Delicious Stuffing for Special Occasions—Stuffing System

Ingredients for delicious stuffing, such as spices, herbs, onions, vegetables and bread.

Add some flare to your roasted poultry, game birds or red meat roasts with a homemade stuffing. Start a new tradition and build your own following these guidelines.

When it comes to food I believe in a four-tiered approach to a nourished life: Explore cuisine with great curiosity, grow in essential culinary life skills, heal mind and body with top-quality food experiences, and make sure to connect with your inner foodie, family, friends and community honouring and fully enjoying the pleasures of food.

I call my recipes “systems,” as I make sure the reader or student receives lots of information via tips, skills and flavour and ingredient options to ultimately empower them in their kitchens to make recipes their own. This will demystify seemingly complicated cooking and sourcing of top-quality ingredients. It is my hope that you confidently learn to incorporate and trust all of your senses, and that your cooking experiences change from stressful to satisfying. Ultimately, my goal is that after a few trials, my students/readers will crumple up my recipes and throw them away while feeling happy with their accomplishments and fully nourished in their own kitchens and ready to create again and again. Follow along, as I now share my homemade stuffing system.

Special Occasion Stuffing System

Recently for a Thanksgiving feast, I stuffed a 21-pound turkey loosely with half the stuffing recipe below and baked the remaining half until warmed through in a baking dish. For a smaller roast and crowd, halve this recipe.

As you explore this system, you’ll discover that the more texture and colour you have – the better! I leave some ingredients whole and add some variation with large, medium and small ingredient dices – including herbs. The colours and textures hold up well in the cooking process, just be sure not to chop everything too finely. This stuffing can be made well-ahead of your special roasting event as it freezes really well!

Ingredients for Chef Nancy’s Special Occasion Stuffing System

Combine below items 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 to make stuffing for 10 or more people.


1. Bread Cubes

Brown, white, cornbread, gluten-free – use whatever type of bread cubes you like.

  • 1 medium-large-sized loaf or 8 to 10 cups of a combination of loaves, crust removed or not, sliced into 1-inch squares

2. Garnish

Any combination goes from the multitudes of ingredients in this step and/or be inspired at the grocery store and add whatever else tickles your fancy. Trust yourself, taste, experiment or see the very bottom of this recipe for a suggested combination.

  • 8-cup mixture or to taste from anything listed below (cut into bite-sized pieces)
    • Fresh or canned fruit (drained): Apples, grapes, pears, oranges, peaches, apricots, plums, etc.
    • Dried fruit: Raisons, currants, prunes, apples, dates, cranberries, figs, blueberries, apricots, goji berries | Soak fruits in water, sherry, port or brandy, if you like
    • Nuts: Chestnuts, pecans, almonds, pine nuts, hazelnuts, etc. | Experiment with leaving nuts whole for beauty and texture
    • Vegetables (small or medium dice, precooked slightly): Onions, celery, leeks, garlic, carrot, mushrooms, squash, peppers, shallots, dark leafy greens | Soften and render liquid from vegetables slightly by sweating or sautéing in a bit of olive oil or butter
    • Meat and/or seafood (precooked fully): Ham, sausage, bacon, oysters, clams, crab, shrimp
    • Other ingredients of interest health-, flavour- and texture-wise (precooked following usual cooking procedures but kept crisp-tender for added texture): Potatoes, yams, bulgur, barley, beans, lentils, wild rice or other rices, quinoa

3. Herbs/Spices

Use a total of 1 1/2 tablespoons dried herbs and spices or 1/2 cup chopped, fresh herbs (or more to taste!) from family #1 or #2, and both can have the addition of items from family #3, or experiment with your own favourite herb/spice combos to taste. (It is never a good idea to get experimental just before a dinner party.)

  • Family #1 (fresh or dried): Marjoram, oregano, sage, rosemary, tarragon, basil, mint
  • Family #2 (dried spice): Ginger, allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon, curry, five spice, cumin, anise, clove
  • Family #3:
    • 1 teaspoon dried thyme or 1-2 tablespoons fresh thyme
    • 1/2 cup or more fresh parsley

4. Broth

  • 1-2 cups or to taste chicken, mixed vegetable, mushroom, pork, beef or seafood stock to flavour, soften and bind stuffing

5. Salt and Pepper

  • To taste
  1. Spread bread cubes on cookie sheets and bake to dry out in 350˚F (175˚C) oven for approximately 20 minutes. Cool completely. If you are using day-old bread, you can choose to not bake.
  2. Toss with all chopped, softened, sautéed, cooked ingredients and raw herbs and spices from items #2, #3, #4 and #5. Taste before you add salt and pepper. Mix well.
  3. Taste and adjust any more seasonings as desired. Add more stock if moist stuffing is desired. Use less stock if you like it crispier.
  4. Refrigerate covered until needed; not more than 24 hours, or freeze wrapped well (if you are freezing stuffing, do not add stock to taste until after it has defrosted).
  5. Stuff cool or defrosted stuffing in main cavity of poultry, game or red meat roasts just prior to roasting. Pack stuffing loosely to allow for even, safe cooking of meat and stuffing. Roast meat as directed in your favourite roast recipe. Bake any remaining stuffing in an ovenproof dish, covered for 30-45 minutes at 350˚F (175˚C) or until warmed right through. Uncover and bake for 10-15 minutes to brown and crisp the top of extra stuffing if you like.
  6. Centre of stuffing should reach 165˚F (74˚C) inside a bird before eating. Use a meat thermometer to test. Remove stuffing from roasted meat immediately after cooking. Stuffing will be crispier baked outside of roasts/birds and more moist if baked inside roasts/birds.

Excess stuffing that has been baked separately from roasts can be frozen up to four weeks. It can be heated without thawing or thawed in the fridge first, then use at once.

Try this suggested combination!
Chef Nancy Henley's homemade stuffing
  • 5-cup combination of day-old white and brown bread and 5 cups of homemade, day-old cornbread, large dice
  • 3-cup combination of onions, leeks and celery, “sweated,” medium dice
  • 2 cups cooked wild boar and apple sausages, sliced, casings removed (I used Cumbrae’s wild boar sausages), medium dice
  • 2 cups cooked wild rice, cooked according to package directions to a crisp-tender stage
  • 1 cup organic grapes, halved, raw
  • 1 cup pecan halves, left whole, raw
  • 1 cup steamed and chopped organic Swiss chard (juices drained away, but added to a green smoothie snack), medium dice
  • 1 cup roughly chopped fresh organic parsley leaves and stems, medium chop
  • ½-cup combination of roughly chopped fresh sage and rosemary leaves (go lighter on the sage as it can be strong-tasting)
  • 1 teaspoon dried or 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried tarragon
  • 1 teaspoon dried sage
  • No salt and pepper
  • No stock was added as I was freezing it until ready to bake; I added turkey stock to taste just before I baked
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