keep the ingredient list simple.

The way I make Thanksgiving Dressing comes from the way my family made it growing up. We baked it in a dish and the consistency was medium-firm. The ingredients were simple, the herbs fresh, and the bread was always sourdough.

While this recipe doesn’t require lots of ingredients, the taste is anything but simple. It has always been wildly popular with Thanksgiving guests; in fact, I’m not allowed to show up to a Thanksgiving dinner without it.

How do you make homemade Thanksgiving dressing?

  • Bake the bread. Take a loaf of day-old bread and cut it into equal-sized 1-inch pieces, then bake the pieces on a low-heat temperature to dry the bread out as much as possible. The secret to avoiding soggy dressing is to use very dry, stale bread.
    • If you don’t have stale bread in your kitchen, first give yourself a pat on the back for managing your bread inventory better than me, and second, don’t worry! As long as it is given enough time in the oven to dry out, it will work great.
  • Sauté aromatics. While the bread is drying,  saute the onions, celery, and garlic in melted butter. The goal is to make them as tender and flavorful as possible so take your time. Low heat, frequent stirring, and a good 10-15 minutes and they’ll be perfect! Then add in the herbs to give this dressing an amazing depth of flavor.
  • Toss with eggs and chicken stock. Once the bread and onion/celery/herb mixture are ready, toss the ingredients together with good-quality chicken stock and eggs. 
  • Bake. Transfer the mixture to a pan and bake until lightly browned and crispy on top. Enjoy hot out of the oven with all your other favorite Thanksgiving dishes!

Process shots-- images of the bread being baked to dry out; the butter, veggies, and herbs being cooked in a pot.

Thanksgiving Dressing Tips

  • Use room-temperature eggs. This ensures the eggs disperse more evenly into the mixture and won’t being to cook early. Soaking refrigerated eggs in a bowl of warm (not hot) water for about 10 minutes is a quick way to do this.
  • Whisk the eggs first. Instead of just adding the eggs by themselves to the dressing, you’ll want to whisk them thoroughly with the chicken stock first. This ensures even coverage of the eggs throughout the dressing without too much stirring and tossing of ingredients– which will break down the bread.
  • Choose unsalted butter. There is a lot of butter (so you know this is going to be good!), but this Thanksgiving Dressing will end up too salty if you use salted butter. Choose unsalted so you can perfectly control the seasoning.
  • Chop flat-leaf Italian parsley (as opposed to curly parsley). Flat-leaf parsley has a more robust flavor and curly parsley is used more commonly as a garnish or decoration for food. We want the intense flavor of parsley in this Thanksgiving dressing.

Fresh herbs

Buying individual packages of each of the fresh herbs called for in this recipe can be pretty costly. Around Thanksgiving time, a lot of grocery stores offer a fresh “poultry” herb blend that you can pick instead. It usually has rosemary, sage and thyme. This leaves just parsley and fresh oregano to buy.

QUICK TIP

If you don’t want to buy an entire package of oregano just for this recipe, use 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano instead or simply leave it out.

Process shots-- images of the egg and broth mixture being mixed together and added to the veggies, and then the bread being added in

How long do you cook homemade Thanksgiving dressing?

Homemade Thanksgiving Dressing does cook for a while. This particular recipe requires well over an hour of cooking time, so you’ll want to plan in advance if you have limited oven space.

To cut down on oven time, you can dry out the bread (in the oven) in the morning or even the day before.

Can you make the dressing ahead of time?

Yes! This Thanksgiving Dressing a great recipe to make in advance. To do this, completely assemble the ingredients according to the recipe right up until baking it. Instead of baking, cover the casserole dish tightly and refrigerate. The next day, remove the dressing from the fridge, allow it to come to room temperature and bake in a preheated oven. You may need to add some additional baking time to the dressing.

I wouldn’t recommend making this Thanksgiving dressing more than 1 day in advance.

Up-close photo of the finished Thanksgiving Dressing with a spoon shoveling some out!

Dressing or Stuffing?

As I mentioned in the first paragraph, dressing is served on the side and stuffing is stuffed inside the turkey–makes sense, right? But beyond that, there’s another thing to keep in mind about dressing versus stuffing. When you cook the stuffing inside the turkey, the potential for salmonella contamination is greater. According to the Center for Disease Control, stuffing is porous, and during the cooking process, juices from the turkey that may contain bacteria drip down and are absorbed by the stuffing. If you do cook stuffing inside the turkey, when checking the temperature, you need to also check the temperature of the stuffing, which needs to be cooked to 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Any stuffing that contains meat juices must be cooked to the same minimum internal temperature as the meat itself in order to ensure any bacteria is killed during the cooking process. That’s one more reason to opt for dressing (like this Thanksgiving dressing) instead of stuffing!

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Thanksgiving Dressing

4.34 from 3 votes
A delicious Thanksgiving Dressing with thick, crusty sourdough, a winning combination of fresh herbs, and aromatics sautéed in butter. I'm a huge believer in less is more for Thanksgiving dressing, and this recipe definitely delivers. Simple, high-quality ingredients with fresh herbs makes for the best dressing.
Print Recipe

Thanksgiving Dressing

4.34 from 3 votes
A delicious Thanksgiving Dressing with thick, crusty sourdough, a winning combination of fresh herbs, and aromatics sautéed in butter. I'm a huge believer in less is more for Thanksgiving dressing, and this recipe definitely delivers. Simple, high-quality ingredients with fresh herbs makes for the best dressing.
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American, thanksgiving
Keyword thanksgiving dressing
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 5 minutes
Servings 12 -16 servings
Calories 674kcal
Author Chelsea
Cost $6.81

Ingredients

  • 11 tablespoons (155g) unsalted butter
  • 10 cups (402g) good quality, day-old white bread (we love sourdough best), cut into 1-inch wide by 1/2-inch thick cubes
  • 2 medium yellow onions diced (~2 and 1/2 cups; 326g)
  • 6-8 stalks celery thinly sliced (~1 and 1/3 cups; 171g)
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup (25g) flat-leaf parsley finely diced
  • 1 package fresh poultry herb blend mix (by other packaged fresh herbs in the refrigerated produce section of the grocery store or See Note 1 for individual herbs needed)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh oregano finely diced (or use 1/4 teaspoon dried)
  • Fine sea salt and freshly cracked pepper
  • 2 and 1/2 cups (563g) high quality (low sodium) chicken stock
  • 2 large eggs

Instructions

  • PREP: Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F. Generously grease a 9x13-inch baking pan with nonstick spray and set aside.
  • DRY OUT BREAD: Cut the bread into equal one-inch pieces and place in one layer on a large rimmed baking sheet. Place in the preheated oven and bake for 45 minutes, stirring the bread cubes every 15 minutes, or until completely dried out. Set aside to let the bread cool. Now increase the oven temperature to 350 degrees F.
  • BUTTER AND VEGGIES: Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the diced onions, celery, and garlic. Stir often until just beginning to lightly brown and the ingredients have become tender-- about 10-15 minutes. Prepare all the herbs by chopping finely. Once the veggies are tender, stir in all of the herbs: 2 tablespoons sage, 1 tablespoon rosemary, 1 and 1/2 tablespoons thyme, and 1 teaspoon fresh oregano. Add salt and pepper to taste (I use about 1 teaspoon fine sea salt and 1 teaspoon pepper). Remove pot from heat and allow to cool until warm.
  • EGGS AND STOCK: In a separate bowl, add the eggs and whisk with a fork. Stir in the chicken stock until combined. Pour this mixture into the pot with the veggies and herbs (make sure the pot isn't super hot or it will scramble the egg mixture; pot should be warm or room temperature). Very gently stir everything to combine. Pour the toasted bread cubes into the pot and gently mix until bread is well coated.
  • BAKE: Gently transfer this mixture to the prepared 9x13-inch baking dish and press into one even layer. Bake for 45-55 minutes or until browned and crisp on top. Remove and serve immediately.

Recipe Notes

Note 1: I buy 1 package of fresh poultry blend which has sage, thyme, and rosemary. You'll want to have a total of 2 tablespoons fresh sage, 1 and 1/2 tablespoons fresh thyme, and 1 tablespoon rosemary. 
Prep ahead: Bread cubes can be baked up to 1 day in advance. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.
Make ahead: Completely assemble the ingredients according to the recipe right up until baking it. Instead of baking, cover the casserole dish tightly and refrigerate. The next day, remove the dressing from the fridge, allow it to come to room temperature and bake in a preheated oven. You may need to add some additional baking time to the dressing. I wouldn't recommend making this Thanksgiving dressing more than 1 day in advance.

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 674kcal | Carbohydrates: 102g | Protein: 24g | Fat: 19g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Cholesterol: 62mg | Sodium: 1129mg | Potassium: 559mg | Fiber: 9g | Sugar: 14g | Vitamin A: 1304IU | Vitamin C: 16mg | Calcium: 308mg | Iron: 8mg

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7 Comments

  1. I will make this in my crockpot (makes the entire house smell like Thanksgiving) & one less thing I have to put in the oven…

    1. Sounds great! You could even put your crockpot in the oven (if it’s oven safe) and broil it at the end for a crispier top! Enjoy 🙂

  2. Do you not cover the dressing when first put in oven? It won’t dry out? I’ve always made stuffing (inside the Turkey) and it’s always moist and succulent. I guess I’m just nervous it will not be as moist.

    1. I don’t cover it! The top gets a bit crispy which we all love, but the dressing never dries out 🙂 If you want an extra moist dressing, you can cover it 🙂

  3. 5 stars
    Chelsea, I made the dressing just as you said….did not cover it and it turned out beautifully! Very moist inside and that crunchy topping. Will use this as my go-to dressing! Thank you!

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