Classic Herb Stuffing (vegan)

I love stuffing. The combination of stuffing & gravy is by far my favorite Thanksgiving menu item, and at the end of the day, it’s all I really need. Maybe some cranberry sauce and a biscuit or two, but as long as I have stuffing & gravy, I’m good to go.

As my introductory stuffing recipe, I’m keeping this one super simple. Dried out bakery-fresh bread is key here. I repeat, do not skimp on the quality of your stale bread. I then flavor the stuffing with rich extra virgin olive oil, a variety of herbs, including fresh sage, and tons of sautéed leeks & celery. I included some extra add-ins listed in the recipe, but the basic version is absolutely scrumptious, so no need to bother. I’ll eventually come up with my favorite “fancy” version, probably with raisins, apples & fresh rosemary added in. In fact, I’m planning to try that exact combo for this year’s big day. I’ll let you know how it goes!

I really only make stuffing during the holidays, that’s what keeps it special. But because I was making it for this recipe post, I had no choice but to enjoy it in October. I also just posted my dreamy mushroom gravy recipe the other day, so lucky me, I enjoyed the stuffing the way it’s meant to be enjoyed, with gravy. For dinner last night Matt grilled cauliflower steaks to charred perfection. We served the “steaks” over the stuffing and topped it all off with the gravy, it was amazing, and if I’m ever going to eat stuffing & gravy outside of November this is the way I’m going to do it.

Classic Herb Stuffing (vegan)

Ingredients

1-1/4 to 1-1/2 lb loaf good quality bread, dried out, cut into small pieces*
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 large leeks, trimmed, sliced & cleaned*
3 large celery ribs, diced
sea salt
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh sage leaves, roughly chopped
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh parsley leaves, minced
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon+ red pepper flake (optional, to taste)
1.5 cups vegetable stock or broth (divided, I’m using low sodium)

optional add-in ideas
– 1 cup raisins or dried cranberries
– 2 chopped apples
– 2 sprigs fresh rosemary leaves
– 1 teaspoon fennel seed
– 2 cloves minced garlic

To Make

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F).

In a large pot heat olive oil over medium to medium-high heat. Add leeks, celery and 1 teaspoon salt. Sauté for 5-6 minutes, then add sage, parsley, oregano, thyme and pepper. Sauté for a minute and turn off heat.

Add bread cubes to the pot and toss until incorporated. Add 2 more teaspoons salt (or to taste) and 1/2 cup vegetable stock. Stir again.

Transfer stuffing to a large casserole or baking dish. Pour remaining 1 cup stock evenly over the stuffing. Cover baking dish tightly with lid or aluminum foil.

Bake stuffing for 30-40 minutes, covered. Alternatively, do not cover or take the cover off for the last half of cooking,for a dryer top crust.

Notes

Bread

I prefer peasant, country white or light/soft wheat bread varieties.

For stuffing you need really dry or stale bread. You can leave the bread out for a few days to dry out or shortcut it with fresh bread. For the shortcut – gently toast fresh bread cubes in the oven to achieve the dryness (300 degrees for 10-30 minutes, tossing every 5-10 minutes).

Cube the bread into any size you want, bigger cubes are prettier but I actually prefer my cubes to be as small as possible, almost crumbs.

Leaks

Leaks have grit between their layers. To prep the leek, cut the trimmed leek lengthwise down the middle and thinly slice cross-wise into half moons. Separate the layers as you add to a big bowl of cool water. Give them a shake in the water and let them sit for a few minutes. The grit will sink to the bottom, gently remove leeks from the top of the water without stirring the bottom too much.

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