Bread Stuffing with Bacon, Apples, Sage, and Caramelized Onions

This bread stuffing with bacon, apples, sage, and caramelized onions is classic Thanksgiving fare and can be cooked inside or outside the turkey.

A cooked turkey filled with bread stuffing with bacon, apples, sage, and caramelized onions on a white platter.

To make this stuffing, you’ll need to first dry the bread. Spread the bread cubes out onto 2 large baking sheets and dry in a 300°F (150°C) oven for 30 to 60 minutes. Let the bread cool before using in the stuffing.–Editors at America’s Test Kitchen

LC Storied Stuffing Note

This recipe turns out the stuffing of our dreams. Or at least the stuffing our day dreams, seeing as it’s the bread stuffing that we’d always imagined making in our Rockwell-ian musings about what Thanksgiving could be like. The pound of bacon may have something to do with it. But don’t make yourself wait for this storied stuffing. Try it tonight.

Bread Stuffing with Bacon and Apples

  • Quick Glance
  • (4)
  • 25 M
  • 1 H
  • Makes about 12 cups
5/5 - 4 reviews
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Cook the bacon in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat until crisp and browned, about 12 minutes. Remove the bacon from the pan with a slotted spoon and transfer it to paper towels to drain. Pour off all but 3 tablespoons bacon drippings.

Increase the heat under the skillet to medium-high and add the onions and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook until the onions are golden in color, making sure to occasionally stir and scrape the sides and bottom of the pan, about 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and continue to cook, stirring more often to prevent burning, until the onions are deep golden brown, another 5 minutes. Add the apples and continue to cook another 5 minutes.

Transfer the contents of the pan to a large bowl and add the parsley, sage, remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt, and the pepper and mix to combine. Add the bread and gently stir again.

Whisk 1 cup broth and the eggs together in a small bowl. If baking the stuffing outside the turkey in a baking dish, add another 1/2 cup broth to the egg mixture. Pour the mixture over the bread, add the bacon, and gently toss until thoroughly combined. Cover the baking dish with foil and bake in any temperature oven until warmed through, at least 30 minutes. If a crisp surface is desired, uncover the stuffing and bake for at least 15 minutes more. If baking the stuffing inside the turkey, cram the stuffing into your hen and roast according to whatever recipe you’re using for the turkey.

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    Recipe Testers Reviews

    Apple, bacon, sage, AND caramelized onions! I am total smitten with this stuffing. We enjoy bread stuffing throughout the cooler months, not just for the holidays, often with a roasted chicken or pork chops. So I thought I would try the recipe scaled back to yield only 4 cups, which is 1/3 the recipe. I found no issues by reducing the yield, and in fact, 4 cups seemed like it would stuff a good-size turkey without having any leftovers to bake off on the side. Since some readers may shy away from preparing stuffing inside a bird, I also tested the recipe in a casserole dish. It became apparent that the amount of liquid in the original recipe accounts for how much more the liquid will be absorbed from the meat during roasting. If you choose to prepare the dressing on the side and not stuffed inside the bird, add 3/4 cup more broth during the last step for the full 12-cup recipe yield. I baked it, covered, in a 325°F oven for 20 minutes, then another 10 uncovered until golden brown. Super delicious!

    This stuffing awakens memories of home and family. It’s easy to prepare, perfumed the house, and was even better to eat. I found that 2 loaves bakery bread gave me the 12 cups bread cubes, plus a little extra. I used only the 12 cups called for in the recipe. I did have to search for fresh sage but was finally able to find it. I think a suggestion for the use of dried sage would be helpful if fresh was not available. The apples added a nice sweetness to the stuffing and the bacon added a delicate smokiness. We baked this in the oven as we were smoking our turkey outside. I baked the stuffing with 4 turkey thighs on top to add that "stuffed turkey" flavor we all wanted. The end result was a stuffing that was moist, delicious, and brought back memories of past family gatherings. This recipe is a real keeper for the holidays.

    This stuffing had all of the flavors of Thanksgiving rolled into one dish—all that was missing was the turkey. I have to admit, however, that I'm not a big fan of cooking stuffing inside of a turkey. So what I did was bake this in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish (rubbed with unsalted butter) as a dressing instead. I used day old French bread which was already good and hard. Since it was just the of us eating, I halved the recipe. I used about 3/4 cup chicken broth as opposed to the recommended 1/2 cup in the halved recipe version, and I used 2 eggs. I liked the sweetness of the caramelized onions, the saltiness of the bacon, the tart bite of the apple, and the earthy flavor only sage can impart to a fall dish like this. The only other thing I would recommend is that if you serve this as a dressing as opposed to a stuffing, for the liquid that you add to the bread mixture, maybe use half chicken stock and half heavy cream. I think that would give it an additional richness to hold it all together! I baked this as a dressing at 375°F for 50 minutes.

    I loved the mix of flavors in this stuffing. Salty and smoky from the bacon, sweet from the apples, and savory from the onions. A truly well-rounded dish that would be a great side dish to any number of main courses, not just the Thanksgiving turkey. I baked the stuffing in a dish, not inside the turkey. I covered my dish with foil to retain moisture and removed the foil in the last few minutes to promote browning. Also, I added a bit more broth than called for since I thought it looked a little dry prior to finishing in the oven.


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    1. This was my “something new” for our Thanksgiving table this year. I really liked it. The sweetness of the apples and the smokiness of the bacon were perfect together. The only change I will make next time I make this is putting it in a wider dish. I used a small rectangular dish to save on oven space so I did not get the crispy texture I wanted. It was still really good. This one is a keeper!

    2. can you prepare this stuffing in a baking dish a day in advance and then cook when the turkey comes out of the oven and is resting before carving?

    3. Last year was my second time making turkey with stuffing, and I have to say that I love this recipe, everyone loved it including my mother-in-law.

      1. Gbariela, first, congrats on jumping in and making the turkey! We need more courageous cooks like you. And, second, if this stuffing is MIL-approved, well, that’s certainly saying a lot!

    4. Delicious! First attempt for Thanksgiving and I did half quantity recipe. Well received-bowl was cleaned out! Will be making again for Christmas!

        1. Thanks, David! It was a great day! Just checking back in again on the website in readiness for more Christmas stuffing! …..I think full quantity recipe cook up is a must for Christmas! Merry Christmas everyone! X

    5. We were guests at friends’ for Thanksgiving, so we didn’t have to do any of the heavy-lifting cooking. I was asked to bring a stuffing (a dressing, really, since it had to be cooked outside of the turkey), and I chose this one. It was a hit. My only problem was proportion. The recipe says to use three pounds of bread, which I did. But I cut up all three loaves and ended up with 19 cups of cubes. So I used just 12, as the recipe states. Different breads, even from the same manufacturer (I used Pepperidge Farms), can weigh the same but have different volume. The supermarket had only two sandwich loaves left, so for the third loaf I reached for a white bread, which was almost 1/3 smaller than the other two. Be forewarned: Use only 12 cups of cubes for maximum flavor.

    6. I made this recipe (originally from Cooks Illustrated) a few years ago, and it is definitely one of the best stuffings I’ve ever made. How can you go wrong with carmelized onions and a pound of bacon!

          1. I heard from another tester, Helen, and this is what she had to say…

            “It’s very similar to my grandmother’s stuffing. The bacon will not stay crunchy, especially if you use it to stuff the bird. It even softens a bit when baked as a dressing. The turkey juices and broth will soften not only the dried bread but the bacon, too. To counteract this, I make sure the bacon is really browned (close to but not burnt) so when it softens it isn’t that icky sort of soft but more like medium or hard-cooked bacon. What my grandmother used to do, and what I do too when I make her stuffing, is to use the leftover bacon drippings mixed with broth to moisten the bread. It sort of bumps up the bacon flavour a bit. And I usually cut the 1/4-inch strips in half across their middle so a they’re a bit smaller so there’s less chance of getting floppy. If she’s concerned with it going too soggy, she could decrease the amount of broth by 1/4 cup so she packs a drier stuffing into the bird and let the turkey juices do the rest.”

            Good luck with your stuffing and have a happy Thanksgiving!

        1. Hi Marion,

          Like many recipes that use crisp bacon for flavor the addition of moisture will make the bacon less crisp and more toothsome-sort of like what you’d find in a bowl of chowder. Just be sure to get the bacon good and browned in step 1. If you plan to cook the stuffing in the turkey then the bacon will not be crisp, meaty-YES but soggy-NO.

          You might consider following the directions for baking the stuffing outside the bird and toasting the top without foil as directed. As a matter of fact, 12 cups of stuffing will mean you will have a good deal left for a side casserole dish. Why not sprinkle the bacon on top and not mix it in for the casserole. You will have crisp bacon this way and both textures options for your family.

          Happy Thanksgiving!!

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