Note: I have updated this recipe since originally posting it. I’ve added sausage as an optional ingredient, reduced the amount of olive oil, and improved the cooking method slightly. I highly recommend the sausage, which gives the stuffing a wonderful savory flavor– but if you’d prefer to keep it vegetarian, it’s still a great stuffing without it.
When Thanksgiving rolls around, we expect certain foods to be on the buffet. Like stuffing. Or dressing. Dressing, or stuffing? A stuffing by any other name…
Some people say that it should be called dressing unless it’s cooked inside the bird. But in our family, it’s always been called stuffing, so that’s what I call it. I don’t actually stuff my turkey, though. I follow the Alton Brown school of thought; he stuffs the turkey with aromatics, because he feels that stuffing draws moisture out of the bird (making the meat drier). But everybody expects a little stuffing with their Thanksgiving meal, whether you’re stuffing a turkey or not, so I like to prepare a batch in the slow cooker. This frees up oven space and makes the holiday prep just a little less manic. Knowing that the stuffing is slowly cooking, filling the air with delicious herby aroma, gives me one less thing to worry about.
I make my Thanksgiving stuffing with the ultimate Jewish bread– challah! When cubed and toasted, this eggy bread becomes the perfect sponge for savory chicken broth and herbs. This Challah Slow Cooker Stuffing doesn’t need butter or margarine (and those unnecessary calories) to taste great. It has plenty of flavor and mouth-watering aroma from fresh herbs, a good quality chicken broth, and sautéed vegetables.
Think of this stuffing recipe as a base; you can add unique touches to make it your own. Some people integrate different spices, dried cranberries or roasted turkey giblets. This year I’m thinking about adding some kosher Merguez sausage to mine for a spicy kick!
Tip: If you want an extra savory flavor in the stuffing, omit the 1 tsp salt added with the broth. Instead, dissolve 1 tsp of chicken consomme powder (or a bouillon cube) into the broth before adding to the challah cubes. Taste the stuffing and season with additional salt at the end of cooking, if desired– chicken powder can be quite salty, so be sure to taste and season with care.
So what do you call it… stuffing? Dressing? Or both?
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- 12 oz turkey or chicken sausage, ground or removed from casing (optional - omit for vegetarian or vegan)
- 1 large challah (about 1 ½ lbs - use a vegan challah for vegan)
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (or 6 tbsp if not using sausage)
- 1 large sweet yellow onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 lb carrots, peeled and chopped
- 1 lb celery, peeled and chopped
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
- 1 tbsp fresh sage, chopped (or 1 ½ tsp dried sage)
- 1 tbsp fresh marjoram, chopped (or 1 ½ tsp dried marjoram)
- 2 tsp fresh oregano, chopped (or 1 tsp dried oregano)
- 1 quart chicken broth (you probably will not need all of the broth, start with 2 1/2 cups per instructions below - substitute vegetable broth to make vegetarian or vegan)
- 1 lb sliced white mushrooms
- 2 large eggs, beaten (use 6 tbsp aquafaba for vegan)
- Salt and pepper
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Cut the challah into ½ inch cubes. Spread the cubes out across two baking sheets. Place the trays in the oven for about 12 minutes, switching trays on racks halfway through cooking. The challah cubes should be toasted and slightly golden. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
- Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium high. Add sausage to the pan and cook until browned. Transfer to a bowl using a slotted spoon and reserve for later. If you are not using sausage, see note at the end of this recipe.
- Add the onions, carrots and celery to the same pan and sauté for 5-6 minutes until softened and fragrant. Add garlic and sauté for an additional 2 minutes.
- Pour 2 ½ cups of chicken broth into the pan along with 1 tsp of salt and ½ tsp of black pepper. Remove from heat. Reserve remaining chicken broth.
- Heat the remaining 2 tbsp of olive oil in a clean skillet over medium high heat. Add sliced mushrooms to the skillet. Sauté for 10 minutes, until the mushrooms begin to brown and shrink in size. Remove from heat. You may need to cook the mushrooms in two batches depending on the size of your skillet.
- In a very large mixing bowl, combine challah cubes, sausage, vegetable/chicken broth mixture, mushrooms and herbs. Stir to blend all ingredients, making sure the challah cubes are evenly moistened. Add the beaten eggs to the mixture and stir until they are fully incorporated into the stuffing. The mixture may seem dry now, but wait to add more broth until it’s had a chance to cook—the liquid will slowly be absorbed by the bread.
- Spray the slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray; then pour in the challah mixture.Set slow cooker on high heat and cover the pot. Cook for 30 minutes. Remove the cover and stir to redistribute the liquid throughout the stuffing, then check the stuffing for dryness. If it still seems dry, drizzle a little more broth over the top of the stuffing and stir again. Return the lid and reduce heat to low.
- Let cook on low for 4 hours, checking and stirring every hour to make sure the stuffing isn’t too dry. If it is, add more broth—carefully, as it can easily go from the right texture to overly wet and mushy.After 4 hours, stir, taste, and add more salt or pepper, if desired. Switch to warm setting until ready to serve.
- Variation: If you prefer to make your stuffing without sausage, skip that step and begin by first sautéing the onions, carrots and celery in 6 tbsp of olive oil, then continue the recipe as written, omitting the sausage.