We Tried 6 Store-Bought Stuffing Mixes, and These Are the Ones Worth Adding to Your Thanksgiving Spread (2022)

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The holidays will be upon us before we know it. Whether we like it or not, we'll soon need to start thinking about our upcoming festive feasts, starting with the Thanksgiving spread. These culinary projects can certainly be a source of enjoyment and gustatory glee, but they're also famously time-consuming and labor-intensive.

For that reason, store-bought holiday foods can be lifesavers, and stuffing mixes (which come with pre-dried bread cubes and seasoning blends) easily fall into that category.

In the interest of figuring out which stuffing mixes offer the best flavor and texture (and which make the best side dishes for a hearty holiday meal), we picked up six widely available packaged stuffing mixes and tasted them side by side, actively seeking out the best of the bunch. Here's what we found.

Best Stuffing Mixes at a Glance

What We Looked for When Ranking Stuffing Mixes

Flavor: First and foremost, we evaluated the quality of each stuffing mix's flavor. Ideally, we wanted to find a stuffing that showcased a blend of flavors: the taste of the bread, a well-integrated mixture of spices, and an overall balance that complemented the other elements of a typical holiday meal (turkey or a roast, potatoes, green beans, cranberry sauce, and gravy).

Texture: Arguably the most challenging aspect of store-bought stuffing mix involves its texture; it's deceptively easy to turn this dish into something gummy, mushy, and altogether unappetizing. That's why we sought stuffing mixes that had structural integrity after cooking (and which would be able to stay recognizable even when cooked inside a turkey) and that would crisp up nicely after spending time in the oven.

Ease of Preparation: Making stuffing from scratch is a time-consuming project; before you begin the actual cooking process, you'll first need to cube fresh bread and leave it out until it gets a bit stale and dry. Stuffing mix eliminates that step and gives you the ability to jump right in, so we focused on mixes with straightforward, easy-to-follow instructions.

How We Tested Each Stuffing Mix

We prepped each stuffing mix in two phases. For the first phase, we followed the package instructions to the letter, making each mix according to the directions for stovetop stuffing.

For the second phase, we jazzed each mix up by stirring butter, chicken stock, cooked celery and onion, and cooked sausage into the stuffing mix, then scooping it into a baking dish and putting it in a 350 degree F oven for 35 minutes.

Here, we reveal the best store-bought stuffing mixes you can buy, whatever your preferences may be.

Best Store-Bought Stuffing Mixes

Best Overall: Pepperidge Farm Herb Seasoned Classic Stuffing Mix

Our top-performing stuffing proved excellent when served straight off of the stove and after some time in the oven. Pepperidge Farm uses both white and wheat bread to make its stuffing cubes, and the contrast shows through in flavor and in texture.

The included seasoning blend featured distinct flavors of sage, thyme, and rosemary, and it wasn't overly salty. The stovetop version had a nice bite to it and was hearty enough to stand up to in-bird cooking, but the mix really came alive with the add-ins and oven baking. The top became appealingly crunchy, the inside remained soft and luxurious, and the flavors of the sausage and the vegetables melded seamlessly with the spice blend. All in all, this is as good as it gets for stuffing in a box or a bag.

Buy it: $2.50; Walmart

runner up stuffings

We Tried 6 Store-Bought Stuffing Mixes, and These Are the Ones Worth Adding to Your Thanksgiving Spread (2)

Credit: Trader Joe's, Target

Runners-Up: Trader Joe's Cornbread Stuffing Mix and Stove Top Cornbread Stuffing Mix

Cornbread stuffing can be a bit controversial; those who love it swear by its sweetness and its rustic charm, while those who don't complain that the texture is grainy and the sweetness compromises the balance of flavors. But if you fall into the first camp, you'll find that the packaged cornbread stuffing mixes from both Trader Joe's and Stove Top represent great versions of the form.

Of all of the stuffings we tested, Trader Joe's Cornbread Stuffing Mix fared the best in the stovetop round. The cornbread croutons are large and sturdy, and they absorbed the stock and the melted butter very well. There was no mushiness to speak of; instead, we got nicely toothsome bites of stuffing with clear flavors of sage and rosemary. The oven round also proved a success, as the savory sausage and onion cooperated beautifully with the sweet cornbread.

When it comes to nostalgia points, no stuffing mix can compare with Stove Top, which has been a seasonal supermarket staple for generations. The cornbread version of this classic isn't overwhelming; if the sweetness of cornbread bothers you, then you'll probably still like this stuffing mix. The herbaceous elements of this mix aren't quite as successful as the ones in the Pepperidge Farm mix, as they have a bit of a perfumed taste and aroma. However, the texture is excellent in both the stovetop rendition and the oven-baked one.

Also, because Stove Top Cornbread doesn't feature assertive flavors, it's a strong choice for a Thanksgiving side dish. It will blend nicely with the other items on your plate instead of pushing for the spotlight ... and when we're talking about holiday feasts, a bit of subtlety can go a long way.

Buy it: $3.99, Trader Joe's; $1.99, Target

trader joe's gluten free stuffing

We Tried 6 Store-Bought Stuffing Mixes, and These Are the Ones Worth Adding to Your Thanksgiving Spread (3)

Credit: Trader Joe's

Best Gluten-Free: Trader Joe's Gluten-Free Stuffing Mix

Traditional stuffing is primarily made of bread, so it makes sense that a gluten-free home cook might feel wary about the grocery store options for stuffing mix that suits their dietary needs. Luckily, Trader Joe's shoppers have access to a gluten-free stuffing with flavor dimensions and textural characteristics that are fully consistent with stuffing expectations.

Trader Joe's makes its gluten-free stuffing cubes with rice flour, tapioca flour, and potato starch, all of which combine to give this mix an appealing and springy bite. The mix has a slightly sweet flavor (more similar to cornbread stuffing than mixed-bread stuffing), and the oven-baked version with stuffing and vegetables effectively counteracted the sweetness. If you serve this stuffing at your Thanksgiving dinner, your gluten-free guests and your gluten-eating guests will be equally satisfied.

Buy it: $5.99, Trader Joe's

bargain stuffings

We Tried 6 Store-Bought Stuffing Mixes, and These Are the Ones Worth Adding to Your Thanksgiving Spread (4)

Credit: Instacart, Walmart

Best Bargains: Signature Select Turkey Stuffing Mix and Great Value Cornbread Stuffing Mix

Saving money becomes more important than ever during the holiday entertaining season, and if you're hoping to stick to a low budget, you'll be glad to know that there are two very inexpensive stuffing mixes out there that still offer a solid flavor and texture balance.

The Safeway line of supermarkets (which includes Safeway, Albertson's, Randall's, Shaw's, Jewel-Osco, and several other regional store chains) offers the Signature Select range of proprietary products, and their Turkey Stuffing Mix costs under $2 and punches far above its weight in terms of its side-dish suitability. The stuffing maintains a sturdy texture after stovetop cooking, and its flavor packet delivers notes of poultry stock and seasonings (and is somewhat reminiscent of the taste of instant ramen flavor packets).

It is a bit salty, so it's advisable to use it in moderation instead of throwing the whole packet in. The bread cubes soak up moisture very well, and when the sausage and veggies were added and the mixture was baked, it yielded a stuffing with a pleasantly crispy top, a moist interior, and well-integrated flavors.

The cheapest mix we tried came from Walmart's Great Value house brand. And indeed, this Cornbread Stuffing Mix represents a "great value." For under $1, you'll get a mild stuffing that's fast and easy to make (it cooks faster than any other mix we sampled) and that's ripe for customization. The stuffing does flatten a bit after oven-baking, so we consider it a better choice for stuffing the bird than cooking in a stuffing "casserole."

Buy it: $1.69, Instacart; $0.82, Walmart

How to Style Up Your Store-Bought Stuffing Mix

1. Cook it in stock instead of water.

The instructions on most packages of stuffing mix will tell you to cook the bread cubes and seasonings with water as the moisture element. While that tactic works in a practical sense, it also deprives you of the opportunity to add extra flavor. Instead, we recommend replacing the water (or to do a 50/50 split) with chicken stock, turkey stock, or vegetable stock. These cooking liquids will result in a richer, bolder, and all-around better stuffing.

2. Mix in sautéed vegetables and protein.

The seasoning packets included with stuffing mixes will give you a mixture of dried spices, but they won't contain anything that adds more textural intrigue to your stuffing. That's why it's smart to saute some onions and celery (along with any other vegetables you enjoy, like mushrooms) in butter and to stir the cooked vegetables into the stuffing mix. To make your stuffing even heartier, also consider cooking up some sweet Italian sausage (whether meat-based or plant-based) and mixing that in.

3. Bake it in the oven (or inside the bird).

A common complaint about store-bought stuffing mix involves its texture; some detractors claim that this product can feel mushy after it's cooked. Scooping the stuffing into a baking dish and letting it crisp up in the oven will eliminate that issue and create a side dish with top-notch textural contrast.

4. Add some fresh herbs.

Dried herbs can certainly be useful when you need to add concentrated flavor to a recipe, but fresh herbs bring a clean and lively presence to store-bought stuffing mixes that can't be replaced. A light dusting of fresh parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme before serving your stovetop stuffing or placing your baking dish of stuffing in the oven will take said stuffing to the next level for very little expense and effort.

Related:

  • Our 9 Best Thanksgiving Gravy Recipes of All Time Will Dress Up Your Holiday Meal
  • 15 Holiday China Patterns That You'll Love Year After Year
  • I Tried an Infrared Fryer to Deep-Fry a Turkey — Here's How It Went

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