A variety of stuffing mixes

While there are countless variations on the Thanksgiving-day feast, most of us agree on some basic essentials: turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, and, of course, stuffing. Since that is an awful lot of dishes to prepare in a single day, you may wish to take a shortcut on one of them –– namely, stuffing –– by using a store-bought mix. No matter which route you ultimately decide to take, check out the best way to ensure the perfect texture for stuffing. (Hint: Don’t go overboard with extra ingredients.)

Our team of stuffing enthusiasts (a.k.a. product testers) gathered to identify and rank the absolute best-packaged stuffing mixes. To select our top contenders, we first scoured the grocery aisles of nearby stores and took stock of the competition. Next, we prepared each selected packaged mix for side-by-side tasting. And finally, we put on our most comfortable, stretchiest pants in order to stuff ourselves –– yes, we’ll be wearing those on Turkey Day, too! Below, we share what we learned about some variations of America’s favorite Thanksgiving side dish, per Newsweek.

11. Sprouts Organic Herb Seasoned Stuffing

Sprouts Organic Herb Seasoned Stuffing

We were especially excited to try Sprouts Farmers Market Organic Herb Seasoned Stuffing since Sprouts is one of our favorite stops for healthier holiday shopping. Sure enough, this stuffing mix contains less sodium than many others, along with using certified USDA Organic ingredients. The instructions were quick and easy to follow, and in less than 10 minutes, we were ready to eat.

Unfortunately, the Organic Herb Seasoned Stuffing fell far short of our expectations. While we understand that stuffing is, by nature, pretty mushy, this one was especially so. On top of that, it had little flavor to counteract the (lack of) texture. One of our product testers observed, "It’s like eating a soggy bowl of bread." If you like soggy bread, then go for it. But that’s not what we had in mind to accompany our turkey this year. Fortunately, there are plenty of other packaged stuffing options. For one, Sprouts achieved far higher marks with its cornbread stuffing variation (covered further down).

10. Mrs. Cubbison’s Traditional Stuffing Seasoned

Mrs. Cubbison's Traditional Stuffing Seasoned

Mrs. Cubbison’s, well-known for its tasty croutons, also produces several stuffing mixes, including Traditional Stuffing Seasoned. One issue that came up while evaluating this mix (and several others) is that the package calls for extra ingredients beyond what many other stuffing mixes require. In this case, these include fresh diced onion, fresh diced celery, and chicken broth instead of water (optional). It also suggests using a whopping two sticks of butter, while most other mixes call for ¼ cup total or 2 tablespoons for a light recipe variation. Even for this one’s "light" recipe, which we followed, the instructions ask for ¼ cup of butter.

The package offers several preparation methods: oven casserole, top-of-stove, slow cooker, and in-the-bird. After some debate, and in the interests of a fair comparison, we went ahead and prepared this mix similarly to most of our other stuffing mixes (stove top, without celery and onion). Although we added an extra ¼ cup of water as instructed to compensate for the lighter butter content, the result was still one of the driest stuffings in the group. This may have been okay if the stuffing had more flavor, but it was way too bland and uninteresting.

To be fair: If you follow the instructions exactly as described, or simply drown it in a rich gravy, we have no doubt that this stuffing would taste much better. But as packaged, Mrs. Cubbison’s Traditional Stuffing Seasoned is little more than a bag of bland breadcrumbs.

9. Mrs. Cubbison’s Corn Bread Stuffing Seasoned

Mrs. Cubbison's Corn Bread Stuffing Seasoned

We have mixed feelings about Mrs. Cubbison’s Corn Bread Stuffing Seasoned. Similar to the brand’s Traditional Stuffing Seasoned (discussed above), this stuffing calls for extra ingredients beyond what some other mixes require: diced onion, fresh diced celery, and chicken broth (optional). It also suggests using a lavish amount of butter (2 sticks, the equivalent of 2 cups). To compare apples-to-apples (that is, stuffing-to-stuffing), we once again prepared the package’s light recipe variation (with ¼ cup butter), while skipping the fresh ingredients.

On the one hand, this prepared mix had a really nice consistency. It also had a perfectly agreeable, albeit mild flavor. Undoubtedly, the cornbread element added a certain richness over the brand’s traditional stuffing variation, but the lack of any strong seasoning left us dreaming of our zestier, higher-ranked stuffings. Again, out of respect to Mrs. Cubbisons, we can easily see how an extra stick and a half of butter, along with celery and onion, may elevate the result. But wouldn’t that be true with all of these stuffing mixes?

Here’s our advice on this one: If you’re looking for some lightly seasoned, nicely textured cornbread crumbs with which to build your own stuffing, this is a perfectly reasonable option. But if you’d prefer a quick and easy stuffing with minimal extra ingredients, choose a different mix.

8. Stove Top Stuffing Mix for Turkey

Stove Top Stuffing Mix for Turkey

Stove Top was invented by a Purdue alumna and product researcher at General Foods named Ruth Siems, per Purdue Today. According to WBIW, Stove Top now sells an estimated 60 million boxes each year. Perhaps Stove Top Stuffing Mix for Turkey is so popular because it is easy to prepare and ready in just a few minutes. It can be made right on your stove top with the aid of a large pot, a bit of butter, and the box’s contents. This simple combination quickly morphs into one of Thanksgiving’s most cherished side dishes.

Unlike Stove Top’s Savory Herbs (covered below), the Turkey variety does not contain monosodium glutamate (MSG), an ingredient that many Americans believe has dangerous health consequences. And while this stuffing mix uses real turkey broth to boost flavor, don’t ask us to pronounce some of the other ingredients listed –– they sound a little scary. In fact, according to The Washington Post, it’s probably a good idea to avoid highly processed and packaged foods (including stuffing mixes) as much as possible.

The overall consensus by our product testers was that Stove Top Stuffing Mix for Turkey is not the best stuffing out there –– not by far. And it can’t begin to compete with the likes of homemade recipes, including Autumn Country Bread Stuffing and Sourdough Sausage Stuffing. But even so, there’s something about this popular mix that calls out "Thanksgiving" to us. If you crave simplicity, you could do far worse.

7. Pepperidge Farm Herb Seasoned Cubed Stuffing

Pepperidge Farm Herb Seasoned Cubed Stuffing

Pepperidge Farm Herb Seasoned Cubed Stuffing manages to pack quite a lot of comfort into a bag of little crouton cubes. This dried stuffing mix contains premium white bread, herbs, and spices. Once prepared, the bread texture is very pleasing –– softened, but not completely sodden. The flavor is simple, mostly driven by the taste of crusty white bread as opposed to any type of strong herb or turkey seasoning. Yet somehow –– perhaps with a big drizzle of gravy –– we can see this stuffing nicely complimenting a full Thanksgiving meal. Think of it as Ordinary Joe Stuffing: Perfectly adequate, but nothing extraordinary.

Of course, there are plenty of ways to make a basic stuffing mix like this a lot more interesting. Some of the best ingredients to add to your stuffing include dried fruit, chopped nuts, fresh herbs, and sausage. You could also go with a less traditional approach by adding browned butter, pretzels, oysters, leeks, and even mashed potatoes. Have fun with it!

6. Trader Joe’s Cornbread Stuffing Mix

Trader Joe's Cornbread Stuffing Mix

Although our product testers generally prefer a traditional stuffing style, Trader Joe’s Cornbread Stuffing Mix is nonetheless a solid choice for cornbread lovers. This may be especially true for anyone wishing to take a close look at the ingredient list. Unlike some other stuffing brands, you won’t find monosodium glutamate (MSG), high fructose corn syrups, or other potentially undesirable ingredients in Trader Joe’s products, per Trader Joe’s.

Trader Joe’s tasty cornbread stuffing contains a mix of toasted white bread and cornbread cubes, along with savory herbs. We prepared it according to the box’s instructions, allowing the seasoning packet and butter to boil in water for several minutes before removing it from heat, stirring in a bag of croutons, and leaving everything to rest for 10 minutes. After fluffing the result, we gave it a try.

Many of the added croutons held up their cube shape fairly well, despite being drenched in boiling water. Because of this, the stuffing boasted a little more texture than many others. Our testers also noticed biting into small pieces of dehydrated celery, which was hit-and-miss among them. As a whole, the stuffing was a little on the bland side –– but even so, we don’t have any major complaints. While you could always jazz it up with extra ingredients, Trader Joe’s Cornbread Stuffing Mix requires more ingrained seasoning-oomph to move it further up our rankings.

5. Pepperidge Farm Herb Seasoned Classic Stuffing

Pepperidge Farm Herb Seasoned Classic Stuffing

Pepperidge Farm Herb Seasoned Classic Stuffing lists a mix of wheat and white bread, herbs, and spices. We checked the ingredients and didn’t see much in the way of actual herbs (we’re big fans of sage and thyme in stuffing, but none of those here), though it does list onion powder and rosemary extract. The easy-prep recipe calls for butter, diced onion, celery, and chicken broth, while package suggestions also mention red onions, dried cranberries, and toasted pecan halves as tasty stir-ins. Again, we skipped the onion, celery, and optional add-ins, choosing to prepare the mix in a similar manner as our other stuffing contenders.

Although one of our product testers noted that the prepared mix was "a little dry," our team mostly enjoyed this traditional-style stuffing. If we made it again, we would add an extra splash of broth or water to resolve any dryness. We liked how the packaged breadcrumbs were of varying sizes and that they were clearly made from different types of bread. This gave the stuffing a less homogenous texture and appearance than many of the other options in our rankings.

This product has a nice, mild flavor, but our higher-ranked stuffings tend to offer more of an herbal punch. That said, if you have the culinary skills to jazz it up with some herbs and/or other add-ins, this mix could be a fine addition to your Thanksgiving table.

4. Kroger Turkey Flavored Stuffing Mix

Kroger Turkey Flavored Stuffing Mix

Sold at Kroger and Kroger-affiliated stores, Kroger Turkey Flavored Stuffing Mix offers a whole lot of umami in an unassuming, little box. Similar to Stove Top mixes, this stuffing can easily be prepared stove-top by boiling water with butter, removing it from heat, stirring in the stuffing mix, covering it, and letting it stand for five minutes. The mix can also be made in the microwave. Each 6-ounce box contains only six ½ cup servings, so make sure to plan accordingly if you’re hosting a large gathering.

Our researchers noted that Kroger’s stuffing uses real turkey broth and appears very similar overall to Stove Top Stuffing Mix for Turkey (discussed above). The main differences are that it offers a mixture of white and brown (wheat?) bread crumbs instead of just white bread, along with more pizzazz in the seasoning department. As a result, we are recommending this less expensive generic product over many of the big brand-name stuffings. Who knew?!

3. Sprouts Cornbread Stuffing

Sprouts Cornbread Stuffing

While we wouldn’t mind a stronger herbal kick to Sprouts Farmers Market Cornbread Stuffing mix, it nonetheless has much to offer. Although package instructions call for chopped onion and celery, we once again left these ingredients out to achieve the fairest side-by-side product comparison possible. Sprouts Cornbread Stuffing is marketed as "toasted cubes of cornbread with rosemary, nutmeg & thyme." Although our product testers were only able to detect the vaguest notes of rosemary, nutmeg, and thyme, they quickly noted "pleasingly large chunks of bread" and a "toasty, cornbread flavor." Overall, our team liked the texture, flavor, and even appearance of this stuffing mix.

We also appreciated the short, simple, and easily pronounceable list of ingredients: cornbread (unbleached white wheat flour, organic cornmeal, whole wheat flour, sea salt, yeast), non-GMO canola oil, granulated onion, sage, marjoram, celery seed, thyme, nutmeg, rosemary, pepper. (Well done, Sprouts!) As with all of our other stuffing contenders, there’s little doubt that some fresh add-ins (onion and celery, as indicated; perhaps some mushrooms, too?) would make this tasty mix even better.

2. Stove Top Stuffing Mix Savory Herbs

Stove Top Stuffing Mix Savory Herbs

Who would have imagined that this little red Stove Top box could provide so much flavor? Our product testers were completely caught off guard by the yumminess of Stove Top Stuffing Mix Savory Herbs. Indeed, this stuffing is exactly as labeled: savory and herby –– in other words, exactly what we look for in our favorite Thanksgiving side. The mix is also pretty salty, but let’s keep it real: Your turkey is going to thank you for that.

We prepared the mixed stove top, according to the package directions. This process was quick and easy: Boil water and butter together, stir in the stuffing mix, cover, remove from heat, and let stand for five minutes. You can also prepare any variety of Stove Top stuffing in the microwave. Each 6-ounce box provides six ½ cup servings, so you may need to pick up more than one box if you’re feeding a crowd during the holidays. We also want you to know that Stove Top makes a range of other stuffing flavors –– including Turkey (reviewed above), Traditional Sage, Cornbread, Chicken, and Pork –– but this one is our favorite.

1. Williams Sonoma Organic French Bread Stuffing

Williams Sonoma Organic French Bread Stuffing

As far as packaged stuffing mixes go, Williams Sonoma Organic French Bread Stuffing is our clear favorite. This flavorful stuffing consists of large, chunky cubes of crispy, crusty, artisan french bread. Undoubtedly, the size and heartiness of these bread cubes contribute to the resulting texture, which we think is just about perfect. The stuffing also uses some really nice flavor combinations intended to delight your taste buds. These involve onion, rosemary, thyme, fennel, savory, marjoram, basil, and lavender, all of which will go perfectly with a traditional holiday feast.

While the basic recipe on the box is absolutely delicious as is, you can also use the mix as a base to develop your own stuffing creation. Note that the preparation is a little more involved than our other options –– along with stove-top cooking, it also requires oven baking. (Don’t skip this step; it leads to a delicious crunchy top.) Williams Sonoma also offers other stuffing varieties, including Focaccia, Cornbread, and Gluten-Free. The only potential drawback is the brand’s cost, which is notably higher than all of our other stuffing mixes.