December 6, 2021

Thanksgiving Recipes and Tips

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Make-Ahead Thanksgiving Recipes We’re Thankful For

Photograph by Olga Ivanova

From Yummly

If this is your first time hosting Thanksgiving, CONGRATULATIONS! Has anyone warned you yet that you need to start thawing your frozen turkey in the fridge about five days ahead? True story. If you’ve hosted Thanksgiving before, you’re probably here looking for ways to make it easier. Either way, you’re in the right spot for making your turkey-day meal manageable.

With the help of our make-ahead Thanksgiving guide, you can get a jump-start on meal planning and accomplish plenty of Thanksgiving prep. We’ve even included some make-ahead Thanksgiving recipes that can be fully completed ahead of time, including favorites like mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, pecan pie, and apple pie.

The right recipes and a solid plan: This year, you’re set! A stress-free Thanksgiving awaits. 

Jump ahead to:

Menu planning and grocery shopping >>

Make-ahead Thanksgiving appetizers >>

Thanksgiving main courses >>

Make-ahead Thanksgiving side dishes >>

Quick breads and rolls >>

Make-ahead Thanksgiving desserts: pies and pie pastry >>

Make a day-by-day plan >>

Start planning your Thanksgiving menu at least a week ahead. Then create your shopping list. The Yummly Meal Planner makes it all easy!  Plan your Thanksgiving feast!Let’s Get Started

 Note: The Yummly Meal Planner is available to paid subscribers.

Make-ahead Thanksgiving appetizers

The big day can involve a fair amount of time hanging out together, and you’ll need some snacks to keep the gang from diving into the rolls too early. Fortunately, you’ve got great options for make-ahead Thanksgiving appetizer recipes. Spiced nuts keep in the pantry for three weeks and in the freezer for months. Tahini sauce for dunking raw veggies, and Chirchi, a spread of roasted squash and carrots for dunking crackers, both keep in the fridge up to five days. Toast and toppings for crostini can be made several days ahead and assembled when you’re ready for a nibble. 

Try these make-ahead appetizers:Sweet and Spicy Pecans Recipecayenne, salt, water, chili powder and 5 moreSweet and Spicy PecansYUMMLYAdd to Meal PlannerYUMMLY ORIGINALLemony Tahini Sauce Recipealeppo chili pepper, water and 5 moreLemony Tahini SauceYUMMLYAdd to Meal PlannerYUMMLY ORIGINALChirchi Recipefresh lemon juice, cayenne pepper and 10 moreChirchiEINAT ADMONYAdd to Meal PlannerPROBuild-Your-Own Crostini Bar Recipebaguette, marinated artichoke hearts, soft goat cheese, red bartlett pears and 3 moreBuild-Your-Own Crostini BarYUMMLYAdd to Meal PlannerYUMMLY ORIGINALCreamy Blue Cheese and Red Onion Crostini Recipebaguette, flat leaf parsley leaves and 8 moreCreamy Blue Cheese and Red Onion CrostiniYUMMLYAdd to Meal PlannerYUMMLY ORIGINAL

Thanksgiving main courses

The turkey tends to be the star of the show on Thanksgiving Day, and not just because it’s a big bird. But If you’re planning a vegetarian or vegan Thanksgiving, we have some great recipes to choose from, too. 

Turkey and gravy

With the time it requires to cook (and thaw!), turkey takes on an oversized role in the Thanksgiving kitchen, one that’s worth planning around. (For starters, plan on 24 hours thawing time in the fridge for every 4 pounds of turkey.) We’ve put together separate guides to turkey and another one for making gravy. The first guide below covers your classic roast turkey. If you want to consider a turkey breast instead of a whole bird, or if you’re team dark-meat and are thinking turkey thighs or turkey legs, the second article has lots of turkey recipe options.

You may wonder, “Can I cook the turkey a day before?” The answer is, no, not for best results. You can do some prep, like brining or spatchcocking the turkey, a couple of days ahead. And while you could roast a turkey and reheat the meat the next day, it will be the most juicy if it’s cooked and served on the same day.


COOKING STORYHow to Cook a Turkey: Your A-Z Guide to Buy, Prep, Cook, and Carve

Don’t play chicken with your Thanksgiving centerpiece! Whether it’s your first time cooking a turkey or your 14th, this step-by-step guide will help ensure that the star of the holiday table comes out perfectly.


RECIPE ROUNDUPThanksgiving Turkey Recipes Worthy of Center Stage

Roast turkey, turkey breasts, deep-fried turkey, even turkey sliders! Whether you’re a T-Day newbie or a seasoned pro, these turkey recipe ideas just might start a new holiday tradition.


KITCHEN TIPSTurkey Gravy 101: Climb Aboard the Gravy Boat!

Rouxs and slurries and giblets, oh my! If you’re intimidated, don’t fret — there are a lot of folks in the same (gravy) boat. Here’s everything you need to know to make perfect gravy this Thanksgiving.

Vegetarian and vegan main dishes

Consider serving a stellar stuffed squash; a platter filled with stunning fall vegetables like cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and butternut squash; or a baked nut loaf with mushrooms, rice, and cheese. All three can be prepped the day before cooking, which is a load off for any cook. 

Here are some tasty meat-free dishes to consider:Vegan Quinoa, Spinach, and Mushroom Stuffed Acorn Squash Recipesalt, quinoa, salt, extra virgin olive oil and 16 moreVegan Quinoa, Spinach, and Mushroom Stuffed Acorn SquashYUMMLYAdd to Meal PlannerYUMMLY ORIGINALRoasted Vegan Thanksgiving Feast Platter Recipebutternut squash, maple syrup and 23 moreRoasted Vegan Thanksgiving Feast PlatterYUMMLYAdd to Meal PlannerYUMMLY ORIGINALVegetarian Nut Loaf with Shiitake Mushroom Gravy Recipecooking oil spray, dried sage, soy sauce, fresh parsley sprigs and 18 moreVegetarian Nut Loaf with Shiitake Mushroom GravyYUMMLYAdd to Meal PlannerYUMMLY ORIGINAL

Make-ahead Thanksgiving side dishes

Some people argue that the side dishes, not the turkey, are the true stars of the feast. We have lots of delicious choices with make-ahead options that may convince you to join their team.  

Make-ahead mashed potatoes 

It turns out you can make classic mashed potatoes up to two days before and then reheat them in the microwave or on the stovetop with a little cream and milk just before serving. Or, on Thanksgiving, put your slow cooker to use to keep cooked mashed potatoes warm or to cook the potatoes completely.

Mashed potatoes to make the meal:Easy Mashed Potatoes Reciperusset potatoes, unsalted butter and 4 moreEasy Mashed PotatoesYUMMLYAdd to Meal PlannerYUMMLY ORIGINALCrockpot Mashed Potatoes Recipedried rosemary, sour cream and 9 moreCrockpot Mashed PotatoesSHOW ME THE YUMMYAdd to Meal PlannerClassic Garlic Mashed Potatoes Recipesalted butter, salt, black pepper, whole milk, garlic cloves and 1 moreClassic Garlic Mashed PotatoesYUMMLYAdd to Meal PlannerYUMMLY ORIGINAL

Sweet potatoes and yams

Sweet potatoes, aka yams, are ideal to prep ahead. Our casserole recipe is extra-easy and can be fully assembled the day before and heated just before you eat. It’s best to add a marshmallow topping just before baking. You can bake the candied yams a day ahead with butter, spices, and brown sugar, and then reheat them covered before setting them out on the Thanksgiving table.

For something a little more savory, try roasted sweet potatoes. The sweet potatoes can be cut a day before the feast, tossed in a zip-top bag with oil and seasonings, and refrigerated overnight. On Thanksgiving, just bake them in a hot oven for about half an hour.

Don’t have a sweet potato recipe? We’ve got you covered:Marshmallow Sweet Potato Casserole Recipeminiature marshmallows, black pepper and 8 moreMarshmallow Sweet Potato CasseroleYUMMLYAdd to Meal PlannerYUMMLY ORIGINALCandied Yams Recipeground nutmeg, turbinado sugar, sweet potatoes, kosher salt, brown sugar and 4 moreCandied YamsYUMMLYAdd to Meal PlannerYUMMLY ORIGINALRoasted Sweet Potatoes Recipeolive oil, sea salt, cinnamon and 3 moreRoasted Sweet PotatoesGET HEALTHY UAdd to Meal Planner

Green bean casserole

Add another make-ahead Thanksgiving vegetable to your line-up with a green bean casserole. You can start the prep by trimming and blanching the green beans and making the mushroom sauce as many as four days ahead. Assemble the casserole the night before Thanksgiving, but wait to add French-fried onions or frozen onion rings until the last minute so they stay crispy. Then bake an hour before dinnertime so the casserole gets to the table hot.

New to green bean casserole? Here are a few recipes to get you started. The last one includes options to make it dairy-free and vegan.Homemade Green Bean Casserole Recipedried thyme, salted butter and 12 moreHomemade Green Bean CasseroleYUMMLYAdd to Meal PlannerYUMMLY ORIGINALGreen Bean Casserole with Onion Rings Recipeflour, half and half, green beans and 8 moreGreen Bean Casserole with Onion RingsTHE WEARY CHEFAdd to Meal PlannerBacon Green Bean Casserole Recipehalf and half, salt, nonstick cooking spray and 11 moreBacon Green Bean CasseroleYUMMLYAdd to Meal PlannerYUMMLY ORIGINAL

Roasted vegetables 

Root vegetables, and brassicas like broccoli and Brussels sprouts, can be washed and trimmed up to four days in advance. If they’re prepped, you can wait until about 30 minutes before Thanksgiving dinner is served to toss the vegetables on a baking sheet and roast them in the oven. 

Ready to put your oven to work?Garlic Roasted Brussels Sprouts RecipeBrussels sprouts, black pepper and 3 moreGarlic Roasted Brussels SproutsYUMMLYAdd to Meal PlannerYUMMLY ORIGINALSmoky Roasted Fall Vegetables Recipeground cumin, black pepper and 12 moreSmoky Roasted Fall VegetablesYUMMLYAdd to Meal PlannerYUMMLY ORIGINALGarlic Roasted Broccoli Recipeblack pepper, salt, extra-virgin olive oil and 2 moreGarlic Roasted BroccoliYUMMLYAdd to Meal PlannerYUMMLY ORIGINAL

Bread stuffing

If you want to make stuffing entirely from scratch, you can start prepping several days in advance. Tear the bread into rough cubes on Sunday, spread them on a sheet pan, cover with a dishcloth, and leave on the counter to dry out for a day or two. Saute the onions and herbs as early as Monday and refrigerate until you’re ready to bake. At that point, mix the bread and onions with the broth and melted butter and put the stuffing in the bird or bake it in a casserole dish in the oven. 

Or make this the year you try a rice stuffing. You can prep it up to two days in advance and just reheat before serving. Need more help getting stuffing just right? We have a guide for that hereFavorite Sausage and Herb Stuffing Recipebaguettes, carrots, black pepper and 14 moreFavorite Sausage and Herb StuffingYUMMLYAdd to Meal PlannerYUMMLY ORIGINALTraditional Bread Stuffing Recipedried oregano, dried thyme and 10 moreTraditional Bread StuffingFRESH APRIL FLOURSAdd to Meal PlannerSticky Rice Stuffing with Chinese Sausage and Shiitakes Recipeshaoxing, soy sauce, scallions and 9 moreSticky Rice Stuffing with Chinese Sausage and ShiitakesEPICURIOUSAdd to Meal Planner

Cranberry sauce

Good news: Cranberry sauce is a perfect make-ahead Thanksgiving recipe. The acid from the cranberries acts as a preservative, so it stays fresh for weeks. For the best flavor, just be sure to let it come to room temperature before serving. 

Here are a few cranberry sauce recipes to represent these radiant berries:Apple and Spice Cranberry Sauce Recipeapple cider, granulated sugar and 7 moreApple and Spice Cranberry SauceYUMMLYAdd to Meal PlannerYUMMLY ORIGINALAlmost-Homemade Cranberry Pear Sauce Recipebartlett pear, whole berry cranberry sauce, lemon zestAlmost-Homemade Cranberry Pear SauceYUMMLYAdd to Meal PlannerYUMMLY ORIGINALHomemade Citrus Cranberry Sauce Recipenavel oranges, sugar, lemon and 2 moreHomemade Citrus Cranberry SauceYUMMLYAdd to Meal PlannerYUMMLY ORIGINAL

Quick breads and rolls

Do we need bread on the table? Probably not. Do we want bread? Absolutely. Whether it’s a quick bread or a dinner roll, bread’s a Thanksgiving dinner stalwart that you can’t dismiss. We’ve got make-ahead recipes that help you get a jump-start on the prep. 

Dinner rolls

A lot of people are afraid of yeast, but it’s pretty predictable. Yeasted rolls can be mixed, kneaded, and shaped one or two days in advance as long as they’re covered and refrigerated for the final rising time. You can even freeze the dough if you have room in your freezer. Just pop the (thawed) rolls in the oven an hour before dinner starts and you’ll have warm, butter-ready rolls when you sit down to eat! 

For the best roll around, try these recipes:Shortcut Honey-Wheat Dinner Rolls Recipehoney, salt, water, whole milk, all-purpose flour, instant yeast and 2 moreShortcut Honey-Wheat Dinner RollsYUMMLYAdd to Meal PlannerYUMMLY ORIGINALMake Ahead Parker House Rolls Recipeall purpose flour, large eggs and 4 moreMake Ahead Parker House RollsREAL MOM KITCHENAdd to Meal PlannerVanishing Yeast Rolls Recipeegg, all purpose flour, kosher salt and 6 moreVanishing Yeast RollsI FOOD BLOGGERAdd to Meal Planner


Because cornbread is a quick bread, you can mix the dry ingredients anytime before Thanksgiving and set them aside in an airtight container. A day in advance, you can mix the wet ingredients separately and refrigerate them. On the day of Thanksgiving, cornbread is an easy first thing to mix, bake, and set aside for the big meal.  

Looking for a killer cornbread? Here are three easy, make-ahead recipes:Southern Cornbread Recipeall purpose flour, buttermilk and 8 moreSouthern CornbreadSWEET PEA SWEETIEAdd to Meal PlannerClassic Buttermilk Cornbread Recipeyellow cornmeal, salt, large eggs, sugar, salted butter, all-purpose flour and 2 moreClassic Buttermilk CornbreadYUMMLYAdd to Meal PlannerYUMMLY ORIGINALThe Best Corn Bread Muffins Recipesour cream, eggs, all purpose flour and 9 moreThe Best Corn Bread MuffinsTHE KITTCHENAdd to Meal Planner

Make-ahead Thanksgiving desserts: pies and pie pastry

Traditionally, Thanksgiving dessert means pie. Sure, there are a few ways to mix up the magic of Thanksgiving desserts (do we hear a call for whipping up some cream cheese for pumpkin cheesecake?) but we can’t lie, we love pie. If you’re making pie crust from scratch, the pastry can be made up to two days in advance and refrigerated. Or you can make the pastry weeks in advance and freeze it. 

Fillings should be mixed right before baking, but you can (and should) bake your pies a day in advance. Pies can take a long time to bake and an even longer time to cool for optimal flavor and ease of slicing. All of this means that pie is the ultimate make-ahead Thanksgiving dessert recipe.

Need ideas for pies? We have some sweet ways to get started.


COOKING STORYPie Crust 101: How to Make Pie Dough From Scratch, Plus Easy Ideas to Elevate Any Pie

New to pie-making? We’ve put together a guide to all your pressing crust questions, from rolling to crimping to getting the perfect flaky layers.


COOKING STORYSecrets to Foolproof All-Butter Pie Crust

A pro shares her tips for creating the perfect pie crust — buttery, flaky, and delicious down to the last crumb


RECIPE ROUNDUP23 Showstopping Classic Thanksgiving Pies

Apple pie. Pecan pie. Pumpkin pie. Sweet Potato. Cranberry. There’s a reason these are the most popular Thanksgiving pies year after year. And thank goodness!

Make a day-by-day plan

To sum it up, here’s what your make-ahead plan could (loosely) look like. The good news is you can start prepping for your holiday meal on Saturday to get a major leg-up on the big day.

Shop for groceriesTrim and blanch green beansSaute onions and herbs for stuffing
Combine dry ingredients for cornbreadPrepare mushroom sauce for green bean casserolePrepare toast and toppings for crostini
Make cranberry saucePrep bread for stuffing
Make spiced nuts and tahini sauce for appetizersWash and trim vegetables for roasting
Make mashed potatoesCombine wet ingredients for cornbreadCombine ingredients for cornbread, and bake
Make pie pastryBake piesAssemble crostini. Set out spiced nuts and tahini dip and veggies
Assemble rice stuffingPrepare mushroom loafBake mushroom loaf
Assemble sweet potato and green bean casserolesBake sweet potato and green bean casseroles
Cut and season sweet potatoes for roastingRoast sweet potatoes and other vegetables
Make components for vegan acorn squash and vegan feast platterReheat and assemble components for vegan acorn squash and feast platter
Prep dough for yeast rollsBake yeast rolls
Reheat mashed potatoes
Assemble stuffing and bake
Season and cook turkey, and make gravy

Putting together a Thanksgiving meal is a big undertaking, but it’s so much easier when you have everything planned out and prepped ahead of time.

Enjoy your family, friends, and food!

More resources for the perfect Thanksgiving

Get more helpful tips and memorable recipes for Thanksgiving in these next articles.


RECIPE ROUNDUP36 Thanksgiving Appetizers to Keep the Fam Happy While the Turkey Cooks

Let us inspire you this Thanksgiving with appetizers so yummy, varied, simple, and eye-catching, that you might just run out of room before the main course.


COOKING STORYHow to Cook a Turkey: Your A-Z Guide to Buy, Prep, Cook, and Carve

Don’t play chicken with your Thanksgiving centerpiece! Whether it’s your first time cooking a turkey or your 14th, this step-by-step guide will help ensure that the star of the holiday table comes out perfectly.


RECIPE ROUNDUPThanksgiving Turkey Recipes Worthy of Center Stage

Roast turkey, turkey breasts, deep-fried turkey, even turkey sliders! Whether you’re a T-Day newbie or a seasoned pro, these turkey recipe ideas just might start a new holiday tradition.


KITCHEN TIPSTurkey Gravy 101: Climb Aboard the Gravy Boat!

Rouxs and slurries and giblets, oh my! If you’re intimidated, don’t fret — there are a lot of folks in the same (gravy) boat. Here’s everything you need to know to make perfect gravy this Thanksgiving.


KITCHEN TIPSStuff It! Here Are All the Thanksgiving Stuffing Tips and Recipes You Need

Everyone loves a juicy bird, but a great Thanksgiving stuffing can steal the show on your holiday plate. This versatile side shines deliciously on its own — once you master the basics.


RECIPE ROUNDUPThe Best Thanksgiving Side Dishes for a Slam-Dunk Meal

Here are the essential Thanksgiving sides, old and new! Stick with the classics, or branch out and get creative — we’ve got all the Thanksgiving recipes you dream of.


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