What Vegetarians Should Know About Stuffing

When it comes to traditional Thanksgiving eats, stuffing is a food that has a cult following. But when you eat a meat-free diet, the question “Is stuffing vegetarian?” has likely crossed your mind. After all, like many other dishes, stuffing doesn't have a very obvious cooking process. Many opt for the instant “just add water” kind. Even then, there are so many different ways to prep this common Thanksgiving food. And when it looks like a combination of bread and spices, it is easy to think that there aren’t any other ingredients.

Conventionally, stuffing is cooked inside the turkey – which is exactly how it earned its name. This allows the stuffing to soak up all the juicy goodness of the turkey meat. Outside of the turkey, it is referred to as dressing. Yet, regardless of where this glorious side dish is actually prepared, a meat-based broth is typically used to hold everything together. Traditional stuffing recipes usually call for chicken broth.

Cue the violins, herbivores; standard stuffing is not a vegetarian Thanksgiving dish. Even boxed versions may contain hidden animal-based ingredients, emphasizing the importance of carefully reading the labels before purchasing instant stuffing. Fortunately, with the rising popularity of vegetarian diets, many brands have made it a point to include this information on the front of the box. It is always a good idea to check, though.

Here’s some good news, though: It's totally possible to make stuffing without meat broth. In fact, you can even completely ditch it. For example, Betty Crocker’s website offers a simple stuffing recipe without broth. Instead, the dish turns fresh herbs and butter for top-notch flavor.

You can also just make an easy swap and use vegetable broth. Many vegetarian stuffing recipes even use eggs. And since the purpose of these two ingredients is to hold everything together, I can’t help but wonder if other egg substitutes would work. Canned pumpkin puree or applesauce, maybe? Ideas, ideas…

So if you’re skeptical about boxed versions or want to cover your bases, consider making your own stuffing. This way, you will know exactly what is in it. Who knows, you might even impress a few of your non-vegetarian friends and relatives in the process.

Need some ideas? Real Simple offers tips for homemade vegetarian stuffing. A Beautiful Mess has a vegetarian-friendly cranberry apple stuffing that embraces the best flavors of fall, while Green Kitchen Stories thought of a way to make stuffing in a pumpkin. Count me in.

Images: A Beautiful Mess; Green Kitchen Stories