Make Ahead Stuffing with Fresh Herbs

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Make stuffing ahead of time this year for your easiest Thanksgiving yet! This Make Ahead Stuffing recipe is a classic mix of homemade bread cubes & aromatics, but loads of fresh herbs take it completely over the top! Prep it up to 3 days in advance, then simply bake until golden brown before the big meal. This easy, classic stuffing is perfect to serve alongside roast turkey, mashed potatoes, & any other Thanksgiving side dishes you love.

A holiday dinner hitmade-from-scratch & super simple to prepare! Naturally meatless. Easily vegetarian & vegan.

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Finished make ahead stuffing fills a large white ceramic baking dish. The thanksgiving stuffing is garnished with fresh herbs and kosher salt. A wooden serving spoon rests across the top of the baking dish and the baking dish is surrounded by two amber colored drinking glasses, a small wooden pinch bowl filled with kosher salt, Fall florals, a red muted linen napkin, and two white plates with a gold fork resting on top.

Make-Ahead Thanksgiving

This recipe is part of PWWB’s Make-Ahead Thanksgiving series, a complete resource for time-saving holiday dinner prep. No one needs the stress of cooking a multi-course meal all in one day! Whether you’re a savvy home cook or a first-time dinner host, these make-ahead recipes will help you tackle your Thanksgiving prep little by little for a completely stress-free holiday meal. Learn more about Make-Ahead Thanksgiving!

Once You Make Stuffing Ahead of Time, You’ll Never Go Back!

It took me a while to become a fan of stuffing, but these days I can’t imagine my Thanksgiving plate without it. (ICYMI, my Aunt Kari’s Sourdough Stuffing with Sausage is the recipe that officially converted me. It is the best!)

The only downside? A homemade stuffing recipe can be pretty time-consuming to prepare, especially in addition to all of the other dishes to prepare for a classic Thanksgiving dinner. If you’ve ever looked at your long Thanksgiving to-do list & wondered “can you make stuffing ahead of time?” this recipe is for you. Learning to make stuffing ahead is a holiday dinner game changer! 🙌🏼

You can prepare this make ahead stuffing recipe up to 3 days before Thanksgiving dinner. Make homemade bread cubes, mix them with plenty of aromatics & fresh herbs, & store everything for later. At dinnertime, all that’s left to do is popping it into the oven until it’s beautifully golden brown & perfectly creamy-yet-crisp. The star of the Thanksgiving table!

Make Ahead Stuffing Recipe Highlights

You’ll love this make ahead Thanksgiving stuffing recipe. It’s…

MADE FROM SCRATCH. Homemade bread cubes, aromatic veggies, & tons of fresh rosemary, sage, thyme, & parsley create an herbaceous & flavor-forward stuffing. It’s totally classic & completely irresistible!

A HOLIDAY CLASSIC. Stuffing is the ultimate Thanksgiving side dish! This version is perfectly tender, but has plenty of crispiness from its golden brown topping & a couple of texture-boosting ingredients. It’s the perfect pair for any holiday main dish!

EPIC MEAL PREP. Preparing homemade stuffing from scratch is typically a pretty time-consuming process, but make ahead stuffing helps save time & clean up on Thanksgiving Day. Simply reheat & enjoy!

Cheers to stuffing your turkey day with delicious eats, not tons of to-dos! ♡ Read on to learn more about how to prepare Make-Ahead Thanksgiving Stuffing, or jump straight to the recipe & get cooking!

Make Ahead Stuffing vs. Make Ahead Thanksgiving Dressing: What’s the Difference?

You probably hear the terms stuffing & dressing both thrown around this time of year – what’s actually the difference? Technically speaking, stuffing cooks inside the turkey & dressing cooks separately alongside the bird, typically in a casserole dish. This make ahead stuffing recipe is technically a dressing since it bakes on its own.

Why call it a stuffing then? ⇢ Quite simply, because I grew up calling it stuffing! I’ve always known the baked bread casserole on the Thanksgiving table as stuffing, even though it’s technically a dressing. I’m guessing that’s probably what you know it as too!

But can you prep this make ahead stuffing recipe as a “stuffing” in the traditional sense? ⇢ No, not in this case! For food safety reasons it’s not recommended to stuff your turkey too far in advance – or at all! Even if you’re not taking a meal prep approach with your Thanksgiving menu, I don’t normally suggest stuffing in this traditional sense – it inevitably results in overcooked turkey. (Plus, you can’t stuff a spatchcock turkey, my favorite way to prepare the juiciest Thanksgiving turkey!)

Key Ingredients

It only takes a handful of simple ingredients to create a rich, flavorful, & classic holiday stuffing, & this make ahead stuffing is no exception! If you choose to make stuffing ahead of time, you definitely won’t be skimping on flavor.

Note: Full ingredients list & measurements provided in the Recipe Card, below.

For this make ahead stuffing recipe you need…

  • Bread – I love to use mild & soft French bread or Italian bread for this particular make ahead stuffing recipe, but feel free to use whatever loaves you love most. White bread, challah, & sourdough bread are also great options.
  • VeggiesOnion, celery, & garlic are the classic aromatics traditionally used in Thanksgiving stuffing. At my house, we also add water chestnuts for crispy texture – a great contrast to tender bread crumbs!
  • Fresh herbs & seasoning – Fresh herbs like rosemary, sage, thyme, & parsley create flavor that simply tastes like Thanksgiving. In this recipe, we also like to amp up the flavor with dried poultry seasoning.
  • Broth – Chicken or turkey broth offers the most classic flavor, but you can easily use vegetable broth to keep this recipe vegetarian.
  • Eggs – I love the way eggs bind a stuffing together. Not only do they help prevent the stuffing from crumbling & falling apart as you serve it, but they also create an irresistible custardy texture. It is so good – they’re my Thanksgiving stuffing secret ingredient! If you have a vegan egg substitute that you love, feel free to use it!

How to Make Stuffing Ahead of Time

Preparing Thanksgiving stuffing ahead of time consists of 2 phases: first, prep the bread cubes, then assemble the stuffing.

Full Recipe Directions, including step-by-step photos, are included in the Recipe Card, below.

Homemade Bread Cubes

Before you assemble make ahead stuffing, you need to prepare bread cubes. Every stuffing recipe needs dried bread cubes to soak up all its rich flavors!

I love to make my bread cubes from scratch with a loaf of fresh bread. It takes a little planning, but it’s an entirely hands-off process that gives you complete control of the flavor & texture of the bread cubes. If store-bought is easier for you, go for it!

How to make homemade bread cubes for stuffing? ⇢ Start by either slicing or tearing your loaf of bread into small-sized cubes. From there, either 1.) Let the bread cubes dry out at room temperature for a few days or 2.) Quickly toast them in the oven. Whatever’s most convenient for your Thanksgiving prep schedule!

Full Recipe Directions, including step-by-step photos, are included in the Recipe Card, below.

Make Ahead Stuffing Assembly

1

Cook the aromatics. Cook the onions & celery in melted butter until soft. Add finely chopped water chestnuts, garlic, fresh herbs, & a couple teaspoons poultry seasoning. The herbs & seasoning will coat the veggies & everything should start to turn golden brown & fragrant.

2

Simmer with broth. Add turkey or chicken broth to the pot with the sautéed onion mixture, then cook until it comes to a simmer. Why? A good broth infuses the veggies with poultry flavor & provides much-needed moisture for a make ahead stuffing.

3

Mix the stuffing. Add the dried bread cubes to your largest bowl, then spoon some of the herbed chicken broth over them. Tip! ⇢ Work spoonful by spoonful here until you reach just the right texture. The bread cubes soften as they mix with the veggies & herbed chicken broth, but they shouldn’t get super soggy.

How to Store for Later

Full Recipe Directions, including step-by-step photos, are included in the Recipe Card, below.

Once the stuffing is mixed, all that’s left is storing it for later. Generously spray a large baking dish with nonstick cooking spray & add the prepared stuffing mixture to the prepared dish. Once it’s cooled completely, cover in plastic wrap & foil. Store it in your fridge until Thanksgiving Day, up to 3 days.

Make Ahead Stuffing Storage FAQs

How far ahead can you make stuffing?

Once it’s mixed, you can store this stuffing in the refrigerator for up to 3 days! I love taking the time to prep stuffing in advance – it takes a lot of stress out of the kitchen on Thanksgiving Day.

Should you let stuffing cool before refrigerating?

Yes! Be sure to let your make ahead stuffing cool completely before covering it & popping it in the fridge.

Can you make stuffing ahead of time and freeze it?

Sure! You can assemble this make ahead stuffing recipe entirely (including mixing the herbed bread cubes with the eggs), then freeze it for later.

I like to portion the stuffing into my favorite freezer containers for easier thawing. Freeze up to 3 months. To reheat, safely thaw the stuffing overnight in the refrigerator before baking it off. Pretty simple!

Reheating Make Ahead Stuffing for Thanksgiving Dinner

You’ll be so grateful for your make ahead stuffing on Thanksgiving Day – all you have to do is pop it in the oven! No toasting bread cubes, juggling pots on the stovetop, or other messy prep to get in the way of dinner – just a quick finishing touch & in the oven it goes. Simple!

Full Recipe Directions, including step-by-step photos, are included in the Recipe Card, below.

1

Make-ahead stuffing finishing touches. Prepare a binder for the make-ahead stuffing by whisking eggs into a little chicken/turkey broth, then pour the mixture over the stuffing just before baking. Why? ⇢ This binding mixture gives the stuffing richer flavor & creates a custardy texture as it bakes. It’s so good!

2

Bake the make ahead Thanksgiving stuffing covered for about 30 minutes, then remove the foil & bake 20 minutes longer, or until the top is golden brown & slightly crispy. Tip! ⇢ If you love extra-crispy stuffing, feel free to finish the stuffing under the broiler for a few minutes – just be sure to keep your eye on it so it doesn’t burn!

Serving Stuffing on the Holidays (or All-Year-Round! 💃🏻)

The stuffing is ready to enjoy as soon as it comes out of the oven – you can even serve it right out of the baking dish for ease! I like to finish it off with a sprinkling of fresh herbs on top for garnish, then dig right in!

Enjoy your stuffing with other Thanksgiving staples like Roasted Turkey, Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes, or an Easy Sweet Potato Casserole. Don’t forget the Easy Turkey Gravy, too!

But also…stuffing doesn’t just have to be just for Thanksgiving, right? You can make stuffing ahead of time for a Sunday roasted chicken. Try this Lemon Herb Roasted Spatchcock Chicken Over Potatoes or our Thanksgiving Chicken, which is a great recipe no matter the time of year. Any excuse to eat more stuffing all year round, right?! 😉

I can’t wait for you to try this Make Ahead Stuffing recipe! It’s insanely delicious, with next-level classic flavor, but it’s so simple to make – especially when you prep it ahead of time. We think you’ll love it just as much as we do!

If you do give it a try, be sure to let me know! Leave a comment with a star rating below. You can also snap a photo & tag @playswellwithbutter on Instagram. I LOVE hearing about & seeing your PWWB creations! ♡ Happy Thanksgiving!

Print
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Finished make ahead stuffing fills a large white ceramic baking dish. The thanksgiving stuffing is garnished with fresh herbs and kosher salt. A wooden serving spoon rests across the top of the baking dish and the baking dish is surrounded by two amber colored drinking glasses, a small wooden pinch bowl filled with kosher salt, Fall florals, a red muted linen napkin, and two white plates with a gold fork resting on top.

Make Ahead Stuffing with Fresh Herbs

  • Author: Jess Larson
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Reheating Time: 50 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 2 hours
  • Yield: serves 1012 1x
  • Category: Side Dish Recipes, Thanksgiving Recipes
  • Method: Stovetop, Oven, Baked
  • Cuisine: American

Description

A great stuffing is a Thanksgiving table must-have, but prepping one from scratch can be a little time-consuming for an already busy day. A simple solution? Make stuffing ahead of time this year for your easiest Thanksgiving yet!

This Make Ahead Stuffing recipe is a classic mix of homemade bread cubes & aromatic veggies. Loads of fresh herbs take its flavor completely over the top, while mixing some eggs into the mix creates an almost custardy texture.

In true make-ahead fashion, you can prep it up to 3 days in advance, giving it some quick finishing touches & baking it off just before dinnertime. 

The result is a classic Thanksgiving stuffing with amazing herbaceous flavor & creamy-yet-crisp texture that everyone at your Thanksgiving, Friendsgiving, or holiday dinner table will love. It’s perfect alongside roast turkey, mashed potatoes, & any other Thanksgiving side dishes – just don’t forget the gravy!

Be sure to check out the blog post, above, for plenty more tips & tricks, & if you love the idea of a make-ahead Thanksgiving, be sure to check out our complete Make-Ahead Thanksgiving guide. ♡ Happy holidays!


Ingredients

Scale
  • 16 ounces soft French or Italian bread, sliced or torn into ½-inch cubes
  • ½ cup unsalted butter (1 stick, 8 tablespoons)
  • 2 large yellow onions, diced
  • 4 large ribs celery, diced
  • 8 ounces whole water chestnuts, drained & roughly chopped (see Recipe Notes)
  • 8 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped hardy fresh herbs (e.g. a combination of rosemary, sage, & thyme)
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried poultry seasoning
  • 1 ¼ cup chicken or turkey broth
  • kosher salt & ground black pepper, to season
  • for reheating: 2 large eggs beaten & whisked into ¾ cup chicken or turkey broth

Instructions

  1. Prepare bread cubes. First, you’ll prepare the bread cubes. There are a couple different approaches you can take in preparing the bread cubes, each of them work well. Take your pick from the bullet list below. Once the bread cubes are prepared (time varies based on option chosen) transfer them to a large mixing bowl.Roughly torn toasted bread cubes are arranged atop a metal baking sheet pan. The pan sits atop a light peach colored textured surface with a red muted linen napkin resting alongside.
    • Option #1: Make-ahead bread cubes at room temperature: 2-3 days before you plan to assemble your make ahead stuffing, slice or tear the bread into 1/2-inch cubes. Set the cubes on a baking sheet, spreading them out in an even layer. Set aside, uncovered, for 2-3 days or until the bread is dried out. (Tip! ⇢ Provided I’m not planning on baking anything, I like to set the baking sheet of bread cubes in the oven to keep it out of the way.) Once dried, transfer to an airtight bag & set aside until you’d like to prepare your make ahead stuffing.
    • Option #2: Day of bread cubes in the oven: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Slice or tear the bread into 1/2-inch cubes. Set the cubes on a baking sheet, spreading them out in an even layer. Transfer to the oven to toast until dried out, 10-15 minutes. Set aside to cool before mixing the bread cubes in the stuffing.
    • Option #3: Store-bought bread cubes: Let the store do the work! Buy a bag of prepared bread cubes. You’ll need 16 ounces for this make ahead stuffing recipe.
  2. Cook the aromatics: Melt the butter in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Once melted, add the onions & celery, seasoning with 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt & ground black pepper as desired. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened & fragrant, 5-7 minutes. Stir in the water chestnuts, garlic, fresh herbs, & poultry seasoning. Cook 1-2 minutes longer, until fragrant. Add the chicken/turkey broth. Increase the heat to medium high to bring the mixture to a simmer, then remove from the heat for stuffing assembly.Melted butter with onions, celery, water chestnuts, garlic, fresh herbs, & poultry seasoning fill a large white double handled braising pan. The pan sits atop a light peach colored textured surface. A wooden spoon rests inside of the pan and a red muted linen napkin rests alongside the pan.
  3. Mix the stuffing: Place the dried bread cubes in a large bowl. Spoon the herbed chicken broth over the bread cubes, mixing well between additions to prevent the bread from getting soggy. The herbed chicken broth should rehydrate the bread cubes such that they’re softened, but not soggy.
  4. Store for later: Spray a 9×13 baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Transfer the stuffing to the prepared baking dish. Set aside to cool completely. Once cooled, tightly cover the baking dish with plastic wrap then foil. Refrigerate for up to 3 days.Partially assembled make ahead thanksgiving stuffing fills a large white ceramic baking dish that sits atop a light peach colored textured surface. The baking dish is partially covered with plastic wrap and aluminum foil and the words stuffing have been written on the outside of the foil in black permanent marker. The baking dish is surrounded by a black Sharpie marker, a small wooden pinch bowl filled with kosher salt, red and orange Fall florals, and a red muted linen napkin.
  5. Reheating: Remove the baking dish from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes or up to 1 hour before you’d like to finish them in the oven. Remove the foil & plastic wrap. Pour the egg mixture over the stuffing, stirring well to combine. Tightly recover with foil. Transfer to 350 degree F oven & bake the stuffing for 30 minutes. Carefully remove the foil & return to the oven for 20 minutes longer, or until golden brown & warmed through. If an even crispier top is desired, finish the stuffing under the broiler for 2-3 minutes, watching closely to prevent burning.Make ahead stuffing fills a large white ceramic baking dish that sits atop a light peach colored textured surface. A muted red linen napkin rests alongside the baking dish.
  6. Serving: If desired, transfer the warm stuffing to a large bowl or serving dish. Top with a sprinkling of finely chopped fresh herbs as desired, & serve alongside your roast turkey or roast chicken, mashed potatoes, & gravy. Enjoy!A make ahead thanksgiving dinner is served atop a white dinner plate with a gold fork resting atop. The plate is filled with make ahead sweet potato casserole, make ahead thanksgiving stuffing, make ahead mashed potatoes with make ahead gravy, make ahead green bean casserole, and a few slices of carved turkey. The plate is surrounded by a red muted linen napkin, red and orange Fall florals, a small wooden pinch bowl filled with kosher salt, two amber colored drinking glasses, a white ceramic gravy boat, and a clean white dinner plate with a gold fork resting atop.


Notes

  • Ingredient Notes: 
    • Best bread for stuffing: We love to make this stuffing recipe using a softer French or Italian-style loaf. For an even heartier stuffing with slightly more crunch & crispy edges, try using a heartier loaf like sourdough or a “country” style French or Italian bread.
    • Water chestnuts are an aquatic tuber (named after their chestnut-like appearance) indigenous to Southeast Asia. They are very mild in flavor, but have a wonderfully refreshing crunchy-crisp texture – my family loves to add it to softer dishes like stuffing for extra texture. Canned water chestnuts are readily available in most conventional grocery stores – find them in the “International” aisle near other Asian ingredients. If you prefer not to use water chestnuts, simply omit.
    • Vegetarian or Vegan Stuffing: While naturally meatless, this make ahead stuffing recipe is easily made vegetarian or vegan with a couple of adjustments. For a vegetarian stuffing, opt for vegetable stock or broth in place of chicken/turkey broth. Take it a step further to make vegan stuffing by using your favorite high-quality plant butter & egg substitute in place of unsalted butter & eggs.
  • Storage & Reheating: Leftover reheated make ahead stuffing (i.e. prepared through Step 5 of Recipe Directions, above), will keep, stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat in the microwave until warmed through.
  • Freezer Instructions: You can also freeze leftover stuffing. Transfer leftover stuffing to a freezer-safe container and freeze for up to 1 month. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then reheat in the microwave or oven until warmed through.

Keywords: make ahead Thanksgiving recipes, make ahead stuffing, make ahead stuffing for Thanksgiving, stuffing for Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving side dishes, easy side dishes

Recipe by Jess Larson, Plays Well With Butter | Photography by KJ & Company, Kate Poskochil

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A close up shot of make ahead thanksgiving dinner served atop a white dinner plate with a gold fork resting atop. The plate is filled with make ahead sweet potato casserole, make ahead thanksgiving stuffing, make ahead mashed potatoes with make ahead gravy, make ahead green bean casserole, and a few slices of carved turkey. The plate sits atop a light peach colored textured surface.

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Hi there, I'm Jess!

If there’s 1 thing to know about me, it’s this: I am head-over-heels in love with food. I’m on a mission to make weeknight cooking flavorful, fast, & fun for other foodies, & PWWB is where I share foolproof recipes that deliver major flavor with minimal effort. Other true loves: pretty shoes, puppies, Grey’s Anatomy, & my cozy kitchen in Minneapolis, MN.

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