This sausage stuffing is filled with amazing holiday flavors and topped with a crunchy bread making it the ultimate side dish to enjoy at Thanksgiving or all year round!
I have to admit, I’m not a huge fan of traditional Thanksgiving stuffing. Most of it is filled with dry bread and onions, which means I’m out. And honestly, I just don’t think it smells, tastes, or looks that good.
This stuffing, however, is awesome. I make it regularly throughout the year, not just for Thanksgiving, but it makes a great Thanksgiving side as well. It’s adapted from this recipe that I tried years ago with a few changes to make a version that my family prefers.
It uses traditional Thanksgiving flavors like apples, cranberries, and chestnuts then combines it with a delicious Italian sausage for one of the most flavorful stuffing recipes you’ll ever try!
- Chicken broth – you can use either chicken broth or chicken bone broth. We tend to use bone broth after we used it so regularly with our Whole 30 meal plan a few years ago.
- Bread – this is best with a hearty bread like an Italian loaf or Ciabatta to give the topping a nice crunch. Cut it up into small cubes the day before and let it dry out overnight for the best crunch.
- Chestnuts – get ones that are already roasted and peeled like these ones. They’re typically readily available during the holiday season so if you like this stuffing, buy some and stock them for the rest of the year!
- Dried cranberries – either regular dried cranberries or Craisins work, although the Craisins do tend to make it a bit more sweet than just regular dried cranberries.
- Parmesan cheese – grated is best but shredded works if you don’t have grated. These pictures are taken with shredded because we didn’t have grated on hand, but the grated does mix in better.
- Italian sausage – sweet Italian sausage is our favorite thing to use in this because the sweetness of the sausage combines really well with the other flavors. If you can’t find sweet, mild Italian sausage is second best.
First things first, you need to cut all of the ingredients. Make sure everything is cut because once you start cooking, it all goes in pretty quickly.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and heat a saute pan over medium heat.
Add apples, garlic, olive oil, and butter to the pan. Cook the apples over medium heat (don’t get it too hot or the garlic will burn) until the apples are soft.
Add chicken broth, cranberries, salt, and pepper to the apple mixture and stir to combine.
Simmer everything together for about five minutes then remove the pan from heat and let the mixture cool in that pan.
While the mixture is cooling, you’re going to cook the sausage. Add the remaining olive oil to another saute pan and heat to medium heat.
Once the oil is hot, add the sausage and cook until browned, stirring to break up the meat. This typically takes about 8-10 minutes to make sure all of the sausage is completely browned.
Combine the cooled fruit mixture, sausage, chopped chestnuts, and bread cubes in a large bowl. And I mean large – you’ll be adding broth to the bowl in a minute, and you need to be able to gently toss everything together without tossing things out of the bowl.
Not that I’ve ever done that or anything…
Once the mixture is all gently combined, add what’s left of the chicken broth and a cup of the grated parmesan cheese. Fold in gently but don’t overmix. You’re just trying to get the mixture moistened without breaking up all the bread cubes.
Pour the stuffing into a square baking dish – preferably 9×9 but 8×8 works too, top with the remaining parmesan and butter cubes.
Bake on the middle rack for 45-60 minutes or until the top is lightly browned. Serve with your favorite main dish or honestly this has everything you need for a full meal right inside – meat, fruit, bread, and cheese!
Check the stuffing after it’s been in the oven for 40 minutes and every five or so minutes after. The bread can go from perfectly crispy to burnt quickly, and you want to avoid the burnt bread topping.
Break up the sausage into small bite-size pieces so that it mixes well into the bread and apple mixture. Large chunks won’t spread out as well.
If you can’t find chestnuts, just skip them. Don’t try to add another kind of nut or crunch – the chestnuts in this are perfect and other nuts just don’t combine well with everything else.
Forgot to leave out the bread? No big deal, it’ll still be yummy – the bread topping may just not be quite as crunchy.
Be gentle with your stirring and pouring. Most of the ingredients are pretty fragile, especially once cooked (apples, bread, etc.) and stirring too much will shred them rather than keep them intact. You want intact.
A hearty bread like an Italian loaf, ciabatta, or French bread is best in this because it’ll give a nice crunch on top. It’s also what I use in my sausage breakfast casserole!
This sausage stuffing is best eaten fresh but still delicious warmed up as leftovers. If you want to save some time, cook all of the filling but don’t combine with the bread or broth until you’re just ready to cook. That’ll keep your bread crunchy rather than soggy from sitting in the broth. When you’re ready to cook, combine everything and bake fresh.
One of the best parts of this stuffing is the crunchy bread topping and the soft apples and cranberry mixture. If you freeze this stuffing, you’ll lose those textures and it won’t be the same. I don’t recommend it.
Sweet Italian sausage is best for stuffing but this would also be good with mild Italian sausage and turkey sausage. Just make sure it’s uncooked, ground sausage you can ground rather than the hard stuff.
More Thanksgiving Recipes
- 1 green apple cored and cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1 red apple cored and cut into 1-inch cubes
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter 2 TBS of the 3 cut into small cubes
- 6 oz dried cranberries (or Craisins)
- ½ tablespoon salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pound sweet Italian sausage
- 8 ounce roasted and peeled chestnuts chopped
- ½ pound day old Italian bread loaf cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 1 ½ cup grated parmesan
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Heat a saute pan over medium heat. Add apples, garlic, 1 TBS olive oil, and 1 TBS butter to the pan and cook over medium heat, stirring often, for about 10 minutes or until the apples are soft.
- Add ¼ cup chicken broth, cranberries, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine. Simmer for above five minutes then remove from the heat and allow mixture to cool.
- Heat 1 TBS of olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Once oil is hot, add sausage and cook until browned, about 8-10 minutes.
- Toss the fruit mixture, sausage, chestnuts, and bread together in a large bowl. Toss until well combined.
- Add remaining chicken broth and 1 cup parmesan cheese and gently stir to combine. Don’t over mix.
- Pour into a 9×9 glass baking dish and top with the remaining grated parmesan and butter cubes.
- Bake on the middle rack for 45-60 minutes, until the top is lightly browned.
Tips & Notes:
This recipe was originally written as stuffing cups in 2016 and has since been updated to a full stuffing recipe.