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!

Photograph of golden brown roasted turkey served on a white platter with fresh herbs.

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!

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!

  1.  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!
  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 when I make 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.

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!

Photograph of golden brown roasted turkey served on a white platter with fresh herbs.

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.

Photograph of golden brown roasted turkey served on a white platter with fresh herbs.

Make Ahead Turkey Recipe

5 from 3 votes
This Easy Thanksgiving Turkey recipe makes a juicy, delicious, and beautiful roast turkey! With a step-by-step plan for a no-stress, perfect turkey!
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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

Turkey Gravy in a white stoneware gravy boat on a stone background  // addapinch.com

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 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! // addapinch.com

Turkey Gravy

5 from 11 votes
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!
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Make Ahead Giblet Gravy

Holiday themed plate with cornbread dressing topped with Giblet Gravy and lifted with a fork

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

5 from 12 votes
Giblet Gravy is a flavorful, classic Southern-style homemade turkey gravy that can be made without drippings. This old-fashioned giblet gravy recipe is perfect served with roasted turkey, chicken, and dressing.
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Make Ahead Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry sauce with whole fresh cranberries, orange zest in glass bowl

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.

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! // addapinch.com

Homemade Cranberry Sauce

5 from 4 votes
This homemade Cranberry Sauce recipe is a holiday classic made with fresh or frozen cranberries. Ready in 15 minutes and made with just three ingredients, it's easy to make and great to make ahead, too! The perfect complement to Thanksgiving turkey and dressing!
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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

Southern Cornbread Dressing in a white baking dish with a wooden spoon

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 makes a comforting, classic dish for the holidays! Moist and delicious, cornbread dressing makes the perfect side dish! // addapinch.com

Southern Cornbread Dressing

4.98 from 137 votes
Cornbread Dressing is a classic southern dish served especially during the holiday season. Moist and delicious, cornbread dressing makes the perfect side dish!
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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.

Creamy golden mashed potatoes topped with butter, salt and pepper in a white Dutch oven.

Easy Mashed Potatoes Recipe

5 from 4 votes
These homemade mashed potatoes are rich and creamy, easy to make, and make the perfect side dish! Learn how to make the best mashed potatoes recipe with our tips!
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Other Potato Recipes

Make Ahead Green Bean Casserole

Photo of green bean casserole on a white plate.

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.

Photo of green bean casserole on a white plate.

Green Bean Casserole Recipe

5 from 2 votes
This Green Bean Casserole recipe is a fresh take on a classic side dish! Easy, creamy and delicious, homemade cream of chicken and fresh ingredients make this the best ever!
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Make Ahead Broccoli Cheese Casserole

Closeup photo of Broccoli Cheese Casserole in white baking dish

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

4.99 from 80 votes
This Broccoli Cheese Casserole is a cheesy, delicious side dish! Fresh recipe is made from scratch with a decadent creamy sauce and buttery crunchy top! Perfect for holidays, family get togethers and Sunday suppers!
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Make Ahead Deviled Eggs Recipe

Closeup of deviled eggs on a white platter.

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.

Deviled eggs make the perfect appetizer or side dish for family meals, parties, holidays, potlucks, picnics and more. This simple and classic deviled eggs recipe is a family favorite! // addapinch.com

Classic Deviled Eggs Recipe

5 from 5 votes
Deviled eggs make the perfect appetizer or side dish for family meals, parties, showers, and other events. Get this family favorite deviled eggs recipe you are sure to love.
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Make Ahead Sweet Potato Casserole

Sweet Potato Casserole topped with pecan streusel in white baking dish

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

5 from 102 votes
Best Sweet Potato Casserole Recipe: Southern favorite is quick, easy, and delicious! Topped with choice of crumble or marshmallow topping! Ready in 30 minutes!
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Make Ahead Apple Pear Salad Recipe

Apple Pear Salad Recipe - This Apple Pear Salad with Pomegranate Vinaigrette makes a delicious salad anytime of year, but especially throughout the holidays. // addapinch.com

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 Recipe - This Apple Pear Salad with Pomegranate Vinaigrette makes a delicious salad anytime of year, but especially throughout the holidays. // addapinch.com

Apple Pear Salad with Pomegranate Vinaigrette Recipe

5 from 3 votes
Apple Pear Salad Recipe – This Apple Pear Salad with Pomegranate Vinaigrette makes a delicious salad anytime of year, but especially throughout the holidays.
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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

Pecan pie with golden pie crust in a pie plate on a marble counter.

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.

Pecan pie with golden pie crust in a pie plate on a marble counter.

Best Pecan Pie Recipe

5 from 18 votes
This easy pecan pie recipe is a classic Southern dessert. Salty pecans caramelize in a sweet filling and flaky crust for the BEST pecan pie! It is a must for Thanksgiving and a favorite for Christmas and family suppers! Make ahead and freezer-friendly!
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Make Ahead Pumpkin Pie Recipe

Slice of pumpkin pie with one bite on a fork. Remaining pie in the background. All on white surfaces.

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.

Slice of pumpkin pie with one bite on a fork. Remaining pie in the background. All on white surfaces.

Pumpkin Pie Recipe

4.91 from 11 votes
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 pie!
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Make Ahead Sweet Potato Pie Recipe

Overhead photograph of sweet potato pie in a homemade pie crust in white pie plate.

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.

Overhead photograph of sweet potato pie in a homemade pie crust in white pie plate.

Sweet Potato Pie Recipe

5 from 169 votes
This Southern Sweet Potato Pie is an heirloom recipe loved for generations! A delicious Southern favorite made with simple ingredients baked sweet potatoes, butter, milk, eggs and sugar! Loved fall dessert that's perfect for Thanksgiving!
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Make Ahead Pecan Pie Bars Recipe

Pecan pie bars cut into individual squares sprinkled with flakey salt.

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:

  1. Gather the recipes: Save or print all the recipes you plan to make.
  2. 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!).
  3. 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!
Robyn xo

Originally published in 2014. Updated with clearer recipe links and make-ahead instructions.

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About Robyn

Robyn Stone is a cookbook author, wife, mom, and passionate home cook. Her tested and trusted recipes give readers the confidence to cook recipes the whole family will love. Robyn has been featured on Food Network, People, Southern Living, and more.

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29 Comments

  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!

    1. Hi Julie,
      I’m so glad you found it helpful! I will be posting my corn casserole recipe on Tuesday (before Thanksgiving). I hope that helps! xo

  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!
    Ann

    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. πŸ™‚

  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! πŸ™‚

  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.