Slow Cooker Stuffing with Apples Cranberries and Pecans

Slow Cooker Stuffing will forever change the way you make your holiday stuffing. This is simply, hands down, the best crock pot recipe to make your holiday meal prep easier!

One of the questions I am asked most often (and struggle the most to answer) is “Do you have any kitchen hacks?” Now thanks to this Slow Cooker Stuffing, instead of mumbling something about using a water bottle to separate eggs or a butane torch to open a bottle of wine (has anyone actually tried this?), I finally have a helpful response.

a crock pot full of slow cooker stuffing

Make your bread stuffing in the crockpot.

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Not only is stuffing made in a slow cooker more low maintenance than traditional stuffing cooked in the oven, it actually tastes better. The Slow Cooker Stuffing stayed more moist in the center yet still took on the delightfully crispy, golden edges I adore.

Plus, outsourcing the stuffing to the slow cooker means your coveted oven space will be free for other endeavors on Thanksgiving and beyond.

And by “endeavors,” I mean whiskey pecan-topped Glazed Sweet Potatoes, homemade Scalloped Potatoes with Goat Cheese, Healthy Sweet Potato Casserole, and Pumpkin Pecan Pie.

I suppose you might want to squeeze the turkey in the oven too.

Slow Cooker Stuffing – An Oven Space Saver!

uncooked holiday stuffing in a slow cooker

Whenever someone tells me that they don’t care for Thanksgiving stuffing, a negative pronouncement I’ve heard with surprising frequenting considering that the recipe’s primary ingredient is also one of the world’s most popular foods (bread), it makes me a little bit sad inside.

It also makes me want to demand in a tone that conveys shock-bordering-on-horror “HOW DO YOU NOT LIKE STUFFING???”

I do have a flair for the dramatic.

I’ve improved my ability to keep my stuffing-related emotional outbursts in check, replacing them with a polite, civilized follow-up question instead: “Oh really? Why not?”

Nine times out of ten, anyone I’ve met who doesn’t like stuffing has only had experienced the boxed stuff. I have nothing against a quality shortcut every now and then, but boxed stuffing and real-deal, from-scratch stuffing couldn’t be more different.

Any of the boxed stuffing mixes I’ve tried are hard, dry, micro bread cubes that are doused in chicken stock, mixed with a bland spice packet, and emerge from the oven in one of two states: bone dry or unappetizingly soggy. No thank you. My limited Thanksgiving stomach real estate is better allotted elsewhere.

Homemade bread stuffing, however? Now THAT is a completely different story!

slow cooker stuffing being stirred with a wooden spoon

Important Ingredients for the BEST Slow Cooker Stuffing

The beauty of homemade stuffing, in addition to the fact that you can (and should) use a good-quality artisan bread (may I suggest making a loaf of Angie’s Homemade Artisan Bread?) , is all of the different, delicious ways you can elevate its flavor.

I’ve made a dozen different stuffing varieties over the years: Bacon Mushroom Stuffing, Crock Pot Stuffing with Wild Rice, Stuffing Muffins, Cornbread Sausage Stuffing. I adore each, but today’s Slow Cooker Stuffing is the combination of ingredients I return to again and again.

  • Apples
  • cranberries
  • fresh sage

These are my core stuffing flavors, and I’ve found them to be the most universally crowd pleasing too. If you’d like to take this Slow Cooker Stuffing with apples to the next level, you can add any mix of:

  • sautéed sausage (I use turkey or chicken sausage)
  • toasted chopped pecans, or
  • sautéed mushrooms

Just be sure to watch the capacity of your crock pot. You may need to cut down on the other mix-ins a bit to ensure it doesn’t overflow.

wooden spoon scooping a serving of slow cooker stuffing from a crock pot

Inquiring minds want to know: what is the difference between stuffing and dressing?

Technically Thanksgiving stuffing is baked inside the turkey (hence the name “stuffing”), while dressing is baked in a separate pan. Baking stuffing inside the bird is generally not recommended, as the turkey tends to dry out before the stuffing reaches a safe temperature to eat…and because if your family is anything like mine, the tiny bit of stuffing that fits inside the turkey is not going to be nearly enough to feed the crowd.

Wait, so shouldn’t this recipe be called “Slow Cooker Dressing” not “Slow Cooker Stuffing”?

If you want to be technical…yes. The two terms are used quite interchangeably, however. I grew up saying “stuffing,” and the habit stuck. If you’d like to be particular, you may call this recipe Slow Cooker Dressing. It will not offend me. I’m going to be far too occupied swooping in for a second helping of Slow Cooker Stuffing (er, dressing?) to be bothered in the least.

Tools I used to make this Slow Cooker Stuffing recipe:

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Slow Cooker Stuffing with Apples

Incredible Slow Cooker Stuffing with Apples, Cranberries, and Pecans. Easy crockpot method that frees up the oven on Thanksgiving and is great for a crowd!

The edges of this stuffing become delightfully golden and crisp all the way around while cooking, so be sure to scoop the servings so that you get a bit of them with every bite. The top of the stuffing won’t be *as* crisp as stuffing baked in the oven (though placing a towel under the slow cooker lid to absorb moisture as the directions suggest helps), but the stuffing’s large expanse of golden edges, in my stuffing-loving opinion, make up for it.

Yield: 12 servings, about 14 cups total

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 3–4 hours (on low)

Total Time: 4 hours (on low)

Ingredients:

  • 1 (16- to 18-ounce) loaf whole grain rustic or sourdough bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 10 cups)
  • 1 cup roughly chopped pecans, walnuts, or almonds (pecans are my favorite for stuffing)
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 medium yellow onions, diced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 large stalks celery, diced
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh sage leaves
  • 6 sprigs thyme, leaves stripped off (discard the tough stems)
  • 1 crisp apple, such as Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, Fuji, or Pink Lady (I left the peels on, but you can peel if you prefer), medium diced
  • 1 cup reduced-sugar dried cranberries
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3 cups reduced-sodium turkey or chicken broth
  • Fresh parsley, optional for serving

Directions:

  1. Lightly coat a 6- or 7-quart slow cooker with nonstick spray. Position oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of your oven and preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the bread cubes in a single layer on two large, rimmed baking sheets. Bake for 12 minutes, then stir the bread cubes and sprinkle the nuts over the top. Continue baking until the nuts are toasted and crisp and the bread cubes are dry, about 5 to 8 additional minutes. Watch the nuts very carefully towards the end so that they do not burn. Remove from the oven and place immediately in the prepared slow cooker.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil and butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium. Once the oil is hot and the butter is melted, add the onions, salt, and pepper. Cook until the onions begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the celery and continue cooking until the celery is soft and the onions are golden, about 5 to 8 additional minutes. Stir in the sage and thyme and let cook 1 additional minute. Add to the slow cooker with the bread cubes.
  3. Add the diced apple and cranberries to the slow cooker, then with a large spoon, very gently stir to evenly distribute. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs and broth until well combined. Pour over the bread-cube mixture, then fold gently to combine. Let the mixture sit a few minutes, then fold again so that the bread is evenly moistened.
  4. Lay a clean kitchen towel or a double layer of paper towels over the top of the slow cooker so that you have overhang on all sides. This will help absorb moisture. Cover, letting the paper towel poke out the sides of the lid, and cook on low for 3 to 4 hours, until lightly crisp around the edges and set in the center. If desired, sprinkle with fresh parsley. Serve warm.
  • Make it ahead: You can individually prep all the stuffing components (bread and nuts, vegetables, egg-and-broth mixture), then store them separately, keeping the bread/nuts at room temperature and the rest in the refrigerator. Combine just before cooking.
  • I do not recommend cooking this recipe on high, as it may not cook all the way through before the edges begin to burn.
All images and text ©Erin Clarke/Well Plated.

Nutrition Information

Serving Size: 1 (of 12), about 1 heaping cup

  • Amount Per Serving:
  • Calories: 221 Calories
  • Total Fat: 11g
  • Saturated Fat: 2g
  • Cholesterol: 34mg
  • Sodium: 331mg
  • Carbohydrates: 27g
  • Fiber: 4g
  • Sugar: 5g
  • Protein: 7g

Did you try this recipe? I want to see! Follow Well Plated on Instagram, snap a photo, and tag it #wellplated. I love to know what you are making!

Incredible Slow Cooker Stuffing with Apples, Cranberries, and Pecans. Easy crockpot method that frees up the oven on Thanksgiving. Keep vegetarian or add chicken sausage or mushrooms. #thanksgiving #stuffing #slowcooker #crockpot

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About Erin Clarke

I’m fearlessly dedicated to making healthy food taste incredible. Wearer of plaid, travel enthusiast, and firmly convinced that sweets and veggies both deserve a place at the table. MORE ABOUT ERIN…

17 comments

  1. It’s funny  attitudes change over the years.  I grew up on stuffing, which was stuffed into the bird – and nobody ever got sick or died from it.  That said, I’m not sure I’ll ever have the need to cook a whole turkey, so I would need to make my stuffing/dressing separately.  This recipe sounds like a real keeper, so I’m saving it. (Thanksgiving falls during my husband’s week to cook this year, so I’m not going to worry about any of it)  ?

  2. Suggestions on putting this in Dutch oven and in the oven instead? My crock pot bit the dust and I’m dying to make this! Temps or how long? Thanks! 

    • I think that should work, Gretchen! I’d try 350*F, and I’d start checking for doneness between 30 and 40 minutes. It may take longer to set—I haven’t tried this recipe in the oven, but that’s where I would start.

  3. Hi Erin.. thank you for all the great recipes you share with us. I am a stuffing lover, and this sounds delicious. However, the finished product looks dry. I like stuffing that holds together… This looks like it’s loose. Maybe just the pictures?

    • Hi Cat! This is very moist and holds together nicely, with crispy edges as described. It might just be the pictures, because it’s not crumbly at all. I hope you enjoy the recipe if you try it!

  4. Rosemary Christenson Reply

    This recipe really sounds good.  The family really likes a little sausage in their dressing. Could you put cooked sausage in this recipe?  I have made many of your delicious recipes. Thanks

  5. I tried this for Thanksgiving and it didn’t turn out as pictured. I kept to the recipe but had to broil it to brown/dry it out after 4 hours in the crockpot. It defiantly didn’t go over well with the stove top crowd. It tasted fantastic and smelled like heaven but it just didn’t fly look and texture wise. 

    Rating: 1.5
    • Hi Leila, the stuffing should have gotten nice and crispy all around the edges, so I’m not sure what may have happened, as everyone’s kitchen is different. Regardless, I am sorry you didn’t enjoy the recipe, especially on Thanksgiving. Everyone has different tastes, but I know it’s disappointing to try a new recipe and not enjoy it, so I truly wish you would have loved this.

  6. This came out excellent! I totally should have checked how much it made, but if I was a snacker the amount of leftovers wouldn’t have been a problem anyway. :D

    Rating: 5
    • Jessi, I’m so glad to hear you enjoyed the recipe! Thank you so much for taking the time to leave this wonderful review!

  7. Hi Erin this recipe sounds good but could it be made ahead and then reheated in the oven day of. Louise.

    • Hi Louise, I haven’t tried this myself, but it should work to reheat the stuffing in the oven the day of. I’d put it in a casserole dish, cover with foil, and bake until warm. You can take the foil off for the last few minutes if you’d like it to crisp up a bit. I hope you enjoy!

      • Hi Louise, I had another thought/recommendation! If I were you, I would add everything to the slow cooker dry the day before, except the liquid. You could then stir together the liquid and pour it in just before cooking. I probably wouldn’t recommend cooking it all the way through then reheating it because of the shape—the outsides will be crispy, so it would be oddly shaped transferred out of the crock pot and into a pan to reheat. I hope that helps!

  8. Erin, took this in my Crock Pot, (started at home & completed at families home) and EVERYONE Raved!! I definitely will bring this next year AND The next along side someone else’s traditional dressing! It was so easy. I bought an inexpensive artisan bread, let it dry (cubed) over night and it was so moist and delectable after ‘testing’ in Crock Pot, just an hour after cooking. Did do it on LOW, and I coulda eaten the whole Pot by myself; but what’s the fun in that..if you don’t get to hear the ‘yummy noiss’ Everyone makes when they try it?! ?

    Rating: 5

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