Make stuffing the star of Thanksgiving! This Bread Stuffing with Dried Cranberries and Pecans is my go-to stuffing recipe. Your guests will love it!
Can you believe it's almost Thanksgiving already? Then it's practically Christmas! I feel so cliche saying that, but it's true! Where does the time go?
My family doesn't typically celebrate Thanksgiving. It feels weird to celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving here in the US, and it feels weird to celebrate American Thanksgiving when our Canadian family is already done with the holiday.
In any case, I'm always looking for an excuse to eat stuffing. In particular, my very favorite Bread Stuffing with Dried Cranberries and Pecans.
I don't love this stuffing because I grew up eating it for every holiday. In fact, I grew up eating a version with no sausage, but mushrooms (and of course, Stovetop).
Don't get me wrong, the mushroom version was good too, but I've been making this version since I started cooking my own holiday dinners. I love the meaty sausage and the pops of sweet tartness from the cranberries.
Plus the fact that it's cooked with chicken wings on top gives it a little extra poultry flavor without the food safety issues that come with actually cooking the stuffing inside your turkey.
How to make Bread Stuffing with Dried Cranberries and Pecans:
Making this mouthwatering stuffing is admittedly a bit of a procedure. First you need to dry out your bread cubes in the oven.
Then you need to brown the chicken wings in a skillet, which are later laid on top of your dish of stuffing to infuse delicious poultry flavor into the stuffing while it's baking.
The next step is to brown the sausage and cook the vegetables that you're adding to the stuffing.
Finally, these ingredients all get mixed together and baked so serve as the perfect savory side-dish to accompany your Thanksgiving turkey.
If this sounds like way too much work to take on before your big dinner, don't worry - many of the steps can be performed days before so that the only thing that's left to do on Turkey day is to pop the stuffing dish into the oven.
Can you prepare stuffing ahead of time?
Yes. Stuffing can be prepared in advance of your big meal and simply popped into the oven an hour or so before it's time to serve dinner. Here's how:
Dry out the bread cubes anywhere from several days (or even weeks) before the meal to the day before the big meal. Keep the dried bread in a large zipper bag, and if you're storing them for more than a day or two, keep them in the freezer to prevent any mold growth.
One to two days before Thanksgiving, follow the recipe below up to the end of step 7. Then simply place the baking dish into the fridge until you're ready to cook.
Place the baking dish or casserole on a rimmed baking sheet and bake at 375°F. Note that because you're cooking your stuffing from fridge-cold rather than warm (if you'd been preparing the recipe continuously), you will need to cook it for a little longer. Plan for 90 minutes, but check it after 1 hr, 15 minutes to see if it's hot all the way through (use an instant-read thermometer to ensure the temperature is at 165°F).
Choose high-quality ingredients for your Bread Stuffing with Dried Cranberries and Pecans
Now of course, like many things that come out of the kitchen, the quality of the dish you're making depends mainly on the quality of ingredients that you use. In this case, the biggest factor is the bread that you choose.
Please don't use the dried-out bread crumbs that you can buy in your grocery store's bakery. You're just paying for bread that was too stale to sell.
Make sure to use bread that you'd actually eat. I like to use my homemade sourdough.
I keep a dedicated zipper bag in my freezer at all times where I store cubes of leftover bread. That way, I'm always ready when I need to make croutons or stuffing.
And here's a little pro tip for you: always transfer a baking sheet with a heavy baking dish filled with food on it to the oven with two hands.
This is what happened to me: I was holding the baking sheet with my Pyrex dish full of stuffing on it in one hand and opening the oven with the other. The baking dish started to slide, and of course, toppled right onto the floor.
Luckily, the aluminum foil on top contained most of the stuffing, and I was able to salvage it (but you'd better believe I'd still have chosen to eat this stuff off the floor). Anyway, use two hands and don't follow in my footsteps.
Want more Thanksgiving side dish recipes?
Bread Stuffing with Dried Cranberries and Pecans Nutrition Notes:
The nutrition info in the recipe does not include the whole chicken wings. It does account for the increased fat that cooks out of the wings.
Added sugars will vary depending on the type of dried cranberries you use. To reduce fat content, try using turkey or chicken sausage instead of pork.
Bread Stuffing with Dried Cranberries and Pecans
- 1 pound bread, cut into ½ inch cubes (I like to use my homemade sourdough, but choose your favorite high quality bread - Use Gluten Free bread if you need your stuffing to be Gluten Free)
- 1 pound chicken wings
- 1 teaspoon canola oil
- 8 ounces sweet Italian sausage, casing removed
- 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter (use dairy free butter alternative to make your stuffing Dairy Free)
- 1 small onion, chopped fine
- 2 medium celery ribs, chopped fine
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme or 1 Tablespoon minced fresh thyme
- 1 teaspoon dried sage or 1 Tablespoon minced fresh sage
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 ¼ cups reduced sodium chicken broth
- 2 large eggs
- ½ cup dried cranberries
- ½ cup pecan halves toasted and coarsely chopped
- Place oven rack in the middle position. Heat oven to 250°F. Spread bread cubes on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until the edges of the cubes are dry, but the insides are still soft, 45-60 minutes, stirring every 10-15 minutes. After removing the bread cubes from the oven, increase the oven temperature to 375°F.
- While the bread is drying, prepare the rest of the stuffing ingredients.
- Poke 5-10 holes in each chicken wing with a paring knife. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Place chicken wings in a single layer in the skillet and cook until golden brown, 5-6 minutes. Flip wings and cook until browned on the second side, 4-5 more minutes. Remove chicken wings from skillet with tongs and place into a bowl.
- Return the empty skillet to medium high heat. Add the sausage and cook until browned, 4-6 minutes, breaking it up into small pieces as it cooks. Remove from skillet with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel lined plate.
- Reduce heat to medium and melt the butter in the skillet. Add the onion, celery and ¼ teaspoon salt. Cook until the vegetables are soft, 6-8 minutes. Add the thyme, sage and pepper and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Slowly pour in ½ cup of the chicken broth, scraping the browned bits off the bottom of the skillet. Remove from heat.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the remaining ¾ cup chicken broth, eggs, ½ teaspoon salt and any accumulated juices from the chicken wings. Add the vegetable mixture, sausage, dried cranberries, pecans and egg mixture to the bowl with the dried bread and toss to combine.
- Grease a 9x9 inch baking dish or similar-sized casserole dish. Transfer the bread mixture to the prepared dish and lightly press in. Arrange cooked chicken wings on top of the stuffing. Cover tightly with an oven-safe lid or aluminum foil.
- Place the dish on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 60 minutes at 375°F. Remove chicken wings, and fluff with a fork before serving.
Nutrition Disclaimer: I try my best to make sure the nutrition information I provide is accurate to provide you with the best information possible. However, due to ingredient discrepancies and other factors, the above nutrition information should be considered an estimation only.