Thanksgiving is full of wonderful food traditions! But when you go gluten free (especially those first few years) the holidays can trigger feelings of loss and even grief. It’s easy to find yourself mired in thoughts about all the things you’ll never eat again…no more pies, no more dinner rolls, and no more stuffing! If you’re experiencing these feelings right now, you’re not alone. I felt the same way my first Thanksgiving sans gluten! Luckily, I’ve since discovered that there is no reason why you can’t enjoy all the things you did before…you’ll just have to make some adjustments, be a little creative, and do a little research.
One of the things that I missed the most about gluten-full Thanksgiving was the stuffing. I only ate it once a year, but boy did I enjoy when I did! For a lot of years, I just did without. Then a few companies started coming up with pre-made gluten free bread cubes (you can find them here), and I was thrilled to bring a few packages home in anticipation of finally having a Thanksgiving dinner without lonely turkey. The thing is, those stuffing cubes are (to put it lightly) not cheap! And, although stuffing is a once-a-year treat, little bread cubes also not the best thing to be filling up on. After a little research, we found a recipe for stuffing that calls for a lot of vegetables and even some fruit in addition to the bread…and it’s so much tastier than plain stuffing!
Gluten free sausage and apple stuffing is a wonderful addition to your holiday menu. Fresh onion, celery, and green apples make up quite a bit of the stuffing, and organic additive-free sausage gives it a savory, delicious flavor. I was skeptical about the apples, as I really just wanted a traditional stuffing. You really don’t taste apple, though…it gives the stuffing a wonderful depth of flavor, and keeps it moist (even when you reheat it the next day). If you don’t tell anyone that there are apples in it, they probably won’t guess!
After the first few years, I realized that I could avoid hunting down pre-made bread cubes and paying more than I’d like for them if I made the cubes myself. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before, and it does add a few steps to the process of making dinner. For me, however, it was worth it…and you have more control over what kind of bread you’re going to use if you cube it yourself! You can either lay the slices of a loaf of GF bread out on the counter over night (if you live in a dry climate) and let them get hard, or you can toast them in a toaster or in the oven. Then, just cube them with a knife (you can stack several slices of bread and cube them all at once, it doesn’t take as long as you’d think). If you’re a plan-ahead type of person, you can even stash the heels of your bread in the freezer all year long and then put them to good use for Thanksgiving.
The great thing is, you’ll use far more cups of cubed apples, onions and celery in this recipe than you will bread. Everything is cut to about the same size, and all the flavors will mingle so that you’ll feel like you’re eating mostly bread…when in reality, there are 14 cups of apple and vegetable to just 5 1/2 cups of bread. Add to that a pound of sausage (I use organic chicken sausage made at our local grocery store), lots of savory spices, fresh organic butter and some chicken stock and you’ve got stuffing that tastes amazing but has far more nutritional value than the traditional, boxed type. And if you’re not gluten intolerant, go ahead and make it with regular bread! It’s a wonderful recipe that goes great with any type of bread…sourdough would be amazing.
Start by getting out your largest bowl, a nice sharp knife, and a large cutting board. You’ll be chopping for a while! If you’re a good multi-tasker, put a pound of organic, additive free sausage in a pan and cook and scramble it until it’s done all the way through, stirring it off and on while you dice the bread (if you’re not using pre-made). Then, dice celery, onions, and peeled green apples…you’ll want to dice them the same size and shape as the bread. Toss all these things together in the bowl. Add the sausage and some of the drippings to the vegetables and bread. Then, melt some butter in the same pan and stir in seasonings…rubbed sage is the key seasoning in most stuffing recipes, and this one is no exception. Sage, garlic, rosemary and thyme go in with the butter. You won’t need any salt, as the sausage will provide plenty of that.
Stir the spices into the melted butter, and then add a cup of chicken stock to the pan. Carefully drizzle this mixture over the bowl full of chopped bread, apples and onions while you stir to make sure that everything is completely combined. If the mixture is too dry, pour a little more chicken stock over it.
Once the stuffing is mixed together, pack it lightly into a large, buttered baking dish. Cover it with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes, then remove the foil and cook for another 30 minutes, or until it starts to brown on top.
- 6 cups organic tart green apples, cubed (Granny Smith are good)
- 3 cups organic celery, chopped
- 5 cups organic onions, cubed (about 3 large onions)
- 1 pound organic, all natural sausage (make sure it's nitrate free)
- 5½ cups gluten free bread cubes (buy them, or make them from your favorite gluten free bread. If you don't need GF, regular bread is fine.)
- 1 cup organic, grass fed butter
- 1 tablespoon organic dried rubbed sage
- 2 teaspoons dried organic thyme leaves
- 1 teaspoon organic dried rosemary leaves
- 2 cloves organic garlic, peeled and pressed
- 2-3 cups organic chicken stock (here's how to make your own)
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- If you're making your own bread cubes, lay the bread slices out overnight to get stale or toast them in a toaster or the oven. Stack the bread 2 or 3 slices high and cut into cubes with a knife.
- Wash, trim and cube the onions and celery. Peel the apples and cube them...the cubes should be about the same size as the bread cubes. Put all the vegetables, apples, and bread in a very large bowl and set aside.
- Cook the sausage until done through. Add the sausage and 2 tablespoons of drippings from the pan to the bowl of cubes.
- Melt the butter, and add the spices and garlic to the butter and stir well, then add 2 cups of the chicken stock to the butter mixture.
- Drizzle the butter over the bread cube mixture slowly, while stirring. Make sure that all of the dressing is evenly covered with the butter and chicken stock mixture. If the mixture looks too dry, add a little more chicken stock.
- Transfer the dressing to a large buttered baking dish. Cover the dish with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. Remove the foil and bake another 30 minutes or so, until the dressing starts to brown on top.
- Serve hot. Store leftovers in the fridge in an airtight container.
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What’s your favorite kind of stuffing? Have you tried it gluten free?
Photography by Jennifer Leung Johnson