Make Ahead Thanksgiving Recipes – Easy Make Ahead Thanksgiving recipes and meal plan so you can plan a beautiful Thanksgiving meal that allows you to relax and enjoy the day!
Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays! I enjoy the time with family, giving thanks for all of our many blessings. However, preparing a holiday feast can be a bit intimidating – unless you have a good plan. That’s why this Make Ahead Thanksgiving Meal Plan and recipes are the perfect way to enjoy a stress-free holiday!
Rather than becoming anxious thinking about all there is to cook or to do, I use the tips I learned from my Mama and Grandmother. They shared these valuable lessons on how to prepare our favorite family recipes for Thanksgiving – all the while staying relaxed and enjoying the day. These Make Ahead Thanksgiving Tips and recipes are truly some of the best – and I think you will be thankful for them, too!
Table of Contents
- Make Ahead Thanksgiving Guide
- General Make-Ahead Thanksgiving Tips!
- Make Ahead Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe
- Make Ahead Thanksgiving Gravy and Cranberry Sauce
- Make Ahead Turkey Gravy
- Make Ahead Giblet Gravy
- Make Ahead Cranberry Sauce
- Make Ahead Thanksgiving Side Dishes
- Make Ahead Cornbread Dressing
- Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes
- Make Ahead Green Bean Casserole
- Make Ahead Broccoli Cheese Casserole
- Make Ahead Deviled Eggs Recipe
- Make Ahead Sweet Potato Casserole
- Make Ahead Apple Pear Salad Recipe
- Make Ahead Thanksgiving Desserts
- Make Ahead Pecan Pie Recipe
- Make Ahead Pumpkin Pie Recipe
- Make Ahead Sweet Potato Pie Recipe
- Make Ahead Pecan Pie Bars Recipe
- Easy Make Ahead Schedule
- Make Ahead Thanksgiving Meal Plan (with Shopping List)
Make Ahead Thanksgiving Guide
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 together in my little kitchen as I learned even 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!
Now, 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 beforehand. 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 when I make 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.
Make Ahead Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe
Take the stress out of Thanksgiving by using my tips for making your Thanksgiving turkey ahead of time. It is perfect every time!
One of the most intimidating aspects of preparing Thanksgiving Dinner can be making the roast turkey! My roast turkey recipe includes all of the tips and tricks to alleviate any of that worry so that you can enjoy the day with a perfectly browned, juicy, and moist Thanksgiving turkey as your centerpiece. It is sure to wow your family and guests!
Make Ahead Instructions: 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 Roast Turkey Breast.
Make Ahead Turkey Recipe
Additional Main Dish Recipes:
Make Ahead Thanksgiving Gravy and Cranberry Sauce
We always have two types of gravy on Thanksgiving: turkey gravy and giblet gravy. While they both are easy enough to make on Thanksgiving Day, it is also great to make ahead and reheat to make the day even easier.
Make Ahead Turkey Gravy
This homemade turkey gravy is so easy to make. It does not require drippings and can be prepared well ahead of time to make your cooking and holiday even easier.
Make Ahead Instructions: Cool and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. When ready to serve, simply reheat in a medium saucepan until it reaches a rolling boil. If it is too thick, add a bit more stock until it reaches the consistency you prefer.
Make Ahead Giblet Gravy
I don’t remember a Thanksgiving where we haven’t had my Grandmother Earlene’s Giblet Gravy! It’s an essential part of our family meal!
Make Ahead Instructions: Prepare giblet gravy a day in advance, store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator, and reheat it before serving.
Gibley Gravy Recipe
Make Ahead Cranberry Sauce
If you’ve not had homemade Cranberry Sauce on Thanksgiving, I urge you to give it a try. It is so easy, tastes phenomenal, and is even delicious the next morning as a topping on a stack of pancakes!
Make Ahead Instructions: Make cranberry sauce up to 10 days in advance and store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator or for up to a month in the freezer. If frozen, allow to thaw in the refrigerator before serving.
Homemade Cranberry Sauce
Make Ahead Thanksgiving Side Dishes
Let’s be honest. While the turkey may be the star of the show, the side dishes are clearly the favorite! Well, and desserts.
Make Ahead Cornbread Dressing
My Grandmother Verdie’s Southern Cornbread Dressing is the most requested dish of Thanksgiving at my house! It could be tied with the Sweet Potato Casserole. Once you taste them, you’ll know why!
Make Ahead Instructions: Prepare the dressing without baking and store it in the refrigerator up to two days ahead or in the freezer up to two weeks in advance. If frozen, thaw in the refrigerator two days in advance and bake on Thanksgiving Day.
Southern Cornbread Dressing
Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes
What’s Thanksgiving without creamy, delicious mashed potatoes? YUM! I also love to make my Instant Pot Mashed Potatoes ahead as well!
Make Ahead Instructions: Prepare mashed potatoes up to 3 days in advance and store them in the refrigerator in an airtight container that is also oven and microwave-safe. Add mashed potatoes to a freezer-safe airtight container up to two weeks in advance. If frozen, allow to thaw in the refrigerator overnight. When ready to serve, remove the container from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before mealtime. Add more pats of butter on top of the potatoes and reheat them in a 350º F oven for about 25 minutes or until warmed throughout. If the mashed potatoes seem a bit drier than you’d like, add a little cream, chicken stock, or vegetable broth to them to make them creamier.
Easy Mashed Potatoes Recipe
Other Potato Recipes
Make Ahead Green Bean Casserole
This made-from-scratch green bean casserole is a hands-down favorite at our house!
Make Ahead Instructions: Prepare green bean casserole up to one week in advance and store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Reheat on Thanksgiving Day.
Green Bean Casserole Recipe
Make Ahead Broccoli Cheese Casserole
Another favorite side dish is this updated version of Broccoli Cheese Casserole. I love that it is so easy to prepare ahead of time, too!
Make Ahead Instructions: Prepare broccoli cheese casserole without baking up to one week in advance and store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator or 3 months in advance in the freezer. Thaw in the refrigerator in advance and bake on Thanksgiving Day.
Broccoli Cheese Casserole Recipe
Make Ahead Deviled Eggs Recipe
In the South, you can expect deviled eggs to grace every holiday buffet table. They are so easy and delicious. It’s easy to see why!
Make Ahead Instructions: Cook eggs up to four days ahead, prepare them as deviled eggs and plate them on the serving tray the day before. Serve cold.
Classic Deviled Eggs Recipe
Make Ahead Sweet Potato Casserole
Now, for the side dish that easily doubles as a dessert – Sweet Potato Casserole! It just wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without it!
Make Ahead Instructions: Prepare without adding topping or baking up to a week ahead. Wrap tightly and store in the refrigerator. Place the crumb topping on the 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 for up to 3 months. When ready to bake, remove from the freezer and allow to thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Make streusel topping mixture, place on top of casserole, and bake as directed.
Sweet Potato Casserole Recipe
Make Ahead Apple Pear Salad Recipe
I am always sure to include something fresh, green, and vibrant on my Thanksgiving menu. This salad is always a favorite!
Make Ahead Instructions: 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 it to a dressing container. Voila!
Apple Pear Salad with Pomegranate Vinaigrette Recipe
More Make-Ahead Thanksgiving Salad Recipes
Make Ahead Thanksgiving Desserts
One of the ways to keep the day as stress-free as possible is to prepare the desserts earlier. From pies to cakes, prepping with make-ahead Thanksgiving desserts is definitely the key!
Make Ahead Pecan Pie Recipe
My husband’s grandmother, whom we called Mimi, was legendary for her Pecan Pies. They are the BEST! You’ll definitely want to include this pie on your holiday menu. She made her pie with corn syrup. I’ve updated the recipe to use maple syrup, but you can use whichever you prefer. Use my flaky pie crust recipe for the ultimate pecan pie or grab your favorite store-bought crust to make it even easier.
Make Ahead Instructions: Prepare up to two days in advance, wrap well, and store in the refrigerator or for up to 3 months in the freezer. If frozen, allow to thaw in the refrigerator. Reheat or serve cold.
Best Pecan Pie Recipe
Make Ahead Pumpkin Pie Recipe
Pumpkin Pie is an all-time favorite Thanksgiving pie for a reason! This classic recipe is delicious, served plain or with a dollop of cinnamon-spiced whipped cream!
Make Ahead Instructions: Prepare up to two days in advance. Store in the refrigerator. Serve cold.
Pumpkin Pie Recipe
Make Ahead Sweet Potato Pie Recipe
This Southern Sweet Potato Pie is another favorite pie that is so simple to make. It is delicious with this topping or without – you decide. And it is perfect for Thanksgiving!
Make Ahead Instructions: Bake the pie ahead and allow it to cool completely. Cover and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. To freeze, store the pie in a freezer-safe container covered well with foil and freeze for up to 3 months. To serve, thaw the frozen pie in the refrigerator overnight. Then, slice and serve as normal.
Sweet Potato Pie Recipe
Make Ahead Pecan Pie Bars Recipe
These Best Pecan Pie Bars are nutty, buttery, rich, and delicious! They taste like pecan pie – but are made into an easy-to-eat bar! They are easier to make anytime and they feed more people than a single pie. These characteristics make these pecan pie bars perfect for parties, gatherings, and any time you want to share them with several people. And since this scrumptious dessert is cut into bars, people may help themselves to more than one!
Make Ahead Instructions: Bake according to the recipe directions. Allow to cool completely. Store the whole recipe or cut it into individual pieces and separate them with parchment paper in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. If frozen, thaw in the refrigerator or allow them to soften for a few minutes before serving.
Easy Make Ahead Schedule
Set your Make Ahead Thanksgiving schedule as far in advance as possible and follow these quick tips:
- Gather the recipes: Save or print all the recipes you plan to make.
- Grab a calendar: Write the name of each recipe on a calendar for the day or week you plan to make it ahead (and check it off as you go!).
- Get your ingredients: Use our easy shopping list, print it, and shop for your groceries as far in advance as possible to avoid the rush at the grocery store.
You can see from my plan and recipes there are so many dishes you can make ahead of time for Thanksgiving! It’s so easy to plan your menu with this Make-Ahead Thanksgiving Guide so that you can fully enjoy the holiday with family and friends!
Make Ahead Thanksgiving Meal Plan (with Shopping List)
For even more Thanksgiving Menu Ideas, you may want to check out my Thanksgiving Recipes section.
Happy Thanksgiving Day Prep!
Originally published in 2014. Updated with clearer recipe links and make-ahead instructions.