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Best Store-Bought Stuffing Taste Test

Best Store-Bought Stuffing Taste Test

Find out which boxed stuffing reigns supreme

Is your favorite stuffing at the top of the list?

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, cooks across the country are finalizing their holiday menus. Right alongside the turkey and mashed potatoes is stuffing, one of the staples on the dinner table. We’ve rounded up 10 of the most popular and well-known store-bought stuffing mixes and put them to the test, and ranked them based on taste, texture, and appearance.

Here at The Daily Meal, we’re always offering tips to make dinner quick and easy, without losing quality or taste. With the stress of day-of cooking and trying to spend time with the family, why not turn to a store-bought stuffing mix to ease the Turkey Day chaos? Take a look through our slideshow and make sure you buy the right (and most delicious) brand.

Some of the mixes we tested resembled homemade stuffing and were golden brown and seasoned with herbs. However, other brands were mushy, bland, and dry. Some were too salty and some weren't salty enough. Staffers tasted all the stuffings in a blind tasting to ensure unbiased results.

Stuffing is bound to a part of your Thanksgiving spread, as it’s one of the most iconic Thanksgiving Day foods. So whether you’re stuffing your bird or serving it as a side dish, make sure you are using the best brand. We tasted them all — the good, the bad, and the ugly — and here are the results.

Special thanks to Julie Kang for her help on this article.

Emily Jacobs is the Recipe editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @EmilyRecipes.

For more turkey talk, head over to The Daily Meal's Guide to Thanksgiving

These Store-Bought Stuffing Mixes Make Thanksgiving Meal Prep So Much Easier

Let's be real: Making stuffing from scratch can be a serious time commitment. Whether you're serving up stuffing alongside turkey for Thanksgiving dinner or as a savory and comforting side dish year-round, making it from scratch may sound ideal, but it's quite time- and labor-intensive.

So, just in case you don't have time to dry out those homemade breadcrumbs and whip up your own savory batch of stuffing, there are plenty of tasty store-bought options to get the job done in a pinch. We've found the tastiest store-bought stuffing mixes that you can buy online. Stress less!

Reviewers unanimously rave about the hearty herb-seasoned flavor of this Pepperidge Farm Classic Stuffing, insisting that it tastes &ldquoas good as homemade&rdquo and acts as a &ldquoquality canvas&rdquo for starting a meal.

Just add chopped veggies, sausage bits, and your favorite gravy for a flavorful and fast side dish.

We tested a few different kinds of stuffing in an effort to get a taste for all the different varieties that are available. We bought all four brands at NYC grocery stores, spending anywhere from $2.99 to $6.99.

We followed all four recipes pretty closely, although we left the onion and celery out of the Pepperidge Farm and Pacific stuffings (the only two brands that called for those ingredients). We did this in the interest of saving time, and wanting to focus solely on the stuffing itself. We also wanted to keep all contenders as equal as possible.

Bagged Stuffing, I'm Never Gonna Give You Up

I can count the times I've had homemade stuffing on one hand. Growing up in the Whitney household, Thanksgiving was always the same. It was semi-homemade, a mix of family recipes and store-bought: turkey, canned cranberry sauce, too many casseroles, and bagged stuffing. The red bag of Pepperidge Farm cubed seasoned stuffing was the No. 1 essential ever year, and honestly I don't know if any other brands even exist. This is not to be confused with the blue bag of "herb stuffing mix"—a mistake my dad made one year, causing everyone to panic—which has much smaller pieces and is more like moist breadcrumbs.

But anyway, onto my dirty little food-writer secret favorite food: cubed stuffing. It's ready in five minutes after simmering some water and butter together, transforming Thanksgiving-seasoned croutons to fluffy stuffing. The directions say that you can sauté celery and onions (no carrots?) together before putting in the dried bread, but my family of picky eaters who rarely think about flavor usually skips this step. Unlike a panzanella, this is not even slightly crunchy. It is as soft as biting down into a piece of Wonder Bread, but also has a little chewiness that is enhanced, as most things are, by a drizzle of gravy. For me, it's Thanksgiving in a bite. The herbs I associate with the food holiday are all present: thyme, sage, rosemary, garlic, onion, and maybe marjoram. (The Pepperidge Farm website doesn't list all the spices, but onion powder is definitely one.) It's salty in the way only a packaged product can taste.

I'll never know the crispy edges of baked homemade stuffing, but I'll survive.

You probably know by now that this doesn't get stuffed into the bird—just before the turkey is done cooking, my mom somehow dumps two or three bags into a 6-quart pot and lets it hang out. Then comes her genius addition: When the turkey comes out of the oven, she scoops a cup or two of drippings. The stuffing is infused with all the flavor from the turkey and a little fat, and it isn't too soggy. It's the right amount of mush!

As an editor at Bon Appétit, I know I shouldn't be praising boxed stuffing. The BA test kitchen does not recommend packaged stuffing of any kind. We have a new recipe for "if it ain't broke, don't fix it stuffing" because a classic tasting, homemade stuffing isn't ultimately hard to make. But you know what would be broken if I stopped loving the store-bought stuff? MY MOTHER'S HEART.

Taste Test: Gluten-Free Stuffings

For many people, stuffing is the best part of the meal! But steering clear of gluten doesn’t mean missing out on this fragrant, bready side dish. Aside from making your own gluten-free stuffing (thanks, Gluten-Free Girl!), you can choose from a few store-bought mixes.

We ranked the easiest-to-find gluten-free stuffing mixes based on nutrition, taste, texture and price. On the nutrition front, the most-important things to look out for in stuffing are calories, fat, sodium and fiber (and whether they’re made using whole grains). A few tester notes: If given the option to go stovetop or oven, choose the oven — you'll get a better texture.

Per serving (29 g, 1/2 cup dry mix): Calories 160 (210 prepared) Fat 5 g Sodium 370 mg Fiber 4 g

Healthy Eats Take: This wins for easiest to assemble. The stuffing mix includes dehydrated mushroom and celery pieces, as well as chicken fat, so all you need to do is add water and melted butter. Since the veggies are already in the mix, they’re less noticeable, and the overall flavor is one note: salt. This one has the most fiber, though — possibly because of the inclusion of veggies in the mix.

Per serving (28 g, about 1/2 cup dry mix): Calories 120 (190 prepared) Fat 4.5 g Sodium 480 mg Fiber less than 1 g

Healthy Eats Take: This was by far our favorite: The texture was light and fluffy, and since this one calls for it to be baked, it had a nice crispy exterior and soft filling. The flavor was also very good — more nuanced than the Trader Joe’s stuffing, although still quite salty.

Per serving (45 g, 3/4 cup dry mix): Calories 190 Fat 7 g Sodium 190 mg Fiber 3 g

The flavor in this one was bland, although it did win points for having the least sodium of the mixes. Texture-wise, it was a little heavy and broke apart easily. That's a shame, because it wins on nutrition! The whole-grain flour blend used in the croutons includes millet, garbanzo beans and sorghum, giving this stuffing the most fiber. Plus, it is a good choice for avoiding other potential allergens (no dairy, eggs or soy).

Per serving (45 g, 1/2 cup dry mix): Calories 130 Fat 1 g 210 mg sodium, 4 g fiber

This one is tied with the TJ’s mix for convenience — making it is as easy as boiling water, adding the stuffing mix and stirring until the water is absorbed. The flavor is strongly herby, with a prominent sage taste, and has a perfect balance of salt. The texture is very soft, however, breaking apart too easily in the mouth.

Per serving (14 g, 1/2 ounce): Calories 60 Fat 1 g Sodium 150 mg Fiber 0 g

Aleia’s Savory Stuffing has the most-fragrant spice blend of the bunch. To concoct this stuffing, there’s more prep work: dicing carrots, onions and celery melting butter, adding stock and baking the whole thing, but the result is super-tasty (although a tad salty). Don’t let the low nutrition values fool you, though — the serving size on the package is half that of the others, plus you add 5 tablespoons of butter to the mix. Made from rice flour, it also lacks fiber. But this is the one we’d splurge on as a treat. The texture is light and fluffy, with nicely distinct, crunchy croutons on top.

How to Doctor Up Store-Bought Stuffing

Who says packaged stuffing can't be delicious? Get the same great taste and flavor of homemade stuffing with the shortcut benefit of using a store-bought stuffing by adding one of these easy options below. Or, add one of these special touches to your own favorite homemade stuffing recipe for an even tastier version.

Dress up your store-bought packaged stuffing with one of these additions:

  • 1 pound sliced mushrooms sauteed with salt, pepper, and minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup each dried cranberries and coarsely chopped pecans
  • 1 cup each chopped carrots, chopped celery, and chopped onions sauteed in olive oil until tender
  • 1 pound spicy Italian sausage, casing removed and browned (turkey sausage is a lighter option)
  • 3 fresh pears or apples (tart), skinned, cored, and chunked
  • 1 cup raisins, also replacing the liquid the recipe calls for with apple juice

Use more or less based on your personal taste and how large of a batch you make. The amounts above are for a recipe that will feed 6-8 people.

I noticed a little too late that I was supposed to dry the bread out for one to two days, but I threw it in the oven at 300 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes and it still firmed up really well.

In general, this recipe had a similar process to the other two, from making the cornbread and dehydrating the other carbs to sautéeing the veggies.

The recipe instructed me to add 6 cups of broth to the sautéed vegetables, then ladle this mixture onto the tossed bread cubes until they were soaked to my liking.

I preferred this approach, as it was easier to control and prevent the stuffing from becoming soggy.

My stuffing took about 40 minutes in the oven rather than the 20 to 30 minutes the recipe called for, but the extra time helped it achieve a crisp, golden top.

Taste Test: Stuffing Mix

Packaged stuffing mixes of both types reside in the bread aisle of the grocery store &mdash and, no question, they'll streamline your prep on the big day. But do they really pack home-cooked flavor? To find out, 17 testers volunteered their services, sampling 13 nationally available brands in two categories, classic herb and corn bread, made according to label directions and on top of the range (if you like your stuffing to have a crispy top, prepare, then bake 15 minutes in a 350° F oven). Below, the best blends for stuffing your family this holiday season:

First Place (Classic Herb)

Stove Top Savory Herbs Stuffing Mix ($2 for 6 ounces) was the palate pleaser in this category. Tasters loved the moist, soft texture with "a little bit of crunch," as one said, and found the seasonings "well balanced," noted another. It also gained high marks for appearance, with a variety of colorful, fresh-looking herbs.

First Place (Corn Bread)

Arrowhead Mills Organic Cornbread Stuffing Mix ($3 for 10 ounces) earned the gold medal in our second category. Although it's ready in under 10 minutes, it could have passed for homemade, commented one volunteer, thanks to its "nice herb flavor" and "fluffy, moist" texture. The "delicious aroma," said another sampler, secured the victory.

Thanksgiving Stuffing Taste Test

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, I decided to taste test some common store bought stuffing packages to decide which one is the best. I tried six different brands that were available at our local grocery store, Smith’s, which are part of Kroger Brand stores. The six different stuffings I tried are: Pepperidge Farms Herb Seasoned Classic and Cubed Stuffing, Mrs. Cubbison’s Traditional and Cube Stuffing, Stove Top Turkey Stuffing and Kroger Turkey Flavored Stuffing Mix. All of these stuffings were made to stand alone and not actually “stuffed” into a bird. I grew up with stand alone stuffing (not being stuffed in the bird and than served) so I prefer stand alone stuffing. I do not like soggy/greasy stuffing so being stuffed into the bird is not a favorite of mine. Also, when stuffing the bird, the internal temperature of the stuffing must reach 165 degree’s to be safe which generally leads to the turkey being overcooked and dry.

I followed the package directions on how to make each brand and used chicken stock. I didn’t add any other ingredients like celery, nuts or fruit and simply used the liquid amount required to make each one minus any butter or margarine. There are some clear difference I noticed immediately. Seasonings and aromas were very different from brand to brand. Mrs. Cubbison’s plastic package holding the seasoned bread crumbs would not open with my kitchen scissors and I had to use a knife to open the plastic bag. Every other brand I tried cut open fine with my kitchen scissors.

Let’s start with Mrs. Cubbison’s stuffing. I was surprised by the little amount of chicken stock the package instructed. I used 1 1/2 cups chicken stock to per package as directed. The stuffing was extremely dry and lacked significant flavor. This stuffing is definitely one that probably should be used to stuff the turkey rather than served as a stand alone side. I have to say this brand was my least favorite of any I tried. It was dry and lacked flavor as compared to the others.

The Pepperidge Farm stuffing (both tried) were a little better and had a significant visual difference between their cubed and traditional stuffing brands. The traditional stuffing brand was “mushy” and didn’t have a good eye appeal. Furthermore, the bread used resembled more like “crumbs and crust” than chopped up bread like the others. This stuffing was overall bland and dry too. This stuffing most likely would be better stuffed in the bird than served as a stand alone side dish.

Stove Top Turkey Stuffing Mix had the best eye appeal for a stand alone stuffing. It was very aromatic when the package was opened. Simple to make and tasty, this stuffing brand has my vote for the best stand alone stuffing brand.

Kroger Turkey Flavored Stuffing Mix looks and smells a lot like Stove Top Stuffing. These similarities make me think Kraft packages the Kroger stuffing under the Kroger label. There are some minor difference between the two both visually and seasoning but makes a close second to Stove Top Turkey Stuffing Mix.

While on air, Mary Nickels was adamant about her dislike for Mrs. Cubbinson’s stuffing and so that was on the bottom of her list. Stove Top Turkey Stuffing or the Kroger Turkey Flavored Stuffing mix as a close second.

Overall, stuffing is a personal choice but side by side there is a distinct difference between stuffing brands. Without the addition of any other ingredients, Stove Top Stuffing clearly scored top in our taste test. I know there are homemade stuffing recipes out there that you may swear by and I have no doubt they are delicious. Whether you choose to stuff the turkey with your stuffing or a store purchased stuffing brand, always make sure you cook everything to proper food temperatures to assure it’s safe to eat. Always keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot. If you’ve ever had a food-borne illness, it’s not fun and it’s well worth cooking to appropriate temperatures of 165 degree’s Fahrenheit, keeping cold foods cold and hot foods hot.

The Best Store-Bought Thanksgiving Dishes

As much as you may want to make an entirely home-cooked meal, sometimes you've got to cut yourself some slack (hey, life happens). These dishes are so good people will beg for the recipe&mdashit's your call whether you show them the box it came from.

Just count up all the times someone says, "I can't believe you went to this much trouble!" as they load up their cocktail napkins with three or four of these mini quiches. Everybody will devour the cheesy bacon ones&mdashand you might even get picky eaters to sneak in a little bit of greens with the Swiss cheese and spinach variety.

Where to Find Them: Most major grocery stores and bulk retailers, like Sam's Club and Costco

Whether you prefer garlic-infused or traditional mashed potatoes, you can't go wrong with Bob Evans. These potatoes are so rich and creamy, some people have told us they've stopped making homemade ones altogether.

Where to Find Them: Grocery Stores

If the thought of skimming fat from turkey drippings makes your lips curl in disgust (it's an involuntary reaction! You can't control it!), try this premade version, which isn't as salty as most jarred brands.

Where to Find It: Publix Supermarkets

This salad kit features kale, spinach and shredded broccoli, which you can toss with the included packets of shaved parmesan and romano cheeses, garlic croutons and Caesar dressing, for a sophisticated, instant starter. You fancy now.

Where to Find It: Grocery stores

Boston Market recently announced that its Thanksgiving sales have skyrocketed 100 percent in the last five years, and after tasting the brand's Sweet Potato Casserole, we can see why. It's mixed with molasses and topped with toasted marshmallows and a brown sugar streusel that could hold its own against your grandma's tried-and-true recipe.

Where to Find It: Boston Market

This gooey, melty mac & cheese is every bit as thick and creamy as the homemade variety&mdashonly you don't have to spend $14 in cheese and bother making a bechamel.

Where to Find It: Grocery stores

You can bake these doughy knots right in their foil pack, then pop them into the bread basket and serve. No dealing with yeast, mincing garlic or anything. Yasss!

Where to Find It: Walmart

This velvety soup tastes just like the version you can find at the chain's cafes, but you can find it in the refrigerated section of the grocery store, saving you a trip.

Where to Find It: Grocery stores

The imperfect crust looks totally homemade the craveworthy blend of flavors&mdasha mix of apples, cream cheese, cinnamon, sugar and slivered almonds&mdashmakes it seem like you were trained by the Barefoot Contessa herself. Wipe a little flour on your cheeks and no one will be any wiser.

Where to Find It: Trader Joe's

Just grab a bag of chips as you dash through the grocery store, and you're all set for one killer Thanksgiving appetizer.

Where to Find It: Grocery stores, Target, Walmart

The red box is universally known for a reason, it seems&mdashit recently won a boxed stuffing taste test, beating out blends from Pepperidge Farm, Whole Foods, Trader Joe's and more.

Where to Find It: Grocery stores

Who can resist wanting to try Patti LaBelle's famous sweet potato pie, especially after this unforgettable review?! (Fair warning: It may be hard to find&mdashWalmart reported it sold one pie every second for the 72 hours after the review video went viral.)

Where to Find It: Walmart

You won't be fooling anyone that this dish is homemade, but it's a Thanksgiving staple for a reason. Your table will feel like it's missing something without it, and this year, you can impress everyone with the real reason the can's label appears to be upside-down.