Stuffing is an essential part of the traditional holiday meal. It is also one that demands seasonings since it consists mostly of flavorless bread. The seasonings below are not merely the traditional herbs and spices for stuffing, they are also the best ones.
Celery offers a bright, savory herbaceous flavor with notes of green onion and a slight bitterness. Celery’s flavor works well with all of the components of stuffing including the other seasonings. It is the perfect addition for upping the umami aspects of poultry but is light enough to allow other flavors to shine alongside it and in the forefront.
Sage is a great seasoning for poultry stuffing. When it comes to Thanksgiving turkey, no other herb or spice is as closely identified with this seasonal meal as sage. As a result, it is a fixture in poultry seasoning blends that are formulated specifically for turkey. Sage brings a rosemary flavor with hints of pine and eucalyptus. You have the option of adding in its fresh form or one of the dried forms: rubbed or powdered. Note that the powdered variety has the shortest shelf life of the three forms and will lose its flavor quickly soon after being ground.
Onion is the all-purpose savory seasoning that goes well with all meats as well as with meat-adjacent sides like stuffing. Its intense herbaceous and sulfurous qualities greatly enhance the stuffing, which is usually a blank slate in terms of its flavor profile. In addition, onion pairs well with every other herb and spice on this list. Any form of onion will pair well with the various ingredients in a standard stuffing recipe. Green onions will work as will white or red onions. Onion powder is a convenient option if you would rather not deal with diced onions in your food.
Thyme’s woodsy eucalyptus flavor is another excellent complement for the blandness of stuffing. This herb is a staple of savory European dishes. It works well with sage and other popular seasonings for poultry, which means that it will work in stuffing as well. Thyme can be used in its fresh or dried form and is one of the herbs that can stand up to extended cooking times. It releases flavor over a long period, which means you should use it carefully since it comes with a danger of over-flavoring your stuffing.
Black pepper is the utility knife of spices in that its lemony, earthy notes show up in most savory dishes. It is great for adding a very mild background heat. Black pepper is just pungent enough to enhance the other savory flavors in stuffing but still mild enough to not be overwhelming or unpleasant for most people to eat. Your best bet for adding black pepper to stuffing is to buy whole peppercorns and grind them yourself. The difference in flavor between fresh ground black pepper and pre-ground is striking enough to completely change the flavor profile.
Parsley is far from being the most flavorful herb used in stuffing, but it does have a subtle herbaceous note and a little bitterness both of which can enhance the other savory flavors. What parsley does bring is a bright color that can help to make a visually uninteresting preparation like stuffing more appealing. Chopped fresh parsley would be your best bet though dried parsley flakes can work as well. Note that when using the dried herb you will be foregoing the flavor aspect since dried parsley is notoriously lacking in flavor and aroma.