My Grandma’s Stuffing

A tradition I could not go through the season without . . . because my house would just not smell right at Thanksgiving unless my Grandma’s stuffing, buttery, sagey, oniony, was roasting in the oven. I love to open the door and come into the kitchen from the cold outdoors just to smell that wonderful smell. It takes a little bit of preparation for this recipe, so I thought I’d remind you about it now, to give you time to think about if you’d like to try it this year. Unless you already have a traditional stuffing that your family could not live without! Then, of course, forget about this!

You can find the recipe on page 64 of my Autumn Book — but it’s so easy, with so few ingredients, here it is in a nutshell:

The way my mom did it . . . I remember her, three days before Thanksgiving, laying the bread out on cookie sheets; putting the pans on top of the hutch, on the washing machine, anywhere my seven brothers and sisters and dogs couldn’t get at it.  Nowadays, I set up my ironing board in my pantry and it works perfectly.  The bread is the plain, cheap stuff; get two loaves of white, one loaf of brown.  For three days, I turn the slices in the morning and before I go to bed at night.  I want them to be hard as rocks.  Fancy bread and/or trying to dry them in the oven does not work.  Packaged bread crumbs don’t work either.  This is very old-fashioned way of doing it; my grandma’s mom made it this way too. ♥

You need a big bowl, preferably the kind you remember from your childhood.

My Grandma always came the day before Thanksgiving . . . on Thanksgiving morning, the bread would be ready; she and my mom, and now me, fill our clean kitchen sinks with the hottest water our hands can stand, about six inches of water, and then, one at a time, we dip each slice of bread in the water, and immediately wring it out.  You can see my finger marks in the bread above.  It gets thick and chunky, doughy, chewy; you break it up, just a tiny bit, not too much, into chunks and bite-sized pieces.

When you’ve done all the bread, you melt 2 sticks of butter in a large skillet, then slowly sauté six stalks of chopped celery and three medium chopped onions until softened . . .

 While that’s happening you take an entire jar of dried sage leaves (not ground), and do what my mom and Grandma taught me to do: pour a little into the palm of your hand and rub it together over the top of the bread bowl; then, before you drop it in, look at it closely and discard any large or woody stems.  Continue rubbing the sage until you use the whole jar.  Then pour your onions and butter over the bread and, using your hands, being careful not to burn yourself, mix it all together well.  Now the tasting, which at our house was a family affair, I think half of it was eaten while we were tasting!  My dad was the final judge: He always knew . . . more sage?  More butter? Salt, oh yes!  It needs to be just a little bit salty, the turkey will absorb it . . .

You can add any other ingredients you want to make this your own; people always ask me if they can, and yes, I’m sure it would be delicious with cooked sausage, apples, nuts, oysters, or prunes, if you are of that ilk; but we have never done that and never would, because we are stuck in our ways; we like it plain and simple; the texture is glorious; with gravy, it’s pure poetry.  Have it your way, as the song goes, because tradition requires that you make yourself happy!

I miss my grandma very much; she was my friend.  See that ring on my finger?  She gave that to me for my thirtieth birthday; I’d been trying to pull it off her hand since I was two and she finally gave up.  She’s in heaven now, but when I smell her cookies baking, or her stuffing roasting on Thanksgiving Day, she’s here.♥  And that is why family food is so important, and why traditions mean so much.



75 Responses to My Grandma’s Stuffing

  1. carmel says:

    This is very similar to my mom’s stuffing. Thanks for putting it in writing for me. It’s the best. I could eat my mom’s homemade stuffing and mashed potatoes smothered with gravy on a large plate and nothing else. Of course she wouldn’t allow not having protein (her moist turkey) and vegtables added to the plate! We also had a jello/fruit mold. I’m mentioning that because I’ve always wanted to make the jello rainbow masterpiece in your cookbooks but frightened! Silly me. Your carrots/peas Copenhagen, ginger/orange carrots and sweet potato casserole has been added to my holiday regulars. I also make your waffles (Christmas Book) all year long, your brother’s bacon, sugar cookies and other things. Do you think if I try making your rainbow jello wonder with less flavors, it would work and I wouldn’t be afraid of my own boxes of jello and sour cream?:)
    Thanks for being a part of my holiday table.

  2. Deborah says:

    Could you prepare this and bake in the oven, (not in the turkey) ? How much salt should you add? Thank you…

    • sbranch says:

      Yes, you can bake it and you can taste it first. Just salt it to taste. When it’s baked inside the turkey the turkey absorbs some of the salt, so we make it a bit saltier, but that’s not necessary in the oven.

  3. Pam Morrell says:

    Hi Susan …misplaced my Vineyard Seasons could you post your Indian Pumpkin Bread recipe ??? everyone loves it …including me. Thanks Pam

    • sbranch says:

      Not sure what recipe you’re speaking of? I have Indian Pudding? Trying to think, bread ???

      • Pam Morrell says:

        Its made with cornmeal??

      • Pam Morrell says:

        I think that is what it is called it is made with conrmeal..too besides the pumpkin I haven’t made it in a while and I think it is in Vineyard Seasons…my Christmas book has the Sweet Potatoe Casserole that I make for Thanksgiving and Christmas my family loves is a tradition 🙂

  4. Pam MacLeod says:

    You always stir up wonderful memories for your followers, thanks so much, Susan. I used to make stuffing this way and strayed to easier methods. I think it’s time to return to the tried and true! Happy Thanksgiving!

  5. Pam Morrell says:

    I just looked on Amazon at Vineyard went to the index…didn’t see the recipe..I could swear it was in your book..but didn’t see it …so sorry.. now its going to drive me crazy LOL …I used to make it all the time…oh well I guess I am having a senior moment >>LOL

  6. Nese says:

    I’m going to give this a go. I have never been able to make good stuffing, which is tragic because I love stuffing. My family has been patient with my efforts over the last 20+ years, maybe this year they will be pleasantly surprised!

  7. Pat Johnson from Paso Robles, CA says:

    I absolutely love the picture of you and your Gma. Being a Gma myself, I understand how important I am to my little ones AND how important they are to me (ya think!!!!). We all must treasure those memories and instill memories in those little ones we have now. I have a GREAT-grandson that I try to see just about every day. Oh what a joy this life is!!!!! Happy Thanksgiving, my dear. XXXXOOOO

  8. Sandy from Ca. says:

    I always make my Great-Grandma’s stuffing a must for our family 🙂 Since I recieved the Christmas book by you the Sugar cookies are a must not only for my family but for friends up and down the California Coast…even in New York for my brother-in-law 🙂 Just thought I would tell you my reciepe uses only french bread and no I am not French 🙂

  9. Rae Ann R...back in Michigan...forever... says:

    Are you back in your east coast home???…I’ve seen this picture of you and your Grandma before and everytime I see it, I tear up…so very special…I always make my Mother’s cranberry orange relish…have you tried Lynn Rosetta Casper’s splendid table turkey recipe???…you cook the turkey on very low heat in the oven for 24 hours!!!…HAPPY THANKSGIVING to you and yours…xoxo…

  10. Sara says:

    O-k-a-a-a-y… rinse bread with water and wring out! I SO have to try your bread prep, because, hey, I’ll be able to tell everyone that the secret to such delicious dressing (what we call stuffing in Indiana) is in 1. drying the bread for three days and 2. rinsing and wringing out the bread! (I am going to get LOOKS!)


  11. Betsy Carroll says:

    Hi Susan — I’d like to try your stuffing recipe for Thanksgiving. In the picture of the Autumn book with part of the recipe visible, it appears to list 1 Tbsp. salt and freshly grated pepper in addition to the dried sage. The recipe shown in the pictorial mentions no seasoning but the dried sage leaves. Can you clarify if the recipe calls for 1 Tbsp. of salt (more or less to taste)? Also, have you ever made the stuffing the day before and refrigerated it until ready to stuff the bird? Making it in advance would be helpful to me, unless of course you think it would affect the stuffing’s texture or quality. P.S. Thanks. Love all things Susan Branch, including your new book!!!

    • sbranch says:

      It’s really salted to taste, but it should be a little salty because the turkey will absorb some of it. I think it would be fine to make it the day before, I don’t see why not. Bring it out of the fridge to get the chill off before stuffing. Happy Thanksgiving Betsy!

  12. Sounds a lot like my mom used to make. Except, we didn’t dip the bread and wring it out. We add mushrooms, apples, and sometimes sausage, in addition to onions, and celery. Love, love, love stuffing and all the fixins at Thanksgiving. My favorite holiday. May you and yours have a very Happy Thanksgiving!, Susan! xxoo.

  13. Nese says:

    how many people would you say this serves? It looks like a lot of bread but I am wondering when it is soaked and squished, how much it will be? Like a 9 x 12 cake pan? I am having 20 adults and 4 kids.

    • sbranch says:

      For you I would add another loaf or two of bread, and a little more of everything else, because that’s a lot of people. The recipe, as it is, will fill the largest turkey and have some left over, but with 20 adults, you might need more, and leftovers are a very important part of a Thanksgiving Dinner. Also, do you make your gravy ahead? I started doing that to make sure I had enough and it’s been such a help. Use turkey parts, and make stock with them which you boil down and turn into gravy. Mix it with the turkey gravy on Thanksgiving. (I wrote about it in my Autumn Book.)

      • Nese says:

        Thanks Susan! And Happy Thanksgiving, wherever you are! 🙂

      • Nese says:

        I made your recipe exactly as written, I didn’t have time to harden off more bread, but I found a half bag of plain stuffing cubes in the cupboard so I just soaked and squished them like I did the other bread and mixed it all together. I had plenty of stuffing for 24 people and lots leftover and everybody loved it!

  14. Shannon Rimmelspacher says:

    I’m going to give this a try Susan. I am going to add wild rice so it will be similiar to my previous recipe but I am very anxious to try new things…this will be exciting. Thanks.

  15. Kim Rubino says:

    HI Susan just saw this stuffing sight already bought my prepridge farms bags so its to late for the stale part bread. so i hope I’m ok I wanted to know how much sage I bought a Mccormicks tall not little bottle so how much should I use for 2 average size bags?

    • sbranch says:

      Maybe three quarters of a jar for two average size bags. Next year you can try the bread . . . it’s a totally different texture. Happy Thanksgiving Kim.

  16. martha dagostino says:

    I love your web-site and wish there was more time to read it all. thanks for being YOU.

  17. Joann says:

    I’ve made your stuffing—pretty similar to what I’ve always made and it’s YUMMY delicious!!!! I haven’t dried bread on the ironing board, though!! You’re just cute cute cute Sue….love you to pieces!! Happy Thanksgiving!!! Blessings to each and all…

    Joann and Family

  18. Dana says:

    I just found your books this summer at my library, I am hooked, now buying all of them so I can have them. I love your work and your recipes, they feel like home, I am trying this stuffing recipe this Thanksgiving I bought all the ingredients and am ready for Monday to start a new tradition, thanks so much! 🙂

  19. Jane Franks says:

    Hi Susan: You’ve helped me make a decision! Gene and I have both been sick — me big time since Nov. 11th! I’m on the mend so no worries, but I am waaaaay behind on decorations, etc, this year (after my lovely trip to MV which was worth every minute of being behind!); and I was going to take Gene out for dinner on Thanksgiving, but I always am “somewhat” disappointed with that — waiting in line (even with reservation); getting food that is okay but not the way I would make it, forfeiting some traditions. . . SO. . .I have decided to throw a few fall things together for the table, and not worry about “perfect decorations” and do turkey and make your stuffing!! Gene will be much happier, too!! My mother and grandmother used to do it something like you do in the days before “packages”! But I fell into the convenient timesaver thing, and that is “okay”, but I have a “hankering” as they used to say for the real stuff! So I’m going for it!! Wish me success!! Thanks for sending this on again!! 🙂

  20. Winnie says:

    Very similar to my mom’s except she uses poultry seasoning and thyme instead of sage (which is in the poultry seasoning). No meat or add ins. I make my husband’s mom’s now for him and his has sausage. One tip I have is if you don’t have a large bowl, do what my mom did and mix it up in your largest pot! Works like a charm. Happy Thanksgiving!

  21. Sherri says:

    I love the picture of you and your Grandma. I also love that she has her lipstick on! A friend once told me, “When life has you down, sometimes you just need a new tube of lipstick to cheer you up.” Your picture reminded me of that. Wonderful recipe too!

  22. KD Huber says:

    Thank you for sharing your recipe and your special memories. I miss my Grandma too…very much. Happy Thanksgiving and much appreciation for your talents and gifts you share with us. You make my day a Happy day with your blog and notices. ~

  23. Beth says:

    Sue, I’m so so excited to try your stuffing recipe! My mother refuses to give up Thanksgiving at her house and I’m 50! 🙂 I’ve told her I am going to be just like Prince Charles, soon it will be handed over to my kids! But I did get her to make a big concession this year…I can bring the stuffing (AKA YOUR stuffing) so I really can’t mess this up! Here’s my question, if I put it in the oven and bake it (I’m thinking 350) about how long should I put it in for? How will I know if it’s done? I want it to be moist and delicious. Also, should I cover it with foil? Oh, these are the pressing Thanksgiving dilemmas I face…so grateful. (For you and my sweet family!)

    • sbranch says:

      When it’s not inside the turkey, I like to cook it at 375 and not cover it, so I can crisp up some of the edges.

      • Maggie Jackson says:

        OK if baking in a 375° oven should I grease the pan first, and for what amount of time… How long ??

        • sbranch says:

          Well, I imagine I’m a little late! But … there is tons of butter in the stuffing, so you’re okay either way ~ I’m sure yours turned out just fine…and I guess I would cook it about 35 min.

  24. Peggy Johnson says:

    My grandma made this stuffing but she used potatoes in it too.Nobody can remember everything she did.I remember she would dip her bread in a bowl and wring out the water.My sister and I have done this and its not working.And the sage ,I remember her using the one in the can and she would use a whole one plus a little more.And i knew she had to of browned the onions in butter or something.The dressing she made was the best.Nobody I have talked to have ever used potatoes in it.But she would dry her bread out on a table and other places like countertop

    • sbranch says:

      Be sure to use the cheapest possible bread because for some reason the new fancier breads don’t work right! Go ahead and make it and add potatoes! I bet it will be wonderful!

  25. Sandra says:

    Thank you for the recipe. God Bless your Grandma!

  26. Irene Harrison says:

    Hi! I shared this wonderful stuffing recipe with a co-worker and she asked, “Is she stuffing the turkey with this, or baking it alone?” Asking a question is the best way to find out! Thanks for your precious time.

  27. Pat Roche says:

    I have made my stuffing this way for the 58 years we have been married. My grandmother came from Yugoslavia in 1915. My mother made it the same way and now our daughters are. At times my mother has added a chopped apple or pork sausage, but the best is the old-fashioned way. I like using a heavy bread like Spatz’s. It also makes great toast.

  28. Kathy says:

    Ours is made with giblets, bread, onion, seasonings but no sage and it’s baked outside the bird in a casserole until the top, bottom and all the sides are golden brown and crusty. It’s just about my favorite thing in the world. My mom and grandma were so good at making it perfectly. They’re gone and it’s now up to me to make it taste like theirs. I am never 100% sure it’s up to par but my husband has declared I’ve mastered it. I guess my little bit of doubt can be chalked up to wishing they were here to help prepare it. Wishing you Thanksgiving blessings.

    • sbranch says:

      Lovely childhood memories of turkey and stuffing baking in the oven, moms and grandma’s bustling around the floury kitchen, never go away.

  29. Judith Jackson says:

    We have dressing in the south, baked by itself but served together with the turkey and gravy.

  30. Kathryn Akatiff says:

    This tasted like the gummy cafeteria stuffing I remember from High School. All I can say is that sentiment sometimes overrules taste buds. Love the sentiment.

    • sbranch says:

      Hahaha, well, each to his own is always a true thing. One person’s gummy is another person’s buttery! I can’t wait to taste that sentiment again on Thursday! Tell us your recipe!

  31. Delores McElmurry says:

    Dear Susan, I was very surprised to know you have dishes that are named after me. It’s nice to know those dishes will be full of your good turkey dinner this coming Thursday. Have a lovely Thanksgiving Day with family and special friends.

  32. I make your stuffing every year and love it. It is just like my mom’s stuffing, but she never wrote it down. Thank goodness for your books! It is like a bit of my mom sent from heaven.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  33. Lorrie Kelly says:

    Your stuffing is almost exactly like my Grandmother used to make. Except she put Giblets in hers. That is the only difference. Happy I found your site.

  34. susan says:

    Hi Susan, My mon made the stuffing with hard rolls but used aLL ingredients!! Thank you!!

  35. GiGi says:

    Susan: Mother made her dressing basically the same way with the exception being after drying the bread out, instead of water, she used cold milk to soak the bread and than she squeezed out the excess and placed in a large bowl. She sauteed the onions and celery in butter, not margarine (never)! She added the sage and raisins to the sauteed mixture until the raisins plumped. She added this mixture to the bread and used her hands to mix it all together. The juice from the turkey soaked into the bread dressing and all I can say is YUM!!!!! The gravy tasted like the dressing when you spooned it over the turkey. I haven’t had her recipe since I was much younger. Mom didn’t cook after she began to age as Alzheimer’s took away her memory; however, the memory of her fantastic dressing remains. Thank you. GiGi

    • sbranch says:

      Milk, veddddy interesting! So what might that add? A little fat, which never hurts, but then you do already have the butter. I bet it just makes it richer. We don’t do raisins, but I love the sound of it! Especially in a turkey, a little sweetness, I’ll have to try it! Lovely memory of your mother…holidays do bring our beloveds back to us.

  36. Wanda McCay says:

    Susan, thank you for the reminder about stuffing! This is just the way my mom and grandma made it, as well, and I did too for many years. Then, I don’t know, I decided it wasn’t necessary anymore, I guess, and I kind of let it drift from my mind. But hearing you describe it, I could almost taste it again and, you’re right, it had the best texture! So I’m going to make it the old-fashioned way again this year:)! Although we always called it dressing because we put it all around the outside of the turkey. But whatever you call it or however you cook it I remember it always being delicious! Happy Thanksgiving to you and Joe and your kitty!

    • sbranch says:

      We call it both, I think though, my grandma called it dressing… don’t forget to put the bread out to dry, that’s the thing I practically have to put on the calendar so as not to forget! Happy Thanksgiving!

  37. Lainie Wessel says:

    This is exactly the way my grandmother made dressing except she also added the giblets – simmered and finely diced. My mom always made it too, and she had an old gold ceramic bow, much like the photo. I’ll be making this on Thursday morning. Food memories are the best.

  38. Karen Foley says:

    What a wonderful post, and so amazing that you are continuing the tradition of your grandma’s stuffing!! Have a Happy Thanksgiving!!

  39. Patti Carnevale says:

    Thank you for this recipe and your lovely narration. It touched my heart and reminded me of my grandmother who was my closest friend growing up. Such sweet memories.

  40. Suzanne (Horton) Stedman says:

    Dear Susan,
    I am not sure that you will see this, but I am actually your cousin! I saw a picture of our great- grandfather in your cookbook. My grandmother used to always tell me that I was her Pat’s Sue and that you were Flo’s Pat’s Sue. The stuffing recipe is a classic. I remember my grandparents making it early holiday mornings. Using your wonderful cookbook, I continue the family tradition. We especially love your gravy recipe!
    If you see this and would like to connect, you can find me on Facebook.
    Your cousin,

    • sbranch says:

      OMG It’s Peg’s Pat’s Sue!!! I always heard the same thing, that I was Flo’s Pat’s Sue! Isn’t this just wonderful? What are the chances of us ever connecting before computers? And you still make the dressing! Amazing. Where are you living?

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