No, you don’t need to make everything from scratch on Thanksgiving. In this holiday edition of our taste test series, we’re sharing the supermarket staples worthy of your holiday spread. Take a task or two off your plate by substituting boxed versions—we’ve found the best options.
It wasn’t until I was an embarrassing number of years into my alleged adulthood that I learned there are people out there who actually make stuffing themselves from scratch. Those people, I learned, spend hours tearing, dicing, preheating, melting, mixing, and roasting. And the stuffing they labor over is delicious.
Delicious, but also different. Homemade stuffing is decidedly not boxed stuffing, and sometimes I find myself craving that very specific taste I grew up on, looking forward to the occasions when it would appear under roast chickens, and of course, in a great big baking dish on Thanksgiving.
Boxed stuffing is just more convenient than homemade, and when you’re fretting over the rest of an extensive meal, convenience goes a long way. To make sure you get the best one, we tried seven boxed stuffings in a blind taste test. We tested both cornbread stuffings and traditional preparations, and judged them all on texture and flavor. The highs were high, the lows low, but in the end one boxed stuffing came out on top.
The Mushy Loser: Trader Joe’s Cornbread Stuffing Mix
What’s inside: Although it’s a cornbread stuffing, the Trader Joe’s mix has both toasted white bread and cornbread croutons. Besides a spat of spices for seasoning, the ingredients list here is relatively simple—“I might just take this one home with me,” said food editor Shilpa Uskokovic.
The verdict: Unfortunately, despite Shilpa’s tentative endorsement, tasters were put off by the appearance of Trader Joe’s cornbread stuffing: Bright, mustardy yellow, with perfectly square, processed looking cubes of bread. It bordered on liquidy—almost like a bread soup—in the pan, and first bites didn’t point to much improvement. Recipe production assistant Carly Westerfield said it tasted like it had been stored in plastic bins, and associate cooking editor Antara Sinha also noticed a “plasticky aftertaste going on.” Trader Joe’s stuffing mix was zero for three, but the nail in the coffin was the look of betrayal in food editor Jesse Szewczyk’s eyes as he looked up after taking his first bite.