Boxed stuffing taste test: Which store-bought mix should you buy for Thanksgiving?

/ Source: TODAY Contributor

Setting out to do a taste test of boxed stuffing mixes seemed simple enough—we’d try all the ones on the shelf and find a winner. Not so simple: Turns out, what constitutes a good tray of stuffing means something different to each diner. Some like a crusty, slightly dry texture, while some prefer the bread to get almost mushy; some love loads of seasoning and chunks of celery and onion, others like it more basic. After a blind test—in which virtually every taster rendered a different opinion—we realized there’s no one perfect stuffing, but one for every kind of situation or eater.

All-around crowd-pleaser: Pepperidge Farm Herb Seasoned

Of all the mixes we tried, this one seemed to walk that line between not-too-dry and not-too-mushy, coming in toward the top of tasters’ lists across the board. Another nice touch is that it blends white and whole wheat breads; whole wheat is a rarity in stuffing mixes, and the combo of the two breads is your best shot at satisfying everyone at the table.

Most customizable: Mrs. Cubbison’s Cornbread Stuffing

If you’re a tinkerer, this mix contains larger, crustier chunks of bread that would hold up well for mix-ins like sausage and mushrooms. The box also gives directions for a myriad of ways to prepare it: on the stovetop, in a slow cooker, in the oven or in the bird, as well as a lower-fat option. The cornbread mix received especially high marks, but a classic version is available as well.

Best for nostalgics: Stove Top Savory Herb

No other stuffing evoked as much of an emotional reaction from tasters as this classic red box: “This is by far my favorite—it tastes like the stuffing I grew up on!” said one of our blind taste testers. Requiring no more than water and butter, it’s also the simplest and quickest to prepare of the lot.

Most health-conscience: Arrowhead Mills Organic Stuffing Savory Herb

One complaint tasters had with many boxed stuffings was saltiness—not so with this mix, which had half the sodium as some others. It also had one of the cleaner, most organic ingredient lists we saw, with fewer unpronounceable words and no high-fructose corn syrup or hydrogenated oils.

Best bets for the gluten-free set: Aleia’s Gluten Free Savory Stuffing

The texture of this gluten-free mix faked out even the gluten eaters in the group. Some found the seasoning too generous, but Aleia’s also makes a plain version for those who want to do it up themselves.