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.
Table of Contents
- Pie and Tart Dough
- Homemade Turkey Stock
- Apple Crisp
- Pies and Tarts
- Cranberry Sauce or Cranberry Butter
- Casserole Side Dishes
- Dinner Rolls & Bread
- Mashed Potatoes
- Thanksgiving Soups
- Stuffing (Dressing)
- Salad Dressings
- Make Ahead Appetizers
- Pitcher-Style Cocktails
- When to Start Thawing the Bird
- Time Saving Tip: Plan Dishes that Cook at the Same Temp
Pie and Tart Dough
- Pie crust dough and tart crust dough can be made wrapped tightly in plastic and refrigerated up to 2 days in advance or frozen up to 1 month ahead of time.
- Allow two days for frozen dough to thaw in the refrigerator.
- Love baking healthyish? Check out my All-Butter Whole-Wheat Pie Crust or my all-time favorite Whole-Wheat Olive Oil Tart Crust.
- 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.
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.
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.
Cranberry Sauce or Cranberry Butter
- Both cranberry sauce (check out this savory version I developed for Cuisine at Home)and cranberry butter can be made and refrigerated up to 1 week ahead of time.
- Don’t like cranberries? This pomegranate relish can be made 1 day ahead of time.
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.
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.
There are two ways you can prepare mashed potatoes in advance.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Prepare and bake the meatballs as directed. Freeze cooled meatballs until solid then transfer to a resealable zipper-lock bag.
- When you’re ready to serve, reheat the meatballs in a 300-degree oven. While the meatballs reheat make the sauce.
Hummus + Dips
- 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.
- These sweet and salty Spiced Nuts can be made up to 2 weeks in advance.
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.
- Red Wine Cider Sangria and Apple Bourbon Smash can both be made in a pitcher and stored in the fridge up to 3 days ahead of time.
- Our Cold Whiskey Toddy is also a great Pitcher Cocktail. The syrup can be made up to 4 days ahead of time. Assemble right before serving.
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
- Roasted Delicata Squash with Maple Browned Butter Sauce
- Crispy Fingerling Potatoes
- Easy Roasted Green Beans
- Cauliflower Gratin
- Savory Hasselback Sweet Potatoes
Sides that roast at 350ºF