Are Stuffing And Dressing The Same Thing, Or Not?

Let's put this issue to rest.
11/10/2016 06:00am ET | Updated November 18, 2017

Every year around November, the same old question resurfaces: what exactly is the difference between stuffing and dressing? And every year we believe it to be a simple answer: stuffing is what you call that delicious mix of bread (with aromatics and other fillings) that’s cooked inside the bird, and dressing is what you call it when you cook that same bread mixture outside of the bird.

While this is mostly true, unfortunately the answer is not as clear cut as that.

It turns out we use different terms based on what region we live in, no matter what ingredients we use, or whether we stuff the bird or not.

Most differences in regional recipes are a result of what’s available locally ― oyster dressing is popular in coastal areas, cornbread stuffing is popular in the South, and sourdough stuffing is big in Northern California.

In the South, it’s typically referred to as dressing. In the Northeast, it’s almost always stuffing. In Pennsylvania Dutch Country, it’s actually called filling and is mixed with mashed potatoes. In the rest of the country, it’s mostly referred to as stuffing, but not always. There’s one state north of the Mason Dixon line that prefers the term dressing, and that’s Iowa.

Despite the South’s affection for dressing, often times in those states it’s also called stuffing. According to Epicurious, the only states that searched for dressing recipes over stuffing recipes were Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi.

The term for stuffing is pretty self-explanatory ― it’s used to stuff the cavity of a bird. But dressing? Apparently that’s a result of politesse. Stuffing just wasn’t a nice word, and Southerners didn’t want to use it. (Just like some of them prefer to call grits hominy.)

In other words, call it what you want ― use the term interchangeably if you please. Just make sure you eat lots of it. Here are some recipes to make sure you get that done this Thanksgiving.

1
Butternut Squash And Wild Mushroom Stuffing
Half Baked Harvest
2
Spicy Chorizo Cornbread Sage Dressing
Boulder Locavore
Get the Spicy Chorizo Cornbread Sage Dressing recipe from Boulder Locavore
3
Slow Cooker Stuffing
Cooking Classy
Get the Slow Cooker Stuffing recipe from Cooking Classy
4
Cranberry And Walnut Stuffing
Foodie Crush
Get the Cranberry and Walnut Stuffing recipe from Foodie Crush
5
Chorizo Cornbread Stuffing
Damn Delicious
Get the Chorizo Cornbread Stuffing recipe from Damn Delicious
6
Homemade Stovetop Stuffing
Damn Delicious
Get the Homemade Stovetop Stuffing recipe from Damn Delicious
7
Classic Traditional Thanksgiving Stuffing
AVerie Cooks
8
Southern Cornbread Dressing
Spicy Southern Kitchen
Get the Southern Cornbread Dressing recipe from Spicy Southern Kitchen
9
Slow Cooker Cranberry Pecan Stuffing
Damn Delicious
10
Buffalo Cheddar Beer Bread Stuffing
Half Baked Harvest
Get the Buffalo Cheddar Beer Bread Stuffing recipe from Half Baked Harvest
11
Traditional Bread Stuffing
Brown Eyed Baker
Get the Traditional Bread Stuffing recipe from Brown Eyed Baker
12
Farro, Butternut Squash, Sausage And Dried Cherry Stuffing
Foodie Crush
13
Bacon Stuffing
Buns in my Oven
Get the Bacon Stuffing recipe from Buns in my Oven
14
Kale, Dried Porcini Mushroom And Pine Nut Stuffing
Cafe Johnsonia
15
Southwest Cornbread Chorizo Stuffing with Avocado
Handle The Heat
16
Pretzel Bread Quinoa Stuffing With Garlic Butter Mushrooms
How Sweet It Is
17
Cornbread Sausage Stuffing With Leeks, Pecans And Dried Cranberries (Gluten-Free)
Cafe Johnsonia
18
Simple Vegan Stuffing
Minimalist Baker
Get the Simple Vegan Stuffing recipe from Minimalist Baker
19
Southwest Cornbread Stuffing
A Spicy Perspective
Get the Southwest Cornbread Stuffing recipe from A Spicy Perspective
20
Stuffing In A Bundt Pan
A Spicy Perspective
Get the Stuffing in a Bundt Pan recipe from A Spicy Perspective
21
Bacon And Bourbon Stuffing
A Beautiful Mess
Get the Bacon And Bourbon Stuffing recipe from A Beautiful Mess
22
Pumpkin Cornbread Stuffing With Country Sausage And Sage
The View From The Great Island
Get the Pumpkin Cornbread Stuffing with Country Sausage and Sage recipe from The View From The Great Island