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!

a crock pot full of slow cooker stuffing

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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.

And by “endeavors,” I mean whiskey pecan-topped Glazed Sweet Potatoes, Homemade Scalloped Potatoes, Healthy Sweet Potato Casserole, and Brussels Sprouts Casserole.

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

uncooked holiday stuffing in a slow cooker

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.
Crock pot stuffing with cranberries

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.


The Ingredients

  • 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.

Substitution Tip!

While pecans are my favorite for stuffing, both walnuts and almonds would also be tasty.

  • 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.

Recipe Upgrades

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.

The Directions

Bread cubes on a baking dish
  1. Toast the bread cubes in the oven at 350 degrees F for 12 minutes.
Toasted bread cubes and pecans
  1. Add the nuts and continue toasting. Transfer to the slow cooker.
Onions and celery in a skillet
  1. Sauté the onions and celery.
Onions being sauteed in a skillet
  1. Stir in the herbs, then pour the mixture into the slow cooker.
Crock pot stuffing in a slow cooker
  1. Stir in the apple and cranberries. Whisk together the eggs and broth, then fold the mixture into the slow cooker.
  2. 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!

Tip!

I do not recommend cooking this recipe on HIGH, as it may not cook all the way through before the edges begin to burn.

Storage Tips

  • 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.

Leftover Ideas

Use leftovers to make these simple and delicious Cheesy Breakfast Stuffing Cakes.

A wooden spoon stirring ingredients in a slow cooker

What to Serve with Crock Pot Stuffing

In addition to turkey, crockpot stuffing and chicken or pork is also a delicious combination. Or serve this stuffing with a hearty vegetarian main.

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.

Programmable Slow Cooker

One of my favorite kitchen appliances for making stuffing, soups, casseroles, and so much more!

slow cooker stuffing in a crock pot

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Leave a rating below in the comments and let me know how you liked the recipe.

More Flavorful Thanksgiving Sides

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 in a crock pot

Crock Pot Stuffing with Apples

5 from 6 votes
Best ever Crockpot Stuffing with apples and herbs! The slow cooker keeps the stuffing warm, frees up the oven 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.

Prep: 15 mins
Cook: 3 hrs 20 mins
Total: 3 hrs 35 mins

Servings: 12 servings, about 14 cups total

Ingredients
  

  • 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
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 large stalks celery diced
  • ¼ 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

Instructions
 

  • 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.

Notes

  • 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.

Nutrition

Serving: 1(of 12), about 1 heaping cupCalories: 221kcalCarbohydrates: 27gProtein: 7gFat: 11gSaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 34mgFiber: 4gSugar: 5g

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Erin Clarke

Hi, I'm Erin Clarke, and I'm fearlessly dedicated to making healthy food that's affordable, easy-to-make, and best of all DELISH. I'm the author and recipe developer here at wellplated.com and of The Well Plated Cookbook. I adore both sweets and veggies, and I am on a mission to save you time and dishes. WELCOME!

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26 Comments

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  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! 

    1. 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?

    1. 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. 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. 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. :D5 stars

    1. Jessi, I’m so glad to hear you enjoyed the recipe! Thank you so much for taking the time to leave this wonderful review!

    1. 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!

      1. 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!

  6. 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?! ?5 stars

  7. Thoughts on adding Italian sausage to this and subbing with cornbread? Please let me know what you think regarding moisture. Thanks!

  8. Made this for Thanksgiving using GF bagels for the bread. It was fantastic. It had the most delicious aroma and had everyone asking when dinner would be! Was easy to do most of it before today, and freed up the stove and oven for other things. Definitely will be making it again.5 stars

    1. Hi Nat! I’ve only tried to make this recipe in the slow cooker, so I’m afraid I don’t have any specific advice to offer for the Instant Pot. I hope you love the recipe if you try it!

  9. LOVE this recipe! I do however add a sage flavored sausage and reduce the sage a bit, it is a family hit every year. Easy to make and more oven space for other things.

    Thank you for this recipe <35 stars

  10. Had this on Thanksgiving after doing the prep ahead steps to help make day-of easier. It was delicious!! Full of flavor and moist 👌👌5 stars