Make Ahead Thanksgiving Recipes – Easy Make ahead Thanksgiving recipes and meal plan so you can plan a beautiful Thanksgiving meal that allows you to truly enjoy the day!

Easy Make ahead Thanksgiving tips so you can plan a beautiful Thanksgiving meal that allows you to truly enjoy the day! //

It’s that time of the year when we start planning for our Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations! Rather than becoming stressed just thinking about it, I thought it was the perfect time to share a few tricks I learned from my Mama and Grandmother on how to have a great Thanksgiving again. These Make Ahead Thanksgiving Tips are truly some of the best!

The first year I hosted Thanksgiving as a young newlywed, I was blessed that my mother and grandmother both came to my house early that morning armed with tips, tricks, and a schedule. We worked side by side in that tiny kitchen and I learned more about how to plan a meal so that everything was warm and on the table on time for our Thanksgiving dinner.

I think this is something that many of you are interested in as well, since I’ve received so many emails and messages throughout the years wanting tips on how to plan the perfect Thanksgiving.

First, let’s start by saying that the perfect Thanksgiving is about those gathered around the table and not as much about what is on it!

"The perfect Thanksgiving is about those gathered around the table and not as much about what is on it!"

If cooking and entertaining for Thanksgiving have you stressed to the max, there are so many restaurants, delis, grocery stores and other places that can provide everything from appetizers to desserts and there is nothing wrong with making use of those providers if that helps you to feel the most comfortable and relaxed for entertaining your family and guests.

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s discuss how you can plan a beautiful Thanksgiving meal that allows you to truly enjoy the day!

General Make Ahead Thanksgiving Tips!

  1. Plan your menu. Start by planning a menu that includes items that can easily be made ahead of time. Some great make ahead dishes include casseroles, vegetables, sauces, gravies, desserts, and yes, even the turkey, if you like!
  2. Stock up early. I’ve learned the hard way that the days leading up to Thanksgiving are a bit chaotic in the grocery store. Go ahead and purchase whatever items you can before the last minute rush hits the stores. I like to purchase non perishable items up to a month in advance and then any perishables, like fresh fruits and vegetables closer to the time I will be making that dish.
  3. Make a schedule. Like my mother and grandmother, I now have a schedule for preparing my holiday meals. It begins days prior to the holiday all the way through serving the meal.

My Make Ahead Thanksgiving Plan

Smoked Turkey

Smoked Turkey Recipe | ©

Bart loves to smoke the turkey for Thanksgiving and I’m mighty thankful for it (and him!).

  • Cook and slice the turkey according to directions. Arrange on an oven-safe serving platter or on a rimmed baking sheet. Cover and leave at room temperature for up to 1 hour before reheating in the oven. Be sure to reheat until the temperature reaches 165º F.

If you would rather not prepare such a large turkey or if your Thanksgiving guests prefer white meat for their turkey, you will love my easy tips for make-ahead Roasted Turkey Breast.



Cornbread Dressing

Southern Cornbread Dressing Recipe from

My Grandmother Verdie’s Cornbread Dressing is without a doubt the most requested dish of Thanksgiving at my house! A close second is the Sweet Potato Casserole. Once you taste it, you’ll know why!

  • Prepare the dressing without baking and store in the refrigerator up to two days ahead or in the freezer up to two weeks in advance. If frozen, thaw in refrigerator two days in advance and bake on Thanksgiving Day.


Cranberry Sauce

Classic Cranberry Sauce Recipe - This cranberry sauce recipe is a classic holiday recipe. Made of fresh cranberries, orange zest and juice, this cranberry sauce recipe is a must make! //

If you’ve not had homemade Cranberry Sauce on Thanksgiving, I urge you to just give it a try. It is phenomenal and is delicious the next morning topping a stack of pancakes, too!

  • Make cranberry sauce up to 10 days in advance and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator or up to a month in the freezer. If frozen, allow to thaw in the refrigerator before serving.


Giblet Gravy

Southern Giblet Gravy //

I don’t remember a Thanksgiving where we haven’t had my Grandmother Earlene’s Giblet Gravy! It’s essential!

  • To make it ahead, prepare giblet gravy a day in advance, store in an airtight container in the refrigerator and reheat prior to serving.


Turkey Gravy

Make-Ahead Turkey Gravy Recipe - This easy turkey gravy recipe is essential to your holiday menu! Simple enough to make on the holiday, but perfect as a make ahead gravy recipe! //

We always have to have turkey gravy in addition to my Grandmother Earlene’s Giblet Gravy on Thanksgiving. While it is easy enough to make on Thanksgiving Day, it is also great to make ahead and reheat!

  • Cool and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.
  • When ready to serve, simply reheat in a medium saucepan until warmed throughout. If it is too thick, add a bit more stock until it reaches the consistency you prefer.


Mashed Potatoes

Mashed Potatoes make a delicious classic addition to any meal! //

What’s Thanksgiving without creamy, delicious mashed potatoes? YUM! I also love to make my Instant Pot Mashed Potatoes ahead as well!

  • Prepare mashed potatoes up to one week in advance and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator or two weeks in advance in the freezer. Thaw in refrigerator in advance and reheat on Thanksgiving Day. If the mashed potatoes seem a bit drier than you’d like, add a little chicken stock or vegetable broth to them to make them creamier.


Green Bean Casserole

Green Bean Casserole Recipe from

This made from scratch green bean casserole is a hands-down favorite at our house!

  • Prepare green bean casserole up to one week in advance and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Reheat on Thanksgiving Day.


Broccoli Cheese Casserole

Broccoli Cheese Casserole | ©

Another favorite is this updated version of Broccoli Cheese Casserole. I love that it is so easy to prepare ahead of time, too!

  • Prepare broccoli cheese casserole without baking up to one week in advance and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator or 3 months in advance in the freezer. Thaw in refrigerator in advance and bake on Thanksgiving Day.
  • Recipe:
    Broccoli Cheese Casserole
  • Broccoli Recipe

Deviled Eggs

Classic Deviled Eggs Recipe from

In the South, you can expect deviled eggs to grace every holiday buffet table. It is easy to see why, too. They are so easy and delicious!

  • Cook eggs up to four days ahead, prepare as deviled eggs and plate on serving tray the day before. Serve cold.


Sweet Potato Casserole

Sweet Potato Casserole is a southern classic. With a rich, buttery taste and crunchy topping, sweet potato casserole makes a perfect side dish or a dessert. //

Now, for the side dish that easily doubles as a dessert – Sweet Potato Casserole! It just wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without it!

  • Prepare without adding topping or baking up to a week ahead. Wrap tightly and store in the refrigerator. Place streusel topping on casserole and bake on Thanksgiving Day to serve warm or the day before to serve cold.
  • To freeze: Prepare sweet potato mixture and spread into casserole dish. Cool completely, wrap tightly and store in the freezer up to 3 months. When ready to bake, remove from the freezer and allow to thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Make streusel topping mixture and place on top of casserole and bake as directed.


Apple Pear Salad

Apple Pear Salad | ©

I am always sure to include something fresh, green and vibrant on my Thanksgiving menu and this salad is always a favorite!

  • While you’ll need to wait for Thanksgiving Day to assemble your salad for freshness, you can go ahead and prepare your Pomegranate Vinaigrette a day or so in advance. Just store it in the refrigerator in an airtight container. When ready to serve, give it a good shake and transfer to a dressing container. Voila!


Pecan Pie

Pecan Pie Recipe | ©

My husband’s grandmother, we called her Mimi, was legendary for her Pecan Pies. You’ll definitely want to include them on your holiday menu!

  • Prepare up to two days in advance, wrap well and store in the refrigerator or up to 3 months in the freezer. If frozen, allow to thaw in the refrigerator. Reheat or serve cold.


Pumpkin Pie

This classic pumpkin pie recipe makes an old fashioned pie perfect for serving during the holidays or anytime! So easy and delicious, this is a family-favorite pumpkin pie! //

Pumpkin Pie is an all-time favorite Thanksgiving pie for a reason! This classic recipe is delicious served with a dollop of cinnamon-spiced whipped cream or without!

  • Prepare up to two days in advance. Store in the refrigerator. Serve cold.


You can see from my plan above, you can easily plan your menu so that it allows you to fully enjoy the day and not feel rushed or frantic. I love that it gives me time to watch the Thanksgiving Day parade with my family over breakfast!

For even more Thanksgiving Menu Ideas, you may want to check out my Thanksgiving Recipes section.

Happy Thanksgiving Day Prep!
Robyn xo

Make ahead Thanksgiving tips so you can plan a beautiful Thanksgiving meal that allows you to truly enjoy the day! //


From the Add a Pinch Cooking archives, originally published 2014. 

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Robyn Stone

..where I share sweet, savory and southern recipes, as well as home and garden tips and tidbits of travel.

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25 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Happy Thanksgiving, Robyn!
    Your menu sounds positively perfect. And your tried-and-true tips are terrific. Thank you for sharing them.
    Will you be printing your corn casserole recipe before Thanksgiving? Or must we Google someone else’s recipe? I am sure yours is spectacular!
    Thanks, Robyn!

  2. Robyn, just want you to know how grateful I am to have you giving tips and recipes. Your recipes are wonderful. I always look forward to opening up my computer and finding a new something from you. Keep up your good works and Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.

  3. Thanks Robyn and thanks Mom!
    For many years i worked and people could not understand how i could host Thanksgiving dinner and work yet cook it all myself. I would say I Plan it, prep and precook as much as possible. Then cook the Turkey and veggies on Thanksgiving Day. The rest is reheated.
    Happy Thanksgiving!

    1. That’s great, Ann! It can easily become overwhelming to cook and host such a major holiday meal, but it sounds like you’ve got a plan to make it work!!!

    1. Hi Diane,
      I would recommend choosing the one or more dishes that will easily fit into your refrigerator that will help you the most to have made ahead of time. It’s amazing how just having a few things made ahead can help you on the big day! Happy Thanksgiving!

    2. Thanks Robyn…starting today making ahead what I can do. I have several sides planned, but the bird takes up half my fridge shelf! Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. 🙂

  4. Robyn, thank you for all of your wonderful ideas. I wanted to share another time saving idea. If you can, set the table the day before with the glasses and plates upside down. Before dinner flip them right side up.

  5. My lists of tips is similar that I posted this week. Planning and planning well makes this wonderful holiday more enjoyable for those of us who host! Thanks. Love the photos. Linda

  6. Thanks for the timelines on early preparation. I usually do everything the night before and day of. I hope to get more done earlier this year.

    1. It does make all the difference to get as much done ahead of time as possible! I hope it helps ya!! It definitely makes the holiday more enjoyable for everyone at my house! 🙂

  7. Your Thanksgiving Day menu is very much like mine, but your tips are worth remembering. I do prepare several items ahead of time, but still have some that I make on the big day. I need to use your tips and take advantage of them so Thanksgiving day will not be as rushed and more enjoyable.

  8. Hi Robyn,
    Thank you so much for all the great make ahead ideas and recipes. One day i’ll Get brave enough to make your pie crust! I made your sweet potato casserole and your easy gravy. All were delicious.
    Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and enjoy your family!

    1. Hi Ann,
      I’m so glad you made the sweet potato casserole and the gravy! I hope you all love them! The pie crust really sounds more intimidating than it is. Give it a try sometime when you just have time to play in the kitchen (I love those days!) and there isn’t any pressure to hurry and get something cooked and served for a crowd! 🙂

      I hope you and your family have a wonderful Thanksgiving! xo

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