From-scratch effort might feel at its most worthwhile at the holidays, but that doesn’t mean you can’t look for easy ways to simplify your cooking. Take advantage of your slow cooker and make this Crock Pot Stuffing with apples, cranberries, and pecans!
Not only is stuffing made in a slow cooker more low maintenance than traditional stuffing cooked in the oven, there’s a strong argument that it actually tastes better.
Crock pot stuffing stays more moist in the center and has more surface area for the delightfully crispy, golden edges.
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.
5 Star Review
“EVERYONE raved!! I definitely will bring this next year AND the next! It was so easy.”— Sandy —
Crock Pot 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 frequency 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.
Nine times out of 10, anyone I’ve met who doesn’t like stuffing has only 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 (and you can’t fix soggy stuffing).
No, thank you. My limited Thanksgiving stomach real estate is better allotted elsewhere.
Homemade bread stuffing, however? Now THAT is a completely different story!
Stuffing vs. 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.
- So, if you want to be technical, this recipe should be called “crock pot dressing” not “crock pot stuffing”. The two terms are used quite interchangeably, however. I grew up saying “stuffing,” and the habit stuck.
How to Make Crock Pot Stuffing
The beauty of homemade stuffing 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, Crockpot Wild Rice Stuffing, Stuffing Muffins with Sausage and Apples, and Cornbread Stuffing. I adore each, but today’s crock pot stuffing is the combination of ingredients I return to again and again.
- Bread. High-quality artisan bread can make all the difference in a homemade stuffing recipe. Whole grain rustic bread or sourdough bread is the best bread for stuffing.
- Pecans. I love adding pecans to this stuffing recipe. They add a wonderful nutty flavor and crunch.
- Celery. Crisp and fresh.
- Herbs. Fresh sage and thyme add a cozy, subtle earthiness that tastes like pure fall goodness.
- Apple. For the ideal texture, choose a crisp apple like Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, Fuji, or Pink Lady.
- Dried Cranberries. I love the touch of chewy sweetness that dried cranberries add to the stuffing.
If you’d like to take this crock pot stuffing with apples to the next level, you can turn this into a crockpot stuffing with sausage (I use turkey or chicken sausage) 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.
- Toast the bread cubes in the oven at 350 degrees F for 12 minutes.
- Add the nuts and continue toasting. Transfer to the slow cooker.
- Sauté the onions and celery.
- Stir in the herbs, then pour the mixture into the slow cooker.
- Stir in the apple and cranberries. Whisk together the eggs and broth, then fold the mixture into the slow cooker.
- Lay a towel over the slow cooker, then cover with the lid (stuffing should be cooked covered). Cook on LOW for 3 to 4 hours. Top with fresh parsley and ENJOY!
I do not recommend cooking this recipe on HIGH, as it may not cook all the way through before the edges begin to burn.
- To Store. Refrigerate stuffing in an airtight storage container for up to 4 days.
- To Reheat. Gently rewarm leftovers in a baking dish in the oven at 350 degrees F. You can also keep stuffing warm in a slow cooker on the “warm” setting.
- To Freeze. Freeze stuffing in an airtight freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
Make Ahead Tips
You can individually prep all the stuffing components (bread and nuts, vegetables, egg-and-broth mixture), then store them separately, keeping the bread and nuts at room temperature and the rest in the refrigerator. Combine just before cooking.
Recommended Tools to Make Crock Pot Stuffing
- Slow Cooker. A must-have in every kitchen!
- Baking Sheets. Getting the bread cubes nice and toasty first is critical, and these baking sheets are perfect for the job.
- Non-stick Skillet. No more stuck-on bits of food with this skillet.
Crock Pot 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.
- TO MAKE 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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