Family recipes for stuffing are as unique as families themselves.
No matter what recipe you follow or what you add to your stuffing, here’s how to make delicious stuffing that just happens to be gluten-free:
1) Bake or buy a loaf of gluten-free bread.
For stuffing, my preference is gluten-free white sandwich bread. Why? It nicely fades into the background allowing the other flavors of the stuffing to shine. Some folks, however, love gluten-free rye-less rye or gluten-free buckwheat bread. It’s important to use a loaf of bread you love.
2) To enhance the flavor of the finished stuffing, consider adding “stuffing friendly” herbs to the dough if you’re baking your own bread.
A generous sprinkle (about one teaspoon) of dried basil and oregano or a light sprinkle of sage, thyme, garlic powder or onion powder, add flavor to every bite of the stuffing. If you do add herbs to the bread, adjust the seasonings added to the finished stuffing. You don’t want one herb to overwhelm the entire pan. In this case, as long as all your ingredients are thoroughly cooked, taste as you go to adjust the herbs and seasonings.
3) Cut bread into cubes and toast.
I know it seems silly to dry bread only to rehydrate it with stock or broth. However, by removing the flavorless (water) moisture from the bread, we can replace it with flavorful stock or broth. This is why stuffing made with dried/toasted bread tends to be more flavorful than stuffing made with fresh bread.
For gluten-free bread, toast the cubes in a preheated 325 degree F oven until dry. Since bread can appear toasted but remain moist in the center, “snap” a cube or two in half to check the center. If the center of the cube feels dry, it’s ready. If it feels moist or damp, return the pan to the oven. Toasting time varies depending on bread. Commerical made gluten-free bread, like Udi’s, tend to toast faster than fresh, homemade bread.
4) If using meat, cook the meat thoroughly. Remove the meat from the pan with a slotted spoon, leaving the cooking oil behind.
Everyone adds different meat and vegetables to their stuffing. If you use meat, cook it thoroughly but don’t discard the flavorful fat. (Unless the fat burns. If that happens, ditch it.) Reserve the fat and cook your vegetables in it. If you have too much fat, as often happens when cooking bacon, carefully remove what you don’t need from the pan, leaving yourself a few tablespoons to cook your vegetables.
5) If you don’t add meat to your stuffing, cook the vegetables in hot oil or butter.
One time a reader asked me why her vegetables didn’t soften in her stuffing. Her question puzzled me. Then I realized she did not cook her vegetables before adding them to the stuffing.
Since stuffing cooks at a relatively low temperature for a short time, vegetables won’t cook in the stuffing. They need to be sauted before you add them to the dried bread mixture. If you don’t include meat in your stuffing, saute the vegetables in hot olive oil or, if you aren’t dairy-free, melted butter.
6) Stir in the cooked meat, vegetables, dried fruit, and nuts (if using).
When you’re ready to make stuffing, combine the dried bread cubes and your “add-ins”, like cooked meat, vegetables, dried fruit or nuts. (If you add nuts to your stuffing, be sure to alert your guests as some may have a nut allergy.)
7) Add the broth in stages, allowing the bread to absorb the liquid after each addition.
Be sure to select a gluten-free broth. This is key. Some commercial brands aren’t safe. For eight cups of bread cubes, pour about 2 cups of broth over the bread cubes. Allow the bread to absorb the liquid. This takes time and shouldn’t be rushed. As soon as the bread absorbs the liquid, remove a cube and break it open. If it’s damp all the way though, you’ve added enough liquid. If the center remains dry, add more stock, one cup at a time.
8) Taste and adjust the seasonings
As long as the stuffing does not contain raw egg, taste it. (If it does contain raw egg, taste the stuffing before adding the egg mixture.) Adjust the seasonings as needed. Transfer the stuffing to a baking pan. Cover pan with foil and bake.
9) I don’t recommend stuffing a turkey for two reasons:
1. Food safety. For health and peace of mind, it’s safer to cook your stuffing in a separate pan. If you do decide to stuff your turkey, be sure to follow FDA guidelines for food safety.
2. Food Allergies. If one of your guests is allergic to an ingredient in the stuffing and that stuffing is inside the turkey, they’ll need to avoid eating turkey at Thanksgiving. By baking stuffing on the side, those who need to avoid it for dietary reasons are able to do so safely.
10) Remove foil and return pan to the oven until golden brown.
Baking the stuffing under foil, prevents it from drying out. Right before you’re ready to serve, remove the foil and return the stuffing to the oven. After about five minutes of baking in a 325 degree F oven, the top will turn a lovely golden brown but the stuffing will remain moist and delicious.
RECIPE: Elizabeth Barbone’s Gluten-Free Sausage & Sage Stuffing
1 loaf gluten-free bread, cut into bite-size cubes (8-9 cups)
2 tablespoons olive oil 4 links (about 10 ounces) sweet Italian sausage, removed from casing and broken into small pieces.
2 cups chopped celery (about 4 large stalks)
2 cups chopped onion (about 1 large onion)
2 tablespoons minced garlic (about four cloves)
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground sage
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 cups gluten-free turkey, chicken, or vegetable stock, divided
- Preheat oven to 325 °F. Divide bread cubes between two large baking sheets. Toast until bread is golden brown and dry, about 30 minutes. Remove pans from oven and allow bread to cool.
- Grease a 9×13-inch baking sheet and set aside. Place bread cubes in a large bowl. In a large pot, heat olive oil until shimmering. Add sausage, break apart into small bites with a fork as it cooks. Cook until no pink pieces of sausage remain, about three minutes. Remove the sausage from the oil using a slotted spoon. Place sausage on a plate and set aside.
- Add celery. Cook until celery just begins to soften, about two minutes. Stirring frequently. Add onion. Cook for two minutes, continue to stir frequently. Add garlic, herbs, salt, and pepper. Cook until celery and onions are soft and aromatic. Spoon vegetables onto the bread cubes. Add sausage pieces and stir.
- Pour about two cups of the broth over the bread. Stir until cubes absorb the broth. This takes a minute. Add an additional cup of broth. Continue to stir until broth is absorbed. If bread seems dry, add final cup of broth. (Bread cubes should be moist but not soggy. It’s okay it the some of the cubes fall apart. This is normal.) Transfer stuffing to prepared pan.
- Cover pan with aluminum foil and bake in a 325 °F oven until warm, about 30 minutes. Remove foil and return pan to the oven and bake until golden brown, about five minutes.