Every now and then, I make something for a special occasion, and it turns out to be a better multi-tasker than I ever imagined.

I have made my bread stuffing outside my turkey ever since I got really tired of soaking wet stuffing inside my bird, but perfect stuffing in the casserole beside it.  There was something to be learned there…

Then, when I went to cooking school, one of my mentors (thank you, Chef Dunn) introduced me to serviettenknödeln (napkin dumplings), a bread dumpling shaped in plastic wrap and foil, simmered, then sliced and browned for serving – absolutely delicious. I’m also a fan of savory bread puddings, called “strata”. When Turkey Season came around, I decided to marry all these concepts into a better bread stuffing, one that I could make well ahead of the actual day.  Following the feast, I discovered that a left-over slice made a great lunch, or a potato substitute with any kind of meat and gravy.

Then Carter, my kayak-guiding active outdoorsman son, who loves left-over stuffing loaf, discovered (while winter camping) that it made excellent high-energy compact camping/hiking fodder, a sort-of sandwich substitute, whether eaten cold, or fried up over the Primus.  Who knew?

The recipe below is full of suggestions for flavor options, and the photos reflect how we made it at a little impromptu kitchen party.  Read it through, decide what ingredients are going to make it perfect for you, and then try it for a “Turkey Day” gathering.   If you’re just feeling experimental, make a half-batch, which will be better anyway if you don’t have much freezer space.

Bread Stuffing Loaf


The amounts given are based on a whole loaf of white sandwich bread, more or less.  Adjust amounts to suit your needs.

1 cup diced smoked sausage, like kilbasa.  Ham works too, but all bacon is too rich.  Turkey sausage would be fine.  It’s the smoky/salty factor that is important to the flavor profile. If you aren’t fond of smokey flavors, you could use cooked sausage of any kind. Keep the dice fairly small.

1 cup diced mushrooms, any kind.  I had powdered dried mushrooms on hand, so I used those, with extra broth.

1/2 cup finely diced celery

1/2 cup finely diced or grated carrot

1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs (parsley, sage, rosemary thyme), or 2 Tbsp whole leaf dried herbs, or Poultry Seasoning to taste

1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)

1/2 tsp black pepper (or to taste)

3 large eggs

1 cup chicken broth (or turkey broth)

1/4 cup melted butter, cooled

8 cups fresh bread cubes.  You can leave the crusts on, or cut them off as you choose.  The bread should be fairly dense no matter what kind you choose — white, brown, rye, 12-grain, sprouted, gluten-free…  It can be day-old, but you don’t want it to be very stale or toasted for this recipe.


Extra chopped fresh parsley will add beauty and flavor, or a generous shake of dried parsley or chives.  Use them if you have them.

Feeling experimental?  Add some dried fruit (cranberries come to mind).  Chopped dried apricots would make that sweet/savory combination people love.

We added almonds and sunflower seeds for extra calories and protein (about half a cup of each per loaf), and I think pecans would work very well, or hazelnuts.  Toasted sesame seeds would be subtle.

I think you could put up to a cup of any additional vegetable you wanted to a whole loaf – corn, fennel parsnip, sweet potato, squash – diced small and sweated with the sausage and onion.  I think fresh tomatoes would be too wet – consider sun-dried or oven-dried.  Well-squeezed-out cooked chopped kale or spinach would sneak in some extra dark-green goodness.

Seasoning?  Well, you know I’m going to add garlic.  It all depends on the flavor profile you’re looking for.  For instance, you could drop the traditional turkey spices and go tex-mex with cumin and chili – great with sun-dried tomatoes added to the mix, and maybe a little roasted red pepper, which would be a great side dish with roasted chicken (or a rotisserie chicken).  Let your imagination lead you, but if you want to try something that feels risky (curry flavors?), try a half-batch first.


In a large frying pan, sauté your diced sausage over medium heat until lightly browned, to maximize its flavor and render a bit of fat.

Add the, onion, celery, carrots, and any additional vegetables you plan to use.  You may need to add a bit of butter or oil if your sausage is very lean, or if you used ham.  Continue cooking over medium heat until the onion is softened and the carrots and celery brighten in color, a process called “sweating”.  If browning occurs, it’s not a disaster, but it does mean you overshot the “sweating” process.

If you are using fresh mushrooms, add them and cook until they give off their moisture.  You don’t have to wait until the mixture dries out again, but the flavor will be more intense if you do.



Add the sweated vegetables to the bread cubes in a large bowl, tossing to combine.



Add the fresh or dried herbs, salt and pepper, and any additional elements like dried fruit or nuts.  Toss again.


In a separate bowl, whisk up the eggs.  Add the chicken broth and melted, cooled butter, whisking to combine.



Drizzle the wet ingredients over the bread mixture.  Toss to thoroughly combine.

Tasting — a very inportant step

This is the point of no return for adjusting seasoning.  Put a little bit of your mixture in a microwave-safe bowl and zap it for 20 to 30 seconds to cook the egg.  Let it cool a bit, and taste it.

If it needs a little something (like salt and/or pepper or perhaps more poultry spice), add it to the whole mixture, stir it well, and then repeat the process.  It’s well worth going through the tasting process the first time you make anything, so you can write notes on your recipe for next time.

For a whole batch, line a regular loaf pan with foil, leaving plenty of overhang.  You can use that nice non-stick foil if you have it.  Non-stick or not, butter the interior well, so a nice crust will form.  If you don’t own a loaf pan, you can use any kind of 8 or 9” square cake pan, or you can make a nice package of DOUBLE foil to get the job done – put it on a cookie sheet.  Small foil disposable pans work well for half batches.  You could even make “stuffing muffins” if you like — use foil liners, or just butter the pan well.



Spoon your stuffing into the pan and pack it down a little.  Top with a second piece of foil, and fold the edges over, sealing everything inside.  It doesn’t have to be beautiful, just effective.

Bake a whole loaf in a pre-heated 350°F oven for an hour.  I bake a half-recipe in my toaster oven for half an hour.   It will swell as it cooks, and then settle back as it cools.

Let the baked loaf stand, still wrapped, for at least 15 minutes to set up.  If you don’t, it won’t slice.

If you’re in a hurry, just spoon it out like regular bread stuffing.

You can prep everything one day ahead, keep it in the fridge, and then cook the loaf right alongside the turkey.  If you want to make it farther ahead than that, cook it off just to be safe, and reheat it when you need it.

If you are making a loaf for plan-ahead meals, let it cool for an hour at room temperature, still wrapped in foil, and then tuck it away in the refrigerator for at least a couple of hours so it gets nice and firm.  You could even weight it down a bit if you wanted it to be really dense — put a second loaf pan on top and add a nice heavy can of something.  When you’re ready, slice it into the size of portions you think are best, and wrap them very well with plastic wrap, or pop the slices in individual freezer bags, squeezing out the air.

To serve, you can lightly butter a slice and fry it up, just as if it was a grilled cheese sandwich.  You can microwave it.  You can put it in the toaster oven with leftover braised dark turkey and heat them together.  Don’t forget a little No Bird Gravy!

Or, you can follow Carter’s example, and just eat it cold.  For breakfast.  I’ve seen him do it.