The Age-Old Thanksgiving Debate: Turkey Stuffing vs. Turkey Dressing

Peanut butter and jelly, wine and cheese, chicken and waffles, tea and crumpets… all are individual items, but when matched with its counter, becomes a beautiful marriage. Now, enter Turkey and Stuffing, er… scratch that, Turkey and Dressing, er… wait, which one is it? Turkey and Stuffing vs Turkey and Dressing has become a heated debate, debacle and in some circumstances, seemingly an all-out, heated holiday war among family members and friends at the Thanksgiving dinner table. A number of people claim that there is no difference between stuffing and dressing, while on the opposite end of the spectrum, there is quite the difference, nearly a night and day difference, in fact. So, is there really a difference between the two iconic, holiday sides dishes?


Stuffing, in its basic form, is a seasoned mix that’s created to fill, or “stuff” the inside of the turkey, hence the name, “stuffing”. According to the Oxford English, “dressing” bears a much broader definition as it is referred to as a “seasoning substance used in cooking”. Well, that helps… actually, it confuses the debate even further…

Turkey stuffing and dressing recipes are known to be interchangeable. The foundation of the recipe is generally a crumbled bread product of sorts, and this can be anything like cornbread, biscuits or sliced bread. The just of these recipes note the addition of chopped onions alongside celery. A number of recipes call for the sauteing of onions and celery to invoke a more tender taste, while other recipes maintain the firmness of the onions and celery.

The differences between the two, and there are a number, are truly what sets these two side dishes apart, finally… One of the main differences is that stuffing is actually “stuffed” into the turkey before it gets places in the oven, making the stuffing, genuinely stuffing. The dressing is generally put into a greased pan, and this becomes baked as well. Further, it is noted in the famous cookbook, “The Joy of Cooking” that the concoction is coined “stuffing” if it becomes cooked inside the turkey. The National Turkey Federation, yes… there is a federation for this bird, tends to think that the terms “stuffing” and “dressing” are quite interchangeable… again, with the indecisiveness.

A number of other ingredients can make these side dishes distinct or similar, and a good bit of the differences between stuffing and dressing could very well be dependent on the region in which they are made, for instance, southern regions of the US generally refer to the side dish as “dressing” while northern regions of the US refer to the side dish as “stuffing”. Additionally, there are recipe deviations across the board that might call for sausage, walnuts, cranberries, and even oysters.

When considering all that is on the table, perhaps the debate will continue on for years and even centuries. Perhaps, the age-old debate will never have a set-in-stone answer, and you know what? Maybe it’s best left an open-ended discussion for families, friends and those who appreciate the culinary arts to discuss and debate the similarities and differences for years to come. The main takeaway, though, is that either, “dressing” or “stuffing” are darn good with turkey!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *