Who needs Thanksgiving? Enjoy this meat “stuffing” recipe year-round

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My two sisters and I used to joke that our mom always left out one ingredient in any recipe she gave us so her version of a dish would always taste better.

That, however, doesn’t explain why each of us ended up with a different recipe for mom’s holiday stuffing. (Yes, we still call it “stuffing” even though it’s never actually put into the bird.)

“Mine doesn’t taste right,” I said to my eldest sister one year. She read me the ingredients on her recipe card. “Sage?,” I said.

“Mom never told me to use sage!”

“And where is the cream of mushroom soup in your recipe?”

Her response? “Gravy Master? Herb-ox? Mine doesn’t have those in it.”

We compared recipe cards that mom hand-wrote: They were all different, and a couple had “P.S.” and “P.P.P.P.S.” additions squeezed in at the ends.

So one of us will use sage, and another poultry seasoning. One will use packaged breadcrumbs and another diced bread. One may add tabasco, or omit the eggs. On one of my copies of mom’s recipe (yes, there are several), she even wrote that you could use sausage and green peppers.

That’s the beauty of this recipe; it’s incredibly versatile, very forgiving, and always comes out delicious.

And every year, after Thanksgiving is over, I wonder why I don’t make this stuffing (with or without a bird) any other time of the year. (But I do freeze some in November to enjoy on its own in July.)

A couple of years ago, my niece, Lee, called from Massachusetts to get the recipe. She had fond memories of Babci’s stuffing and wanted to carry on the tradition with her own family.

Of course, I gave her the recipe I had been following for decades. But last week, Lee discovered that somehow she ended up following a different version.

Mom would have had a good laugh over that.

Here’s the recipe that she passed on to her favorite daughter:

Emilie Yucka’s Thanksgiving Stuffing

Makes a massive amount, but it freezes well.


For the meat:

  • 2 1/2 to 3 pounds of ground pork and ground chuck (I use about 1 1/2 pounds of each, although mom’s recipe called for more pork. And you can use 80/20 beef if you can’t find chuck.)
  • 2 tablespoons poultry seasoning
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup

For vegetables:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/2 cups celery, diced
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups onions, chopped
  • 1 can water chestnuts, diced fine
  • 1 teaspoon Gravy Master or other browning liquid (optional)

For breadcrumbs:

  • 14-ounce bag of Pepperidge Farms herb-seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
  • 1 envelope Herb-ox sodium-free chicken bouillon granules

Final touches:

  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups cooked white or jasmine rice
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped, plus more to garnish


Place pork and beef in a large frying pan. Break up and fry thoroughly. Drain off most of the fat. Add poultry seasoning, garlic salt, paprika and pepper. Transfer meat to a large bowl. Add 1 can of cream of mushroom soup to the meat.

In the same frying pan, melt 2 tablespoons butter and fry celery, onions, mushrooms and water chestnuts until soft and most of the liquid evaporates. Add Gravy Master or another browning agent. Add vegetables to the meat mixture.

For the breadcrumbs: In a medium saucepan, combine 3 cups water, 1 stick butter and 1 envelope Herb-ox. Bring to a boil. Add breadcrumbs and toss. Add to meat/vegetable mixture in a large bowl. Mix while warm.

Add eggs and mix well. Add rice; mix well. Sprinkle with parsley and combine.

Place in a large baking pan and bake at 350 for an hour or more until stuffing browns, stirring frequently. Taste and adjust seasonings (you may want to add more poultry seasoning, salt or garlic salt). Transfer to serving dish; garnish with parsley. Note: Can be baked ahead and reheated on the day of use. Freeze leftover stuffing in plastic freezer bags; use within 6 months or so (makes a great meal with a veggie and mashed potatoes).

Cook’s notes: You can also use a 1-pound loaf of stuffing bread, cut into cubes, instead of the packaged breadcrumbs. If you do, omit the step to rehydrate the breadcrumbs. You may need to add 1 teaspoon of salt to the stuffing with fresh bread.

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