What's the Difference Between Stuffing and Dressing?

Published 11-19-2019

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In the ultimate ranking of Thanksgiving sides, many will agree that stuffing comes out on top. But you might have heard this irresistible dish referred to as "dressing" in some households across America. So, we had to ask: What's the difference between stuffing and dressing?

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Historically, there's a notable difference between stuffing and dressing. Though both dishes contain the same staple ingredients (dried bread cubes, diced vegetables, broth, butter, herbs and spices), stuffing is what goes inside a turkey or chicken while dressing is baked in a separate casserole dish on the side.

However, you'll hear anecdotes of someone putting their dressing inside the bird and another family serving stuffing on the side. So what's the deal? What it boils down to (in the modern era, at least) is regional slang. Southerners are going to call this favorite holiday side dish dressing, while people in pretty much every other part of America call it stuffing.

A breakdown of Google Trends from November to December 2018 (arguably the peak time for this food) confirms this regional divide. Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Kentucky all searched for "dressing recipe" more than "stuffing recipe." Missourians show the biggest preference for dressing recipes; 86% of its Google searches for these two terms went to "dressing recipe."

The only non-Southern state to prefer "dressing recipe" over "stuffing recipe" is Indiana; 51% of its search inquiries for these two terms went to the former.

Every other state in the union searched more frequently for "stuffing recipe," with New England preferring "stuffing" the most. Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maine and New Hampshire showed the largest preference for calling this dish stuffing.

No matter what you call it, we can pretty much all agree that this side is the star of the Thanksgiving table. But if you want to embrace your Southern side, cook up a batch of cornbread dressing and some of these other Southern-inspired Thanksgiving dishes.

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