This Fennel Herb Stuffing is a savory Thanksgiving side dish! It's vegetarian, gluten free, and made with fresh herbs like sage and parsley.
There is nothing better than a big helping of homemade stuffing served alongside Thanksgiving turkey, mashed potatoes, and gravy. This Fresh Herb Stuffing is made with sautéed fennel and full of savory flavor.
Stuffing is one of the dishes I look forward to most every Thanksgiving. There is something so classic and comforting about it. I love the smell of all the herbs filling my house as the stuffing bakes in the oven.
There are lots of stuffing recipes out there, each one slightly different than the next. This version is made with fennel instead of celery, which gives it a distinct anise flavor.
The fennel is complemented by an assortment of fresh herbs, like sage, parsley, rosemary, and thyme. All of the herbs and veggies are sautéed in a skillet and combined with an egg mixture, which is poured over toasted bread and baked until firm.
The bottom portion of this stuffing has a soft, custard like texture and the top is buttery and crispy. The whole thing is garnished with fennel fronds and is completely irresistible.
- What Bread Makes The Best Stuffing?
- How To Toast Bread For Stuffing
- How To Add Flavor To Stuffing
- Ingredients For Fennel Herb Stuffing
- What Is Fennel?
- How To Cut Fennel
- How To Make The Egg Mixture
- Can I Use Dried Herbs?
- How To Keep Stuffing From Becoming Mushy
- How Long Does Stuffing Take To Bake?
- What To Serve With Fennel Stuffing
- Can Stuffing Be Made Ahead Of Time?
- How Long Does It Last In The Fridge?
- Can Stuffing Be Frozen?
- Fennel Herb Stuffing (Gluten Free)
What Bread Makes The Best Stuffing?
It's best to choose a hearty variety of white bread with a firm texture when making stuffing. Any type of sandwich bread, such as an Italian loaf, Brioche, or challah are perfect.
Be sure to avoid soft breads, fluffy breads and sandwich rolls, as these varieties are not dry and sturdy enough, and will result in a mushy texture after baked.
I also recommend sticking with white breads instead of multi-grain, seedy varieties, as these can result in an overly chewy and dense texture.
This recipe is gluten free and calls for white gluten free sandwich bread. Feel free to use any type of hearty white bread if gluten is not an issue for you.
It's very important that the bread is dried out before making stuffing, or the texture will be mushy after baked. The bread may be dried by leaving it out for a day, or it can be dried by toasting in the oven for a few minutes.
Dried bread holds up to all of the other ingredients that are added to it, soft bread easily breaks down, resulting in stuffing that is wet and soupy.
How To Toast Bread For Stuffing
- Heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Cut a loaf of hearty bread into 1 inch pieces (yields 10 cups of bread cubes). Try to make sure they're roughly the same size so that they toast evenly.
- Place the bread cubes onto 2 large baking sheets and place them into the oven for 12 minutes. The bread will dry out and become a little bit crusty.
- Remove when finished and set aside.
You can also dry the bread out by cutting a loaf into cubes, placing them on 2 baking sheet, and leaving the bread cubes at room temperature for a day or two.
How To Add Flavor To Stuffing
Stuffing is one of those dishes that can be customized by whatever is added to it. There are any number of things that can be added to stuffing, from sausage to apples to cranberries.
I love classic, savory flavors when it comes to Thanksgiving stuffing. This recipe is flavored with garlic, onions, fennel, and fresh herbs like sage, parsley, rosemary, and thyme.
Dried herbs may be used in place of fresh herbs, but fresh herbs will result in a more robust flavor overall.
It's important that the garlic, onions, and fennel are sautéed in butter or olive oil before adding to the stuffing. This will help to soften and caramelize them, while bringing out their natural sweetness and flavors.
Ingredients For Fennel Herb Stuffing
Here's what you'll need to make it.
- 1 loaf Hearty White Gluten Free Bread (or any hearty white bread if not gluten free) (yields 10 cups bread cubes)
- 6 cloves Garlic
- 1 Onion (white or yellow)
- 1 bulb Fennel
- 4 Tbsp. Unsalted Butter (split)
- 1 tsp. Kosher Salt (split)
- ½ tsp. Pepper
- 2 ½ cups Vegetable Broth (can use chicken broth)
- 5 Eggs
- ½ cup Fresh Parsley
- 1 Tbsp. Fresh Sage
- 1 Tbsp. Fresh Rosemary
- 1 Tbsp. Fresh Thyme
What Is Fennel?
Fennel is a bulbous, layered vegetable that has a distinctive licorice or anise flavor. It's commonly used in Italian and Mediterranean cooking.
It has a fresh flavor and can be eaten raw or cooked. Fennel can be sautéed, roasted, grilled, and added to everything from soups to salads to quiche.
Cooking fennel helps to bring out its natural sweetness. This recipe calls for fennel that is sautéed in butter on the stove top, which helps to soften it and bring out its sweetness and flavor.
How To Cut Fennel
Both the bulb and the fronds of the fennel are edible. I love to use the bulb in this stuffing and to garnish the top with the fronds for an extra burst of flavor.
It might seem complicated, but dicing the fennel is a simple process.
- Remove the stems and fronds from the fennel bulb with a knife. Reserve some of the fennel fronds for garnish.
- Remove the bottom, woody portion of the fennel bulb with a knife and discard. Remove any damaged outer layers from the bulb and discard.
- Chop the fennel bulb in half and dice the entire thing, just as you would an onion.
- Mince 6 cloves of garlic and dice 1 onion (white or yellow).
- Place a large skillet on the stove top and heat to medium. Add 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter to the skillet.
- Once the butter has melted, add the diced fennel and ¼ tsp. kosher salt. Sauté the fennel for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- After the fennel has softened slightly, add the minced garlic and onions. Sauté for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Remove the skillet from the heat and set aside.
This process may be completed at the same time the bread is toasted in the oven.
How To Make The Egg Mixture
The process of making stuffing is much like that of bread pudding. The dried bread cubes are tossed in an egg mixture and baked until firm. It's basically a savory version of bread pudding.
The egg mixture is prepared by combining eggs, vegetable broth, fresh herbs, salt and pepper, and the cooled fennel mixture in a large bowl.
- Start by mincing the fresh herbs. Mince ½ cup parsley (curly or Italian flat parsley) and 1 Tbsp. each fresh sage, rosemary, and thyme.
- Add 5 eggs to a large bowl and whisk together with 2 ½ cups vegetable broth (or chicken broth), ¾ tsp. kosher salt, and ½ tsp. pepper.
- Add the minced herbs and the cooled sautéed garlic, onion, and fennel mixture. Stir until combined.
It's important that the fennel mixture has cooled a bit, so that it doesn't cook the eggs.
Can I Use Dried Herbs?
You can use dried herbs instead of fresh herbs if you prefer. It's important to note that dried herbs will result in less flavor overall, as fresh herbs are more robust.
In general, it's best to use ⅓ dried herbs in place of fresh herbs.
If using dried herbs, use 3 Tbsp. dried parsley instead of ½ cup fresh parsley and 1 tsp. each of dried sage, rosemary, and thyme in place of fresh.
How To Keep Stuffing From Becoming Mushy
This Fennel Herb Stuffing is anything but mushy. The top of the stuffing becomes quite crispy after it bakes.
Here are a few tips to keep stuffing from becoming mushy.
- Use a hearty, thick bread instead of soft bread.
- Cut the bread into cubes and allow to dry at room temperature, or toast in the oven to dry out the bread.
- Make sure the stuffing is fully cooked. Undercooked stuffing result in a mushy texture.
- Do not bake the stuffing at too high a temperature, or it may dry out.
- Don't overload the stuffing with extra ingredients, especially those with a high water content.
Once all of the components are ready, it's time to assemble the stuffing.
- Generously grease a 9x13 inch casserole dish or cake pan. This will help to prevent the stuffing from sticking to the dish as it bakes.
- Place the toasted bread cubes into the greased casserole dish (roughly 10 cups toasted bread cubes).
- Pour the egg mixture over the bread cubes. Toss the toasted bread in the egg mixture with a large spoon, making sure that it is completely coated in the mixture.
- Cut 3 Tbsp. of unsalted butter into pieces and dot the top of the stuffing mixture with it. The butter will melt as it cooks and make the top nice and golden.
How Long Does Stuffing Take To Bake?
This Fennel Herb Stuffing takes 35-40 minutes to bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Cover the casserole dish with foil and bake for 20 minutes.
- After 20 minutes, remove the foil and bake for an additional 35-40 minutes.
- The stuffing is done when the texture is firm and the top is golden brown and slightly crispy.
- Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly before serving.
The stuffing itself should be moist and the top crispy. It's normal for the bread cubes on top of the stuffing to look like golden brown croutons.
Looking for dessert to serve with your stuffing? Don't miss these recipes!
- Maple Bourbon Pecan Pie
- Cast Iron Skillet Apple Crisp
- Apple Pie From Scratch
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- Maple Walnut Pie
- Pumpkin Coffee Cake
- Homemade Apple Galette
- Ina Garten Apple Crisp
What To Serve With Fennel Stuffing
Garnish this stuffing with a generous portion of the fennel fronds. Simply mince some of the fennel fronds (the bushy green portion) and sprinkle them over the top of the stuffing.
The fronds reinforce the fennel flavor and brighten up the dish.
Stuffing is a commonly served during Thanksgiving and pairs perfectly with a traditional holiday dinner like turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, and pie.
Can Stuffing Be Made Ahead Of Time?
For food safety, I do not recommend making this stuffing ahead of time. It's best to combine all of the ingredients and bake the day its served.
The bread may be diced and laid out on baking sheets to dry the day before serving. This will eliminate the need to toast the bread in the oven and help to save time the day the stuffing is assembled and cooked.
How Long Does It Last In The Fridge?
Any leftovers may be stored for 3-4 days in an airtight container in the fridge.
Be sure to allow the stuffing to cool completely before transferring to the refrigerator for storage.
Can Stuffing Be Frozen?
Yes, leftover cooked stuffing may be frozen.
How To Freeze
- Transfer any leftover stuffing to heavy-duty freezer bags or freezer-safe storage containers, label with the date, and store up to 3 months.
- The stuffing may be split into portions and stored in separate bags or containers.
How To Reheat
- Transfer the leftover stuffing to the refrigerator 24 hours before reheating.
- The stuffing may be reheated in the microwave or oven.
- If reheating in the oven, transfer the thawed stuffing to an oven-safe pan. Cook for 30-35 minutes at 325 degrees Fahrenheit, or until heated through.
- Feel free to add some broth or water if the stuffing has dried out a bit.
Planning a Thanksgiving menu? Check out these recipes!
- Savory Mashed Sweet Potatoes
- Green Bean Casserole
- Maple Mustard Brussels Sprouts
- Wild Rice Butternut Squash Salad
- Roasted Green Beans
- Maple Sesame Brussels Sprouts
- Butternut Squash Arugula Salad
- Au Gratin Potatoes
- Roasted Pumpkin Chickpea Salad
- Mashed Kohlrabi
Love stuffing? Check out this Wild Rice Stuffing!
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Fennel Herb Stuffing (Gluten Free)
- 1 loaf gluten free sandwich bread or any hearty white bread if not gluten free
- 6 cloves garlic
- 1 onion white or yellow
- 1 bulb fennel
- 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter split
- 2 ½ cups vegetable broth or chicken broth
- 5 eggs
- 1 tsp. kosher salt split
- ½ tsp. pepper split
- ½ cup parsley or 3 Tbsp. dried parsley
- 1 Tbsp. sage or 1 tsp. dried sage
- 1 Tbsp. rosemary or 1 tsp. dried rosemary
- 1 Tbsp. thyme or 1 tsp. dried thyme
- Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Cut a loaf of hearty gluten free white bread into 1 inch pieces (or any hearty white bread if not gluten free) (yields 10 cups of bread cubes). Make sure the bread is roughly the same size so that they toast evenly.
- Place the bread cubes onto 2 large baking sheets and place them into the oven for 12 minutes. The bread will dry out and become a little bit crusty. Remove baking sheets from oven and set aside.
- Remove the stems and fronds from the fennel bulb with a knife. Reserve some of the fennel fronds for garnish. Remove the bottom, woody portion of the fennel bulb with a knife and discard. Remove any damaged outer layers from the bulb and discard.
- Chop the fennel bulb in half and dice the entire thing, just as you would an onion.
- Mince 6 cloves of garlic and 1 onion (white or yellow).
- After the fennel has softened slightly, add the minced garlic and onions. Sauté for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the skillet from the heat and set aside to cool.
- Mince ½ cup parsley (curly or Italian flat parsley) and 1 Tbsp. each fresh sage, rosemary, and thyme.
- Generously grease a 9x13 inch casserole dish with butter. Pour the toasted bread cubes (10 cups) into the casserole dish. Pour the egg mixture over the bread cubes. Toss the toasted bread in the egg mixture with a large spoon, making sure that it is completely coated in the mixture.
- Cut 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter into pieces and dot the top of the stuffing.
- Cover the casserole dish with foil and bake for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, remove the foil and cook for another 15-20 minutes. The stuffing is done when it is firm and the top is golden brown and slightly crispy. Remove the stuffing from the oven.
- To Serve: Mince some of the fennel fronds and sprinkle a generous amount over the top of the stuffing.