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What’s the difference between stuffing and dressing?

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. With some exceptions, Southerners are going to call this regional side dish dressing, while people in pretty much every other part of America call it stuffing.

A breakdown of Google Trends from Nov. 1 to Dec. 31 of last year (arguably the peak time for this food) confirms this regional divide. Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, and Missouri all searched for “dressing recipe” more than “stuffing recipe.” Alabamans and Mississippians show the biggest preference for dressing recipes; 83% of their Google searches for these two terms went to “dressing recipe.”

The only non-Southern state to prefer “dressing recipe” over “stuffing recipe” is Indiana; 52% 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 the Northeast preferring “stuffing” the most. No matter what you call it or what stuffing recipe you choose, we can pretty much all agree that this side is the star of the Thanksgiving table. But no stuffing is complete without more of the best Thanksgiving recipes.