Delicious Thanksgiving Dinner Menus to Serve on the Big Day
The first is a collection of crowd-pleasing classics, from restaurant-like crispy Brussels sprouts and mashed potatoes to sage and apple stuffing to honey apple galette. The second is a roundup of recipes you can prep in advance: if you're one who likes to work ahead, this menu's for you. Start by making your shopping list. Note the non-perishables—flour, bourbon, nutmeg, graham crackers, etc.—and buy them now to lighten your load. Up to three days in advance you can make the cider glaze for the turkey, make the gravy base, and the Fig and Cranberry Compote. Two days before you can prep most of your vegetables and even assemble the stuffing and scalloped potatoes. On Thanksgiving morning you’ll bring the stuffing and potatoes to room temperature (you made them ahead, right?) and get the turkey in the oven. Before the final push you might want to pour yourself a splash of wine, or rehydrate with some seltzer with lemon: whatever it takes to settle your nerves before your guests arrive. But with this make-ahead menu, you should be in great shape. Now that’s something to be thankful for.
RELATED: 9 Healthy Homemade Thanksgiving Sides to Serve This Year
Classic Thanksgiving Menu
No-Baste Roast Turkey
A beautifully browned Thanksgiving turkey, no carving required? Yes, please! This recipe is perfect for reducing holiday stress, especially if you have a lot going on, which, let’s be honest, we all do on turkey day. It’s not just about convenience, though. A turkey that’s divided into dark and light meat allows for even cooking, since you can pull pieces out as they reach the correct temperature. Bonus tip for the juiciest turkey ever: use a dry brine to add flavor, and roast the bird in pieces for faster, more even cooking.
Get the recipe: No-Baste Roast Turkey
Crispy Brussels Sprouts With Pancetta and Lemon
A crispy Brussels sprout is good, but a crispy Brussels sprout with pancetta? That’s heaven. Think of pancetta as bacon’s thicker cousin. The cubes release delicious, salty fat onto the pan, which gets soaked up by the sprouts as they roast. Usually you’d have to fry Brussels sprouts to get them adequately caramelized, but the pancetta not only infuses the vegetable with flavor, it adds crispiness, too. The result is a golden brown exterior and perfectly tender interior.
Get the recipe: Crispy Brussels Sprouts With Pancetta and Lemon
Luscious Mashed Potatoes
What makes these mashed potatoes so luscious, you ask? Well, a cup of heavy cream, for starters. You’ll make a milk, cream, and butter mixture that’s infused with rosemary and bay leaf to add a sophisticated twist without leaning too hard into the herbal notes. (Because, let’s be honest, nobody wants a sprig of rosemary stuck in their teeth.)
Get the recipe: Luscious Mashed Potatoes
This rich, full-flavored gravy is just the right consistency for drizzling over everything on your Thanksgiving Day plate. You’ll use the vegetables and drippings from the No-Baste Roast Turkey recipe, but this method works with any turkey pan drippings. The key is in nipping up the fond (those crispy, delicious bits that stick to the bottom of the pan) with hot broth, so that the flavor of perfectly roasted turkey is infused in every bite.
Get the recipe: Golden Gravy
Sage and Apple Stuffing
A rich, flavorful Thanksgiving stuffing shouldn’t require you to spend all day chopping and stirring. There are pies to make and turkeys to roast! That’s where this speedy number comes in, which requires only twenty minutes of hands on time. The flavors are perfect for celebrating fall: there are butter-crisped sage leaves tucked into each bite, and grated apple to lend a hint of sweetness without dragging the flavors too far in the direction of dessert.
Get the recipe: Sage and Apple Stuffing
Honey-Apple Galette With Pistachio Sugar
This easy autumnal recipe is the perfect dessert for celebrating Thanksgiving, ending a dinner party, or making the most of freshly picked apples. And, this gorgeous galette has a clever upgrade from normal crust: pistachio sugar! You’ll blitz pistachios with sugar and a pinch of salt until ground, and sprinkle it all over the dough—both inside for crisp texture and outside for beautiful presentation.
Get the recipe: Honey-Apple Galette With Pistachio Sugar
You can make the cider glaze up to 3 days in advance; refrigerate, covered until ready to roast. Peel and cut the vegetables up to 2 days in advance (they add great rich flavor to the drippings in the bottom of the roasting pan and shouldn’t be skipped). Place the veggies in a re-sealable plastic bag and stick them in the crisper. Remember, if you’ve purchased a frozen turkey you’ll need to give it at least 3 days to defrost, so plan accordingly. Then, as the turkey cooks, baste it with the flavorful glaze made from reduced apple cider, cider vinegar, and butter.
Get the recipe: Cider-Glazed Turkey
Use the drippings from the turkey to make this easy gravy, fortified with bourbon for an extra kick. To get a head start, prepare the gravy base up to three days in advance then refrigerate it, covered, in an airtight container. Alternatively, you can prepare the base up to one month ahead and freeze it. The best gravy is made with homemade stock. Ask your butcher for about 3 lbs of chicken wings and backs. Place them in a large stock pot with onions, celery and carrots and cover with water. Add some parsley stems, bay leaves, and about a tablespoon of black peppercorns and simmer for a couple of hours. It will make the house smell divine.
Get the recipe: Bourbon Gravy
Sausage and Apple Stuffing
Sweet Italian sausage mingles with chopped tart apples and sage in this lovely autumn dish but feel free to eliminate the meat for a vegetarian option. We use a cubed baguette for a toasted crouton feel, but you can play around with the base. Try using crumbled up cornbread or a loaf of cubed challah or brioche. You can cut the bread up to a week in advance, set it out to dry overnight, and place it in an airtight container. The day before the feast, prep the stuffing up to the point of baking. Cover tightly with foil and refrigerate. On Thanksgiving morning, bring the stuffing to room temperature and bake as directed.
Get the recipe: Sausage and Apple Stuffing
The secret to this decadent classic is boiling the potatoes right in the milk and cream. The potatoes soak up all that richness so every bite is to die for. And it’s ideal for making ahead. Here’s how: Prepare the potatoes up to the point of baking (but do not bake) and refrigerate, covered, up to two days in advance. But, you can actually prep these up to a month in advance and place the dish, tightly wrapped in the freezer. On Thanksgiving day, thaw the potatoes (if you froze them) and bring to room temperature. Top with grated Gruyère or Cheddar and bake until bubbling and golden brown for a wonderfully creamy side dish.
Get the recipe: Scalloped Potatoes
Brown Sugar-Glazed Carrots With Rosemary and Pecans
Toasted pecans add a nice crunch to the tender carrots, flavored with fresh rosemary and cayenne pepper in this colorful side. Carrots are so sturdy you can buy them up to a week ahead of time and they’ll still have a great snap come Thanksgiving day. To prep ahead: toast the pecans up to two days in advance and keep, tightly covered, at room temperature. Peel and cut the carrots and combine with the butter, rosemary, cayenne, salt, and pepper. Pop in the refrigerator and keep covered. On Thanksgiving day, transfer the carrot mixture to a large saucepan, add the water and brown sugar (½ cup each) and proceed with the recipe.
Get the recipe: Brown Sugar-Glazed Carrots With Rosemary and Pecans
Sautéed Brussels Sprouts With Poppy Seeds
A dash of white wine vinegar and nutty poppy seeds perk up tender shredded Brussels sprouts.
Get the recipe: Sautéed Brussels Sprouts With Poppy Seeds
Jellied Cranberry-Ginger Sauce
If you’re a fan of the canned stuff, this cranberry jelly is a great choice. Freshly grated ginger adds a slightly spicy kick. Don’t be intimidated to use gelatin; once you get the hang of it, you’ll be making aspic in not time (just kidding, only if you want to). Use a mini bundt pan or other 2 cup measure with decorative sides as a mold, or you can just use a cereal bowl. You can make it up to 3 days ahead and keep in the refrigerator. When you’re ready to turn it out, dip the mold in a bowl of hot water, being careful it doesn’t seep over the edge, then turn out onto a pretty plate.
Get the recipe: Jellied Cranberry-Ginger Sauce
Get more cranberry sauce recipes.
Fig and Cranberry Compote
For those who prefer a heartier accompaniment, this cranberry moment incorporates whole berries, spicy cardamom, honey, and coarsely chopped dried figs. It’s as good on the plate as it is tucked inside a leftover turkey sandwich so we might suggest making a double batch so you have enough for those sammies. The mixture can be made up to three days in advance and kept in the refrigerator. The only trick is to bring the compote to room temperature before you serve it to soften the pectin in the cranberries. If you want to take it to the next level, drop a whole cinnamon stick into the mixture as it simmers.
Get the recipe: Fig and Cranberry Compote
No-Knead Onion Rolls
These slightly sweet rolls are buttery, fluffy, and totally irresistible. The recipe requires no-kneading so it’s a perfect place to start if you’re new to bread baking. Caramelized onions are folded in and sprinkled on top for layers of savory goodness. Bake them on Thanksgiving morning and they’ll perfume the whole house before the turkey even goes in the oven. But you can also bake them a day ahead. Let them cool completely and wrap tightly with plastic wrap (plastic, guys, not foil). The onions and butter in the dough keep these moist the next day but we like to pop them in the oven once the turkey comes out to warm them up just a little.
Get the recipe: No-Knead Onion Rolls
Get more homemade bread recipes.
Sweet Potato Pie With Candied Nut Cream
We love pumpkin pie as much as the next guy but sometimes we want to try something just a little different. Sweet potatoes offer all the same comforting flavor as pumpkin but they don’t contain as much liquid—that means they bake up slightly firmer than the squash and you’ll never risk a watery wobbly center. The pie can be made up to two days ahead. Refrigerate it, loosely covered, and bring to room temperature before serving. For the final touch, chopped nuts get folded into freshly whipped cream for a little crunch and an extra hint of sweetness on top off this decadent pie.
Get the recipe: Sweet Potato Pie With Candied Nut Cream
Get more Thanksgiving dessert recipes.