Turkeys are often the centerpiece in any big Thanksgiving spread. But for me, this indulgent fall holiday is all about the amazing sides: buttery mashed potatoes, rich gravy, baked macaroni and cheese, and warm dinner rolls. It's hard to pick a favorite when presented with so many tantalizing options, but if I even had to choose, I would pick stuffing in a heartbeat.
That savory combination of cubed bread, veggies, broth, and spices can be wildly delicious when executed right. And as it turns out, I'm far from the only person who feels that way. In a recent Campbell's survey that asked respondents to share their favorite Thanksgiving side dishes, stuffing received the second-highest number of votes behind mashed potatoes.
Luckily for anyone who won't have the time or motivation to make stuffing from scratch this Thanksgiving, there's a wide array of easy box mixes that only require a couple of ingredients and a few minutes of your time to prepare. But, which of those mixes is the absolute best? I recently set out to answer that question by trying all of the brands I could find at several grocery stores near me: Stove Top, Pepperidge Farms, Trader Joe's, Aleia's, Bell's, Great Value (Walmart's house brand), and Chef's Cupboard (Aldi's house brand).
Some of these brands do offer several different stuffing flavors, so I opted for the most basic versions of each that I could find. I prepared each stuffing on the stovetop per the package directions and judged them on taste and texture. I'm happy to report that the majority of these mixes were pretty tasty, and one clearly stood out as the best of the best.
Read on for my thoughts on each option, starting with the worst and ending with my No. 1 pick!
Trader Joe's Gluten Free Stuffing Mix
While Trader Joe's does sell a Cornbread Stuffing Mix, the only somewhat traditional mix that the retailer offers right now is a gluten-free version. The preparation method only requires boiling water, butter, and a pouch of seasoning included in the box before mixing in the gluten-free croutons and letting them steep for a few minutes. A 12.4-ounce box cost me $6.49.
The look: Way too mushy and unexpectedly green in color. The dry croutons that came in the Trader Joe's package were also much darker in color than what was advertised on the box.
The taste: Completely rancid. The second I poured the dry croutons into the mixture of water, butter, and spices, I was immediately hit with a sour chemical smell that quickly permeated my whole apartment. And when I finally worked up the courage to try a bite, the taste was even worse than expected—soapy and so unbelievably bitter that it almost stung my tongue. It was very clear to me that the package I bought was way past its prime despite the fact that it had a March 2024 "best by" date. I'm a big Trader Joe's fan on most days, but this is probably the worst experience I've ever had with a product from the chain.
Aleia's Cook Top Seasoned Poultry Stuffing Mix
Aleia's Cook Top Seasoned Poultry Stuffing Mix, the second of the two gluten-free varieties I tried, also calls for boiling a mixture of water, butter, and the contents of a seasoning packet before mixing in the croutons. A 5.5-ounce package cost me $4.99.
The look: Pretty similar in color to the stuffing advertised on the bag, but the texture was much more mushy and gummy. The package of dry croutons had a ton of fine crumbs on the inside that made me suspect many of the bigger bread pieces had been crushed before I purchased it.
The taste: Much more palatable than the Trader Joe's stuffing, but still not tasty enough that I would ever buy it again. The texture of the stuffing was inexplicably mushy on the outside but still slightly hard in the middle, even though I followed the directions very thoroughly. I wouldn't have minded the unpleasant texture nearly as much if at least the taste was good, but I was disappointed on that end as well. I detected a very faint chicken flavor, but it sorely needed more salt and herby flavors.
Bell's Traditional Stuffing
Bell's Traditional Stuffing only requires water, butter, and the optional addition of celery and onions. A 12-ounce package cost me $3.69.
The look: Pretty lackluster overall. The color was very uniform and beige, and the pieces of bread were smaller and gummier than what I tend to like in a stuffing.
The taste: Aside from the Aleia's and Trader Joe's versions, Bell's stuffing had the most disappointing texture. The pieces of bread were soaked through, thankfully, but they were also pretty mushy in a way I did not appreciate. The taste of the stuffing was also way salty, which, coming from me, is saying something because I have a super high threshold for sodium. The stuffing would have been much better if Bell's replaced some of the salt with other flavor boosters like herbs and spices.
Stove Top Savory Herbs Stuffing
Stove Top's Savory Herbs Stuffing directs you to boil water with either butter or margarine, then mix in the croutons and let them absorb the liquid. A six-ounce box cost me $2.99.
The look: From the appearance alone, I could tell that Stove Top's herby stuffing would live up to its name. The mixture was heavily speckled with plenty of aromatic bits of green. While the croutons themselves absorbed the liquid much better than the bottom three brands in this taste test, the whole mixture was a little gooier than the higher ranking stuffings.
The taste: An absolute herb-a-palooza. While it's hard to pinpoint all of the different flavors featured in this Stove Top option, I detected notes of thyme, parsley, and maybe even a little rosemary. Those herbs balanced beautifully with what seemed like the perfect amount of salt. I would have ranked Stove Top top even higher if the texture was less mushy, which wasn't an issue with the three higher-ranking options on this list. However, this is still a super tasty store-bought stuffing that was easy to prepare and miles above the bottom three options.
Chef's Cupboard Chicken Stuffing Mix
This Aldi-brand Chef's Cupboard Chicken Stuffing Mix requires a boiled combination of water and butter, into which you mix a bag of seasoned croutons. A six-ounce box cost me $0.99.
The look: Darker and sturdier than the slightly gummy Stove Top version. This herb-studded Aldi option seemed to soak up the water and butter perfectly without getting too soft.
The taste: Salty, herby, and very chicken-forward. This extremely affordable option really packed that super savory kick that I crave in a great stuffing. Meanwhile, the bread itself was moist and soft all the way to the middle without getting overly mushy. While I did think the Chef's Cupboard and Stove Top stuffing were pretty evenly matched in terms of taste, the superior texture in the Aldi version led me to rank it higher.
Great Value Chicken Flavored Stuffing Mix
Great Value's Chicken Flavored Stuffing Mix directs you to boil together water and butter before mixing in the dried bread. A six-ounce package cost me $0.88.
The look: Pretty indistinguishable from the Aldi stuffing. The croutons were spotted with lots of green herbs and they held up pretty well during the cooking process, so the mushiness was minimal.
The taste: The differences between the Great Value and Chef's Cupboard stuffings weren't all that glaring. However, I ultimately decided to put Great Value was just a step ahead of the others because the texture was just as good and it had a slightly more powerful oomph of flavor. Overall, this stuffing was savory, salty, herby, and really dang tasty.
Pepperidge Farm Herb Seasoned Cubed Stuffing
Pepperidge Farm's Herb Seasoned Cubed Stuffing directs you to sauté chopped onions and celery in butter, mix in chicken stock, and bring the whole mixture to a boil before adding in the croutons and letting them steep for five minutes. A 12-ounce bag cost me $3.79.
The look: Pepperidge Farm's stuffing option stood out in a good way. For starters, the bread cubes were the biggest and most uniform in size out of any option I tried. Even after I let them steep in the hot broth, the shapes stayed completely intact and didn't become too soft.
The taste: Savory, satisfying, and an undeniable shoo-in for first place. The croutons were moist but not mushy, while the sautéed veggies and broth gave the stuffing a fresh and nuanced taste that the other options lacked. My one critique about this option was that it was just a touch too salty, but I could easily remedy that next time by using a lower sodium broth and then adding more salt as needed. Overall, this Pepperidge Farm stuffing was the most time-consuming and labor-intensive option I tried. However, the superior taste proves that the extra effort is more than worth it.