Thanksgiving Stuffing with Sausage and Apples
Thanksgiving Stuffing with Sausage and Apples

Apple Sausage Filling is a delicious twist on the classic Thanksgiving filling to serve with your holiday bird. It’s easy to make with sausage, toasted sourdough and just a touch of sweetness from diced apples.

In this recipe

  • Filling vs Dressing
  • What sausage to use
  • The best bread for filling
  • how much salt
  • Stuffing in a turkey
  • Make-ahead tips
  • Save and warm up
  • swaps and subs

Sides are the center of the Thanksgiving table. I don’t care what anyone says about this magnificent bird that so often takes center stage. As beautiful as this bird is, the pages will always have my heart. And the king of side dishes is Thanksgiving filling.

Oh, I know what you’re thinking: “How could she forget the mashed potatoes!” or “Um, hello, green bean casserole! Who doesn’t love green bean casserole!”

For the record, I love gravy-soaked potatoes and green bean casserole, but it’s the distinct and homey scent of sage rising from a hot filled casserole dish that reminds me of the holidays.

Filling vs Dressing

Technically, the stuffing inside the bird is cooked and the dressing baked in a casserole dish or 9″ x 13″ skillet, but most people use the words interchangeably to mean cubed bread with flavors served at Thanksgiving.

This recipe is for baking in a 9″ x 13″ dish rather than the turkey, but I call it a stuffing because I think dressing is served on top of salads.

What is the best sausage for stuffing?

I’d rather use a one-pound country or breakfast sausage than, say, an Italian sausage. I also tend to use turkey sausage just because it’s a bit leaner, but you can really use whatever you prefer.

What is the best bread for filling?

The filling and what you put in it varies greatly from region to region. I prefer a nice crunchy sourdough bread. I think the slight spiciness of the sourdough pairs well with the earthy flavors of sage and thyme and the sweetness of the cooked onions and apples. I don’t even bother to cut the crust off the bread.

What are the best apples for stuffing?

When developing this recipe, I made a version with apples and a version with pears. Both versions were delicious, but I chose apples because I liked the touch of color.

Any sweet apple that’s good for pies will be good in it. I prefer Braeburn or Gala. I would stay away from yellow and red. They tend to get too soft and get a little mushy. For more information on which apple varieties are best for baking, check out our guide to apples.

The sausage determines the salt

The type of sausage you use will greatly affect the flavor and saltiness of the dish. I made this once with Honey Suckle White Ground Breakfast Turkey Sausage and found I had to add about 1/2 teaspoon of salt to the filling mixture. But when I used ground breakfast pork sausage from my butcher, no extra salt was needed, and if I had added the extra salt it would have been too salty.

So how much salt should you add? Once you cook the filling in the pan, taste with a fork before pouring the broth over it. If you feel more salt is needed, add it.

Can you cook this stuffing in a bird?

yes you sure can Cooking the stuffing inside the bird will take longer for the bird to cook, so be prepared. Also, you need to make sure the stuffing, not just the turkey, reaches 165°F. For details on how to safely prepare the stuffing in a turkey, visit the USDA’s page here.

Make-Ahead Tips for Thanksgiving Filling

yes you can do that in advance

  • Four days before: Toast the bread and store in an airtight container on your counter
  • A day before: Boil the base for the filling and add the broth. Cool it down and then store it in the refrigerator. Combine it with the toasted bread and bake according to directions on the day you plan to eat it.
  • One day before – variant 2: You can make the whole dish the day before, then store it covered in the fridge and reheat in a 350°F degree oven for 20 minutes before serving.

How to store and reheat Thanksgiving filling

Refrigerate: To store leftovers, cool them completely and then cover tightly. Store in the fridge for up to 5 days. Heat on the stove and add a little more broth when the filling has dried. Or reheat in the microwave until just heated through.

Freeze: Freeze leftover stuffing in a freezer bag (squeeze out as much air as possible) for up to 3 months. Thaw in the fridge. Heat on the stove and add a little more broth when the filling has dried. Or reheat in the microwave until just heated through.

swaps and subs

  • Use pears instead of apples.
  • Replace the 2 tablespoons of fresh sage with 2 teaspoons of dried sage.
  • Replace the 2 teaspoons dried thyme with 3 tablespoons fresh thyme.
  • Use turkey or vegetable broth instead of chicken broth.
  • Add chopped dates or dried cranberries.

Need more Thanksgiving side ideas?

  • Slow cooker mashed potatoes
  • Roasted Acorn Squash with Butter and Brown Sugar
  • potato bread
  • Green bean casserole from scratch
  • Giblet sauce

From the editors of Simply Recipes

Thanksgiving stuffing with sausage and apples

preparation time
30 minutes

cooking time
50 minutes

total time
80 minutes

12 servings

Sometimes the filling can stick to the aluminum foil. It’s worth spraying the foil with cooking spray or brushing with oil before covering.

I usually grab a round of Whole Foods sourdough bread. I can get about 8 cups of diced bread from about half a traditional round. I just cut it open. This beautiful crust does not need to be removed.


For the toasted bread:

  • 1 lb Sour Dough Bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (8 cups)

  • 3 tablespoon olive oil

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

For the filling:

  • 1 lb pork or turkey sausage

  • 6 stems Celery, diced (2 cups)

  • 2 big Gala apples

  • 1 Middle Onion, diced (1 cup)

  • 2 tablespoon chopped fresh sage

  • 2 teaspoon dried thyme

  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

  • 1 tablespoon Apple Cider Vinegar

  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 2 cups low sodium chicken broth


  1. Preheat the oven:

    Preheat oven to 425°F.

  2. Toast bread cubes:

    Spread the bread cubes on a large baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Use your hands to toss and coat the bread. Roast in the oven for 10 minutes until the cubes are lightly toasted and have taken on some colour. When they’re done, they’re still tender and mushy on the inside, but toasted and stiff on the outside. Allow to cool, then transfer to a large mixing bowl.

  3. Prepare your casserole dish:

    Butter a 9 x 13 inch baking dish and set aside.

  4. Cooking ingredients for the filling:

    Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausage and break it up as you go. Let it brown and release some moisture. This should take about 5 to 7 minutes.

    Add the celery, apples, onion, sage, thyme, and pepper to the pan. Scrape off any browned bits (stock) from the sausage. Fry for about 10 to 12 minutes, stirring only occasionally, because the fruit and vegetables should also take on some color.

    Once the veggies are slightly browned and softened, add the apple cider vinegar. Stir to coat and cook for another minute. Try the dish with a piece of toasted bread. Decide if it needs more salt. If yes, add it now. Add the broth and scrape the remaining stock off the bottom of the pan. Stir well.

  5. Combine everything together:

    Gently pour the contents of the pan over the bread in the mixing bowl. Stir to combine, then pour into prepared casserole dish.

  6. Cover and bake:

    Spray one side of the foil with cooking spray or brush with oil to prevent the filling from sticking to the top.

    Cover the casserole dish with the aluminum foil oil side down, then place in the oven for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, remove the foil and bake for another 20 minutes. When done, the filling will look moist but have a nice crunchy texture on top and a golden color.

nutritional information (per serving)
298 calories
15g Fat
29g carbohydrates
13g protein
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