New England Meat Stuffing

By Michael

Updated November 26, 2021

Every year at Thanksgiving, my family looks forward to meat stuffing. This is not something that a lot of other families I knew growing up or even now are familiar with. "Meat stuffing" usually evokes some kind of sausage and bread stuffing that resembles a traditional Thanksgiving stuffing.

Well, this meat stuffing is a French Canadian one, and if you didn't grow up with French Canadian ancestors in Massachusetts, you probably won't be familiar with it. It's ground beef simmered with savory and warm herbs and spices, and it's hearty and delicious.

This meat stuffing is adapted from the filling for the French Canadian dish "tourtière", which is a savory meat pie served around the New Year. It uses ingredients that would be found around post-Industrial-Revolution- and Great-Depression- era New England.

The way my gramma wrote the recipe down leaves a lot for interpretation, and knowing when things are just right. This recipe here attempts to bridge the gap for anyone who hasn't had meat stuffing like this before.

Essentially, the proportions are right when the water just covers the meat and onions, and if they aren't, you just simmer until it looks right.

The original recipe calls for "crackers, to take up the liquid". My gramma and mom both use saltine crackers for this.

Saltine crackers

I find that about 6 is the right number, but if you added a lot of water you may need another few crackers until it starts to come together. I usually add two at a time and wait a little bit to see if that got it right.

Meat stuffing coming together

When it's done, it should look like a meat sauce similar to the chili you'd put on a Carolina hot dog, or the meat sauce on a New York System weiner from Rhode Island.

Meat stuffing all done

New England Meat Stuffing


  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1/2 tsp cloves
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp Bell's Poultry Seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • Saltine crackers (about 6)
  • Allspice to taste


  1. Combine the ground beef, onion, and spices in a saucepan, and add water just to cover
  2. Bring to a boil
  3. Add crushed saltine crackers to thicken
  4. Simmer until it becomes a cohesive and thick meat sauce
  5. If needed, add a shake or two of allspice. Just until you smell it a little
  6. It's done when the smell of warm herbs and spices fills your kitchen
Meat stuffing, ready to serve

Originally published on November 25, 2021