From trusty sage and onion to a jewelled log studded with fruit, nuts and a spectrum of herbs, stuffing is a truly marvellous thing. Skip the sausagemeat and make a vegetarian version packed with mushrooms and rice, or treat your pork meat to spices, apricots and citrus. Whatever recipe you choose, we have some great ideas for how to serve it.
You can make your stuffing up to three months ahead of serving. Shape your uncooked mix into walnut-sized balls, then open-freeze on a parchment-lined tray. When frozen, transfer to a food bag.
Stuffing can be baked directly from the freezer. Just add ten minutes to the cooking time and ensure your balls are hot throughout.
If you want to fill a bird with stuffing, we have a video guide to show you how, including tips on how to secure your stuffing in the cavity, and how to enhance the flavour with butter and aromatics
If you’re stuffing a turkey, stuff the neck cavity only, as any stuffing inside the turkey will dramatically increase the cooking time and potentially cause the breast meat to dry out. Butter under the skin should help prevent this too.
Our cookery team all have their own traditions and favourite recipes when it comes to Christmas stuffing:
Food editor Cassie Best: I make one batch of classic stuffing and another more festive version with added cranberries, nuts and spices to cater for all. I love the crispy edges so I always cook my stuffing in a much shallower tray to maximise crispiness! Any leftover stuffing is great fried up in a hash or in a Boxing Day pie.
Skills & shows editor Barney Desmazery: I make a bread-based stuffing as well as a meat one. The breadcrumb version is made with leeks and parmesan – perfect for my vegetarian guests.
Our top 10 ways with stuffing
1. Roll with it
Give Yule log a whole new meaning by serving your seasonal sausagemeat stuffing as a pretty cylindrical centrepiece. Wrap in bacon and serve in thick slices.
Sausage & Bramley stuffing
2. That's a wrap
Not content with one dose of pork? Finish off your stuffing with a criss-crossed bacon wrap and secure with cocktail sticks for a side dish that gives pigs-in-blankets a run for its money.
Streaky stuffing parcels
3. Super-simple traybake
This ingenious stuffing traybake celebrates all the crispiest, tastiest bits of a traditional stuffing recipe. It can be made ahead and kept in the fridge for up to two days, or frozen for extra convenience.
Crispy traybake stuffing
4. Go vegetarian
Kick sausagemeat to the kerb and try a veggie stuffing. Breadcrumbs add volume, while almonds and figs provide contrasting flavours and textures. Add some apple, cranberries, spices and herbs to give traditional pork stuffing some serious competition.
Fruity Christmas stuffing
5. Make a cake
Avoid tedious ball rolling and flatten your stuffing into a cake. This method works with most stuffing recipes, but our version is packed with crunchy chestnuts. Serve as wedges then, if there’s enough left over, top with a poached egg for a Boxing Day snack.
Chestnut & bacon cake
6. Go with the grain
Often-overlooked polenta is an economical ingredient. Its soft texture lends itself well to being cooked with cream. Once topped with bacon, herbs and parmesan cheese, it makes an ideal alternative stuffing choice.
Polenta & pancetta stuffing
7. Exotic flavours
There’s something about traditional stuffing that feels fundamentally British, but there are versions of stuffing for many cuisines. This lamb shoulder with stuffing is Middle Eastern in feel thanks to the cinnamon, date and parsley flavours.
Braised shoulder of lamb with jewelled stuffing
8. Summery stuffing
Stuffing isn’t just for the festive season. This sunshine version uses couscous instead of breadcrumbs, and teams it with apricots, pine nuts and mint. Use to stuff rolled chicken breasts and serve cold at a picnic.
Roast chicken with couscous & pine nut stuffing
9. Bulk it out with bread
This clever recipe uses chunks of ciabatta to add a delicious crunch to this traybake stuffing. Prepare it up to two days in advance, ready to pop in the oven on the day.
Tuscan sausage, kale and ciabatta stuffing
10. Love your leftovers
This might make traditionalists shudder, but a stuffing-topped pizza is certainly original. It also uses up leftover turkey and is topped with cheese – what more could you ask for?
Another of our favourite stuffing leftover recipes is the Christmas burger. Fry slices or a patty of stuffing until piping hot and crisp. Then, put it into a bread roll with sliced turkey, cranberry sauce and salad. A true festive feast.
What's your favourite stuffing recipe? Leave a comment below...