Classic Stuffing for Chicken and Game Hens

Bread dressing for chicken or game hens recipe

​The Spruce

Prep: 15 mins
Cook: 45 mins
Total: 60 mins
Servings: 6 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
197 Calories
13g Fat
16g Carbs
5g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6
Amount per serving
Calories 197
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 13g 16%
Saturated Fat 7g 35%
Cholesterol 89mg 30%
Sodium 383mg 17%
Total Carbohydrate 16g 6%
Dietary Fiber 1g 4%
Total Sugars 3g
Protein 5g
Vitamin C 1mg 6%
Calcium 62mg 5%
Iron 1mg 8%
Potassium 121mg 3%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Stuffing is a classic dish that appears on holiday tables across the United States. Although there are infinite variations, and each family has a favorite recipe, this basic stuffing for small poultry like chicken or game hens is an easy recipe that you can use as a base to add to over time. This delicious recipe is easy enough to cook on a weekday and can be a tasty side for other meats. Potatoes and rice, move aside.

Stuffing is usually considered the mixture that you stuff your bird with so it cooks inside of the cavity, and dressing is basically the same mixture but cooked outside in a separate pan. For food safety reasons, most cooks choose to bake it separately, but if you're on the "stuffing team," be mindful that the lowest safe temperature that the stuffing can register with an instant-read thermometer is 165 F. Because the poultry will drip its juices onto the stuffing, if not cooked properly, the stuffing can harbor dangerous food-borne bacteria. Once the poultry and stuffing are cooked to a safe temperature, let the bird sit for 20 minutes before removing the stuffing from the cavity.

Most cooks use stale bread, as the dry bread readily absorbs liquid and gives a better texture to the stuffing; bread that is too soft can yield an equally soft result. If your bread is too fresh, add a handful of cornbread crumbs to help firm up the mix.

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter

  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped celery

  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup finely chopped onions

  • 4 cups bread, cut into 3/4-inch cubes

  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning, more to taste

  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped sage

  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup chicken broth

  • 2 large eggs

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for bread stuffing for chicken or game hens

    ​The Spruce

  2. Heat the oven to 325 F. Using a small piece of the butter, grease a shallow 2 1/2- to 3-quart baking dish.

    Butter-coated baking dish

    ​The Spruce

  3. Heat the remaining butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat.

    Melted butter in a pan

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  4. Add the celery and onions and cook, stirring, until the onions are translucent and the celery is slightly tender.

    Chopped onions and celery cooking in butter

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  5. In a large bowl, combine the onion and celery mixture with the bread cubes, salt, poultry seasoning, pepper, and sage.

    Bread, cooked vegetables, and seasoning in a bowl

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  6. Add the chicken broth until just moistened. Start with 1/2 cup and add more if needed. Taste and adjust seasonings.

    Bread with chicken broth in a bowl

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  7. Whisk the eggs in a small bowl and then stir them into the stuffing mixture. 

    Stuffing mixture tossed together in a bowl

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  8. Spoon the stuffing into the prepared baking dish. Cover it tightly with foil.

    Stuffing in a baking dish

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  9. Bake in the preheated oven for about 35 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking for 10 to 15 minutes longer.

    Baked bread stuffing

    ​The Spruce

  10. Enjoy.

Recipe Variations

This basic stuffing has room for other ingredients. Here are a few ideas on how to spruce it up:

  • Add nuts for crunch. Pistachios, cashews, or sunflower seeds add a subtle flavor and fun texture. Simply add 1/2 cup of the nuts or seeds of your choice before baking.
  • Use other vegetables like grated carrots, finely cubed turnips, or parsnips.
  • Try different herbs in lieu of sage. Savory is a classic poultry herb, but rosemary or thyme complements the flavor of chicken and game hens beautifully.
  • Cube and fry 4 slices of thick bacon, drain the fat and mix with the stuffing before baking. For a very decadent stuffing, use the bacon fat to cook the onions and celery, and if needed, add some butter.
  • Add dried fruit. Many recipes go the sweet route as poultry pairs really well with fruity flavors. Use 1/2 cup dried apricots, golden raisins, or finely chopped figs and mix it into the stuffing before baking.
  • Replace the eggs with 1/2 pack of silken tofu. If you don't want to use eggs or need to replace them because of food allergies, simply mash the silken tofu and mix with the rest of the ingredients.
  • Replace the butter with margarine if your preparation should remain dairy free.

Should I Put an Egg in My Stuffing?

For stuffing to hold its shape after cooking, it needs a binder. The most common binder used is egg, which keeps the stuffing light and fluffy while helping to hold it together. Alternatives, such as tofu, can be used for vegan stuffings.