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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!

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 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.

Make Ahead Thanksgiving Turkey

Take the stress out of Thanksgiving by using my tips for making your Thanksgiving turkey ahead of time. It is perfect every time!

Roast Turkey

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 Thanksgiving Turkey

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.

Recipe: Roast Turkey

Make Ahead Thanksgiving Gravy and Sauce

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 Giblet Gravy:

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

Recipe: Giblet Gravy

Turkey Gravy

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

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

Make Ahead Turkey Gravy:

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.

Recipe: Turkey Gravy Recipe

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 topping a stack of pancakes, too!

Make Ahead Cranberry Sauce:

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.

Recipe: Cranberry Sauce Recipe

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.

Southern 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 Cornbread Dressing:

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.

Recipe: Cornbread Dressing Recipe

Mashed Potatoes

Buttery fluffy mashed potatoes topped with black pepper

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

Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes:

Prepare mashed potatoes up to 3 days in advance and store in refrigerator in an airtight container that is also oven and microwave safe. Add mashed potatoes to 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 meal time. 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 chicken stock or vegetable broth to them to make them creamier.

Recipes: Easy Mashed Potatoes

Other Potato Recipes

Green Bean Casserole

Green Bean Casserole Recipe in blue rimmed baking dish

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

Make Ahead Green Bean Casserole:

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

Recipe: Green Bean Casserole

Other Green Bean Recipes:

Slow Cooker Green Beans

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 Broccoli Cheese Casserole:

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

Other Broccoli Recipes:

Broccoli Recipe

Deviled Eggs

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 Deviled Eggs:

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

Recipe: Deviled Eggs

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 Sweet Potato Casserole:

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.

Recipe: Sweet Potato Casserole Recipe

Apple Pear Salad

Apple Pear Salad topped with pomegranate arils and blue cheese chunks on blue plate

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!

Recipe: Apple Pear Salad Recipe

Other Make Ahead Thanksgiving Salad Recipes

Make Ahead Thanksgiving Desserts

One of the ways to keep the day as low stress as possible is to prepare the desserts earlier. From pies to cakes, prepping with make ahead Thanksgiving desserts is definitely the key!

Pecan Pie

Pecan Pie Recipe in white pie plate

My husband’s grandmother, we called her Mimi, was legendary for her Pecan Pies. They are the BEST! You’ll definitely want to include this pie on your holiday menu.

Make Ahead Pecan Pie:

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.

Recipe: Pecan Pie Recipe and Pie Crust Recipe

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! // addapinch.com

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 Pumpkin Pie:

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

Recipe: Pumpkin Pie Recipe with Whipped Cream Recipe

Southern Sweet Potato Pie

Closeup photograph of slice of sweet potato pie on a white 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 Sweet Potato Pie

Bake the pie ahead and allow 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.

Recipe: Southern Sweet Potato Pie

Caramel Cake

Caramel Cake is a favorite, classic Southern dessert recipe. This recipe makes the perfect make ahead recipe for Thanksgiving!

Make Ahead Caramel Cake

Bake and frost the caramel cake as directed. Store on a cake plate covered with a cake dome.

Recipe: Caramel Cake

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!

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

Happy Thanksgiving Day Prep!
Robyn xo

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

Make-ahead Recipes

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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Comments

  1. 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! 🙂

  2. 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.

  3. Such helpful tips, Robyn. It’s always good to prepare some dishes before the big day. I’m so excited for Thanksgiving!!

    1. Hi Dianne,
      Generally, reheat in a 350º oven until internal temp reaches 165º. Have a Happy Thanksgiving! Thanks!

  4. 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!
    Thanks,
    Ann

    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

  5. This was awesome and I always scouring the Web trying to find crowd pleasing make ahead recipes. Could you please do this for Christmas as well. Some of these recipes work well for Christmas but maybe you have other ideas. Also do you have any good Duck recipes. I love your recipes and so do my family and guests.
    Thanks you!
    c

    1. Thank you, Carol. That’s a good suggestion for Christmas recipes. I’m sorry but I don’t have any duck recipes.