Caramelized Onion & Hawaiian Sweet Bread Stuffing

Whether you call it stuffing or dressing, no one will miss the meat in this simple and easy side dish! Vegetarian Caramelized Onion & Hawaiian Sweet Bread Stuffing has traditional flavors, yet brings a unique flair!

prepared stuffing in casserole dish

Stuffing or Dressing?

This is up for debate, even though the answer is obvious. If you stuff it into the bird, it’s stuffing, and if it is baked in a casserole dish, it’s dressing. So why did you call this recipe Caramelized Onion & Hawaiian Sweet Bread Stuffing?” Well, to be honest, I didn’t even know there was a difference between the two until I started looking at other recipes! 😂 My whole life I grew up calling it stuffing and to me, that is what it shall always be. WHATEVER you call it, we can all agree that it may just be the best side dish on the table.

The stuffing and turkey was my Grandpa’s specialty.  I can still picture him stuffing, slicing, and serving the bird to the whole family. Unfortunately, he passed away in 2017 and Thanksgiving has never been the same. LUCKILY, he wrote down his recipe so we can (attempt) to recreate it every year!

My recipe is in no way an attempt to recreate his beloved stuffing, but I think it’s cool to try my hand at a new family favorite that fits my meat-free lifestyle!

breadcrumbs, celery, butter, garlic, onions, and broth laid out

Let’s Get Cooking!

First, we are going to need the basics:

  • Bread
  • Celery
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Vegetable Broth
  • Butter

In this recipe, I really wanted to bring that savory and sweet combination, but still sticking with the traditional flavors. In addition to the caramelized onions and balsamic vinegar, I also used a King’s Hawaiian Round Sweet Bread Loaf.

dried bread crumbs on pans

Using both the sweet bread and sourdough, cut the loaves into 1/2 inch cubes until you have 12 cups worth. Spread the bread out on 2 baking sheets and either leave out on the counter overnight or bake in the oven at 350° for 8 minutes or until crispy (but not burnt). Place in a large bowl and set aside.

How to Caramelize Onions

Now for my favorite part of the recipe! I love to caramelize onions. I think it’s the slow process that makes you appreciate the end result. We want two LARGE onions because, like spinach, onions shrink significantly when caramelized. I like to slice my onions using their natural layers to do the hard work for me. Just cut the onion in half vertically from root to tip, lay flat, and slice once again from root to tip, but this time horizontally. The onions will be nice strips that naturally fall apart.

Heat 2 tablespoons of butter (vegan butter works as well) in a large saucepan with high sides. Once the butter is melted, dump the onions in and sprinkle with just a pinch of salt to sweat the onions and release their natural sweetness. Now the patience kicks in. No matter what someone tells you, there is no “quick shortcut” to caramelize onions without using other sweeteners. Over the course of 35-45 minutes, let the onions slowly reduce, stiring occasionally. Once the onions have turned to an amber-brown color, they are done! Be sure to taste them throughout the process to test their sweetness.

For a step-by-step guide on how to caramelize onions with pictures and videos, check out this post from Simply Recipes.

My onions went from this:
sliced onions in an pan

To this:

caramelized onions in an pan

After the onions are to my liking, I added 2 teaspoons of balsamic vinegar just to really emphasize the sweetness for this recipe and to add a little acidity.

Finishing Steps

Into your pan, add the chopped celery and stir. Turn up the heat to about Medium/Medium-High and cook to soften. This takes about 5-10 minutes.

Once your celery is soft, add in 3 cloves of chopped garlic and stir until fragrant. It’s important not to put your garlic in too early and risk burning. Sprinkle in 1 1/2 teaspoon of poultry seasoning (because let’s be honest, who has fresh thyme, sage, and rosemary lying around the house) and stir to combine.

Now, pour in 1 1/2 cup of your vegetable broth to deglaze the pan. Using a wooden spoon, stir and scrape the bottom to get all the little yummy brown pieces off.

Take your onion, celery, and broth mixture carefully off the stove and pour it over your bread crumbs in a large bowl. Gently toss everything together.

In a different bowl or measuring cup, combine two eggs (or egg replacement) and the remaining 1 1/2 cup vegetable broth. Start by pouring half of the mixture over the bread crumbs and keep adding until the bread is damp, but not soaked and soggy. We don’t want a pool of broth on the bottom of the bowl! At the same time, I also add 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar to the mixture. This is a personal preference, as I love the sweet and tangy flavor balsamic gives to dishes. I think it goes great and brightens up the heaviness of the dish.

prepared stuffing in pan with butter pads on top

Transfer the mixture into a greased 9 x 13 pan and scatter the remaining tablespoon of butter over the dish. Cover with an oven-proof lid or tinfoil. Now we are ready to bake!

white casserole pan in oven

Bake at 350° covered for 20 minutes, then an additional 30-35 minutes uncovered until nice and toasty on top!

Serve warm and if you are like me, top with some balsamic glaze 😋

prepared stuffing in casserole dish

Recipe Variations

This is a great base recipe for Vegetarian stuffing and allows you to bring in your own flavors!

  • Mushrooms 
  • Carrots
  • Apples
  • Fresh Herbs
  • Raisins
  • If you do eat meat, bacon would go great!
  • Double the caramelized onions and save half to sprinkle on top before serving.
  • If you can’t find a loaf of Hawaiian sweet bread, you could use the rolls.
  • To make this stuffing vegan, substitute the Hawaiian sweet bread for the other half of the sourdough loaf and use the suggested dairy-free substitutions.

prepared stuffing in casserole with one piece scooped out

Make-Ahead to Save Time

To make this ahead of time and cook later, follow this recipe up until you combine the onion/celery/broth mixture with the bread crumbs. Store prepared mixture in the fridge. When you are ready to bake, combine the onion/celery/broth with the bread crumbs and the rest of the broth, let it come to room temperature, then bake as directed!

prepared stuffing in casserole dish

Caramelized Onion & Hawaiian Sweet Bread Stuffing

Whether you call it stuffing or dressing, no one will miss the meat in this simple and easy side dish! Vegetarian Caramelized Onion & Hawaiian Sweet Bread Stuffing has traditional flavors, yet brings a unique flair!
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 1 hr 20 mins
Total Time 1 hr 40 mins
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American
Servings 10 servings
Calories 185 kcal

Equipment

  • Large saucepan
  • 9x13 pan

Ingredients
  

Bread Croutons

  • 1/2 loaf Hawaiian Sweet Bread cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1/2 loaf sourdough bread cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • (12 cups total of bread)

Vegetable/Broth Mixture

  • 2 tbsp butter divided; vegan butter works too
  • 2 large sweet onions
  • 1.5 cup celery chopped, about 4 stalks
  • 3 cloves garlic chopped
  • 1.5 tsp poultry seasoning
  • 2.5 tbsp balsamic vinegar divided
  • 3 cups low sodium vegetable broth divided
  • 2 large eggs egg replacement works as well

Instructions
 

Prep the Bread

  • Cut the bread loaves into 1/2 inch cubes.
  • Spread out on 2 baking sheets and either leave out on the counter overnight or bake in a 350° degree oven for about 8 minutes or until crisp, but not burnt.
  • Place in a large bowl and set aside.

Caramelize the Onions

  • Heat 2 tablespoons of butter (or vegan butter) in a large saucepan with high sides over medium heat. Once the butter is melted, add the sliced onions in and sprinkle with just a pinch of salt to sweat the onions and release their natural sweetness.
  • Continue cooking on Medium-Low heat for about 35-45 minutes until the onions turn an amber-brown color and are sweet. Stir occasionally to evenly cook.
    (If you choose, you may add 2 teaspoons of balsamic vinegar to really emphasize the sweetness for this recipe and to add a little acidity)

Cook Celery & Garlic

  • Once the onions are done, add in the chopped celery and turn the heat up to Medium/Medium-High. Cook for about 5-10 minutes until soft.
  • Add in the chopped garlic and stir until fragrant.
  • Add in 1 1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning and combine.
  • Pour in 1 1/2 cup vegetable broth and stir. Using a wooden spoon, scrape the bottom of the pan to get the good caramelized pieces off.
    (If you are making this ahead of time, stop here and store the ingredients in the fridge until you plan on baking the dish)

Combine Mixture with Bread Crumbs

  • Preheat the oven to 350°.
    (If making this the next day, bring onion/celery mixture to room temperature before mixing)
  • In the largest bowl you have, combine the onion/celery mixture with the bread crumbs and gently toss.
  • In a separate bowl or measuring cup, mix together 1 1/2 cups of vegetable broth and 2 beaten eggs (or egg replacement).
  • Slowly pour the remaining broth over the bread & onion/celery mixture. Start with half and keep adding until the bread crumbs are damp, but not soggy.
    (If you choose to do so, add in 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and combine)

Bake

  • Transfer the stuffing mixture to a greased 9x13 baking dish.
  • Scatter the remaining tablespoon of butter over the top of the uncooked stuffing.
  • Cover with an oven-proof lid or tin foil.
  • Bake for 20 minutes covered. Remove lid or foil and cook for an additional 30-35 minutes uncovered, or until the top is nice and toasty!
  • Serve warm family or buffet style. If feeling adventurous, add a drizzle of balsamic glaze on top!

Storing Leftovers

  • Store leftovers in an airtight container for 3-4 days in the fridge or a month in the freezer.

Reheating Leftover

  • You could microwave it, but I suggest reheating a slice in the air fryer for 9 minutes at 370°. It comes out so crispy!

Notes

This is a great base recipe for Vegetarian stuffing and allows you to bring in your own flavors!
  • Mushrooms 
  • Carrots
  • Apples
  • Fresh Herbs
  • Raisins
  • If you do eat meat, bacon would go great!
  • If you can't find a loaf of Hawaiian sweet bread, you could use the rolls.
  • To make this stuffing vegan, substitute the Hawaiian sweet bread for the other half of the sourdough loaf and use the suggested dairy-free substitutions.
Keyword dressing, stuffing, thanksgiving

Favorite Products Used in This Recipe

*If you use these links to buy something, I may earn a small commission. Thanks!

Baking Dish – This is my casserole dish! It is so durable and comes with an oven-safe lid.

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Whether you call it stuffing or dressing, no one will miss the meat in this simple and easy side dish! Vegetarian Caramelized Onion & Hawaiian Sweet Bread Stuffing has traditional flavors, yet brings a unique flair!

If you make one of my recipes, please tag me (IG @homemade_haley) or use the hashtag #homemadehaleyrecipes in your post or stories! I can’t wait to see how it turned out. 

Thank you so much for your support. From my home to yours,

xo Haley

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