13 Make-Ahead Thanksgiving Recipes To Save Your Sanity

November 16, 2015

There are some dishes that have be made on Thanksgiving day. Turkey cannot be roasted—or deep fried—ahead of time, mashed potatoes will not stay fluffy, and Pot-Stuck Brussels Sprouts will not remain crisp. To help you deal with the stress of T-Day and keep everything running smoothly, we've compiled a list of recipes that can be made (or their components prepared) a day, a couple of days, or even a week ahead of time. So take a deep breath: Thanksgiving just got a whole lot easier. 

A Day Ahead

Northern Spy's Kale Salad by Genius Recipes

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Salted Caramel Chocolate Pecan Pie by Stacy Blair 


A Few Days Ahead

Chevre Devils by gingerroot


Homemade Cranberry Jelly, In a Can by Carey Nershi 

More: You can make this entire menu ahead of time (really).


Sour Cream Dinner Rolls by AntoniaJames


Leek and Greens Tart with Cornmeal Crust by fiveandspice


Applesauce Cake with Caramel Glaze by Merrill Stubbs


Whenever You Want

Little Mushroom Pinwheels by inpatskitchen


Creamy Carrot Ginger Bisque with Cashew Cream by Gena Hamshaw


Tuscan Onion Confit by Merrill Stubbs


Cardamom Currant Snickerdoodles by fiveandspice



Cook's Illustrated's Foolproof Pie Crust by Genius Recipes


Apple Peel Bourbon by Marian Bull 

What's your Thanksgiving-prep plan of action? Give us the run-through (and any tips!) in the comments.

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Nancy M. November 16, 2015
These dishes look amazing, especially that Salted Caramel Chocolate Pecan Pie!
AntoniaJames November 16, 2015
Dough for pie crusts and breakfast pastries were made (not baked) and frozen last month. Turkey stock was made last week (backs and aromatics roasted on Friday evening, simmered for three hours on Saturday). During the evenings this week I'll be putting together spice + sugar blends, making an herb blend I need for my brine, grating Parmigiano Reggiano, starting my mostarda, updating my game plan and shopping lists, toasting nuts, and polishing silver and copper. I'll also get all dinners through November 25 in order. Friday evening I'll make and refrigerate my brine, and make the salad dressing. Time in the kitchen will be quite limited this weekend due to some other family activities, so I have only a few prep activities planned.

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings I'll be somewhat busy, but I'm combining prep tasks and have everything laid out. Quick tasks I'll do before work on those three days. Dinner will be "fresh from the freezer" - homemade meals ready to be thawed and re-heated - to lighten the load a bit.

Michelin-starred Paul Virant in his fine "Preservation Kitchen" has the game plan and recipes for cooking the entire turkey ahead of time, breaking it down, roasting just the breast and braising the legs. The dark meat will go into "smothered gravy."

Food52 editors: take note. This should be on your project calendar for next summer, or whenever you'll be developing content for next Thanksgiving.

We take a challenging hike on Thanksgiving Day so I won't be in the kitchen until about 2 PM that day (and I'll be somewhat tired). Looking at my project plan, I will have done all but about 2 hours of active time work before Thursday morning.

On Thursday afternoon I'll finish making a pecan tart, warm up spiked mulled cider, heat the appetizer, put into the oven to bake a pre-assembled savory bread pudding, make the gravy, slice the turkey breast, complete a rice dish (all components made in advance), toss the salad, and express gratitude for an extraordinary mother who passed on to me all the skills necessary to make this happen so easily. ;o)
Lisaly November 21, 2015
What a wonderful Thanksgiving!
Matt L. November 27, 2014
Contrary to popular belief mashed potatoes absolutely can be made ahead of time. In fact in michelin starred restaurant they have to be because they take too long to make otherwise. You simply don't add the milk/cream and reheat by adding to warmed milk/cream. You can do the same thing with olive oil mash - here's how to do it
Bebewatson November 26, 2014
Well according to "The Barefoot Contessa" cookbook author you can in fact make the turkey & mashed potatoes ahead of time...