Classic Nova Scotia Turkey Dressing with Summer Savory

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A classic Nova Scotia turkey dressing recipe made with bread AND potato. And you can’t forget the summer savoury because that’s what makes it from the Maritimes.

In the last decade of writing this site I’ve realized that so many of our family Christmas recipes are actually quite popular.

I was shocked so many people also make these no bake cherry balls, or that everyone loves the retro 5-ingredient tomato soup shrimp dip.

And so many people eat Nova Scotia seafood chowder over the holidays.

But my biggest surprise was that my potato and bread turkey dressing recipe is SO similar to others in the Maritimes.

It’s almost if there was only one cookbook that we all shared.

Turkey dressing with bread and potato on white plate grey background with Christmas ornaments

Potato and Bread Turkey Dressing

So the basics of a Nova Scotia turkey dressing is potato, bread, onion, butter and summer savoury.

Some people also use celery but that’s pretty much the recipe.


This dressing recipe is also very popular in New Brunswick and is similar to Newfoundland turkey stuffing.

Turkey dressing with summer savoury,bread and potato on white plate grey background

Turkey Stuffing vs Dressing

We have always called it dressing.

So I really had no idea what the difference was until I asked Google.

Apparently if it is cooked in the bird it is called stuffing. If it is cooked outside it is called dressing.

That makes sense!

However, I think in Nova Scotia we call it turkey dressing no matter how it was cooked.

My grandmother always cooked the dressing in the turkey. Some people believe it’s needed to make the dressing flavour.

I disagree.

And it’s not just a random opinion. Years ago I cooked dressing in the turkey and then some in a Pyrex dish using the same recipe.

I served both and asked my family to tell me the difference.

No one knew!

So now I cook it outside the turkey.

Whole turkey cooked in an instant pot

And I cook the turkey in the Instant Pot.

This will change your life!

It means turkey is done in under 50 minutes and never dry.

Prior to this I experimented with cooking turkey on low heat, high heat, spatchcock turkey, brining it, basting it.

One year I even wiggled my hands under the turkey skin so I could place butter on the turkey breast to keep it moist.

So I say with confidence that this Instant Pot turkey recipe is the best!

Once you try it you’ll never look back.

Nova Scotian Summer savory in a bag

Summer Savoury is KEY!

This Nova Scotia turkey dressing is very versatile. However, what is unique to the Maritimes is the use of summer savoury.

99 ESSENTIAL EATS: Nova Scotia Food

It wasn’t until I moved to Toronto that I realized summer savoury was unique to the Maritimes.

Despite all the places to buy herbs and spices in Toronto, the closest I could get was winter savory.

Little did I know that I could buy summer savory on Amazon.

Summer savory is a Mediterranean herb that European settlers brought.

Similar to thyme or marjoram, but more peppery and fragrant. There is no real substitute.

While it’s more commonly known as an ingredient for food in Provence, it somehow adapted to our tough Maritime climate.

When it grew stronger here, it also developed a more intense flavour.

While summer savory is synonymous with Acadian food where it is known as sarriette d’été Ancienne d’Acadie. It is common in many Nova Scotian recipes and in the Maritimes.

Nova Scotia Turkey Dressing with Summer Savoury

My grandmother has passed on but we continue to use her recipes at the holidays. It’s one of the ways we remember her and the familiar flavours of her cooking.

To be honest Nanny wasn’t a great cook.

But she made a handful of things really well. And most of them were at Christmas.

They aren’t gourmet. But really tasty home cooked food.

She used garlic salt in her mashed potatoes and that secret will be passed on for generations.

Once my mother bought garlic powder instead of garlic salt and almost ruined Christmas.

Thankfully we found some. And learned from that mistake.

Turkey dressing with bread and potato on white plate and background

This potato and bread dressing is easy: here’s what you need.


Russet potatoes are best, also known as PEI potatoes or baking potatoes. You want something starchy.

Red potatoes are too waxy as are many other potato varieties but thankfully russets are easy to find.


Unsalted. At room temperature.

Garlic Salt

I know this sounds weird but trust me!

If you’re really opposed to it I would say just make mashed potatoes as you like them.

However do not whip them!

This is a rustic dish and the potatoes need to be course.

Stale Bread

We use white bread because this isn’t even close to a healthy recipe so why pretend!

But if you want to use whole wheat bread, sourdough or gluten-free bread go ahead!

Three days before you plan to make the turkey dressing tear the bread into small pieces (about 1 inch). Let it sit out on a baking tray and turn over each day.

If you forget to take out the bread don’t worry.

Just lightly toast it and tear it into pieces.

The idea is that you want to take the moisture out of the bread. I’ve done it both ways and no one notices.

Turkey dressing with bread and potato on white plate and background with Christmas ornaments

Is it Safe to Cook Dressing in the Turkey?

Well it is if you use a kitchen thermometer and the centre of the dressing registers 165F.

I recommend this digital cooking thermometer, which is cheap and reliable.

My issue is that you have to cook the turkey SOOOOOOO long for it to reach that temperature that the turkey breast is so dry.

Can You Make Turkey Dressing in Advance

I have cooked it the night before and heated it up without any issue.

If you feel like the dressing is a bit dry I would melt butter and drizzle it on then cover it when you reheat it.

Can You Freeze Dressing?

Short answer yes. But I don’t like it.

I find when the dressing thaws the bread gets a bit soggy. It does hold up if you put it in turkey pot pies but on its own it doesn’t do well.

Nova Scotia turkey dressing with potato bread and summer savoury

Nova Scotia Turkey Dressing

Yield: 14 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes

A classic potato and bread stuffing from the Maritimes. We call it dressing whether you cook it in or outside the turkey.


  • 12 cups of white bread, torn and stale
  • 3 large russet potatoes
  • 1 tablespoon garlic salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 large onions diced
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoon of dried summer savoury


  1. Three days before cooking tear 12 slices of bread and put on baking sheet to become stale. If you don't have time lightly toast bread and tear.
  2. Preheat oven to 375F.
  3. Boil potatoes, (or cook in Instant Pot for 10 minutes) and coarsely mash with 2 tablespoons butter and garlic salt.
  4. Over medium heat melt 1/4 cup butter and add onion and summer savoury to sauté 3 minutes. Add remaining 1/4 cup butter and remove from heat when it is melted.
  5. In a large bowl combine mashed potatoes, bread and onion mixture. Do not overmix as it will get gummy.
  6. Put in Pyrex dish and cover. Cook for 40 minutes. Then remove cover and cook a final 20 minutes.


If you do not have summer savoury you can substitute equal parts dried sage and thyme. Or whatever dried herbs you prefer.

However, the real taste of the Maritimes is to use summer savoury! Make sure when you visit family you pick some up!

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 14 Serving Size: 1 Amount Per Serving: Calories: 229Total Fat: 8gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 17mgSodium: 238mgCarbohydrates: 35gFiber: 3gSugar: 5gProtein: 5g

Nutritional information is provided as a courtesy and is an estimate only. This information comes from online calculators. Although attempts to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates.

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  1. Frank Mosher says:

    That is not a Maritime stuffing, but perhaps from Newfoundland & Labrador and great for stuffing Codfish as well! I disagree with everything you posted including baking inside or outside! While very subjective, here is the best recipe (Nova Scotian) for Turkey Stuffing, baked inside the bird, and if you have never done something similar to this recipe, you have really missed out! Simple: Stuffing must be moist, thus the addition of cooked sausage, apple, bread, and for the creme de la creme, dried currants, savory and sage. No problem with onions and celery. Note: Usually the stuffing cooked outside the bird, was to provide more than could be stuffed in the bird! Cheers!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Well perhaps we agree to disagree. The summer savory, potato, bread combination is very common in Nova Scotian households.

  2. Tanya Deering says:

    I grew up on this stufing; my mom still makes it. I’m currently making it. Born & raised in NS.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      It’s such a classic, isn’t it! One of the few recipes that we don’t dare to change.

  3. Cindy Enslow says:

    This is the recipe I grew up on and still make to this day,but without the garlic salt. Born and bred in
    Nova Scotia.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I think garlic salt is specific to my Nanny, but you can’t beat summer savoury. It’s just not the same without it.

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