Whether you’re hosting a full-scale family feast, a laidback friendsgiving or even a small holiday dinner for two, a traditional Thanksgiving meal with all the fixings often feels like a must-do culinary endeavor. That said, a spread of roast turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, green bean casserole, gravy and cranberry sauce is a time-consuming kitchen project (we haven’t even mentioned pie yet), and a shortcut or two can help reduce the stress and keep you in a festive mood.
For example, instead of taking the time to chop and dry out loaves of bread to make stuffing from scratch, you can speed the stuffing-making process along by purchasing a pre-made mix.
Stuffing mix sometimes gets a bad rap, with naysayers claiming that it’s less flavorful and less texturally rich than the homemade stuff. But we fully stand behind these eight widely available versions, which we recommend based on our own testing experiences and on the advice of professional chefs.
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Kraft Stove Top Turkey Stuffing Mix
When it comes to the store-bought stuffing mix that was most widely recommended to us by pro chefs, the hands-down winner is a supermarket staple that’s affordable, easy to find and packed with nostalgia: Kraft Stove Top. “Stove Top is the best! So well seasoned and buttery,” insisted Ken Oringer, the chef/restaurateur of Faccia a Faccia
in Boston, Massachusetts.
The turkey flavor of Stove Top is, as its name suggests, an excellent match for roast turkey. It’s infused with turkey stock and seasoned with classic Thanksgiving herbs like sage and thyme. Oringer told us he likes to “doctor it up with chorizo and hen of the woods mushrooms. [Finally, I] drizzle some duck fat on top to really jazz up my store-bought stuffing!"
Kraft Stove Top Cornbread Stuffing Mix
If you’re a cornbread-stuffing devotee, you’ll be glad to know that Kraft Stove Top also offers a cornbread-based version, and it fully maintains Stove Top’s tradition of solid, reliable stuffing mixes. “[Stove Top stuffing] is one consistent side that will come out the same every time,” said Bryan Hill, the executive chef of Ambassador Chicago
. Stove Top Cornbread delivers a clear corn flavor and a gentle sweetness that can be easily zhuzhed up with add-ins like celery and onion, Italian sausage and fresh herbs.
When working with Stove Top, Hill issues the following warning: “Don’t overcook it! Follow the instructions and make sure you don’t add too much water. You can cook it inside the bird, but I personally prefer to cook it on the side and stuff the bird with herbs and vegetables.”
Pepperidge Farm Herb Seasoned Classic Stuffing
Now we come to this writer’s personal favorite store-bought stuffing mix: Pepperidge Farm herb stuffing. Pepperidge Farm was a constant presence at my childhood Thanksgiving dinners, and after a recent foray into stuffing-making with the herb version, I’m thrilled to report that my fond memories are entirely accurate. Pepperidge Farm stuffing has a heartier texture than Stove Top, which means that it can hold up well to in-bird cooking while also crisping up nicely when cooked in a baking dish or casserole pan.
Pepperidge Farm herb stuffing is a favorite of executive chef Manuel Hewitt of The Barrel Room
in San Francisco, California, who says that “in the past, when strapped for time during the holidays, I’ve always grabbed the Pepperidge Farm herb stuffing from the store.” To bolster the mix’s flavors, Hewitt “adds a bit of richness by sautéing some onions, garlic, carrots, and celery in butter [and mixing this combination with the stuffing cubes]. Then, for the finishing touch, I cook the stuffing in chicken stock instead of water.”
Williams Sonoma Organic Classic French Bread Stuffing Mix
A somewhat-splurgy stuffing mix packed with artisanal ingredients, Williams Sonoma French Bread Stuffing uses substantial chunks of dried French bread as its base. This bread’s sturdy texture makes it wonderfully absorbent, which proves valuable when you’re cooking stuffing inside the turkey. It’s also an appealing characteristic if you’re a fan of gravy or if you (like me) are a big believer in mixing the items on your Thanksgiving plate together.
In terms of seasonings, Williams Sonoma includes some expected herbs and spices, like thyme and rosemary. But they also weave in lesser-used options like lavender, herbes de Provence and marjoram, which gives this stuffing a gourmet vibe that’s ideal for a friendsgiving.
Martin's Potatobred Soft Cubed Stuffing
While most stuffing mixes come with a seasoning packet or pre-seasoned bread cubes, there can be a huge benefit to using an unseasoned mix. Specifically, this allows you to take full control over the flavor of your stuffing. Martin’s Potato Bread, famous for its sweet, mellow flavor, plush texture and cult status as a beloved burger bun, makes a stuffing mix that’s a perfect blank slate for experimentation. Add sausage, cranberries, dried herbs, fresh herbs, sautéed veggies, mushrooms, Cajun seasoning, chicken stock — there’s no wrong answer when you’re working with so versatile a canvas. You'll likely have the best luck finding it in your local supermarket, but Amazon has bags if you're in a pinch.
Williams Sonoma Cranberry & Wild Rice Stuffing Mix
Bread stuffing might be the version most closely associated with Thanksgiving, but it’s far from the only grain option available. A rice-based stuffing can be an exciting alternative, and this wild rice stuffing mix from Williams Sonoma has the added benefit of being entirely gluten-free. Cranberries give it a very Thanksgiving-y flavor dynamic, while quinoa provides more substance and fragrant herbs seamlessly connect the stuffing’s flavors with those of the rest of a classic turkey dinner. If you decide to swap turkey out for duck, quail, or Cornish hen, then this light but robust dressing will also beautifully suit those richer meats.
Trader Joe's Cornbread Stuffing Mix
Trader Joe’s can always be counted on for low-budget, low-stress eats that don’t compromise on flavor, and their Cornbread Stuffing
is easy to make on the stovetop, easy to bake in the oven and easy to stuff into a turkey. The TJ’s spin on cornbread stuffing provides a heartier texture than the Stove Top version, so it can soak up turkey drippings or chicken stock with no problems. The seasoning mix is on the subtle side (but with clear notes of rosemary and sage), so sprinkling some chopped fresh sage, rosemary and thyme over the stuffing before baking it in the oven will heighten its flavors and make it an ideal match for savory turkey, buttery mashed potatoes, and tangy cranberry sauce.
Trader Joe's doesn't sell its products online, so you'll have to head to the store to pick some up.
Trader Joe's Gluten-Free Stuffing Mix
If your Thanksgiving party crowd includes any guests on a gluten-free diet, then Trader Joe’s has you covered with its excellent gluten-free stuffing mix
. The bread cubes in this mix feature tapioca flour, rice flour and potato starch, which results in a texture that’s very consistent with a traditional bread-based stuffing blend. The flavor notes include a pronounced sweetness (much like the one you’ll get from cornbread stuffing), but if you want to amplify this stuffing’s savory quotient, you can easily do that by adding chicken or turkey stock, butter, sautéed celery and onion, herbs and sausage (or plant-based sausage).