Thanksgiving. It’s only the single most important meal of your culinary career this year. But don’t stress! If you’re anything like me (a procrastinator with great intentions), do yourself a favor and plan ahead! These make ahead Thanksgiving dishes can be created days in advance and will free you up to actually enjoy your Thanksgiving morning. Novel idea, right?
Save yourself some time and make your salad a day or 2 ahead of time if it consists of greens, nuts, cheese or hard veggies like carrots. Fruits like apples and avocados will brown if prepared in advance, so slice those up just before serving. Make sure you keep your dressing separate until you are ready to serve.
Most dips tend to improve in flavor when they have had a few days to marinate. Make your dip 2 days ahead of time and store it in the bowl you’re going to serve it in. You can easily pull this out with chips or crackers to let hungry guests start munching on the big day.
Soups also taste better a day or two after being made. Make your soup 2-3 days ahead of time, then re-heat and serve on Thanksgiving day.
Cheese + meat tray
Cheeses and cured meats are extremely hardy. You can arrange your cheese tray 3 days ahead of time exactly how you want to serve it (minus crackers), then saran wrap and refrigerate it. On Thanksgiving morning pull out the tray and set it on the table with some newly unwrapped crackers.
Mac and cheese
Good news. You CAN make mac and cheese ahead of time! You can prepare it up to 3 months in advance and frozen. When you’re ready to bake, thaw it to room temperature first. You can also bake mac and cheese the night before, refrigerate then reheat Thanksgiving Day.
Of all the make ahead Thanksgiving dishes, this might be the best one. Start prepping your stuffing 5 days ahead of time. Find some nice crusty bread, then cube it before leaving it on a baking sheet to dry for 2-3 days. Chop and prep all your veggies 2 days before and store them in airtight containers. Make your stuffing the day before Thanksgiving—it’s one of those magical foods that tastes better the day after it’s made.
Green bean casserole
If you’re one of those people who like green bean casserole (I hate itttt!), you’ll be glad to know you can make this one in advance too! Mix up your ingredients, minus the crunchy toppings, in the dish you’ll bake it in, then refrigerate. On Thanksgiving morning, stick it in the oven to bake.
Sweet potato casserole
Sweet potato casserole can be prepared 2-3 days in advance and refrigerated. Microwave or reheat in the oven before serving, of course!
This one is a bit controversial. Some people give an emphatic no to making mashed potatoes ahead of time while others give it an enthusiastic yes. Personally I have always made mine the day of.
Thanks to its sugar content and natural preservatives, cranberry sauce has a crazy-long shelf life once prepared. This is one of the few make ahead Thanksgiving dishes you can prepare up to 6 days ahead of time!
Turkey + gravy
I have never tried to make turkey or gravy ahead of time, but it can be done. This recipe shows you how to make a turkey up to 3 months in advance! Personally, I’ll stick with doing it the day of—just don’t forget to defrost and brine your bird several days in advance.
You can also make gravy ahead of time using the turkey neck.
While we let turkey have its moment, for most of us dessert is the true star of the show. While there are a million make ahead Thanksgiving dishes to try, nothing is sweeter (hah) than pie.
Luckily there is no shortage on types of pies and virtually all of them can be made in advance. Whether your choice is apple, blackberry, blueberry or cherry pie, create it 1-2 days ahead of time and store in the fridge.
You can create even further ahead of time if you freeze your pie. And if you feel instant upon fresh pie made the day of, do yourself a favor and make the pie dough in advance.
Whipped cream is one thing I was shocked to learn you can make ahead of time. This article from Food52 shows you exactly how.
Just remember—Thanksgiving is supposed to be fun! Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Cheers! 🙂
Want more Thanksgiving help? Check out this post of 15 Awesome Thanksgiving Hacks!