Butternut squash stuffing in a glass baking dish with leaves of sage and a wooden bowl with salt.

Butternut Squash Stuffing

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Butternut squash stuffing is the best Thanksgiving side dish! Made with challah bread and fall inspired ingredients, like apples, cranberries, and leeks, it’s just like your traditional stuffing, but with an added twist. This version is very similar to a squash stuffing casserole, making it incredibly easy to prepare ahead of time and throw right in the oven. And with an added tip to make it vegetarian if you prefer, this recipe is perfect for nearly any guest! Whether you call it stuffing, dressing, or casserole, this stuffing is a must make for all!

Butternut squash stuffing in a glass dish with a wooden bowl filled with salt and sage leaves on the side.

What makes this butternut squash stuffing so good?!

Butternut squash stuffing pairs perfectly with nearly any protein, from turkey or chicken, to steak or fish. It’s great served fresh on Thanksgiving, reheated as leftovers the next day, or simply made as a side dish for dinner throughout the fall or winter season. 

It combines great flavors from onions, leeks, chicken broth, and leftover turkey gravy, which all sit on top of butternut squash and toasted challah. It’s incredibly hearty and filling. Yet, it’s light enough to pair with all the other heavier Thanksgiving side dishes, like mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, or mac and cheese. It’s truly the best way to add a healthier component to the table!

As a stuffing casserole, the prep time is nearly minimal, allowing you to focus on all of the other items on your Thanksgiving to do list. You can even make this recipe ahead of time, freeze it, and reheat it just in time for your feast. And as for leftovers, there’s no need to worry about food waste, since this stuffing reheats well without drying out, ensuring that it’ll be gobbled up in no time.

Serve butternut squash stuffing alongside all the other show-stopping Thanksgiving side dishes, like roasted squash with apples and kale, garlic mashed potatoes, and cranberry apple salad. Your guests will be sure to thank you for showcasing all the great flavors of fall.

Never fuss with cramming a mixture of ingredients inside the cavity of a turkey again, when you can get the same flavorful result by simply baking it in a casserole dish, instead!

Ingredients

Labelled ingredients for butternut squash stuffing (see recipe for details).

A few notes about the ingredients:

  1. What is challah? Challah is a Jewish egg bread that can often be found in the bakery section of your local grocery store. It is typically braided and has a shiny brown color. Some challahs are topped with sesame seeds and some come plain. Either will do for this recipe. If you can’t find challah, fresh baked brioche bread or a hearty, yet fluffy bakery bread will work instead.
  2. What are leeks? Leeks are a part of the onion family. They look like a larger scallion (or green onion) and have a white flesh with a leafy green top. They have a milder taste than onions, so if you can’t find leeks at the store, you can substitute with just a bit more onion in this dish.
  3. Turkey drippings (or gravy) help to add flavor to the dish, but are not entirely essential. If you don’t have any turkey drippings on hand, you can add an additional half cup of chicken broth instead.
  4. If you don’t have fresh herbs, you can substitute with dried.

How do you make butternut squash stuffing?

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees F. Cut the challah bread into 1 inch cubes. Place them on a sheet pan with the chopped pecans and toast them in the oven for 12 to 15 minutes, giving them a toss halfway through. 

Cubed toasted challah on a sheet pan.

While the bread and pecans are in the oven, cut and prepare the rest of the vegetables. Once the bread is lightly golden brown and toasted, remove the sheet pan from the oven and increase the temperature to 350 degrees F.

Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the chopped onions and salt. Cook for about a minute, then add the leeks, celery, and apples. Stir to combine it all and cook until it all softens.

Cooked leeks, apples, and celery in a skillet.

Prepare a large baking dish by spraying it with nonstick spray. (Mine was 11 inches by 13 inches, but you can use two smaller baking dishes if you don’t have one large one.) 

To create layers, add half of the bread, pecans, and squash to the dish. Top with half of the dried cranberries and cooked vegetables. Sprinkle with half of the chopped fresh herbs. Continue that process again until everything is placed in the dish.

Layered challah, cooked vegetables, dried cranberries, and butternut squash in a baking dish.

Beat the eggs and pour them over everything, along with the chicken broth and turkey drippings. Give the baking dish a slight shake to coat all the bread and squash in the juices.

Cover the dish with foil and bake in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes. Remove the foil and increase the oven temperature to 400 degrees F. Bake for another 25-30 minutes, until the top pieces of bread turn beautifully golden brown.

Serve alongside your favorite Thanksgiving turkey or get a little crazy with it and serve it with garlic roasted chicken, healthy chicken meatloaf, or even bbq baby back ribs!

Butternut squash stuffing in a glass baking dish with leaves of sage on top.

Can you make stuffing ahead of time?

This squash stuffing is incredibly easy to prep ahead of time! To help make your Thanksgiving a breeze, you can toast the bread, cook the vegetables, and chop everything the day ahead. Layer the components into the baking dish, but wait until you’re ready to bake the stuffing before adding the eggs, broth, and drippings. When ready to bake, simply pour the liquids over the top of the casserole, cook, and enjoy!

Can you freeze stuffing?

If you’d like to make this squash stuffing further ahead of time, it is also easy to freeze! Follow all of the recipe’s directions, allow it to cool completely, and wrap it tightly in both plastic wrap and foil to prevent freezer burn. If you plan to freeze the stuffing, I highly recommend baking it in a disposable tin pan instead of a metal or glass dish, so you can easily transfer it from oven to freezer.

How do you reheat stuffing without drying it out?

If you freeze the stuffing and want to reheat it, allow it to thaw completely in the refrigerator overnight. Remove the plastic wrap, but keep it covered with the foil. Heat in a 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes, until it is warmed through. If needed, add a drizzle of chicken broth over the top to prevent it from drying out. 

If you did not freeze the stuffing, but want advice on how to reheat it, follow the previous instructions. However, instead of defrosting it in the fridge, allow the stuffing to sit on the counter to come to room temperature while you preheat the oven. To prevent it from drying out, add a drizzle of chicken broth over the top.

What’s the difference between stuffing and dressing?

For the most part, stuffing and dressing are the same thing. However, the main difference is in how they are cooked. Often, stuffing is defined as a mixture stuffed into another food or poultry, like chicken or turkey, and cooked together at the same time. Whereas dressing is composed of similar elements, but is baked more like a casserole in a dish. 

Likewise, there are cultural associations between the two words, where in the USA, no matter how it’s prepared, typically those from the south call it “dressing” and those from the north call it “stuffing.”

Are you Team Stuffing or Team Dressing?! Comment below!

What makes this butternut squash stuffing healthy?

Though this butternut squash stuffing may be considered carb-centric, it is still healthy. With the addition of nutrient rich squash and fresh flavorful ingredients, you eliminate a lot of additional junk often found in other recipes. With no butter or added oils, this stuffing remains crisp and flavorful without anything unnecessarily unhealthy. It uses fresh turkey drippings instead of store bought bouillon or fake flavor enhancers. Additionally, by purchasing bakery-fresh bread for this recipe, you eliminate any additional preservatives and junk baked into processed store-bought bread.

One more tip

  • If you’re looking for a vegetarian stuffing, this recipe can simply be modified. Instead of including chicken broth and turkey drippings, opt for vegetable broth. When making a vegetarian butternut squash stuffing, the flavor may change a little bit, but the comforting Thanksgiving flavors, like apples, cranberries, sage, and thyme, will still remain!
Butternut squash stuffing in a glass dish with a metal spatula scooping out some stuffing.

Looking for more healthy side dish recipes? Try these:

Share your cooking with me! If you make this recipe, I’d love to know! Tag @yourhomemadehealthy on Instagram or leave a comment with a rating and some feedback at the bottom of this page!

Butternut squash stuffing in a glass baking dish with leaves of sage and a wooden bowl with salt.

Butternut Squash Stuffing

Butternut squash stuffing is the best Thanksgiving side dish! Made with challah bread and fall inspired ingredients, like apples, cranberries, and leeks, it's just like your traditional stuffing, but with an added twist. Whether you call it stuffing, dressing, or casserole, this recipe is a must make for all!
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 1 hr 30 mins
Total Time 1 hr 45 mins
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American
Servings 12 servings

Equipment

  • Skillet
  • sheet pan
  • baking dish

Ingredients
  

  • 1 loaf challah bread (around 1 pound) cubed
  • ¼ cup pecans chopped
  • 1 onion around 2 cups chopped
  • 2 celery stalks chopped
  • 2 leeks, white only cleaned and sliced
  • 2 apples (preferably granny smith or honey crisp) peeled and chopped
  • 1 butternut squash (small to medium sized) peeled and cubed
  • ½ cup dried cranberries
  • 2 ½ cups warm chicken broth
  • ½ cup turkey gravy or drippings
  • 4 eggs beaten
  • ½ tsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 5 sage leaves chopped

Instructions
 

  • Preheat your oven to 300 degrees F.
  • Cut the challah bread into 1 inch cubes. Place them on a sheet pan with the chopped pecans and toast them in the oven for 12 to 15 minutes, giving them a toss halfway through. 
  • While the bread and pecans are in the oven, cut and prepare the rest of the vegetables.
  • Once the bread is lightly golden brown and toasted, remove the sheet pan from the oven and increase the temperature to 350 degrees F.
  • Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the chopped onions and a pinch of salt. Cook for about a minute, then add the leeks, celery, and apples. Stir to combine it all and cook until it all softens.
  • Prepare a large baking dish by spraying it with nonstick spray. (Mine was 11 inches by 13 inches, but you can use two smaller baking dishes if you don’t have one large one.) 
  • To create layers, add half of the bread, pecans, and squash to the dish. Top with half of the dried cranberries and cooked vegetables. Sprinkle with half of the chopped fresh herbs and another pinch of salt. Continue that process again until everything is placed in the dish.
  • Beat the eggs and pour them over everything, along with the chicken broth and turkey drippings. Give the baking dish a slight shake to coat all the bread and squash in the juices.
  • Cover the dish with foil and bake in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes.
  • Remove the foil and increase the oven temperature to 400 degrees F. Bake for another 25-30 minutes, until the top pieces of bread turn beautifully golden brown.

Notes

  1. What is challah? Challah is a Jewish egg bread that can often be found in the bakery section of your local grocery store. It is typically braided and has a shiny brown color. Some challahs are topped with sesame seeds and some come plain. Either will do for this recipe. If you can’t find challah, fresh baked brioche bread or a hearty, yet fluffy bakery bread will work instead.
  2. What are leeks? Leeks are a part of the onion family. They look like a larger scallion (or green onion) and have a white flesh with a leafy green top. If you can’t find leeks at the store, you can substitute with just a bit more onion in this dish.
  3. Turkey drippings (or gravy) help to add flavor to the dish, but are not entirely essential. If you don’t have any turkey drippings on hand, you can add an additional half cup of chicken broth instead.
  4. If you don’t have fresh herbs, you can substitute with dried.
  5. See notes in the above post for instructions on how to freeze and make this stuffing ahead of time.
  6. If you’re looking for a vegetarian stuffing: Instead of including chicken broth and turkey drippings, opt for vegetable broth. The flavor may change a little bit, but the comforting Thanksgiving flavors, like apples, cranberries, sage, and thyme, will still remain!
Keyword Butternut Squash, Challah Stuffing, Healthy Recipe, Healthy Side Dish, Thanksgiving Side Dish, Thanksgiving Stuffing

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1 Comment

  1. 5 stars
    This stuffing was Unbelievably delicious. My family opted to exclude the butternut squash, and it was a hit! Gotta remember to double the recipe next year cuz everyone took seconds and You’ll definitely want leftovers. Definitely going to make this my go-to stuffing recipe. 😋

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