Italian Sausage Thanksgiving Dressing

My dad is a meddler. A tinkerer. Someone who just can’t leave simple things alone. He’ll take your average can of Campbell’s Bean with Bacon soup and start adding condiments, herbs, and spices until you can hardly call it Bean with Bacon anymore. A few years ago, he took good ol‘ simple Thanksgiving dressing and…mutated it. I’ll admit, I was so mad the first year–dressing is something highly personal and near and dear to my heart and he had to go mess with things. But over the years, I came to love it.

Last year was the only Thanksgiving (except one in 2003) in my whole life that I wasn’t with my family on Christmas and I have to say that although we had a wonderful Thanksgiving with our Louisiana friends, I seriously missed my dad’s dressing (even if he does get a little heavy-handed with the Tabasco from time to time). Since I can’t get the man to write down the recipe, I went ahead and tinkered around with it myself, which ended with a surprising (and delicious) addition of dried cranberries. One thing I love is that this dressing has it all–the savory of the dressing, onions, and garlic, sweet and sour from the apples and cranberries, bitter from the nuts, and spicy from the sausage.. The beauty is that you can tweak here and there what you like and don’t like AND that you can make a portion of it ahead of time to cut down on your T-Day work load.
Italian Sausage Thanksgiving Dressing
Recipe by Our Best Bites
1 lb. Italian sausage (in this recipe, I prefer hot, but if you’re worried about spice or want to control the heat, use mild and then season with a hot sauce like Tabasco to taste)
1 onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
5-6 cloves garlic, minced
1 c. sliced mushrooms
1 grated Granny Smith apple (use your food processor if you have one; your knuckles will thank you)
1 16-oz. package cubed stuffing or dressing (I like Pepperidge Farms; for this recipe, I try to stay away from Stove Top because the flavor is so overwhelming)
2 1/2 c. chicken broth
1 c. chopped pecans, toasted
1/2+ c. dried cranberries (optional)

Preheat oven to 350

Heat a very large skillet to medium heat, remove casings, and crumble Italian sausage in the pan. As it starts to brown, stir in onions, celery, and garlic. As the sausage cooks, break up larger pieces–part of the awesomeness of this dressing are the little sausage bits in every bite.
As the onions begin to turn translucent, stir in mushrooms and apple. I grate it because I love the tart flavor of the apple, but I don’t like chunks of soggy apple in savory dishes like this. Icky, icky, icky.

When mushrooms are tender, sprinkle dressing mix over the sausage mix and then add chicken broth. Continue stirring as the dressing mix absorbs the liquid. Add in pecans and cranberries (if desired). When the liquid has been incorporated and the mixture is fully mixed, transfer to a 9×13 dish sprayed with cooking spray. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 10 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 10 minutes. If you’d like to make this 1-2 days ahead of time, cover it after you place it in the 9×13 pan, and then bake it straight from the fridge.



  1. I decided to try a sausage stuffing this year for the first time. Mine was also made with corn bread instead of regular bread cubes… I loved it. Yours sounds delicious, too!

  2. Ooooo. . . that looks delicious. I can almost taste it!

    Loved your description about your dad too. . .

  3. Your dad sounds exactly like my dad- mix a little of this with a little of that and no recipe to follow. Looks amazing. I love apple and sausage stuffing, although when it comes to Thanksgiving I like traditional. Maybe I'll branch out this year.

  4. Yum! We make one almost they same as this at our house for years. The cranberries would be a nice addition!

  5. That looks really yummy Kate. It's so totally different than the stuffing we make at our house that I'm intrigued! I love the idea of the sweet and savory, soft and crunchy, all together. Sounds delish!

  6. I know it is time for Thanksgiving food, but I have been looking everywhere for a good southern red velvet cupcake recipe. I had these cupcakes that were a little dense and had a little bit of a different texture then an airy cake. It was so yummy. I trust your guys recipes, so I thought I would check to see if you had one :o) Pre Christmas red cake!

  7. For a while there I was trying to figure out what kind of (salad) dressing had sausage in it. Sounded weird :).

  8. My family also makes cornbread dressing with sausage. It is so good, and Thanksgiving would not be the same without it!
    I love Heather's comment because I had a similar conversation last week! I kept describing my favorite thanksgiving dish, and my friend was completely confused–salad dressing with sausage?

  9. I have a silly question 🙂 It's my first Thanksgiving ever, just moved to US this year and I was wondering about difference between stuffing and dressing. I have gathered that stuffing goes in the turkey and dressing is made like this one but.. I found couple yummy sounding dressing recipes like yours with sausage and I would like to use the as stuffing. Can I do that? Thanks so much if you find time to answer 🙂

  10. Wild Cloudberry–First of all, where are you from originally? I just ask because my husband lived in Norway for a couple of years and he LOVES cloudberries!

    Secondly, that's not a dumb question at all! 🙂 You're right, stuffing goes inside the turkey and dressing is served kind of like a casserole on the side. A lot of people have gotten away from stuffing the bird (or at least eating the stuffing that was stuffed in the bird; some do it for flavoring the turkey) because it's difficult to achieve a safe temperature inside the stuffing without overcooking the breast meat. Sometimes I like to stuff the turkey with a little bit of dressing and discard that after the turkey has cooked and then have a casserole of dressing on the side, you know?

    Hope that helps and that you have a FABULOUS Thanksgiving! 🙂

  11. Hi Kate
    Thanks so much for the advice! I think I will do what you said you do, stuff a little bit and do the dressing as a casserole 🙂 Thanks again! Really helped alot 🙂

    I'm from Finland! Right next to Norway 🙂 Did your husband like living in Norway? I love the cloudberries too, named my etsy shop after my daughter, her middle name is Hilla which is cloudberry in Finnish 🙂 I haven't found the berries in the US yet, do you have any hints 🙂

  12. He loved Norway. Someday when we're independently wealthy ;), we'd love to go back so he can show me the sites. I thik the only place to find fresh cloudberries in the US is way up north like Minnesota and even farther north like Alaska. So until I move from the bayou to someplace WAY more arctic, we're stuck with the jars from Ikea! 🙂

  13. We were going to see family fcr the holiday but had to canx our trip since our dog (aka our furry child!) had a medical emergency….sooo since we're cooking our own meal I decided your stuff recipe sounded fabulous. I'm making it today….I'll let you know how it all turns out. It sounds divine!

  14. Can I just tell you that this stuffing was the best I have ever made. I made the sausage, onion, celery and mushroom and apple saute the night before – and I can tell you I could have eaten the whole thing for dinner even before I added the stuffing – DELISH!
    Thanks for the recipe – it's a new tradition in my house now!

  15. I've been making something similar to this every year for about the last 10 years. And it's one of those recipes that I never really write down. I like the Brownberry stuffing cubes, especially the sage and onion ones. Instead of grated apples, I use my homemade canned apple pie filling (store bought works, too). I've used slivered almonds with mixed success. Some people in the family really like them and others pick them out. Always through in some craisins and I have to make sure to add extra sage, usually when I'm cooking the sausage to mix it in well.

  16. Made this for Thanksgiving this year, and it was a big hit. The sausage was a yummy surprise in there. I also really loved the apple (I cut mine into small chunks) – I had never had stuffing with apple in it and it was YUMMY!!

  17. I have never been a stuffing fan. In fact I wasn't even going to make it this year- also being my first Thanksgiving cooking the meal on my own. My husband told me, however, that we HAD to have stuffing. I'm glad he insisted! It was delicious!!! Everyone raved. I used homemade bread cubes that I toasted made from Peasant Bread. It was very, very good. We love the pecans, cranberries and hot Italian sausage. Thank you to your Dad for meddling!!!

  18. I think this sounds so good that my mouth is watering! Having computer problems so don’t know if this will get to you. I do so enjoy being part of such an awesome site.

  19. This sounds really good. But, like your dad, I have to tinker with everything. Might have to cut the recipe in half. Sold the family over on deep fried turkey instead of roasted, but still have to have some traditional stuffing.

  20. This is just the way my Dad makes it too! I can’t wait to make it for my family reunion of a Thanksgiving this year! Happy Holidays!

  21. I don’t make stuffing very often (in fact the last recipe I used has comments from 2004) so when I learned that I was hosting this year’s Thanksgiving I turned to your recipes for some help. We just finished our turkey dinner and I made this stuffing and it was amazing! Easy to prepare and the sausage made it really tasty. My husband even had a second helping and he doesn’t even like stuffing! Way to go – another great recipe!!

  22. THANK you for this recipe! I’ve been searching for 30-some years for a misplaced stuffing/dressing recipe that everyone loved the one and only time I served it. I was very excited to see your recipe because it seemed the closest of any I’ve ever found. Served it yesterday and it was AWESOME. I will NOT lose this recipe! One note for the recipe: I should have used sodium-free chicken broth because mine came out a bit salty for my tastes (but not for anyone else at my table, just me); might have been the brand of sausage or dressing that we used too. Regardless, this dressing was very yummy and among the top favorite of the dishes I served yesterday. So thank you again!

  23. Approximately how many cups does this make? We will have 10 adults and 6 kids for thanksgiving dinner and I”m trying to figure out how many to make!

  24. Holy. Crap. I got this prepped today to make our Thanksgiving day a little simpler; and the few bites I snuck- AMAZING. I’ve never found a stuffing recipe that I felt was as good or better than my moms. This definitely takes the cake.

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