Thanksgiving Outside the Box: Recipe for Fruit and Nut Stuffing

In most cases, I don’t like food that replaces its key ingredients with impostors: tofu “chicken” and gluten-free vegan cupcakes come to mind. But last year when Thanksgiving rolled around, I was in the midst of trying a grain-free diet, and was left to figure out ways to maintain tradition and please my family while avoiding wheat. Stuffing had always been one of my holiday favorites, but if you look at the ingredients list on the box, it can be hard to recognize many of its components as food (partially-hydrogenated soybean oil and high fructose corn syrup, anyone?)

I managed to find a recipe for breadless stuffing on the Mark’s Daily Apple site. I was pleased to see it contained only “real” food I was willing to eat, and knew I had to try it when I saw bourbon listed among the ingredients. Below is an illustrated description of how to make this fruit and nut stuffing yourself. The final portion size is quite large, especially considering how calorie dense this side dish is. Unless you’re serving a very large group, I would recommend making a half recipe. There’s also room for creativity with this: add in other kinds of nuts and spices or take away some of the dried fruit depending on your personal tastes. The variety of colors and textures makes it as pleasing to the eye as it does to the taste buds.


18 whole pitted prunes

1/2 cup dried currants

1 cup raisins

24 dried apricot halves

1/4 cup Bourbon

3 cooking apples, unpeeled, cored and chopped.

3 large onions, peeled and diced

3 celery stalks, diced

4 tsp butter, melted

2/3 cup whole macadamia nuts

2/3 cup whole cashews

1 cup unsalted walnut pieces

2 cups whole, raw cranberries

1 tsp ground cloves

¼ tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp fresh parsley, minced

2 tbsp oil

2 eggs

Salt and Pepper to taste

Step 1: Soak the dried fruit in bourbon

The night before you make the stuffing, put the dried fruit in a bowl and pour the bourbon over the top. I used a bit more than a ¼ cup, but you don’t need to immerse it. Cover the bowl and let it sit overnight.

Step 2: Brown the nuts and cook the apples/vegetables

If your nuts are salted, rinse off the salt in cold water. Heat about two tablespoons of the oil of your choice in a skillet (I used olive), and brown the nuts. They burn easily, so keep an eye on them. In another pan melt the butter and cook the apples, onion, and celery until they are soft but not mushy (this can take awhile).


Step 3: Mix!

Transfer the dried fruit and browned nuts into a large heat-proof mixing bowl. Stir in the raw cranberries.

Step 4: Mix more!

Add the apple/onion/celery mixture to the bowl, as well as the eggs until well blended. Stir in the spices thoroughly.

Step 5: Bake

If you feel confident enough to cook the stuffing in your turkey, go ahead and do so. Otherwise, bake at 375 degrees until the stuffing reaches the desired texture. I’d recommend about 40 minutes. Then enjoy!


Leslie Kruempel likes bringing people together to talk about real food, whether it's through the Real Food Minnesota gathering, Twin Cities Crop Mob, or on Twitter. Follow her at @realfoodmn.