Whether you’re planning an upscale list of hor d’oeuvres for your Thanksgiving dinner, or crafting an festive Thanksgiving “girl dinner” (admit it, that would be kind of fun), the menu isn’t complete without some kind of stuffing in the mix. These sausage-stuffed Thanksgiving stuffing bites designed by developer Michelle McGlinn turn the classic casserole into an appetizer, transforming the moist cubes of sourdough into bite-sized cups. Each buttery cup is filled with Italian sausage, onion, celery, and garlic, then baked until golden and topped with fresh cranberry relish.
If you’d rather serve these during dinner Thanksgiving dinner as an alternative to actual stuffing, just think of them as mini stuffing muffins and serve them on a platter beside the other sides. They’re a great option for young kids who still like to play with their food, too, so don’t shy away from the kids’ table with these stuffing bites. These are everything you love in a stuffing casserole, made bite-size and ready to eat.
This ingredient list is similar to that for regular stuffing, so if Thanksgiving is around the corner, you may already have everything you need on hand. Grab sourdough or any crusty bread you love and let it dry out for a day or two. Grab some butter, onion, celery, garlic, Italian sausage, and white wine for the filling. Then grab chicken broth, egg, salt, pepper, and sage to finish the stuffing mixture. For the topping, you can use premade cranberry jam or relish, or you can quickly whip one up with cranberries, sugar, and lemon.
Preheat the oven to 350 F.
Arrange bread cubes on a sheet tray, and toast for about 5 minutes. Remove from the oven.
Transfer bread cubes to a large bowl.
Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat.
Add the onion, garlic, and celery and cook until softened, about 4-5 minutes.
Add the white wine and cook until reduced, about 3-4 minutes.
Pour mixture over the bread cubes.
In the same skillet, brown the sausage, crumbling as you cook.
Add the sausage to the bread mixture.
Add the chicken broth, egg, salt, pepper, and sage to the bread mixture.
Mix well to combine, ensuring the bread is completely covered.
Grease a mini cheesecake pan.
Press the bread mixture firmly into the tins.
Bake until golden brown, about 20-25 minutes.
In the meantime, add the cranberries, sugar, and lemon juice to a small saucepan over medium heat.
Cook, stirring constantly, until cranberries are broken down and mixture is jammy, about 4-5 minutes. Let cool.
Carefully remove the stuffing bites from the tin.
Top each stuffing bite with ½ teaspoon cranberry jam to serve.
Like meatballs, stuffing bites are held together with an egg, which binds the moistened bread together. Unlike meatballs, the stuffing bites are made with separate cubes of bread, so there is a higher chance that the bites don’t stay together. When assembling the bites, make sure the mixture is very well combined and all of the bread cubes are completely moistened. Then, firmly press the combined mixture into the cups of the tray, pushing the bread cubes against the bottom and sides to form muffin-shaped cups. If the mixture is too dry to create cup shapes, add another egg and combine.
Besides being too dry, the stuffing bites may be falling apart because of the pan you’re using. If you don’t have a miniature cheesecake pan, which has removable bottoms in each cup, you can try using paper liners instead. That way, you can lift the bites by the liners and serve neatly as-is. If using cupcake liners, be sure to spray with cooking spray so the guests can easily remove the stuffing bite from the liner.
Stuffing bites can be served as appetizers alongside other bite-sized foods like stuffed mushrooms, crostini, and charcuterie skewers. If you happen to have plenty of sides for the dinner itself, but don’t want to miss out on the stuffing, this is a great option. They can also be served instead of stuffing, as a side dish next to the turkey and mashed potatoes. Because they’re quick to throw together and rely on a lot of pantry staples, they also make a nice lunch or light dinner with a bowl of soup or a salad any time you’re craving savory comfort food.
And of course, they can be served alongside all of the other Thanksgiving leftovers in the days following the feast: They store well in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. The bites can be reheated gently in the oven or quickly in the microwave. The components for the stuffing bites can also be made ahead; the sausage, vegetables, and dried bread cubes can be cooked and combined with the remaining liquid ingredients, then stored in a sealable bag or airtight container until ready to bake. Just press the stuffing mixture into greased cheesecake pans and bake until golden for a quick and easy snack. Though these muffin-shaped stuffing bites store pretty well, we don’t recommend baking them ahead of time, which may dry them out when re-warming for guests.