What's the Difference Between Stuffing and Dressing?

You don’t want to confuse the two.

September 07, 2021
Oyster Dressing

In many homes, the words "stuffing" and "dressing" are used interchangeably to reference that steamy mixture of bread, veggies and herbs that takes second seat next to the turkey at your Thanksgiving table. Though for some, the loyalty to either stuffing or dressing over the other runs deep. But is there really a difference between stuffing and dressing? Which elements of the dishes dictate their classification as one and not the other? How should you cook the stuffing or dressing to ensure that it’s served piping hot and moist and has a subtle, crisp top? We have the answers, plus four foolproof recipes that will steal the side dish show at your Thanksgiving dinner.

What Is Stuffing?

As its name suggests, stuffing is traditionally stuffed into the cavity of the turkey and roasted inside of it. Though this cooking method allows the bread to absorb all of those tasty turkey juices, it also poses a slight sanitation risk because of the raw bird. If you’re set on serving a traditional stuffing inside the turkey, the bread and the turkey thighs must be cooked to a minimum temperature of 165 degrees F.

What Is Dressing?

Classic dressings are most often roasted separately from and served alongside the turkey, not inside of it, though their ingredients can be identical to stuffings’. Because there’s no concern of cross-contamination when preparing unstuffed dressing, there’s no minimum cooking temperature that must be reached. If you want your dressing to boast a bit of crunch, roast it uncovered for the last 10 to 15 minutes of cooking to crisp the top layer of bread.

Stuffing and Dressing Recipes

Many Southerners are die-hard dressing fans, while Northerners tend to prefer simple stuffings, but each family has its own Turkey Day traditions. At my Thanksgiving table in Michigan, all of the (many, many) selections served are called stuffing though none are actually stuffed inside the bird. Check out one of our classic and creative stuffing and dressing recipes below.

Our test kitchen made stuffing every which way so you don’t have to. Bringing you the only stuffing recipe you’ll ever need, filled with all sorts of goodies including sausage and mushrooms, classic Thanksgiving flavors like onion, celery and fresh herbs.

Food Network's Vegan Stuffing For Vegan and Vegetarian Thanksgiving as seen on Food Network

Food Network's Vegan Stuffing For Vegan and Vegetarian Thanksgiving as seen on Food Network

Photo by: Stephen Johnson ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Stephen Johnson, 2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Sometimes the best way to feed every dietary restriction is to make one dish that everyone can eat. Trust us, no one will be missing the eggs or butter in this flavorful, tender but crisp stuffing. The secret ingredient? Homemade stock made from green tea and sauteed vegetables.


This dressing involves sweet Italian fennel sausage and leeks and can be baked in the turkey or in a separate casserole dish.


Photo by: Ryan Dausch

Ryan Dausch

Some people fall into the bread stuffing camp and others fall into the cornbread stuffing camp. For the others: this might just become your g0-to cornbread stuffing recipe, thanks to spice-packed andouille which infuses the whole dish with enormous amounts of flavor.

It’s no coincidence that this recipe has over 200 five-star reviews. Some fans have been making the recipe for over 10 years, lauding the balanced flavor and forgiving recipe which takes well to flavor and ingredient substitutes. Some make it on Thanksgiving, some say it’s easy enough for a weeknight dinner.

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