Just in Time for Thanksgiving! Good #glutenfree Stuffing
I didn’t think it was possible, but the taste and fluffy texture of this gluten free stuffing (it’s casein & dairy free too) is just like the real thing using such a simple recipe and one little trick! I had to give up gluten around Thanksgiving of 2010. It was always my favorite side dish, so I tried a lot of the gluten free stuffing mixes and breads and made my own bread and croutons and it just never worked out well. Those early attempts at gluten free stuffing never had the texture of real stuffing – so basically I don’t think you can call that expensive mush “stuffing”. And I really don’t like cornbread stuffing either so I gave up.
Until very recently, because so many new gluten free products are now available and I’ve learned a lot more about cooking since then. I had to give it one more shot!
I’ve actually been making Thanksgiving dinner for a span of 24 years (off and on over the years). It was one of the things my mom taught me to do at the age of 20 before she passed so that I would be able to carry on the holiday traditions. I enjoyed cooking the traditional Thanksgiving dinner because it always brought back some beautiful memories of our time together – polishing the silver, setting the table with the real china, figuring out which silver serving pieces to use… And it seems so strange now, but we even used to dress up for Thanksgiving dinner, too. Anyway, that was my first real cooking lesson and experience actually preparing the grand meal. I’m so grateful for those memories and I think about it every Thanksgiving. Although we definitely don’t make as big of a production anymore.
So the way she taught me to make stuffing was to chop onions and celery; mix them with a couple bags of plain croutons in a brown paper bag; add salt, pepper and poultry seasoning; take a handful of butter or Country Crock and stick my butter-covered hand into the bag to grab the crouton mixture; then literally stuff the mixture into the bird. And it came out so perfect every time (we also used to cook the turkey in a bag back then). Any extra mixture was placed in a baking dish with a little chicken broth, covered in foil and baked at 350 for 30.
There are a couple of reasons making it the traditional way (or mom’s way) with gluten free bread doesn’t work:
- gluten is what makes bread and pizza crusts doughy – it is the binder
- brown rice, tapioca rice and starch based gluten free breads tend to disintegrate in liquid (even in crouton form) so they don’t hold up to chicken broth and the stuffing becomes grainy and kinda gross
- too much xanthan gum (a replacement binder in gluten free breads) mixed with liquid creates a yucky slimy texture
So to make a good gluten free stuffing – I needed a better binder and tougher grains in the bread/croutons. Egg whites seemed like they would make the perfect binder. Not too much egg so that it resembled bread pudding but just enough to coat the croutons and help them stick together. I beat the egg whites by hand with a whisk for about a minute to make sure the constitency was even and introduced a little air into the egg whites.
I found two types of croutons with better and stronger grains as ingredients:
I initially made a simple test run of mom’s “traditional” recipe with Earth Balance Spread, which came out greasy, the croutons were hard and the onions and celery were still pretty raw. So I decided to cook down the onions and celery in olive oil with a little salt and pepper first. Let it cool then try it with croutons tossed in egg whites and butter or ghee to see what worked best.
So I set up my little kitchen experiment. I cooked down 1 large organic onion and 4 medium organic celery sticks in olive oil for about 7 minutes so that the onions were translucent. Then the mixture needed to cool completely so it wouldn’t cook the eggs when added to the croutons/egg whites. I sprinkled the veg mixture with poultry seasoning.
I used the Ian’s gluten free croutons first. I beat 4 egg whites in a large bowl and then added about 3 cups of croutons. Gently tossed the croutons in the egg whites then added the cooled celery and onion mixture. I put each in a 1/2-cup ramekin and set up the different variables. Covered each ramekin in foil and baked for 30 minutes at 350.
So each ramekin had croutons, egg whites, poultry seasoning, salt and pepper, a little residual olive oil with cooked onion and celery +
- Earth Balance buttery spread + 2 tbsp homemade chicken broth
- browned ghee + 2 tbsp homemade chicken broth
- 2 tbsp homemade chicken broth
- browned ghee
- Earth Balance buttery spread
- nothing added
And the winner was —————-> #3 – Just the broth (1/2 cup crouton mixture and 2 tablespoons of broth)!
I was really surprised and super excited! It was crunchy on top and so soft and fluffy underneath. It stuck together like stuffing should. So I repeated it with the Olivia’s croutons and that turned out fantastic! I love the added seasoning of rosemary and sage. I usually taste the dry crouton (before tossing it in the eggs) to get an idea of how much salt or poultry seasoning to use (Ian’s needed more than Olivia’s croutons). So that is very flexible. And you can always add more salt after it’s done cooking if necessary.
We are going to have stuffing this year – maybe not a turkey, but definitely stuffing!!!!!
The recipe below is scaled to work for 3 cups of croutons. The nice thing is that it is versatile as far as what you add. And you don’t have to have exactly 3/4 cups of onion or celery (a large onion and a couple stalks of celery should be fine). You could add any type of spices or other goodies to this basic recipe and make it your own. As long as you use the egg whites and sturdy croutons and a little olive oil. Let me know if you try it in the comments, especially if you use it to stuff a bird – I’d love to hear how that turned out! Happy Thanksgiving Y’all!
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 3/4 cup chopped organic celery
- 3/4 cup chopped organic onion
- 1-2 tsp poultry seasoning
- 4 eggs, whites only
- 3 cups gluten free croutons
- 3/4 cup homemade chicken broth
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Heat the olive oil in a skillet and add the chopped onions and celery. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook until the onions are translucent, about 7 minutes on medium heat. Transfer to a bowl and set aside to cool. Add poultry seasoning and stir so that it is evenly distributed.
- Add the egg whites to a medium sized bowl, and lightly beat the eggs with a whisk for about 1 minute.
- Gently fold in the croutons and toss so that they are evenly covered with egg whites.
- Add the cooled vegetable mixture to the croutons and toss. Season with a little more salt (taste test the dry croutons before adding them to the eggs to see how much salt is needed).
- Transfer the mixture to a baking dish. Evenly pour the chicken broth over the mixture. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and taste test for salt and pepper. Enjoy your stuffing!