Take your classic stuffing to the next level with this awesome Sausage Apple Cranberry Stuffing! Make your stuffing from scratch and fill it up with crusty sourdough bread, fresh herbs, and delicious dried cranberries to really wow your guests. It's guaranteed to be everyone's favorite side dish at Thanksgiving!
🍎 The Best Sourdough Stuffing
It's a known fact that side dishes always steal the show at Thanksgiving. I mean, who can resist delicious sides like creamy mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, tart cranberry sauce, or a homemade stuffing that's as loaded as this one?!
This easy Sausage Apple Cranberry Stuffing is going to be the star at your holiday feast! It's a delicious balance of savory, sweet, and aromatic thanks to scrumptious Italian sausage, plenty of fragrant herbs, and fresh crunchy vegetables like onion and celery. Plus, classic sourdough bread creates a crisp golden exterior but soaks up all the flavor on the inside to stay soft, moist, and delectable.
What is the difference between Thanksgiving dressing and stuffing?
Stuffing is traditionally placed inside the turkey or meat being roasted, where it absorbs the flavors and juices during cooking. Dressing, on the other hand, is baked in a separate dish rather than inside the bird.
Both terms are used interchangeably. For instance, this Apple Sausage Cranberry Stuffing is cooked outside the bird but I still call it "stuffing"!
I always recommend making "dressing" and cooking it separately from the turkey due to the different cooking times. In order to cook the stuffing to a safe temperature, the turkey will inevitably dry out. So save yourself the trouble and make a delicious and moist casserole instead!
Why You'll Love This
- An upgraded classic: This easy recipe has all the delicious components of a traditional stuffing: hearty bread, crunchy onion and celery, and fall-favorite herbs. But it's loaded up with sausage, dried cranberries, and fresh apple to create a delicious mix of flavors and textures.
- Customizable: This Sausage Apple Cranberry Stuffing is amazing as-is, but you can easily add your own touch to it. Include your favorite vegetables, change up the sausage or bread, and season to your heart's liking!
- Prep it in advance: Save time and coveted oven space on Thanksgiving by prepping this homemade stuffing a day early. The flavors meld together overnight and it reheats well!
- Sourdough bread: Adds a tangy flavor to balance the rich and savory flavors of this easy dressing. Stale bread works best - I recommend buying the bread 3 days in advance so it has time to dry out.
- Sausage: So what's the best sausage for stuffing? I love using sweet or mild Italian pork sausage, breakfast sausage in this dish but any type of sausage meat would work here. Purchase bulk sausage if you can, or remove the casings first if you're using links.
- Onion, celery, and garlic: Classic vegetables that are usually in stuffing to help create a flavorful base.
- Apple: I love using Honeycrisp, Pink Lady, or Fuji apples for a sweet and crispy texture. For a more tart flavor, use a Granny Smith.
- Fresh herbs: Sage, thyme, rosemary, and parsley are a must during the holidays. You can use dried herbs, but fresh herbs add more of a savory and festive touch.
- Dried cranberries: Adds gorgeous color, texture, and tartness. I use sweetened.
- Turkey broth: Provides moisture and richness in this baked Sausage Apple Cranberry Stuffing. I love using bone broth as it's richer in nutrients, collagen, and flavor. Be mindful of the sodium level - I recommend unsalted or low sodium stock.
- Butter: I recommend unsalted butter for more control of the seasoning, but salted butter would work as well.
- Egg: Acts as a binder to hold the Apple and Cranberry Stuffing together.
Substitutions & Variations
- Aside from sourdough bread, you can substitute with any bread that's mild in flavor with low moisture content. Some popular choices are corn bread, Italian bread, white or whole wheat bread, French baguettes, or stuffing cubes.
- Use any type of sausage or meat you'd like in this Apple and Cranberry Stuffing! You could also use ground turkey, chicken, or pork instead and add your own seasoning blend.
- If using dried herbs in place of fresh, halve the amount. Or replace with poultry seasoning, which is a blend of sage, thyme, and rosemary.
- If adding different types of vegetables, make sure to pay attention to the cook time. Leeks, bell pepper, and jalapeno would be easy additions - just throw them in with the onion.
- For crunch, sprinkle in nuts like chopped walnuts, pecans, almonds, or chestnut.
- To make gluten-free Sausage Apple Cranberry Stuffing, use gluten-free bread like Whole Food's Gluten-Free Sandwich Bread.
- To make this dairy-free, replace the butter with vegan butter.
- To make a vegetarian stuffing, leave out the sausage or replace with a vegan meat alternative or finely chopped mushrooms. Also substitute the turkey broth with vegetable broth.
- To stuff the turkey with homemade Sausage Apple Cranberry Stuffing, first make sure both the turkey and stuffing are at room temperature before cooking. Right before you roast the turkey, line the cavity of the turkey with cheesecloth and add the uncooked stuffing. Roast at 325ºF (163ºC) until the internal temperature of both the stuffing and turkey reaches 165ºF (74ºC) in the thickest part of the thigh.
👩🏻🍳 How To Make Sausage Apple Cranberry Sourdough Stuffing
⬇️ Please scroll down to the recipe card to see full ingredient amounts and instructions.
STEP ONE: First, preheat your oven to 350ºF and grease a baking dish with butter or oil.
If your sourdough bread isn't already stale, cut them into cubes and toast in the oven for 5-8 minutes until lightly browned. Transfer the bread to the casserole dish.
STEP TWO: In a skillet, melt butter over medium-high heat and add the sausage. Break it up into bite-sized pieces and sear until no longer pink, about 5 minutes.
Then transfer the sausage to the casserole dish on top of bread - but don't stir yet!
STEP THREE: If there's a lot of rendered fat from the sausage, drain all but 1-2 tablespoon from the skillet. Then add the onion, apple, and celery along with a pinch of salt. Cook for 3-4 minutes, then add the garlic, sage, thyme, and rosemary. Toast for 1 minute until fragrant, then pour it all on top of the sausage in the casserole dish.
STEP FOUR: Next, whisk together the turkey broth, egg, melted butter, and salt. Pour into the casserole dish and tilt the pan to spread the liquid out. Let sit for 2-4 minutes until the bread becomes moist.
Pay attention to the moisture level at this point. If your sourdough bread still looks dry, add some more broth and/or melted butter. But if it looks too wet, drain the excess liquid and stir in more bread cubes.
STEP FIVE: While the sourdough is soaking, sprinkle the dried cranberries and parsley on top.
STEP SIX: Once the bread has absorbed most of the liquid, gently mix the stuffing.
STEP SEVEN: Cover the baking dish with foil and bake the Sausage Apple Cranberry Stuffing for about 30 minutes. Then turn the temperature up to 400ºF, remove the foil, and gently stir. Let continue baking for 15-25 more minutes until until the tops are golden brown.
💭 Top Tips
- Save your butter wrappers: Use it to easily grease your casserole dish!
- Use stale bread: Stale bread works best to soak up liquid, otherwise you're left with a mushy stuffing. Cube the sourdough and place it in a bowl for 2-3 days on the counter. Or a quick shortcut is to lightly toast the bread: bake, air fry, or toast the sourdough cubes at 350ºF (177ºC) for 5-10 minutes until lightly toasted.
- Adjust the broth: Be careful with the turkey broth as you want it to moisten the sourdough bread but not turn the stuffing soggy. You may have to add more or less than what the recipe calls for, depending on how dry your bread is.
- Cover when baking: Cover your Sausage Apple Cranberry Stuffing with foil for the first part of baking to retain moisture and prevent the top from burning. Then remove the foil at the end for a perfectly golden and crispy exterior.
🥡 Storing & Freezing
Storing: To store leftover Sourdough Stuffing, allow it to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate it in an airtight container or resealable bag within two hours of cooking. Use the leftover stuffing within 3-4 days.
Freezing: To freeze, allow it to cool to room temperature first. Then place it in an airtight container or a freezer-safe bag, ensuring it's sealed tightly to prevent freezer burn. Label the container with the date and freeze for up to 1-2 months.
Reheating: To reheat leftover Sausage Apple Cranberry Stuffing, you can use the microwave, oven, or stovetop. Make sure it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C) to make sure it's safe to eat.
Make Ahead: Save time on Thanksgiving by making this Sausage Apple Cranberry Stuffing 1-2 days in advance. Follow the recipe as directed, but don't bake yet. Instead, cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate. When you're ready to serve the stuffing. Bake as directed in the recipe but add extra cooking time while it's covered.
What To Do With Leftover Sausage Apple Cranberry Stuffing
- Put together a Thanksgiving leftovers sandwich with sourdough bread, a slice of turkey, a generous scoop of Sausage Apple Cranberry Stuffing, cranberry sauce, and your favorite condiments.
- Make sourdough stuffing balls by mixing in an extra egg to your leftovers and forming 2-inch balls. Then bake at 375°F (190°C) for 15-20 minutes until lightly crispy.
- Toss the leftover dressing in a bowl with crisp lettuce and drizzle with your favorite dressing for a flavorful panzanella salad. Or you can just scoop them into the lettuce to make lettuce wraps.
- You can also use leftovers to stuff your favorite vegetables like acorn squash, bell peppers, or zucchini.
- Generously grease a waffle iron to make savory, crispy Cranberry and Sausage Stuffing waffles.
📖 Recipe FAQs
Traditional stuffing is usually made with bread, aromatic vegetables (onion, celery, and garlic), herbs, and broth. It's a classic holiday side dish that pairs well with everything!
Adding too much liquid like broth, melted butter, or eggs can result in a soggy or mushy stuffing. To prevent this, add the liquids gradually and give the bread time to soak. Then add more liquid as needed until the bread is just moist.
The top should be golden and crispy and all the liquids should be absorbed. To be sure, you can also use an instant-read thermometer to make sure it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C).
Sausage Apple Cranberry Stuffing should first be baked covered to keep the moisture in and to prevent it from drying out in the oven. Then, remove the foil for the second half so the top layer can crisp up for those golden brown edges.
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Sausage Apple Cranberry Stuffing
- 3-5 slices stale sourdough bread cut into ½" cubes; about 5 heaping cups (see notes)
- 2½ tablespoon unsalted butter melted; divided
- 1 lb sweet Italian sausage casings removed
- ½ onion diced; about ¾ cup
- 1 small apple cored and diced; about 1 cup (see notes)
- 2-3 stalks celery thinly sliced; about ¾ cup
- 3-4 cloves garlic minced
- 5-6 leaves fresh sage chopped; about 2 tbsp
- 2-3 sprigs fresh thyme chopped; about 1 tsp
- 2-3 sprigs fresh rosemary chopped; about 1 tbsp
- ⅔ cup dried cranberries
- 2 tablespoon fresh parsley chopped
- 1 cup unsalted or low sodium turkey broth
- 1 egg
- Kosher salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 350°F (175℃). Grease a large casserole dish (9x13" or 10.5x7.5" recommended) with butter or oil. Place sourdough cubes into dish.
- Melt ½ tablespoon butter in a large pan over medium-high heat and add sausage. Crumble into small pieces and cook until no longer pink, about 5-7 minutes. Then use a slotted spoon to transfer sausage to casserole dish on top of the bread, leaving it unstirred.
- Drain all but 1-2 tablespoon of fat from the pan. Heat over medium heat and add onion, apple, celery, ¼ teaspoon salt, and a pinch of pepper. Cook for for 3-4 minutes or until onion starts to get translucent. Season to taste.
- Next, add garlic, sage, thyme, and rosemary to the pan. Stir and cook for 1 minute, then add to casserole dish on top of sausage without stirring.
- In a measuring cup or bowl, whisk together broth, egg, remaining 2 tablespoon melted butter, and ½ teaspoon salt. Pour into casserole dish and tilt to evenly distribute liquid. Let soak for 2-4 minutes without stirring. Bread should be moist but not soggy. If there is too much liquid after 4 minutes, stir in more bread cubes or drain excess. If the bread still looks dry, add more broth or melted butter.
- Add dried cranberries and parsley to the stuffing. Use a spoon to gently mix together.
- Cover with foil and bake for 30-35 minutes. Then turn temperature up to 400°F (205℃) and take out the casserole dish. Remove foil and gently stir the stuffing. Place immediately back into oven and bake uncovered for 15-25 more minutes until top is golden brown, keeping an eye on it. Let cool slightly before serving.
- Sourdough bread: It's best to use bread that's 1-2 days old and lightly stale. Cube the bread, place into a bowl, and place on your countertop to dry for 2 days. If you don't have time, lightly toast cubed bread in a 350° oven for 5-8 minutes or until lightly golden brown and dried.
- Apple: Use a firm apple that will hold its shape after cooking. I love using Honeycrisp, Pink Lady, or Fuji for sweetness. You can also use Granny Smith if you'd like a tart flavor.
- Make It In Advance: Follow the recipe as directed, but don't bake it yet. Instead, cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate. When you're ready to serve the stuffing. Bake as directed in the recipe but add extra cooking time while it's covered.
- To stuff the turkey, first make sure both the turkey and stuffing are at room temperature before cooking. Right before you roast the turkey, line the cavity of the turkey with cheesecloth and add the uncooked stuffing. Roast at 325ºF (163ºC) until the internal temperature of both the stuffing and turkey reaches 165ºF (74ºC) in the thickest part of the thigh.
- Use any type of bread and ground meat you'd like.
- If using dried herbs in place of fresh, halve the amount or replace with poultry seasoning.
- You can use chicken or vegetable broth in place of turkey broth.