Curious about make ahead thanksgiving recipes?

Thanksgiving is stressful for a variety of reasons—but it doesn’t have to be a mad-dash all day. This list pulls together all of the dishes that can be made—or partially made—ahead of the big day. Everything from entire pies and stuffing to cranberry sauce and casseroles. I’ve got you covered from cocktail hour to the second helping of dessert. 

Pie and Tart Dough 

someone crimping the edges of pie dough in a pie plate as a makeahead dish

Gravy 

  • Freeze gravy up to 1 month ahead of time. On Thanksgiving day, drop the frozen gravy in a pan and bring it to a full boil, whisk it vigorously to bring it back together.
  • Use this recipe as a guide—instead of 3 tablespoons drippings, use 3 tablespoons butter (this recipe can also easily be doubled). 

Homemade Turkey Stock 

  • If you’ve got the time and the desire—make homemade turkey stock with turkey wings and store it in the freezer. Homemade stock makes the most delicious stuffing and turkey gravy.

Apple Crisp

This deconstructed apple crisp is truly the perfect making ahead Thanksgiving dessert. The apples and crumble topping get baked separately. Bake the apples and the topping up to 3 days in advance.

  • Store the apples in an airtight container in the refrigerator and the crumble in an airtight container at room temp.
  • On Thanksgiving day, reheat the apples in a baking dish in a 300ºF.

Looking for something gluten-free? This Gluten-Free Apple Crisp is a great option and one we make all the time!

  • The apples can be baked as directed and stored in the refrigerator up to 3 days ahead of time.
  • Mix together the topping and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 3 days head of time.
  • On Thanksgiving day, reheat the filling in the oven for 5 minutes, then sprinkle with topping over the apples and bake as directed. 
apple crisp in a white dish

Pies and Tarts

Pumpkin pie should not be frozen but fruit pies are great make ahead Thanksgiving recipes.

  • Place the assembled, unbaked fruit pie (I love this double apple pie from Melissa Clark) in the freezer and freeze until solid. Wrap in plastic and foil and store in the freezer up to 2 months. 
  • Do not thaw the pie prior to baking. Unwrap the pie, pop it on a baking sheet and transfer it right to the preheated oven. You will likely need to bake the pie for an additional 10–15 minutes. 
  • Pecan Pie and Mini Pecan Pies can be made and stored at room temperature up to 1 day ahead of time. They can be frozen up to 1 month in advance. Let pecan pie(s)thaw at room temperature overnight before serving. 
  • Our Classic Tart Crust can be baked up to 2 days ahead of time. Any fruit curd like our Cranberry Curd, Lemon Curd or Orange Curd, can be made and refrigerated up to 3 days ahead of time.
Side angle of a mini pecan pie topped with a dollop of whipped cream on a cream-colored plate

Cranberry Sauce or Cranberry Butter

Casserole Side Dishes

Not surprisingly, casseroles are great make ahead Thanksgiving recipes. Just make sure to add the topping or breadcrumbs on the big day.

  • Cauliflower Gratin can be prepared, placed in the casserole dish, covered and refrigerated up to 2 days ahead of time. Do not sprinkle the breadcrumb topping over the casserole until ready to bake. 
  • Savory Sweet Potato Casserole can be prepared, placed in the casserole dish, covered and refrigerated up to 2 days ahead of time. Do not place the croutons over the casserole until ready to bake. 
  • Green Beans can be blanched and stored in the refrigerator up to 3 days ahead of time to be used in fresh green bean casserole or green bean casserole salad.
oval casserole dish with a serving spoon set in it with sweet potato casserole topped with croutons and sage

Dinner Rolls & Bread

  • Not all rolls or bread can be made ahead of time—but some can. Rolls that are high in moisture and fat can be made up to 2 days ahead of time and stored at room temperature (think brioche or challah rolls). For longer storage, wrap rolls in plastic wrap and foil and freeze up to 2 weeks ahead of time. Thaw the frozen rolls for a few hours on the counter prior to serving. If you plan to serve them warm, pop them in a 350ºF oven just until warm. 
  • Milk Bread Rolls, Kaiser Rolls, Sweet Potato Rolls, and Cornbread are all great make-ahead options. 

Mashed Potatoes

There are two ways you can prepare mashed potatoes in advance.

  1. peel and dice the potatoes, place in a large pot and cover with water. Store in the refrigerator up to 3 days ahead of time. Drain, refill with water and cook as directed.
  2. You can make mashed potatoes ahead of time. If you do, I recommend making them somewhat soupy—add more cream or half-and-half than you usually would. They will firm up as they sit. Rewarm them over low heat or in a slow cooker, adding more cream and butter as needed. 
Fluffy mashed potatoes in a white pot set on a wooden table. Olive oil pools on top of potatoes.

Thanksgiving Soups

  • Any soups can be made and stored in the fridge up to 5 days ahead of time.
  • This Curried Carrot Soup can even be frozen. Keep it warm on the stove top or in a slow cooker.
  • My Hungarian Mushroom Soup is also a cold-weather hit.

Stuffing (Dressing)

  • Traditional Stuffing (like this Wild Mushroom Stuffing) can be assembled, placed in the casserole dish and refrigerated one day ahead of time. When you’re ready, transfer the dish to the oven and bake as directed. 
  • Bread can be staled and stored in an airtight container for up to 1 week. 
  • Rice Stuffing (like our Wild Rice Stuffing) can be made and stored in the refrigerator up to 3 days ahead of time. Reheat on the stovetop over medium until warmed through. 
  • Cornbread can be made up to 4 days ahead of time for cornbread dressing.
stuffing with mushrooms and swiss chard in a baking dish set on a wood table

Salad Dressings

  • Salad dressings can be made and stored in the refrigerator up to 5 days ahead of time. I always have this Maple Vinaigrette and Tahini Caesar on hand for Thanksgiving. 

Make Ahead Appetizers

There are many appetizers that are great make ahead Thanksgiving recipes.

Turkey Asian Meatballs

  1. Prepare and bake the meatballs as directed. Freeze cooled meatballs until solid then transfer to a resealable zipper-lock bag
  2. When you’re ready to serve, reheat the meatballs in a 300-degree oven. While the meatballs reheat make the sauce.

Hummus + Dips

  1. Just about any hummus or dip can be made up to 3 days ahead of time. I’ll be making this Harissa Sweet Potato Hummus & Smoked Trout Dip

Spiced Nuts 

Marinated Olives & Cheese

  • Marinated Olives can be made and stored in the fridge up to 1 week ahead of time. Reheat on the stovetop over low just to warm through.
spiced nuts in a white bowl set on a wood table

Pitcher-Style Cocktails 

When to Start Thawing the Bird

A good rule of thumb—it will take 1 day for every 5 pounds your turkey (or turkey breast) weighs.

Here’s how long it will take to thaw your turkey:

  • 8–10 lb. = 2 days
  • 11–15 lb. = 3 days
  • 16–20 lb. = 4 days

Time Saving Tip: Plan Dishes that Cook at the Same Temp

Sides that roast at 425º-450ºF

Sides that roast at 350ºF

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About The Author

Lauren Grant is a professional culinary food scientist, food writer, recipe developer, and food photographer. Lauren is a previous magazine editor and test kitchen developer and has had work published in major national publications including Diabetic Living Magazine, Midwest Living Magazine, Cuisine at Home Magazine, EatingWell.com, AmericasTestKitchen.com, and more.

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