7 Make-Ahead Thanksgiving Recipes
Between entertaining family and friends and preparing fabulous fare for your holiday feast, hosting Thanksgiving can be stressful. Luckily, there are plenty of things you can do to lighten your load on Turkey Day. One of the easiest ways to cut down on your to-do list is to prepare some of your dishes before Thanksgiving arrives. Many recipes can be assembled and frozen days in advance, ensuring you have easy and delicious do-ahead dishes that your guests will love. Ready to enjoy a less hectic holiday? Here are seven recipes you can make ahead of time.
1. Make-Ahead Turkey and Gravy Recipe
Preparing a turkey can be one of the most time-consuming chores on your Thanksgiving to-do list. Fortunately, if you use Taste of Home’s recipe, you can get most of the work done ahead of time — the turkey can be kept in your freezer for up to three months, so feel free to make it as soon as you want! This recipe yields 16 servings.
- 1 (14- to 16-pound) turkey
- 2 teaspoons poultry seasoning
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 3 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
- ½ cup minced fresh parsley
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary or 1 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
- 2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1½ cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
Directions: Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Sprinkle turkey with poultry seasoning and pepper. Tuck wings under turkey; tie drumsticks together. Place on a rack in a shallow roasting pan, breast side up. Roast, uncovered, 30 minutes. In a 4-cup measuring cup, mix remaining turkey ingredients; carefully pour over turkey. Roast, uncovered, 3 to 3½ hours longer or until a thermometer inserted in thigh reads 180 degrees Fahrenheit, basting occasionally with broth mixture. Cover loosely with foil if turkey browns too quickly. Remove turkey from pan; let stand at least 20 minutes before carving. Skim fat from cooking juices.
Carve turkey; place in shallow freezer containers. Pour strained juices over turkey; cool completely. Freeze, covered, up to three months. To serve, partially thaw turkey in refrigerator overnight. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Transfer turkey and cooking juices to a baking dish; pour broth over turkey. Bake, covered, 50 to 60 minutes or until a thermometer reads 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove turkey from baking dish, reserving cooking liquid; keep warm. In a small saucepan, melt butter; stir in flour until smooth. Gradually whisk in reserved cooking liquid. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly; cook and stir 2 minutes or until thickened. Serve with turkey.
2. Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes
Food.com’s mashed potatoes can be made ahead of time and frozen, ensuring you have a low-maintenance side to serve your Thanksgiving guests. Just make sure you give your frozen mashed potatoes plenty of time to thaw before reheating them in the oven. The recipe yields 6 to 7 servings.
- 5 pounds any potatoes
- 1 egg
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- 3 tablespoons butter, melted
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 8 ounces cream cheese
- 1 pinch paprika
Directions: Peel and quarter potatoes. Place the potatoes in a saucepan and cover completely with water. Bring to a boil, then gently cook until tender. Drain well. In a large bowl, combine potatoes, cream cheese, egg, garlic powder, and salt. Mash well by hand or with and electric mixer. Spoon potatoes into spray-treated or greased 3-quart casserole or 9-by-13-inch pan. Drizzle or brush melted butter over potatoes. Sprinkle with paprika for color, if desired. Label and freeze in freezer bags. To serve, thaw completely. Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 to 40 minutes, until the top is golden.
3. Simple Stuffing
Martha Stewart’s simple stuffing is a mouth-watering must-have for any holiday feast. For an easy-to-assemble Thanksgiving dish, dry the bread cubes and cook the vegetables a day in advance. It yields 8 servings.
- 2 loaves Italian bread (about 10 ounces each), torn into bite-size pieces
- 4 tablespoons butter, room temperature, plus more for baking dish
- 4 celery stalks, thinly sliced
- 4 shallots, minced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- Coarse salt and ground pepper
- ½ cup dry white wine
- ½ cup parsley leaves, chopped
- 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 2 cans (14½ ounces each) reduced-sodium chicken broth
Directions: Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Arrange bread in a single layer on two rimmed baking sheets. Bake until crisp but not browned, about 10 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add celery, shallots, and garlic; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Add wine and cook until evaporated, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl. Add bread, parsley, and eggs to the bowl of vegetables.
Season with 1½ teaspoons salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper; stir to combine. Mix in half of broth. Continue to add in more broth just until stuffing is moistened but not wet. Spoon stuffing into a buttered 8-inch square baking dish. Cover with buttered aluminum foil and refrigerate. When you’re ready to bake it, place covered baking dish in oven and bake until warmed through, 25 to 30 minutes. Uncover and bake until golden, about 15 minutes more.
4. Cranberry Sauce with Bourbon and Vanilla Bean and Orange
Sweet and zesty ingredients create a lovely cranberry sauce that your family and friends won’t be able to get enough of. Cooking Channel’s recipe can be prepared and refrigerated for up to 10 days; you’ll find that the longer your sauce chills in the fridge, the better it tastes! It yields 6 servings.
- 2 cups sugar
- ½ cup bourbon whiskey
- 2 sticks cinnamon
- 2 large coins peeled, fresh ginger
- Zest of 1 orange
- Juice of 4 oranges
- 1 pound (about 4 cups) fresh or thawed frozen cranberries
- 1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
Directions: Combine the sugar and bourbon, stirring well, in a 1-quart saucepan. Add the cinnamon, ginger, orange zest, and juice. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the liquid begins to reduce a little bit, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the cranberries and vanilla bean and continue to simmer until the cranberries are soft and breaking apart and the sauce begins to thicken, 12 to 15 minutes.
If desired, mash your cranberries with a sturdy whisk or potato masher, just to break up the cranberries, and simmer to thicken a little bit more, about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and discard the cinnamon sticks, ginger pieces, and vanilla bean. Allow the sauce to cool. Serve the sauce warm or at room temperature, or refrigerate for up to 10 days.
5. Sweet Potato Casserole
This light and fluffy casserole is packed with vibrant flavors and covered in a crisp and crunchy topping. You can prepare Eating Well’s sweet potato casserole up to two days in advance; simply cover, refrigerate, and bake it just before you’re ready to serve. It yields 10 servings.
- 2½ pounds sweet potatoes (3 medium), peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 1 tablespoon honey
- ½ cup low-fat milk
- 2 teaspoons freshly grated orange zest
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup whole-wheat flour
- ⅓ cup packed brown sugar
- 4 teaspoons frozen orange juice concentrate
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 1 tablespoon butter, melted
- ½ cup chopped pecans
Directions: Place sweet potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Cover and cook over medium heat until tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Drain well and return to the pan. Mash with a potato masher. Measure out 3 cups. Coat an 8-inch square baking dish with cooking spray. Whisk eggs, oil, and honey in a medium bowl. Add mashed sweet potato and mix well. Stir in milk, orange zest, vanilla, and salt.
Spread the mixture in the prepared baking dish. To prepare topping, mix flour, brown sugar, orange juice concentrate, oil, and butter in a small bowl. Blend with a fork or your fingertips until crumbly. Stir in pecans. Sprinkle over the casserole. If you’re making this dish in advance, cover and refrigerate for up to two days. Bake the casserole at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until heated through and the top is lightly browned, 35 to 45 minutes.
6. Sautéed Brussels Sprouts With Bacon and Golden Raisins
Real Simple delivers an easy-to-make side that will pair perfectly with your other Thanksgiving fare. The sprouts can be made and refrigerated up to one day in advance. Before serving this dish, reheat it in the oven at 350 to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. The recipe yields 8 servings.
- ½ cup cider vinegar
- ½ cup golden raisins
- 2 pounds small Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- 6 slices bacon
- 1 small red onion, cut into thin half-moons
Directions: Heat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Warm the vinegar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat, add the raisins, and let sit for 15 minutes; drain. On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss the Brussels sprouts, oil, and 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Roast, stirring once, until tender and slightly golden, 25 to 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat until crisp, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate; crumble. Discard all but 2 tablespoons of the drippings. Return the skillet to medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the Brussels sprouts, raisins, and bacon and toss to combine.
7. Pecan Pie
Food Network’s recipe is a perfect do-ahead dessert — it must be made a day in advance so it can sit overnight. This pecan pie yields 12 servings. For an extra tasty touch, we suggest making AllRecipes.com’s bourbon whipped cream to serve with your decadent dish.
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup vegetable shortening or lard
- ¾ cup salted butter, cut into pieces
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup corn syrup (light or dark)
- ⅓ cup melted salted butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 3 whole eggs beaten
- 1 cup (heaping) chopped pecans
Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Whip up the pie crust. Mix the flour and salt in a bowl. Add the vegetable shortening and salted butter. Work the butter into the flour using a dough cutter until the mixture resembles tiny pebbles. Add the egg, 5 tablespoons cold water, and the white vinegar. Stir until just combined. Divide the dough in half and chill until needed. Next, make the filling. Mix the granulated sugar, brown sugar, salt, corn syrup, butter, vanilla, and eggs together in a bowl.
Roll out one dough half on a lightly floured surface to fit your pie pan. Pour the pecans in the bottom of the unbaked pie shell. Pour the syrup mixture over the top. Cover the top and crust lightly/gently with foil. Bake the pie for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and then continue baking for 20 minutes, being careful not to burn the crust or pecans. The pie should not be overly jiggly when you remove it from the oven. If it shakes a lot, cover with foil and bake for an additional 20 minute or until set. Allow to cool for several hours or overnight. Serve in thin slivers.