A sweet and savory twist on the classic stuffing. This Vegan Fennel and Apple Stuffing will taste like your Mom’s stuffing, but give you just a bit extra something special to remember. Serve this for holidays, Sunday dinner, special occasions, or just when you feel like having stuffing!
We all have our own version in our heads of what the perfect Thanksgiving stuffing tastes like. Usually, it’s the one that’s the most similar to what your family made growing up. I certainly love my mom’s stuffing, and the most important part to me is the apple! I’ve added fennel here as well as to add a bit more depth of flavor. If this is close to what you imagine as the perfect stuffing, then make it exactly the way I’ve made it here. But the good news is, is that if it’s not, this gives you a great base recipe so you can substitute out your own favorite ingredients and make this your own.
What makes a great stuffing?
In my opinion, using fresh herbs is essential, especially if you are making this for a holiday or special occasion. There isn’t much that in my mind that outshines fresh rosemary. I am happy to have some growing in my yard for most of the year, but if you don’t, you can usually find these fresh herbs at your local grocery store for pretty cheap. Another option is to borrow from a neighbor who gardens. I love sharing and borrowing fresh herbs with neighbors. As a matter of fact, my next door neighbor, has a beautiful sage bush that she always lets me cut from, and I used it in this very recipe. It’s good to make friends with your neighbors!
If you are one of those people that like to plan ahead, then leaving your bread out on the counter for a couple days beforehand to get stale is a great option. Unfortunately, I am not! But I can tell you that toasting your bread in the oven right before works just as well, and I actually like the flavor you get a bit better from the toasting. Plus, there’s no worrying about whether or not you remembered to buy the bread in time and leave it out.
Just cut your bread into cubes about an hour before you start to assemble your stuffing. Place on a large baking tray, and bake at 350 F for about 10 minutes. Just be sure to let your bread cool before you combine with your veggies and broth. Here you can see my kitty, Miss Kaira, is keeping an eye on my bread cubes while they cool.
Finely chopped veggies-
I don’t like large chunks of celery and onion in my stuffing and neither should you! No seriously, everything just melds together better if your veggies are chopped in small pieces. Think diced finely, but not quite minced. This will ensure you are getting a bit of all your flavors in every single bite.
The right amount of broth-
This might be one of the trickiest parts about making stuffing. If you don’t add enough broth, your stuffing will turn out dry after baking in the oven, but if you add to much it be mushy- and nobody likes a mushy stuffing!
Once you have your bread, herbs, and veggies combined into your bowl, add the broth slowly. Keep stirring to see how much of the broth your bread absorbs. You want the the bread well saturated in broth, but not completely sopped so that it starts to turn soft. You certainly do not want to see broth start to pool at the bottom of your bowl.
If you do accidentally add too much broth to your mixture, I have successfully saved a stuffing by turning up the heat about 25 degrees at the end of the proposed cooking time, and cooking it for longer until you see it start to brown on top.
What is a flax egg?
If you are new to vegan baking, you may never have used a “flax egg before.” It is basically just the process of combining ground flax seeds and water together and waiting until the mixture starts to thicken and congeal. Make sure you use ground flax seeds here, and not just whole flax seeds, or else it will not work. Ground flax seeds are also sometimes referred to as “flax meal.”
To make a flax egg:
-Combine 1 tbsp of ground flax seed with 2.5 tbsp of water in a small bowl.
-Wait for 5-10 minutes until it has thickened, stirring about half way through.
Do I need to use vegan butter for this Vegan Fennel and Apple stuffing?
I only use vegan butter for sautéing the vegetables if I am making this for a special occasion and I know there will be other non-vegans eating it. I think this stuffing is delicious without it, but most people just have a certain type of richness they expect from holiday food, and you don’t want to risk your audience being a bit disappointed on a holiday because of a little vegan butter. Otherwise, if you are making this without the butter, just feel free to sauté your vegetables in a bit of water or vegetable broth.
You do, however, need to coat your baking dish in some sort of vegetable oil or spray before you add the mixture into the dish. Otherwise, it will stick, speaking from first hand experience. I think the best solution here is to use a light spray of oil, so that you don’t get too much added fat, but it will be enough to keep it from sticking.
I hope you and your family enjoy this Vegan Fennel and Apple stuffing at your next holiday gathering! Although, who needs a holiday for stuffing?! Cook this up any night of the week. It’s delicious with some hot mushroom gravy and or course those delicious mashed potatoes that we all love!
Have you tried Mommy’s Mushroom Gravy from The Esselstyn ladies yet? It’s delicious, and as always, they are delightful in this youtube video.
Vegan Fennel & Apple Stuffing
- 1 large Onion Sweet is preferred
- 6 large cloves of minced fresh Garlic I prefer to use the garlic press to get the most flavor.
- 4 Celery stalks
- 1 medium bulb of Fennel
- 1 large sweet apple I used Fuji
- 2 tbsp Vegan Butter (optional)
- 2 sprigs fresh Rosemary
- 4 sprigs fresh Thyme
- 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh Sage leaves
- 1 tbsp Ground Flax Seed
- 2.5 tbsp Water
- 1 container Veggie broth
- 9 cups loosely packed cubed Bread Any bread of preference, I used a store bought French bread here
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
- Cut loaf of bread into about 1 inch cubes until you have about 9 cups of loosely packed cubes (doesn't have to be exact amount)
- Spread bread cubes onto large baking tray, and place in oven for 10 minutes, checking after 5 to move around and occasionally after to make sure they don't burn. They should be crisp and dry, but not too browned. (Alternatively, you can cut your bread into cubes and leave out for about 24 hours prior to turn stale.) After your bread cubes have to been removed from the oven, leave them to cool while you are sautéing the veggies.
- Dice your onion, celery, fennel and apple. Mince or press garlic as well. I prefer a fine chop on the veggies, so the pieces blend nicely into the stuffing.
- Sauté onion for a couple of minutes in vegan butter (or water or veggie broth if omitting butter) until translucent.
- While your onions are sautéing, finely chop your fresh herbs and prepare the flax egg by combining your ground flax seed and water. Let flax egg sit for at least 5 minutes until it has thickened.
- Add the garlic, celery, fennel and apple and sauté until veggies are soft. Then add fresh herbs and continue cooking for about another 2 mintues. Turn off heat.
- After your veggies have cooled a bit, add bread cubes, sautéd veggies and your flax egg to a large bowl. Slowly begin adding vegetable broth and mix with a spoon continuously. Keep adding broth until the bread is somewhat saturated in broth. You want it to be moist, but not overly mushy, and there should be no broth collecting at the bottom of your bowl.
- Add your stuffing to a lightly greased large baking dish. A light spray of Pam or a vegetable spray is sufficent and will not add a lot of fat to the dish. Use the back of a spoon to flatten and smooth the top of your stuffing. Cover the stuffing with aluminum foil and bake at 350 degrees F for 35 minutes covered.
- Remove the foil after 35 minutes is up, and continue baking for another 15-30 minutes at 375 degrees F until the stuffing has become golden brown and slightly crispy on top. This time can vary widely on your oven and make take up to 30 minutes to get brown on the top. You may even have to turn your oven up to 400 degrees if you feel that it is not browning quickly enough.
- Remove from oven with nicely browned and enjoy with some mushroom gravy on top!