Every year for Thanksgiving, Nick, a 32-year-old in Chicago, travels to the western suburbs where his sister hosts a giant spread of Italian and Polish food — pierogi, gwumpki, gnocchi, the works. Amongst all that culinary fusion, however, one distinctly American dish stands out — White Castle stuffing. “Our aunt makes it every year,” he tells me. “I don’t know when it started exactly, but it’s always a big deal that it’s there.”
For the uninitiated, White Castle is primarily a Midwestern fast-food chain that specializes in small, square burgers called “Sliders.” Even for fast food, though, Sliders aren’t necessarily something you’d put in your body sober, and definitely not a food you’d expect at a formal Thanksgiving dinner.
Nonetheless, White Castle is so proud of their White Castle Slider®️ Stuffing Recipe that they lists its creation on the company’s official history timeline, along with the introduction of cheeseburger sliders in 1962 and their first drive-thru location in 1980. The stuffing arrived about a decade later, in 1990, when “a team member had the idea to enhance her grandmother’s family stuffing recipe with a sack of Sliders.”
For the next 30 years, the conversation around White Castle stuffing has typically followed that of Nick’s family. “I’m pretty sure my aunt just made it on a whim one year and brought it as kind of a half-joke,” he says. “People were like, ‘Oh my god I can’t believe you actually made this!’ But then everyone tried it and realized it’s really freaking good, and she’s made it ever since.”
“We talk about it like it’s a novelty,” he continues. “Like, we make a bigger deal about my aunt bringing the White Castle stuffing than my grandma’s pierogies. But it’s very much a staple of our Thanksgiving.”
A similar exchange happens online, too. On Reddit, pictures of White Castle stuffing are often found on subreddits like Shitty Food Porn and Thanks, I Hate It with the intention of having people pile on about how disgusting it is. But the resounding response to these posts is typically from people who have tried it and swear by how great it is.
To that end, the Midwestern delicacy has garnered something of a “if you know, you know” appeal. Recipe blogs often refer to it as “elusive” and “mythical,” since only those who’ve had it know how delicious it is, while everyone else is blinded by revulsion. “White Castle stuffing is what you get when you cross Martha Stewart with a trailer park — it transcends all culinary boundaries,” Ryan, a 28-year-old in Minnesota, writes via Reddit DM, even if he can’t exactly explain what makes it so delectable. All he knows, he tells me, is that “it’s never too dry, and it honestly doesn’t taste too White Castle-y either. You could eat it at a Michelin-star restaurant and call it innovative or at a church potluck and be satisfied.”
And so, if there’s a silver lining to being unable to celebrate Thanksgiving with loved ones this year, it’s that no matter where you live, there’s a gas station nearby with frozen packs of White Castle sliders just waiting to be torn apart and stuffed inside of a bird.
Now go forth and befoul your Thanksgiving fowl.