Are Turkey Stuffing and Turkey Dressing the Same?

How do you tell the difference between  turkey stuffing and turkey dressing? The answer you get depends on whom you ask and where that person is geographically located. Generally speaking, people from the south call it dressing and northerners call it stuffing. So, is geography the only difference between the dueling Thanksgiving side dishes?

Southern Dressing

The base of most southern dressing is crumbled corn bread. Some people add crumbled biscuits and/or white bread. Chopped onions and celery are often added. Many cooks prefer to saute the onions and celery first. Chicken stock and poultry seasoning are universal ingredients in almost all turkey side dishes regardless of location. Legend has it that the reason southerners call the dish dressing is because the term stuffing is considered indelicate.

Northern Stuffing

The main idea behind the idea of stuffing is that it will give the turkey a better flavor. Cooking a stuffed bird disperses the liquid and spices through it during cooking, which helps it be more moist as well. It is, however, hard to be certain the stuffing is cooked completely since you check if your turkey is done by inserting a meat thermometer in the turkey thigh. The safest idea is to remove the stuffing to a greased pan once the turkey tests done. Then, the stuffing should be cooked until it is done. An added benefit to this method is that you will get a crispy outside instead of a mushy one.

Taste Difference

Turkey stuffing has a squishy consistency from being baked inside the bird, while dressing is crisp outside and moist inside after being baked in a pan. Sometimes dressing afficiandos will complain that stuffing does not taste done. This is because there is no crispy taste at all to stuffing. Trial and error is the best way for you to decide whether or not you want stuffing or dressing with your turkey. Whether you stuff the turkey or not, you have numerous options of what else to put in your stuffing/dressing. Cooked crumbled sausage and raisins are a couple of flavor options.

Safety Concerns

Stuffing can make you sick if it is not cooked to 165 degrees. That can become an issue because the turkey may register it is done (180 degrees) even though the stuffing inside may not be fully cooked. That is why professionals recommend removing the stuffing to another pan to continue cooking it after the turkey is done. This will prevent your turkey from becoming too dry and tasteless.


The main difference between turkey stuffing and dressing comes down to taste preference. Whether you choose to call it stuffing or dressing, just remember that you need to take safety precautions if you bake it in the bird. Beyond that, you are limited only by your own creativity and taste buds as to what to put in your turkey side dish.

The major difference between turkey stuffing and dressing is the preparation method used. Whether to stuff or not is a matter of personal taste. Just be sure you cook the stuffing to complete doneness so there is no chance of anyone becoming ill.


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