Wild Rice Stuffing with Sausage and Fennel

Wild Rice Stuffing with Sausage and Fennel

One of my family’s favorite Thanksgiving Day foods is the stuffing. But I was recently informed that what I’ve been making all of these years is not stuffing, but dressing. Stuffing is cooked inside of the bird and dressing, outside of the bird.

For food safety reasons, I’ve been cooking my stuffing on the side for years. Who wrote this book of rules? I’m still calling this stuffing and I’m reviewing the recipe for dinner tonight, as you may want to include it in your Thanksgiving menu

My son’s girlfriend, Lucy, makes our traditional favorite this year.

Most stuffings are generally made with bread: Corn bread, challah, brioche, white, wheat and certainly the Pepperidge Farm boxed variety. This year, however, I have a guest with a gluten-intolerance. Gluten intolerance, also called celiac disease, is an extreme sensitivity to the protein gluten, which is found in wheat, barley and rye. With celiac disease, even the smallest amount of gluten can make a person miserable for days. I understand there are gluten-free breads out there but this gives me an excuse to use my favorite non-bread stuffing.

Sadly, aside from the holiday season, stuffing and wild rice seem to be ignored. Wild rice is such a unique and nutritious ingredient, I try to incorporate wild rice in dishes year round.

For those of you who don’t cook with wild rice often, there is a wide range of wild rice available. Wild rice isn’t actually a rice–it’s a nutritious, annual aquatic grass. Some come from their native upper Great Lakes region, others come from Idaho, Washington, and California. I purchase “airboat harvested” jumbo wild rice when visiting Michigan’s Upper Peninsula which is delicious*.

The flavors and textures of nutty wild rice and sausage remind me of Thanksgiving, but it is the flavor of fennel that pulls it out of the ordinary and into extraordinary. Fennel’s aromatic taste is unique, strikingly reminiscent of anise, so much so that fennel is often mistakenly referred to as anise at many groceries. Fennel’s texture is similar to that of celery and has a crunchy texture.

Mix & Match ingredients: Depending on my Thanksgiving menu, I’ll add 3-4 thinly sliced and sautéed cooking apples to this menu. I add them in the last five minutes when cooking the fennel and leeks. If toasted walnuts are not incorporated into other recipes, I might add  a cup of chopped walnuts to the dish as well.

Recipe: Wild Rice Stuffing with Sausage and Fennel


  • 3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1  cup wild rice
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 pound sweet Italian sausage*
  • 2-3 fennel bulbs (6 cups), stalks removed, halved, cored and thinly sliced
  • 1-2 leeks (2 cups),white and light green parts only, washed well and thinly sliced
  • 2 tart sweet apples, cored and cut into 1/4-inch slices (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley


  1. Combine stock, rice and fennel seeds in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, 45 to 75 minutes, depending on wild rice used. Check and add more stock if needed.
  2. Sauté sausage in a large skillet over medium-high heat, breaking it up with a fork, until cooked through, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer sausage to rice, draining fat, if desired, on paper towels.
  3. Add the fennel and leeks to sausage drippings. Sauté 6 minutes, stirring, then reduce heat and stir in apples, if using. Cook until just tender.
  4. Add the cooked rice and sausage to the fennel mixture. (Note you may make this up to 24 hours in advance at this point). Sauté until wild rice mixture until heated through. Stir parsley into rice; stuff into turkey or serve on the side.

*If sausage not available in bulk, purchase in links and remove from casing.

Simmer Time: 45-75 minutes

Active Time: 20 minutes

Number of servings (yield): apx. 16 cups

Copyright © Peggy Lampman’s dinnerFeed.

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