Make Ahead Thanksgiving Recipes and Meal Plan (2024)

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!

Make Ahead Thanksgiving Recipes and Meal Plan (1)

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!

  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!

Make Ahead Thanksgiving Recipes and Meal Plan (2)

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: Cookand 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 Thanksgiving Recipes and Meal Plan (3)

Make Ahead Turkey Recipe

5 from 3 votes

This Easy Roast 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:

  • Roasted Turkey Breast Recipe
  • Smoked Turkey
  • Roast Chicken Recipe
  • Baked Ham Recipe

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

Make Ahead Thanksgiving Recipes and Meal Plan (4)

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 Thanksgiving Recipes and Meal Plan (5)

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

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.

Make Ahead Thanksgiving Recipes and Meal Plan (7)

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

Make Ahead Thanksgiving Recipes and Meal Plan (8)

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 advanceand 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.

Make Ahead Thanksgiving Recipes and Meal Plan (9)

Homemade Cranberry Sauce

5 from 4 votes

Thishomemade Cranberry Saucerecipe is a holiday classic made with fresh or frozen cranberries. Ready in 15 minutes and made with just threeingredients, it's easy to make and great to make ahead, too! Theperfect complementtoThanksgivingturkey 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

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 refrigeratorup to twodays ahead or in the freezer up to two weeks in advance. If frozen, thaw in the refrigerator two days in advance and bakeon Thanksgiving Day.

Make Ahead Thanksgiving Recipes and Meal Plan (11)

Southern Cornbread Dressing

4.98 from 141 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 potatoesup 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.

Make Ahead Thanksgiving Recipes and Meal Plan (12)

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

  • Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes
  • Instant Pot Mashed Potatoes
  • Scalloped Potatoes Recipe

Make Ahead Green Bean Casserole

Make Ahead Thanksgiving Recipes and Meal Plan (13)

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

Make Ahead Instructions: Prepare green bean casseroleup to one week in advance and store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator.Reheat on Thanksgiving Day.

Make Ahead Thanksgiving Recipes and Meal Plan (14)

Green Bean Casserole Recipe

5 from 4 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

Make Ahead Thanksgiving Recipes and Meal Plan (15)

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: Preparebroccoli cheese casserole without bakingup to one week in advance and store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator or 3 monthsin advancein thefreezer.Thaw in the refrigerator in advance and bakeon Thanksgiving Day.

Make Ahead Thanksgiving Recipes and Meal Plan (16)

Broccoli Cheese Casserole Recipe

4.99 from 91 votes

This Broccoli Cheese Casseroleis 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

Make Ahead Thanksgiving Recipes and Meal Plan (17)

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.

Make Ahead Thanksgiving Recipes and Meal Plan (18)

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

Make Ahead Thanksgiving Recipes and Meal Plan (19)

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.

Make Ahead Thanksgiving Recipes and Meal Plan (20)

Sweet Potato Casserole Recipe

5 from 104 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

Make Ahead Thanksgiving Recipes and Meal Plan (21)

I am always sure to include something fresh, green, and vibrant on myThanksgiving 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 yourPomegranate 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!

Make Ahead Thanksgiving Recipes and Meal Plan (22)

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

  • Apple Walnut Salad
  • Apple Cranberry Salad

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

Make Ahead Thanksgiving Recipes and Meal Plan (23)

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.

Make Ahead Thanksgiving Recipes and Meal Plan (24)

Best Pecan Pie Recipe

5 from 19 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

Make Ahead Thanksgiving Recipes and Meal Plan (25)

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.

Make Ahead Thanksgiving Recipes and Meal Plan (26)

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

Make Ahead Thanksgiving Recipes and Meal Plan (27)

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.

Make Ahead Thanksgiving Recipes and Meal Plan (28)

Sweet Potato Pie Recipe

5 from 198 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

Make Ahead Thanksgiving Recipes and Meal Plan (29)

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!

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.

Categorized as:All Recipes, Collections, Cooking, Freezer Friendly Recipes, Holiday and Occasion Recipes, Holiday Meal Plans, Make-ahead Recipes, Menus, Recipes, Southern Favorites, Thanksgiving Recipes

Welcome to Add A Pinch

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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