An easy Thanksgiving stuffing recipe with Italian sausage, green apples, and pumpernickel bread.
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Let’s talk STUFFING. (Although technically, sure – we’re baking this stuffing in the oven, outside of the turkey, so “dressing” might be more appropriate. But let’s call it STUFFING NONETHELESS).
This stuffing recipe is made from scratch with Italian sausage, green apples, and pumpernickel bread for a rich, earthy side dish that has all the flavors of fall. But don’t stop at Thanksgiving: this dressing also makes a great stuffing for roasted butternut squash, sweet potatoes, or as a side to a roasted chicken.
This recipe is also VERY FORGIVING, so mix it up and make it your own! Substitute sourdough, cornbread, pumpkin bread, or plain’ ol French bread for all or part of the pumpernickel if you like.
You could also add portobello mushrooms or cranberries (fresh or dried!) for an extra pop of flavor, or swap the apples here for some fresh pears.
Can this stuffing be made ahead of time?
Definitely! Here are a few ways I like to prep this stuffing in advance:
- Dry out the bread ahead of time. Buy a fresh loaf of pumpernickel and tear or cut it into pieces a day or two in advance. Let the bread sit uncovered on a sheet pan for 1-2 days before baking to dry out!
- Sauté the sausage, onion, and garlic in advance. The most hands-on part of this recipe is prepping the sausage + onion + garlic + herb mixture – but it’s easy to do ahead of time! Cook the sausage and sauté the onion, garlic, and sage as directed, then let cool completely and store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. When it’s time to make the stuffing, you just have to mix everything up and pop it in the oven!
An easy homemade stuffing with sausage, green apples, and pumpernickel – perfect for Thanksgiving!
- 4 cups stale pumpernickel bread, cubed (see recipe notes)
- 1 pound mild or spicy Italian sausage
- ½ large yellow onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 Tablespoons fresh sage, chopped
- 2 granny smith apples, diced with seeds and stems removed
- 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 2 cups vegetable, chicken, or turkey stock
- fresh sage and fresh chopped parsley (optional), for garnish
COOK THE SAUSAGE, ONION, AND GARLIC (15 MIN):
- Cook sausage in a large skillet over medium-high heat, stirring frequently to break up any large pieces.
- Remove sausage to a very large bowl (you’ll use this to mix the stuffing later!) and set aside. Leave any residual fat in the skillet and return skillet to stove over medium-high heat.
- Add onion and garlic to skillet. Cook, stirring frequently, for 2-3 minutes or until onion is translucent.
- Add salt, pepper, and chopped sage to skillet and stir to combine.
- Return cooked sausage to skillet and stir to combine.
- Turn off the heat and set aside. (If you’re making this part of the recipe ahead, let cool completely and store in an airtight container in the fridge for 4-5 days. If you’re making the stuffing immediately, proceed to the next section).
ASSEMBLE THE STUFFING (5 MIN):
- Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Place sausage, onion, and garlic mixture in a very large mixing bowl.
- Add stale pumpernickel bread, diced apples, and melted butter to bowl and stir to combine.
- Add stock to stuffing mixture ½ cup at a time, stirring well between each addition. Stuffing should be moist but not mushy – if it’s soaked up enough liquid after 1 and ½ cups of stock you may not need the whole 2 cups.
BAKE THE STUFFING (45 MIN):
- Transfer stuffing to a deep, oven-safe baking dish (we use an 8×10).
- Bake stuffing at 350 degrees F for 45-60 minutes until top is slightly dry and crispy. Top with fresh herbs (optional) and serve immediately.
To get stale pumpernickel, start with a fresh loaf of bread and tear or cut it into roughly ½-inch pieces. Spread cubed bread on a sheet pan and leave it uncovered on the counter at least 12 hours to dry out (you can leave it out for a day or two if you need to!) or bake in a 250 degree F oven for 30-60 minutes until stale.
To prep this stuffing in advance, set the bread out to dry 1-2 days before baking. Sauté sausage, garlic, onion, and sage as directed, then let mixture cool completely and store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. When you’re ready to cook, just mix everything up and bake as directed!
Additions and Substitutions. Replace part or all of the pumpernickel in this recipe with sourdough bread, pumpkin bread, or cornbread. Omit the Italian sausage and use vegetable stock for a vegan dish. Add sliced mushrooms, fresh or dried cranberries, or diced celery if you like. Use pears in place of the apples if you prefer. We love the kick from mild or spicy Italian sausage here, but you can use plain ground pork, chorizo, andouille, or even maple sausage instead. Use ½ teaspoon dried sage in place of fresh.
Baking Temperature: This is a very forgiving recipe. If you have your oven set at a slightly higher or lower temperature to cook your turkey on Thanksgiving, don’t worry! Bake the stuffing anywhere between 325 to 450 degrees F – just keep an eye on it as it cooks and know that you’ll have to adjust the cook time if you adjust the temperature! When stuffing is done, the top should look dry and slightly crispy.
Keywords: dressing, Thanksgiving, holiday