This sausage apple stuffing is one of my most anticipated dishes of the holiday season, and after one bite, you’ll see why.
Fresh leeks, apples, and cranberries are cooked down into golden brown goodness, then baked to perfection with Italian sausage and bread. The bread soaks up all the flavors and creates one delicious companion for roasted turkey.
It’s savory-sweet and has just the right amount of spice from the Italian sausage and rosemary.
Below, you’ll find the full recipe along with everything you need to know to make the best homemade bread stuffing each year.
Table of contents
Sausage Apple Stuffing Ingredients
Leeks in stuffing? Yes, while it’s not typical, just trust me. They cook down in the sausage drippings and add a caramelized flavor and hearty texture to the stuffing.
Here’s a complete list of what you’ll need to make cranberry apple stuffing:
- Italian sausage: select Italian sausage that comes in the casings.
- chopped leeks: give this stuffing a mild, onion-like flavor and adds great texture.
- tart apples: great options would be Granny Smith, Pink Lady, and fuji.
- chopped celery: an aromatic that adds flavor and more texture.
- poultry seasoning: the best blend for a turkey stuffing.
- dried rosemary: compliments the Italian sausage.
- dried cranberries: give this a sweet component that compliments the sausage and apples.
- white bread: use day-old French bread, ciabatta, sourdough, etc.
- chicken stock: or broth!
- salt and black pepper: can’t leave these two out.
What’s the Best Bread for Stuffing
Over the years, I’ve made this recipe with several varieties, and I’ve found the best bread for stuffing is soft and dense with as few air pockets as possible. Great options are:
- hearty white bread
- thick sandwich bread
And if you are curious, density applies to the texture of the bread. In this case, it means the “pores” are small, which is important for stuffing because there is more bread to soak up all the flavors and cooking juices.
How to Prepare Bread for Stuffing
Before we start, I want to point out that pre-baking the bread cubes in an oven prevent the stuffing from turning out soggy. I don’t recommend skipping this step. Of course, you can do this step up to 2 days ahead and store the cubes in an airtight container.
How to Make Cranberry Sausage Apple Stuffing
There are two ways to serve this sausage stuffing. You can bake it inside the turkey OR in a greased baking dish. Below I show you how to prepare it both ways.
- Toast the bread
Preheat the oven to 300F. Spread the bread cubes in an even layer onto the baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes or until lightly golden. Remove from the oven and set aside.
- Brown the meat
Remove the sausage from its casing and add it to a large skillet. Cook the sausage over medium-high heat for 10 minutes, breaking up the meat with a spatula as it browns.
Remove the sausage from the skillet with a slotted spoon and transfer it to a plate. Keep the drippings in the pan. This will add flavor.
- Add the veggies
To the same skillet, add the leeks, apples, celery, and poultry seasoning. Cook until the leeks are softened and golden brown.
- Combine everything
Stir in the cranberries, cooked sausage, and bread cubes. Season with salt and black pepper, and toss to combine before adding the chicken broth.
- Stuff the turkey
If you are going the traditional stuffed turkey route, stuff the bird with 5-6 cups, about 1 cup per 3 lbs. Tie the legs and roast as directed. Depending on the size of the turkey, you should cook the turkey until the thigh reads at 175 degrees and the stuffing reaches 165F.
- OR Bake in a baking dish
If you prefer to bake dressing separate from the turkey, simply add it to a greased baking dish, cover with foil, and bake at 350F for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 15 minutes until the top is golden brown.
*Please note, the stuffing is supposed to appear wet and soggy, but as it bakes, the moisture will evaporate, and the mixture will become more cohesive. By the end of baking, it should have a golden-brown crust on top.
Watch this video for the entire step-by-step process.
Stuffing is one of the best parts of Thanksgiving and this recipe is a favorite recipe from my Giving Thanks eBook. You’ll find it along with 22 other mouthwatering dishes to choose from for an incredible holiday feast.
Thanksgiving Dinner Meal Plan & Guide
Inside this eBook, you’ll find 23 Thanksgiving recipes for easy entertaining. PLUS, done-for-you daily holiday prep, helpful kitchen notes, and hour-by-hour timing instructions for Thanksgiving day.
This digital download is like hiring a kitchen assistant to plan out an incredibly delicious menu for your family.
How to Make Stuffing Ahead
You can easily make this sausage and apple stuffing ahead of time! Prepare it as directed, but don’t bake it. Transfer it to a large bowl or baking dish, cover tightly, and refrigerate for up to 48 hours.
To bake, remove it from the fridge at least 30 minutes before baking. Bake as directed.
More Thanksgiving Sides
Now that you have a delicious stuffing recipe, are you ready to make your Thanksgiving menu complete? I have no shortage of delicious, crowd-pleasing recipe you can serve to your guests.
P.S- this savory apple stuffing is the bomb with my Orange Juice Cranberry Sauce. I could easily fill my plate with these two dishes and be perfectly happy.
Sausage Apple Stuffing with Cranberries
- 12 cups bread cubes, storebought or 10 bread slices, cubed
- 1 pound Italian sausage, out of the casing
- 6 cups coarsely chopped leeks
- 3 green apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
- 2 cups chopped celery
- 4 teaspoons poultry seasonings
- 2 teaspoons dried rosemary, crushed
- 1 cup dried cranberries
- 1 ⅓ cup chicken stock
- Salt and black pepper to taste
For the Bread Cubes:
- Preheat the oven to 300F. With a knife, cube 10 slices of bread into small, even, cubed-shaped pieces.
- Spread the bread cubes in an even layer onto the baking sheet.
- Bake for 10 minutes or until lightly golden, stirring if needed. Remove from the oven and set aside.
For the Stuffing:
- Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook the sausage over medium-high heat, breaking up the meat with a spatula as it browns. Remove the sausage from the skillet with a slotted spoon and transfer it to a plate. Keep the drippings in the pan.
- To the same skillet, add the leeks, apples, celery, and poultry seasoning. Cook for 10 minutes until the leeks are softened and golden brown.
- Stir in the cranberries, cooked sausage, and bread cubes. Season with salt and black pepper, and toss to combine before adding the chicken broth. The stuffing is supposed to appear wet and soggy, but as it bakes, the moisture will evaporate, and the mixture will become more cohesive.
- Preheat oven to 350F and grease a 9×13-inch baking dish.
- Transfer the stuffing inside the pan and cover it with foil. Bake, covered for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 12 to 15 minutes until the top is golden. Remove from oven and keep warm or serve.
To use as stuffing in a turkey:
- Place 4 to 6 cups of the stuffing mixture inside a 12 to 16 lb turkey, about 1 cup for every 2 to 3 lbs. Tie the legs and bake until the turkey thigh reaches an internal temperature of 175F and the breast and stuffing reach 165F.
- Any leftover stuffing can be baked in a separate casserole dish as a side serving.