Thanksgiving-In-Your-Mouth Paleo Stuffing
For me, Thanksgiving is all about stuffing + mashed potatoes + gravy.
When I started attending my husband's family's huge Thanksgiving potluck a decade ago, my jaw fell to the floor when I realized there was no stuffing on the table. It's a total FEAST otherwise — multiple turkeys, awesome gravy, sweet potato casseroles, homemade cranberries, pecan pies... everything except the most important dish.
No stuffing?! Obviously that wasn't going to work for me, so the following year my husband and I volunteered ourselves for stuffing duty and we have been in charge of the most important thing ever since.
We always make a big, bread-y batch of real stuffing (also a delicious mess of sausage-apple perfection), but if you're not able to eat real stuffing or if you just want Thanksgiving meal at a non-Thanksgiving time... then definitely try this. It's great inside a baked acorn squash bowl like in the photos, or on top of a sweet potato, or just shoveled into your mouth throughout fall and winter.
The herb-y flavor of this stuff(ing) is so, so, so good. It's based on a dish my friend Bethany brought to a paleo meal swap in 2012. It got me through my first Whole30, and it was actually one of the first recipes I ever shared on Worthy Pause.
I gave it that corny name because this dish really does have so many fall flavors packed into each bite. You'll know what I'm talking about when you make it and eat it and love it. :) It's just teeming with savory herbs, caramelized onions, sausage, mushrooms, kale, cranberries and, of course, apples. Like any good Minnesotan, I am loyal to Honeycrisp apples specifically (they were invented here at the University of Minnesota), but you can use anything you like. It's really not a fussy recipe.
Thanksgiving-In-Your-Mouth Paleo Stuffing
paleo, gluten-free + whole30 approved | serves ~10 as a side; 6 as a meal
based on my pal Bethany's 2012 creation
- 1 large onion, sliced thinly
- butter, olive oil or ghee, for cooking
- 1 lb. spicy bulk Italian sausage
- 1 tsp ground sage
- 1/2 tsp ground thyme
- 1/2 tsp dried tarragon
- 1/2 tsp dried marjoram
- 2 apples, diced (Honeycrisp are my favorite!)
- 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
- 1 pint baby bella mushrooms, sliced
- 4 large garlic cloves, minced
- 1 bag frozen chopped kale
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
- cayenne pepper, to taste
- black pepper and salt, to taste
- optional: sliced toasted almonds for garnish
- Pull out a large Dutch oven and a large pan.
- Caramelize the onions in the Dutch oven. I used to do this wrong and it would take me years, but I've finally figured it out (here's a tutorial!). The onions take about 20 minutes and you need to be tending to them, but you can start browning the sausage at the same time.
- Brown the sausage well in the other pan, adding the sage, thyme, tarragon and marjoram. Once the onions are fully caramelized and the sausage is fully browned, transfer the sausage to the Dutch oven and keep there heat on low.
- Using the sausage fat (with added oil, butter or ghee if you need it), sauté the apples for about 5 minutes with the pumpkin pie spice and a sprinkle of salt. You don’t want them to be too soft or they won’t hold up to the rest of the process. Add the apples to the big pot with everything else and stir.
- Add more olive oil or ghee to your pan and throw in the mushrooms, garlic, salt and pepper. Cook until tender and then add them to the big Dutch oven with everything else. (Also, you're finally done with the pan.)
- Add the kale and dried cranberries to the Dutch oven. Mix and heat throughly.
- Do a taste check and add more seasonings as needed.
- Sprinkle with toasted almonds (if desired) and serve alongside a Thanksgiving dinner or inside half a roasted acorn squash.
- To learn the secrets to caramelizing onions, check out this lil' tutorial I made: How to Caramelize Onions in Only 20 Minutes
- You can prep this ahead of time and reheat in the oven or microwave in a big casserole dish for Thanksgiving.
- If you're serving scoops inside a squash bowl like I do when it's not Thanksgiving, here's how to bake acorn squash perfectly.
Because it's so shareable and apples have a starring role in this recipe, I decided to re-test and re-shoot to share this stuffing as part of a big apple blogger party. Food blogger friends from all over the globe are sharing their favorite apple recipes on the Instagram hashtag #Aisforalltheapples, so check 'em out!
@Katie_Clova - Maple Apple Cake
@suburbanpiesandtreats - Rosemary Brown Butter Apple Pie
@holajalapeno - Fluffy Apple Chili Biscuits
@friendswhofete - Pomegranate Ginger Apple Cider Punch
@cloudykitchen - Salted Caramel and Apple Babka
@ful.filled - Milopita- Greek Apple Cake
@especiallysouthern - Apple Pie Egg Rolls
@pensive_foodie - Bacon Crusted Apple Pies
@mykitchenlove - Bird's Nest Apple Caramel Cake
@joyosity - Deep Fried Apple Dumplings with Miso Caramel Dipping Sauce
@dukkah_queen - Caramelized Venetian Bread Pudding
@moreicingthencake - Apple Butter Pretzels with Rosemary Cheddar Dip
@feedtheswimmers - Apple Buckwheat Galette with Halva and Maple Tahini
@thekitchensinkblog - Apple Cheddar Loaf
@whatshouldimakefor - Hasselback Apple Puff Pastry Tarts
@jessiesheehanbakes - Apple Fritters
@farmandcoastcookery - Apple Cider Donut and Cinnamon Apple French Toast Casserole
@smartinthekitchen - Gluten Free Apple Cranberry Crisp
@thishealthytable - Cardamon Apple Tart
@thegalettegirl - Apple Galette
@piegirlbakes - Apple Pie
@figsandflour - Apple Purple Potato Pizza
@somethingnewfordinner - Savory Bread Pudding with Apples, Sausage and Pecans
@champagneandcookies - Apple Galette
@alwayseatdessert - Apple Spice Scones with Maple Bourbon Glaze
@rezelkealoha - Apple Poached Rose with Rosewater Reduction
@thesoupsolution - Fennel Sausage and Apple Dressing (stuffing)
@lemonthymeandginger - Smoky Maple Apple Dutch Baby
@anniecampbell - Popcorn, Cheese and Apples
@cocoaandsalt - Vegan Apple Stuffin' Muffins
@ladyandlarder - Cheeseboard with Apples
@chefdanielagerson - Skillet Caramel Apple Pie
@gobblethecook - One Pan Pork and Sausages with Apples
@allomamanwhatscooking - Apple & Camembert Tarte Tatin
@bakingthegoods - Apple Cheddar and Thyme Scones
@whatannieseating - Butternut Squash and Apple Soup with Asiago & Sage Croutons
@its_a_vegworld_afterall - 5 MInute Microwave Apple Crisp
@floursinyourhair - Brown Butter Bourbon Apple Pie
@cooksandkid - Apple Cabbage Jalapeno Slaw
@confettikitchen - Fall Kale Salad with Chicken and Apples
@saltedplains - Gluten-Free Apple Crumb Cake
@marypardoux - White Bean and Apple Soup
@plumluckypiepi - Pinot and Cranberry-poached Apple Slab Pie
@easyanddelish - Candy Corn Apple Pops
@thismessisours - Easy Baked Apple Custard
@butterlovescompany - Gingerbread with Brandied Apples
@korekitchen - Green Apple Pie Smoothie
@zestfulkitchen - Puffed Apple Pancake
@sweetpillarfood - Apple Honey Brie
@farmgirlsdabble - Peanut Butter Apple Cookies
@sweetisthespice - Maple, Walnut, Apple Cider Israeli Couscous
@ameecooks - Peanut Butter Protein Dip with Apples
@pinch_dash_glug - Waldorf Salad's Twisted Sister
This post was originally published in 2012, but the recipe and photos were updated in 2017.