Delicious, lighter, make-ahead Thanksgiving stuffing made “loaf” style with dried cranberries, apricots, celery, onions and fresh herbs! Pin it here.
Alright guys, I’m sharing my most favorite Thanksgiving stuffing recipe! It’s definitely non-traditional (can’t ya tell by those cute little stuffing loaves?!), but it’s delicious and I’ve made it every Thanksgiving for years! It’s a fantastic make-ahead recipe, which saves time and reduces stress on the big day. This way you can still go get your early morning Turkey Trot in!
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My Favorite Thanksgiving Stuffing
Forget turkey giblets (sorry Granny! love you!), this Thanksgiving stuffing is is made with cornbread, aromatic veggies like onion, celery and carrots, and fresh, flavorful fall herbs including rosemary, thyme and oregano. Can you smell it now?! Then it’s slightly sweetened with dried cranberries and apricots, and a hint of crunch from crushed pecans.
How I Lightened Up This Thanksgiving Stuffing
Here’s what makes this Thanksgiving stuffing recipe lighter:
- It’s lower in fat calories from being lighter in butter and olive oil
- It’s lower in saturated fat from incorporating olive oil, not just butter
- I replaced half the butter my cornbread called for with Greek yogurt (cuts fat calories and increases protein; you can also use unsweetened applesauce for the same trick!)
- I used low-sugar dried cranberries (these ones by Craisins!)
Unique Cooking Methods in This Thanksgiving Stuffing Recipe
Follow the instructions closely!
First of all, this recipe is unique because the cornbread ought to be made in advance so it can at least be cooled (although chilled is preferable!) to break it up into small pieces.
Secondly, after the mixture is mostly completed, you will then create six stuffing “loaves” wrapped in plastic wrap, then foil, and then submerged in water to bake for 45 minutes! Believe me, it’s worth it. This stuffing is amazing! Here’s a step-by-step slideshow of those “loaf” steps:
I’d highly recommend using a large sauté pan when making this recipe! This recipe feeds a crowd, making 6 stuffing loaves at about 8 slices per loaf. That’s enough for 12 people to have 4 slices each. I love this Calphalon 7-qt pan and use it all the time. It’s affordable, non-stick and is my go-to for big dishes like this Thanksgiving stuffing, tacos, spaghetti squash lasagna boats or meatballs!
Storing & Reheating
Once you remove the loaves from the oven, remove the loaves from the water and shake them dry. You can leave the foil around them when you refrigerate them. Slice while chilled and then reheat to serve. When reheating, remove the tin foil and plastic wrap. You can reheat in the microwave – hello easy – or you can place all the loaves in a 9×13 pan, cover with foil and keep on low (250°F) while the rest of your Thanksgiving items are being prepared!
As always, I hope you love this Thanksgiving stuffing recipe! It is truly my favorite. Even my one year old says, “MMMM!!!” every time she takes a bite (and yes that means she’s actually eating vegetables despite her veggie strike!).
Pin this healthier Thanksgiving stuffing recipe here.
Recipe inspired by Chef Andrew Ormsby.
My Favorite Thanksgiving Stuffing
- 2 packages cornbread mix, prepared then chilled (or your family's favorite recipe - to make one full 9x13 Pyrex; can sub 1/2 butter or oil for applesauce or Greek yogurt!)
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 large onion, diced finely
- 1 carrot, diced finely
- 2 celery sticks, diced finely
- 1 bunch green onions, diced finely
- 1/2 c dried apricots, chopped
- 1/2 c low sugar dried cranberries
- 1/2 c pecans, loosely crushed
- fresh thyme, oregano and rosemary to taste (dried also works!)
- 1 c pulp-free orange juice
- 3 eggs
- salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Break up the cornbread with a fork and your hands into a fine, heavy grain (ideally this is done with the cornbread chilled from the refrigerator but room temp will work too!).
- Preheat a large sauté pan to medium heat. Add the butter and olive oil to melt. Add the onion, carrots, celery and green onion until the veggies are soft (~5 minutes). Add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes.
- Add the dried cranberries, apricots, and pecans and cook another 1-2 minutes.
- Lower heat slightly (I lower from a 5 to a 3). Add the broken up cornbread and herbs. Stir until all ingredients are well-mixed and incorporated. Taste test and add more herbs if desired, and salt and pepper.
- Remove from heat (I just move over to a cool burner). Add orange juice and eggs. Stir thoroughly to fully incorporate.
- Create six stuffing "loaves". To do this, lay out a piece of plastic wrap (like Saran Wrap or Cling Wrap), create a "loaf" of stuffing, then fold sides of plastic wrap around loaf and tightly twist ends of plastic wrap. Tuck twisted ends underneath each loaf. Next, cover each loaf in tin foil. (See slideshow in blog post for step-by-step photos).
- Place tin foil stuffing loaves in a large 9x13 pan. Cover with water, completely submerging tin foil loaves. Bake for 45 minutes at 350°F until stuffing loaves become tight.
- Remove from oven. Take tin foil loaves out of the water and drain. For easiest serving, refrigerate after letting cool slightly. Then loaves can easily be cut (this is easiest chilled), reheated and served.