This traditional version of “stuffing” (or dressing, more accurately) will satisfy all appetites! Vegetarians and meat-eaters alike will scarf down this savory herb-filled stuffing with its crispy bits and flavor throughout, it’s truly the BEST vegetarian stuffing.
If I had to choose my favorite Thanksgiving side, it’s hands-down this stuffing. It’s been in my family for decades, even before we had vegetarians around the table, it has been a family favorite for everyone. It’s rich and herby and with the crispy bits and savory onion and celery throughout, it’s just what you need on your plate.
In fact, if I could only choose one side to enjoy at Thanksgiving, it would be this stuffing recipe with gravy. Yes, I said it.
So much my favorite, in fact, that a few years ago I developed a stuffed mushrooms recipe stuffed with none other than this vegetarian stuffing. Be sure to check it out if you’re looking for a meatless main dish this holiday season. It’s truly outta this world.
Ok, back to this recipe. You’ll love how easy it is, and that it can be assembled ahead of time to be thrown into the oven just before you’re ready to enjoy, giving you more time to enjoy a glass of wine with family (or friends – Friendsgiving, too!).
Is it dressing or stuffing?
Let’s get this out of the way first… the whole dressing vs. stuffing debate.
Ok, I suppose it’s not really a debate, because it’s quite a literal difference in how it is prepared for the name. Stuffing is called stuffing because, well, it’s stuffed into the turkey to bake. Dressing, on the other hand, is not stuffed in a turkey and rather is baked in a baking dish.
Now, to me, it’s a soda vs. pop thing, and I still call it stuffing even though my family has never put it into a bird. Old habits are hard to break. I know I’m not alone either. It seems as though we’re all more conditioned to refer to this side dish as stuffing, and associate that with the delicious bread, herb, and aromatics mixture that we enjoy over the holidays.
So for that purpose, I’m referring to it as stuffing in this post, even though it technically is dressing. Ok, so now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to the real important information.
What goes into the best stuffing recipe? Very simple ingredients, ones that deliver the utmost flavor and savoriness. Sometimes simply truly is better.
- Italian or Sourdough Bread: for stuffing, it’s important that the bread you’re using is stale. Stale bread?! Yes! Using stale bread means its dried out, allowing it to soak up the flavors and vegetable stock we’re using. It’s all about the flavor we can get into the bread. Be sure to buy a big crusty loaf and let it dry out on its own – avoid presliced loafs for best results.
- Butter: of course the aromatics are cooked in butter for added richness.
- Onion + Celery: these two vegetables sautee with the butter, and once those herbs go in, the smell is incredible.
- Thyme + Sage: oh these two fresh herbs are incredible together, and add so much flavor and richness to the stuffing!
- Vegetable Stock: bringing flavor and moistness to the stuffing, indeed! If you’re not vegetarian, you could use chicken stock.
- Eggs: eggs help to bind the stuffing together, helping it keep its shape.
How to Make Vegetarian Stuffing
Now, my friends, even if you’re not vegetarian you’re going to love this stuffing recipe. If years and years and years of serving this recipe at our family dinners, I can attest that everyone will love the flavor and texture in this dish.
And if you’re the chef at hand, then you’re going to love how dang easy it is to make, too.
Before you begin preparing the stuffing, it’s important to make sure the bread is ready. A day before preparing this recipe, slice the loaf of crusty bread and allow it to dry out overnight. You can also tear the bread at this point, letting the pieces dry out, too.
If you forgot to dry out the bread, or you don’t already have stale bread, place the slices on a baking sheet and place in a 250F oven, flipping once one side is dry, allowing the slices to dry out before proceeding.
If you have slices, you can either dice them into somewhat equally sized bread cubes or tear the slices into pieces as well. I like tearing as it adds a rustic element to the recipe. We’re going for homemade, not perfectly equal cubes of bread like in those storebought boxes. 100% homemade, rustic, and delicious here!
With the bread ready, place it in a large mixing bowl and set aside while we prepare the rest.
Saute the onion and celery in butter. Add a pinch of salt too, beginning to layer in the flavors the salt will bring out in the filling. Stir in those fresh herbs (YUM) then allow the mixture to cool slightly before proceeding so that the eggs don’t end up scrambling in the stuffing.
Stir the onion mixture in with the bread, then combine it with the whisked eggs until combined. Starting with the eggs will help you see how much more moisture you need to add with the vegetable stock or broth.
Begin adding in the vegetable stock in half cup increments so you’re able to judge and control how much you need to add. You want the mixture moist, but not overly wet. This will keep the stuffing moist while baking, but allow for crispy bits and help it retain its texture. We definitely don’t want wet bread.
We use around 2 cups total, but ultimately it will depend on how dry your bread is (the drier it is, the more it will soak up the liquid) and the exact amount you have.
Please note the process photos are for the version of the stuffing as made in these stuffed mushrooms; it’s the same with the addition of kale and gruyere cheese.
That’s all the preparation there is! With the mixture combined, transfer it to a casserole pan. Bake for the first half, covered, then uncover for the last half so those crispy bits can get beautifully golden brown. You’ll also notice the edges of the stuffing will begin to pull away from the pan when it’s ready.
If the top isn’t as golden or crispy as you’d like, go ahead and broil for the last few minutes.
Best Vegetarian Stuffing Tips
- Use a loaf of crusty bread – it is going to add the best flavor and texture to the stuffing. I recommend an Italian Loaf or Sourdough.
- Use stale, dry, day-old bread – so that it soaks up the flavor of the vegetable filling and vegetable stock. You can dry it out yourself, or let it do it on its own over the course of a day or two.
- Uncover for those crispy bits – be sure to uncover the stuffing for the last part of the cooking process so those bits on top get crispy, contrasting with the moist interior for the best combination!
- Make it ahead of time – the beauty of this recipe is not just how easy it is, but that you can assemble it ahead of time and then bake it when its time to serve. You can even bake it ahead of time and then just warm it when you’re ready to serve.
- Double it up! If you need to serve a crowd, you can double this recipe. In fact, you might want to because the leftovers are not to be missed, either. I would recommend baking it in two pans if doubling, to keep the ratio of crispy bits and moist insides the same.
Common Questions about Stuffing
Yes, you can use vegan butter or olive oil to saute the vegetables and use flax eggs or egg substitute to make this recipe vegan.
Heck no! You can make this recipe anytime you need a comforting side dish for a family dinner. It’s not just for the holidays or special meals, although that’s often when it’s served.
Yes, I would recommend freezing stuffing in SouperCubes for easy storage and individual portions. Keep it in the fridge for up to 2 months. Reheat it in the oven at 325F for about 15 minutes until heated through.
You can transfer the stuffing to airtight containers and store it in the fridge. To reheat, place in a microwave-safe bowl or on a plate and heat until warm. To keep the crispiness, you can reheat in a 325F oven for 10 minutes or so until heated through.
Yes, you can, although I’m willing to bet you’ll love having these leftovers (and freezer friendly!) if you’re serving a smaller group.
Yes! In my stuffed mushrooms recipe, I add kale and gruyere cheese. Both are absolutely delicious!
Yes, I asked my mom a few years back why there wasn’t garlic in our traditional recipe. I’ve just always loved it as is, but you can absolutely sautee garlic after the onion and celery. Rosemary would be another amazing fresh herb to add; I would recommend using about 1-2 teaspoons.
More Thanksgiving Recipes
Be sure to check out the roundup of our favorite vegetarian Thanksgiving recipes. Here are a few sides that are absolutely delicious alongside this stuffing.
The Best Vegetarian Herb Stuffing
- 1 loaf Italian Bread or Sourdough, day old or dried out
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 2 large celery stalks, or 3 medium, diced
- 1 1/2 teaspoons fine salt, or to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
- 1 Tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
- 2 teaspoons fresh sage, finely chopped
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 2 cups vegetable stock, approximately, see notes
- Grease a 9×13 pan with butter. Pre-heat oven to 375°F. Tear stale or day-old bread into bite-sized pieces and set aside in a large bowl.
- In a large skillet, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add onion and celery. Cook 4-7 minutes, until tender. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat, set aside, and stir in freshly chopped herbs.
- Mix onion mixture and bread together. Add beaten eggs and stir until combined. Stir broth into mixture in increments of 1/2 cup. You want to add enough liquid so the mix is moist, but not mushy and wet. We typically use approximately 2 cups but use your judgement depending on how much your bread soaks up.
- Add the bread mixture to the greased pan and cover with foil. Place in the oven and bake for 20 minutes covered, then remove the foil and bake for an additional 20-25 minutes until golden brown and crispy on top. The edges will also begin to pull away from the pan. If it isn't crisping to your liking, broil for 3-5 minutes.
- Serve and enjoy with gravy or as is. Enjoy!
- Storage and Reheating: store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4-5 days, reheating in the microwave or in a 325F oven for about 10 minutes until heated through.
- Vegan: to make vegan, use vegan butter or olive oil and substitute a flax egg or egg substitute.
Disclaimer: The nutritional information provided for this recipe is only an estimate. The accuracy of the facts listed is not and cannot be guaranteed.