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!
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!
- 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!
- 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.
- 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Broccoli Cheese Casserole
- Broccoli Recipe
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.
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.
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!
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 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!
From the Add a Pinch Cooking archives, originally published 2014.