Slow Cooker Stuffing with Apples Cranberries and Pecans
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 with Apples, Cranberries, and Pecans, 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.
Make your bread stuffing in the crockpot.
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.
I suppose you might want to squeeze the turkey in the oven too.
Slow Cooker Stuffing – An Oven Space Saver!
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!
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.
- 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.
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.
Recommended Tools for Making Slow Cooker Stuffing
- 6-quart slow cooker
- All-purpose rimmed baking sheets (getting the bread cubes nice and toasty first is critical! You can do this part in advance—more details in the recipe below.)
If you’re looking for other holiday side dishes, this dish is just one of the many healthy Thanksgiving sides on my site.
Slow Cooker Stuffing with Apples
- 1 loaf whole grain rustic bread - or sourdough bread (16-18 ounce loaf), 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 broth - or chicken broth
- Fresh parsley - optional for serving
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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