Skip to Content

What do you stuff a turkey breast cavity with?

When roasting a whole turkey, one of the main tasks is deciding what to stuff into the turkey’s breast cavity. The breast cavity is the open space inside the turkey’s chest after the breasts have been removed. Stuffing this cavity helps add flavor to the turkey meat and creates a beautiful presentation when carving the cooked turkey. There are many options for stuffing, with popular choices including herb bread stuffing, cornbread stuffing, sausage stuffing, fruit stuffing, and more. The possibilities are nearly endless! Here is a detailed guide to choosing the best stuffing for your turkey breast cavity.

Why Stuff the Turkey Breast Cavity?

Stuffing the breast cavity serves multiple purposes:

  • Adds flavor – The stuffing absorbs the turkey juices and vice versa, adding moistness and taste to both.
  • Aromatics – Stuffing often contains aromatic ingredients like onions, celery, herbs, and spices which further scent and flavor the turkey.
  • Prevents overcooking – A stuffed cavity helps insulate the breast meat so it stays moist and does not overcook.
  • Presentation – Carving into a beautifully stuffed turkey makes an impressive holiday centerpiece.

While you can roast a turkey without stuffing, adding a well-seasoned stuffing makes the turkey much more flavorful and gives you an extra side dish to serve. Just be sure to follow proper food safety guidelines when preparing and cooking a stuffed turkey.

How Much Stuffing to Use

As a general rule, plan on using about 3/4 cup of stuffing per pound of turkey. So for a 12-pound turkey, you would need about 9 cups of prepared stuffing. It’s important not to overstuff, as too much can slow the cooking. Lightly packed stuffing allows for proper air circulation and thorough cooking.

Here are some recommended amounts of stuffing for different turkey weights:

Turkey Weight Cups of Stuffing
8 pounds 6 cups
10 pounds 7 1/2 cups
12 pounds 9 cups
14 pounds 10 1/2 cups
16 pounds 12 cups
18 pounds 13 1/2 cups
20 pounds 15 cups

What to Stuff a Turkey Breast Cavity With

There are endless options for stuffing flavors. Here are some of the most popular choices:

Herb Bread Stuffing

This classic stuffing is made from bread cubes toasted with butter, onion, celery, sage, thyme, salt, and pepper. The herbs accentuate the flavor of the turkey. Leftovers make excellent side dishes.

Cornbread Stuffing

For a Southern twist, cornbread stuffing has a wonderfully moist texture and sweet undertones. Made with crumbled cornbread, egg, chicken broth, onions, celery, and autumn spices.

Sausage Stuffing

Savory and satisfying, sausage stuffing contains breakfast sausage meat browned with aromatic vegetables, herbs, and cubes of bread. Turkey and pork are a stellar flavor combo.

Oyster Stuffing

For an indulgent seafood stuffing, combine chopped oysters, buttered bread crumbs, onions, celery, parsley, sage, thyme, and pepper. The briny oysters add delightful richness.

Dried Fruit Stuffing

Try a fruity stuffing made with dried cranberries, apricots, apples, golden raisins, and warm spices like nutmeg, ginger, and cinnamon. Sweet and tart with bread crumbs.

Chestnut Stuffing

Roasted chestnuts lend a gourmet flair and lovely texture to this stuffing made with shallots, chopped parsley, sage, buttered cubed bread, and chicken or turkey stock.

Mushroom Stuffing

Chopped wild mushrooms like cremini, shiitake or oyster mushrooms add an earthy dimension to this stuffing made with onions, celery, herbs, bread crumbs, and egg.

Stuffing Tips

Follow these tips for the best results when stuffing a turkey breast cavity:

  • Use a mix of textures – Combine dry cubed bread with moist ingredients like stock, eggs, mushrooms, sausage.
  • Cook aromatics – Lightly cook onions, shallots, celery, mushrooms before adding to stuffing.
  • Season generously – Stuffing benefits from ample herbs, salt, pepper, sage, thyme, and savory flavors.
  • Pack loosely – Avoid compressing stuffing too tightly into the cavity so it cooks through.
  • Prepare ahead – Make stuffing 1-2 days ahead. Store in fridge until ready to use.
  • Keep it cold – Chill prepared stuffing before spooning into turkey cavity.

How to Stuff a Turkey Breast Cavity

Follow these simple steps for properly stuffing a turkey breast cavity:

  1. Rinse turkey cavity well and pat dry.
  2. Lightly grease the cavity with olive oil or butter.
  3. Spoon prepared chilled stuffing loosely into breast cavity, pressing lightly.
  4. Do not pack stuffing tightly or overstuff.
  5. Truss turkey legs together over cavity with kitchen string.
  6. Roast turkey according to your recipe, basting periodically.
  7. Check temperature at thickest part of breast to ensure doneness.
  8. Let turkey rest 15 minutes before carving.
  9. Spoon out stuffing into serving bowl.

As long as you follow basic food safety guidelines, your stuffed turkey will turn out perfectly moist and full of flavor. For optimal food safety, do not stuff poultry more than 1 day before roasting. And always roast until the minimum safe temperature is reached – 165°F for the stuffing and 175°F at the thickest part of the breast.

Alternatives to Stuffing a Turkey

While stuffing a turkey does impart great flavor, you can achieve similar results in ways that minimize food safety risks:

  • Cook stuffing separately – Bake stuffing in casserole dish to allow it to reach safe temperature.
  • Flavor under skin – Loosen breast skin and rub herb butter underneath for moisture and taste.
  • Add aromatics – Put lemons, onions, garlic in cavity for flavor without stuffing.
  • Inject marinade – Use marinade injector to infuse flavor deep into breast meat.

With these techniques, you can still achieve a beautifully roasted turkey layered with flavor – without having to worry about the dangers of undercooked stuffing.


Stuffing adds wonderful complexity of flavor and aroma to roasted turkey. Be sure to use fully cooked and properly handled ingredients in your stuffing, and follow food safety guidelines like refrigerating prepared stuffing before stuffing the bird. Popular stuffing options include herb bread stuffings, cornbread, sausage, chestnut, dried fruit, oyster, and wild mushroom stuffings. Pack stuffing loosely into the breast cavity, and roast turkey to at least 165°F internal temperature for the stuffing. With sound preparation and thorough cooking, your stuffed turkey will be a mouthwatering holiday centerpiece.