A Virtual Thanksgiving (Recipe: Bread Stuffing with Seasonal Fruits & Herbs)

The very best holiday meals are those where friends and family gather together and everyone brings a dish. These lovingly-prepared contributions compose a complete meal that would otherwise be a lot of work for one poor soul, and represent a community effort where all can benefit, i.e. feast!

This week, a few of my food blogging friends and I are doing just that: we’re throwing a virtual Thanksgiving dinner party and you’re invited. The talented Liz brought us together and we promise to make you hungry each and every day as this progressive meal unfolds all week long. Of course, we hope to inspire you as well.
(Aren’t I lucky? Although we’ve already celebrated Thanksgiving here in Canada, I couldn’t turn down this dinner invitation from such a fun bunch of girls, so I’m helping myself to seconds on dressing as we speak.)

Shaina and I are collaborating today to bring you the main feature: the turkey and stuffing. Although we’re both theoretically attending the dinner, we’re cooking our contributions separately because we both feel pretty strongly about how the bird and the dressing go together. Ideally, not at all.

To Stuff or Not to Stuff?

That is the question, and it’s a good one. Shaina and I agree than stuffing on the side is the way to go – for many reasons.

Why do we choose NOT to stuff our turkeys?

  • Cooking time is significantly shorter with an un-stuffed turkey. Less oven time means more available space for baking off pies and side dishes or simply warming plates. A shorter roasting time for the turkey is also ‘greener’.
  • There is a risk of salmonella poisoning as the stuffing comes in direct contact with the raw bird.
  • Cooking the stuffing to the correct temperature to kill the salmonella (170°F) nearly always results in an overcooked turkey.
  • Stuffing that is baked in a turkey tends to get soggy, where if it is baked separately, it gets a lovely crunchy top, while remaining moist enough underneath. In the recipe below, guests are always delighted with the crispy bread bits on top of the stuffing.

Stuffing or Dressing? To-MAY-to, To-MAH-to.

Some may argue that there is a difference between stuffing and dressing, and they do have a point. It makes sense that a ‘Stuffing’ would be the accompaniment that is baked inside the turkey, ie ‘stuffed’ and that ‘dressing’ would be the same components, but baked on their own in a casserole.

In most settings though, the terms are used interchangeably, and mean the exact same thing; so call it whatever you like.  The most important thing isn’t using the correct term to define stuffing, what’s important is that it tastes absolutely delicious.

Bread Stuffing with Seasonal Fruits and Herbs

When I was growing up, my mother – always the health conscious one – made wild rice stuffing. Although I loved it in its own special way, I looked forward to the day when I could make my own bread stuffing.  I adore pairing fruit with poultry so it’s no surprise my version of bread stuffing is packed with apples, cranberries and even raisins on occasion.

Late autumn is when I am fiercely trying to use up all my herbs before the frost hits them, so fresh herbs are a natural addition to the stuffing.  Fresh thyme and parsley from my small herb garden certainly work their magic in this dish, while fresh apples from our local orchards sweetened up this stuffing.

Bread Stuffing with Seasonal Fruits & Herbs
  • 1 cup celery, chopped
  • 2 cups sweet onions, chopped
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries, or raisins, or both
  • 1 large loaf of crusty Italian-style bread, cubed (about 8 cups)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried savory, ground
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 cups chopped apple
  • 1 cup turkey stock or chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 cup walnuts (optional)
  1. Plump cranberries and raisins in hot water for about ten minutes. Drain and reserve.
  2. In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat; add onions and celery. Stirring often, sweat them for about five minutes.
  3. Add thyme, savory, salt and pepper and continue to cook until vegetables are tender. Add chopped apples and cook gently for about 2 minutes.
  4. Transfer to a bowl and toss with bread cubes. Add dried cranberries or raisins, parsley and walnuts to the bowl and mix well.
  5. Pour turkey stock over stuffing and mix well to combine. Butter an ovenproof dish and pack stuffing into it. (At this point, you may refrigerate the stuffing, well wrapped, for up to a day before proceeding.)
  6. Bake at 350°F for about 45 minutes or until golden brown on top. Serve hot.


This basic bread stuffing recipe can be customized to taste. For example, for a more Christmas-like dinner, try replacing the Italian loaf with a spiced Pannetone and use dried cherries instead of dried cranberries.

Bread Options

  • Pannetone
  • Sourdough
  • Herb Bread
  • Multi-Grain Bread

Fruit Options

  • Dried apricots
  • Pears
  • Dried cherries
  • Prunes

Be sure to visit Food for My Family for Shaina’s Mustard-Crusted Turkey recipe! I’ll be updating this post all week long as the others contribute their dishes to our progressive dinner. Stay tuned!

Does you family have a traditional stuffing recipe?

About Aimee

Cooking has always been Aimée's preferred recreational activity, creative outlet, and source of relaxation. After nearly ten years in the professional cooking industry, she went from restaurant to RSS by trading her tongs and clogs for cookie cutters and a laptop, serving as editor here at Simple Bites. Her first book, Brown Eggs and Jam Jars - Family Recipes from the Kitchen of Simple Bites, was published in February 2015.

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  1. I think my Mother-In-Law’s dressing recipe is very similar to the one you have posted here but unfortunately without the cranberries. I think the tart cranberries would add a whole new level of delicious holiday flavor.

  2. Wow! That looks amazing! I just make plain old boring dressing, I think this year I need to jazz it up some and try your recipe for sure!
    Thanks so much for joining us for the Virtual Dinner! I’m really hungry now 🙂

  3. Great stuffing recipe for Thanksgiving!

  4. That looks wonderful! My favorite dressing is cornbread, not baked with plenty of sage.

  5. YUM Aimee! Looks good. I love all the fruit in it!

  6. I have a question: Is there a way to print this lovely recipe without all surrounding text? I’ve seen blogs where there’s a link to a file of the recipe text only to make it easy to print. Thanks for any info.

  7. This looks fantastic, Aimee! I especially appreciate that you offered up variations. I think I’m going to have to try the dried cherries with a bit of orange rind for Christmas myself.

  8. Mmm, looks delicious. It never occurred to me to try adding fruit to my stuffing — think I might try it this year!

  9. I usually call it stuffing, even though I don’t think we’ve ever made it inside the turkey! This recipe sounds delicious.

  10. yum again! I never put my stuffing in the turkey- just fill it with apples

  11. linda murray says:

    Thanks for the stuffing ideas, my dad is the turkey stuffer in our house and he loves to mix sausages, with the fruit variations that you mentionned we also love to add roasted pecans, or walnuts too… and my dad is from Newfoundland so the secret ingredient that makes his stuffing delicious… is the Newfoundland savoury it it so good…. I have a bag of it at home I will have to bring some for you to try…. Have you ever tried to roast your turkey breaast side down for about 1 1/2 hours and then flipping it over to finish cooking… it really does make the white meat really tender and juicy? Love the ideas… I have always stuffed the turkey but this year I will do it your way…. Linda

  12. That fruity stuffing recipe really appeals to me…we have a traditional recipe that my husband concocted more than 30 years ago. It’s a bread stuffing recipe with wild rice in it and our kids would consider it treason if I mess with it at all. Soooo, I’m going to try to sweet talk him into another version. Maybe I’ll suggest we try TWO recipes.

    I do think cooking it outside the turkey is sensible and I’d like to do that this year. We haven’t done that in the past but I am vigilant about making sure it’s stuffed at the very last minute.

  13. I love it! It’s so beautiful. I’m used to boring old original stuffing. I like mine with the addition of sausage…yum! I’m just happy your recipe doesn’t include oysters…yuck!

  14. Growing up in the South means cornbread dressing for me. I can eat a whole 8-by-12 inch pan of my grandmother’s dressing. My maternal grandparents are from Nebraska and tend to make a bread and chestnut stuffing…or as my dad calls it, “Yankee Dressin'” It is good as well.

  15. too hard to stuff AND deep fry the turkey – LOL

  16. I live near a year-round farmers’ market. When Thanksgiving rolls around, I can still get summer vegetables along with the fall offerings. I’ve been known to add one or more fresh chopped vegetables (zucchini, summer squash, corn, hot chiles, sweet peppers, fennel bulb, yellow beets, winter squash) and fuyu persimmons to the mix (I usually cook the veggies with onion for a few minutes and add the persimmon late like your apple). I also like the flavor of sage in stuffing, and I admit to using several types of specialty breads (for example, herb, olive, cranberry walnut whole wheat, and/or garlic cheese) and a few different toasted nuts (pumpkin seeds, pine nuts, almonds, walnuts) in one stuffing. Thanks for the idea of using fresh apple and your dried fruit variations!

  17. I love the flavours you included! I always love all of your tips, and this recipe looks wonderful :). I’ll have to keep it in mind for next Thanksgiving!

  18. OK, Yum! That looks very good. And so festive.

    The best dressing I ever made used a variety of breads: biscuits, cornbread, and regular bread all together.

    I love the addition of cranberries.

  19. Looking at Twitter, I came across your blog…Wowww! I love it! Great recipes (I loved the post about sprouts, thanks!), photos, the layout…! Congrats!

  20. Pam @ Kitchen Cookware says:

    I love stuffing as it is, many times during thanksgiving I and siblings would want yummy stuffing on side as it is and it was good eating.

  21. This looks so good. I bet it would taste good with potatoe bread.

  22. Love your site. I found it looking into Truffle recipes! Can’t wait to try yours! I was curious about this stuffing recipe; it sounds perfect for our work potluck coming up, though how could I adjust this to cook in a muffin tin for individual servings?

  23. This stuffing recipe offers amazing inspiration to cook up Thanksgiving!

  24. This looks yummy! I have made one like it with cornbread, but I think I will try yours this year. How many do you estimate your recipe will serve?

  25. Courtney Milam says:

    Aimee – do you know if this recipe could be made in a crockpot? I’m curious and looking for crock-pot-able Thanksgiving sides for a party I’m attending. This sounds delicious!

  26. I love all the variations you offered. I love my stuffing with fruits! This looks fantastic!

  27. Beautiful stuffing… what a great and easy to follow recipe!


  28. That looks simply gorgeous! Can’t wait to give it a try!

  29. That looks amazing, Aimee!

  30. Sounds delish! Think I’m going to try this one this year!

  31. I am extremely excited about this recipe! I made it this morning, using gluten free cornbread and rice bread, and will pop it in the oven tomorrow morning. I grew up with traditional Southern dressing, very heavy, rich, and fatty. I loved it as a child and young adult, but my tastes have changed as well as awareness of my gluten/wheat sensitivity. I was looking for something that combined dried fruits and herbs, and I think your recipe will be a wonderful addition to our Thanksgiving meal. And my mother, who is 88 now, is glad she does not have to make that dressing anymore! Happy Thanksgiving~

  32. What a delicious stuffing recipe, Aimee!

  33. I made this dressing for this past Thanksgiving. It was out of this world, everyone loved it. Thanks for the great addition to my holiday table!

  34. If you want to print your recipe, right click where you want to print and select that page only. Works for me.

  35. Definitely a must try for Christmas dinner! Thanks for sharing.

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