For many people, boxed stuffing (or dressing) is just as beloved as mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving—and it’s hard to beat the convenience of a pre-seasoned side dish that doesn’t take too much time or space to prepare. But there are plenty of easy ways to elevate the holiday classic using ingredients you may already have on hand. Here are six tactics to consider trying this Turkey Day.
1. Brown the Butter
There’s a good chance your boxed stuffing already requires butter (or margarine). A simple way to improve the final product without lengthening your grocery list is to brown the butter first—it will give your stuffing a nuttier, deeper flavor. Here’s how to do it via The Kitchn, which also recommends sautéing some chopped rosemary and sage in your freshly browned butter before you add the other ingredients.
2. Swap Out the Water
As Cheap Recipe Blog points out, boxed stuffing is often already quite salty, so preparing it with additional salty mix-ins is best done with caution. Swapping out the water for chicken broth (or vegetable or turkey broth) can make it extra savory, but you might want to opt for the low-sodium version of your broth of choice.
If you’d like to add a little sweetness to your dish instead, skip the water and use apple juice or apple cider. This recipe from Schnucks calls for apple cider, diced apples, and turkey or meatless sausage crumbles. This one from My Food and Family features apple juice and cranberries.
3. Grate In Some Cheese
Carbs and cheese are a nearly unbeatable combo; you just have to decide which kind of cheese will be the biggest crowd-pleaser around your Thanksgiving table. Cheddar is perfect with broccoli, while parmesan pairs especially well with mushrooms; The Kitchn has recipes for both options. For an Italian-inspired, herb-heavy garlic parmesan stuffing, check out this recipe from Chop Happy.
4. Toss In Some Nuts
Nuts are a great way to add texture to stuffing: Taste of Home suggests pecans, walnuts, almonds, or pistachios to get that satisfying crunch. As for which nuts to avoid, Epicurious explains that cashews are slightly softer than what you’d want in a stuffing, sunflower seeds are too small to make an impact, and peanuts don’t mesh very well with the preexisting flavor of a boxed stuffing.
5. Add Meat
Just because the turkey is the star of the show doesn’t mean other meats can’t make cameos. Crumbling in a few strips of bacon or some browned pork sausage will take your stuffing to the next level without too much extra time in the kitchen.
6. Add Fruit or Veggies
Diced celery and sautéed onions are especially popular mix-ins for boxed stuffing, but there are plenty of less traditional options to suit the more adventurous. This recipe from My Food and Family includes pears (plus bacon, walnuts, and maple syrup), and this veggie-heavy dish has eggplant, zucchini, mushrooms, onions, and tomatoes. Dried fruit, from cranberries and raisins to apricots and figs, can also give your boxed stuffing a more complex flavor profile.