10 Thanksgiving Dishes You Can Make Without a Recipe

October 31, 2016

Throw away your notes and take the pressure off—here's how to do Thanksgiving without a recipe. 

If you're anything like us, you spend the month leading up to Thanksgiving in research-mode: How will I make this Thanksgiving better than the last? Are the mashed potatoes of my dreams on page 10 of my Google search results? What is the secret to my aunt's secret (and legendary) stuffing recipe?

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It's time to stop the madness and call off the dogs. Thanksgiving doesn't have to be so hard; it doesn't have to feel this complicated. In fact, most of the dishes you're making this week can be prepared without a recipe at all. So take the pressure off and trust your instincts—we're revisiting these 10 spectacularly easy ways to throw together your favorite holiday's fare, no notes required. (You can even go rogue with our favorite technique for the bird, by adding your own spices and herbs to the dry brine.)



Mashed Potatoes


Macaroni and Cheese


Potato Gratin


Roasted Vegetables


Cranberry Sauce




Fruit Crisp (or Crumble)


Galette (or Crostata)



This article orginally appeared on November 23, 2015. We're re-running it in honor on Thanksgiving (which is in about 3 weeks!).

Tell us: Which Thanksgiving dishes will you be winging this year?

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • AntoniaJames
  • aargersi
  • Julie Myers
    Julie Myers
Julie Myers

Written by: Julie Myers

Perpetually hungry. Will travel for food.


AntoniaJames October 15, 2015
Tapenade: https://food52.com/blog/6045-how-to-make-any-risotto-in-5-steps

Mostarda instead of cranberry sauce (I'll make two kinds): https://food52.com/blog/8577-how-to-make-mostarda-without-a-recipe

Maybe risotto https://food52.com/blog/6045-how-to-make-any-risotto-in-5-steps (Did you know you can make risotto ahead, all but the last cup of broth, and even pop some buttered bread cubes on top with a fistful of medium grated parmesan to make a quick gratin . . . okay, maybe it's not risotto any more, but my family raves . . . .)

or, quite possibly this year I'll be making its cousin,

Biryani https://food52.com/blog/14242-how-to-make-biryani-without-a-recipe

I'm sure there are others . . . . ;o)
aargersi November 24, 2014
All of 'em this year! Nary a recipe in the bunch! A Seat Of My Pants Thanksgiving! Let's hope I don't get kicked in them. (I have made everything I have planned multiple times, and I farmed a LOT of stuff out this year)
Julie M. November 25, 2014
Good for you! That sounds great.
AntoniaJames November 24, 2014
No Thanksgiving (or December holiday!) table is complete without at least one mostarda: https://food52.com/blog/8577-how-to-make-mostarda-without-a-recipe I've got one in the works now, of course. For those who'd like to see a recipe for mostarda, I've got you covered there, too: https://food52.com/recipes/27134-sour-cherry-and-cranberry-mostarda Discovery this year? Asian pear, both in my standard cranberry sauce https://food52.com/recipes/24974-bay-infused-cranberry-sauce-with-dried-tart-cherries and in my no-recipe mostarda - which looks a lot like the Food52 photo in the article cited above -- holds its crunch, releasing little bursts of apple-pear flavor if you bite down on a piece. ;o) P.S. Today would be a good day to start your mostarda. It will only take a few minutes!
Julie M. November 25, 2014
Great idea! Thanks for sharing the recipe.