30 Make-Ahead Thanksgiving Recipes to Save Time & Stress This Season

Get ahead on holiday prep.

August 29, 2023
Photo by James Ransom

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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.

But to help you deal with the stress of the holiday 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. Our list includes salads and stuffing (yes, you can make Thanksgiving sides before the big day) as well as breads (that last in the freezer for up to five months) and batchable cocktails.

So take a deep breath: Thanksgiving just got a whole lot easier.

The Day Before

1. Northern Spy's Kale Salad

According to our resident Genius, Kristen Miglore, this squash-studded kale salad actually tastes better when you prep all the ingredients the day before and toss the dressing in just before you're ready to serve.

2. Salted Caramel Chocolate Pecan Pie

Consider dessert solved by making this chocolatey, toasty pecan pie drizzled in salted caramel the day before the holiday madness.

3. Challah, Mushroom & Celery Stuffing

Feel free to whip up this vegetarian-friendly stuffing the day before and store it covered in the fridge. Just make sure to let it come up to room temperature for 30 minutes to one hour before heating it up in the oven.

4. Angel Corn

This creamy, golden-brown corn casserole is sure to be a hit at any Thanksgiving table. Best part: make and bake the whole thing the day before, then on the day of, let it come up to room temperature and reheat at 350F° for 20 or 30 minutes.

5. Carrot & Potato Gratin with Parmesan & Thyme

Assemble this light and herby carrot and potato gratin from our co-founder, Merrill Stubbs, the night before the big day then simply heat it up in the oven just before you want it to hit the table.

6. Soft Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

These season-ready pumpkin chocolate chip won't lose their chewy softness if you bake them the night before and store them in an airtight container. Another option: Make the batter a day ahead and pop them in the oven as guests arrive to fill your kitchen with that inviting cookie aroma.

7. Carrot and Radicchio Salad with Fig Balsamic Vinaigrette

You'll have one less thing to worry about on Thanksgiving day if you assemble all the parts of this fall-inspired salad the day before, from roasting the carrots and toasting the pistachios to mixing up the fig-y balsamic vinaigrette.

8. Moroccan Carrot Salad With Harissa

“[This is] one of those dishes that really wakes up your tongue: the garlic keeps on giving (in the best possible way); the harissa lends both sweetness and heat (you can control the latter by choosing a milder or more spicy harissa); and the perfume of the preserved lemon lingers after each bite,” writes our Editors. “And yes, it is even better the next day.”

9. Apple Rye Moonshine Punch

This easy party drink tastes like fall. To make ahead, combine the rye, bitters, and apple cider and then place in the fridge. When you’re ready to serve, add the hard cider to the mixture and pour over ice.

10. Deviled Eggs, Purgatory Edition

These eggs swap mayo for greek yogurt, a change that adds that depth, tang, and levity to the classic hors d'oeuvres. For best results, make the eggs and yogurt-filling a day in advance, then—using a homemade piping bag—combine them hours before serving.

11. Sesame Boulevardier

Similar to the apple rye punch, you can batch John deBary’s fall-inspired Boulevardier days in advance of serving. Developed as a digestif-style, palate-cleansing cocktail, this drink is best enjoyed during the gap between savory and sweet courses.

A Few Days Ahead

12. Chevre Devils

The spicy candied pecans you need to complete this appetizer-ready recipe can actually be prepped a few days ahead and stored in an airtight container until you're ready to assemble your spread.

13. Homemade Cranberry Jelly, In a Can

Skip the store-bought cranberry sauce this year and make this homemade version (still in a can!) that you can make days ahead of time.

14. Sour Cream Dinner Rolls

You can bake these lightly tangy dinner rolls just a few minutes before the point of golden perfection, let them cool, wrap them tightly, and store them in the freezer. On Thanksgiving morning, pull them out of the freezer to come up to room temperature and reheat for 10 or 12 minutes in the oven.

15. Leek and Greens Tart with Cornmeal Crust

You can prep the dough and filling for this creamy-cozy tart a few days ahead of time and assemble the day of.

16. Applesauce Cake with Caramel Glaze

Make this easy-yet-impressive applesauce cake two or three days ahead of time—just wait to glaze the cake until a few hours before you're ready to serve.

17. Homemade Green Bean Casserole

Assemble the greens beans and creamy mushroom dressing separately a few days ahead of time. Combine them on Thanksgiving day and bake the whole thing with crispy fried onions.

18. Creamy Butternut Squash Soup with Sherry

Nothing says fall like this creamy butternut squash soup seasoned with cozy nutmeg and a splash of sherry. Whip up a big batch a few days before Thanksgiving dinner and simply reheat over the stove before serving.

19. Everything Sheet Tray Crackers

These simple crackers dusted in addictive everything-bagel seasoning get even simpler when you use a sheet pan. Bake a batch a few days before and store them in airtight containers for Thanksgiving nibbles and dips.

20. Make-Ahead Turkey Gravy

This recipe requires a bit of advanced planning, but the extra effort becomes well worth it when you realize how much flavor this gravy brings to the table (even though you made it in advance).

21. Turmeric Tahini Dressing

Mix up this unfussy, but totally packed-with-flavor salad dressing up to five days before the holiday and store it in the fridge. Just give it a good shake before tossing it with your favorite salad!

5 Days Ahead (or More!)

22. Little Mushroom Pinwheels

Our favorite part about these little mushroom pinwheels (aside from their supreme snackiness): you can stash 'em in the freezer until they're ready to bake.

23. (Freezable) Stuffing with Caramelized Onions & Kale

Recipe developer Alexandra Stafford recommends freezing this simple, hearty stuffing before cooking it straight from the freezer.

24. Tuscan Onion Confit

This sweet-and-sour onion confit, perfect for a charcuterie spread or dolloping over slices of roast turkey, will last in the fridge for up to two weeks.

25. Cardamom Currant Snickerdoodles

Classic snickerdoodles get a cardamom-infused update with a dash of the spice in the batter and the sugary coating. Chill the pre-scooped cookie dough balls in the fridge before tossing them in the freezer, where they'll last for up to three months.

26. Cook's Illustrated's Foolproof Pie Crust

This foolproof pie crust has a secret ingredient that makes it more tender and flaky than all the rest—it doesn't hurt that you can make it ahead and freeze it, either.

27. Apple Peel Bourbon

Instead of whipping up individual cocktails on the fly, make a few jars'-worth of apple peel-infused bourbon, which tastes great with little more than lime and a splash of ginger beer.

28. No-Churn Pumpkin Ice Cream

Up the pumpkin ante this fall with this couldn't-be-easier no-churn pumpkin ice cream that'll keep in the freezer long after the holidays are over.

29. Gingered Cranberry Fig Chutney

“I made this chutney for the first time for Thanksgiving 2014, a week in advance, and it's divine!” writes Community Member marsiamarsia. “My grown son said he's never been fond of cranberry sauce of any sort, but that this was fantastic.”

30. Brown Butter and Butternut Loaf

Rich, nutty, and deeply warming, this butternut loaf pleasantly combines notes of pumpkin and butterscotch to create the ultimate fall bread. While delicious fresh out of the oven, you can also tightly wrap and freeze it months in advance.

This article was updated in August 2023 to include more of our favorite recipes.

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How do you get ahead of Thanksgiving cooking? Let us know in the comments below!
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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Dianne N A
    Dianne N A
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  • Gloria Lukin Augenstein
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  • Windischgirl
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Dianne N. September 17, 2023
You CAN make mashed potatoes way in advance. When I was working full time and my mother was no longer able to do too much, I tested out making our family recipe (a baked mashed potato) and freezing it. Wow! It worked perfectly. No one knew I made them 3 weeks early and froze them. They were fluffy and fabulous and tasted amazing. Our recipe uses cream cheese, sour cream, and lots of butter. The potatoes are riced and the mixture is put in a 9x13. I defrost the day before and bake as usual. I always make them in advance now. My mother always had portions prepped prior to the meal as well so there was no last minute chopping for other recipes except for avocado, and I have done that my whole life as an adult.
I have a friend who is with us every year and she cannot eat wheat. Thanks to turkey wings, I make her gravy in advance and freeze it, as well as her pecan bites. This year I might find a recipe for gf pumpkin squares.
Gloria L. September 17, 2023
Can u plz give us the recipe?
AntoniaJames August 30, 2023
I like seeing all the Thanksgiving recipe collections this early. I'll try a half a dozen or more of them over the coming months, likely adopting at least a few as regular menu items. Most of my Thanksgiving meal will be made ahead, starting now. I map it all out well in advance, clearing space in my freezer starting in early October not just for the holiday make-ahead items, but also for the dinners to be served during the week before, when I'll be spending time in the evenings busy with whatever Turkey Day advance prep cannot be done sooner. ;o)
Windischgirl September 4, 2023
I agree, AJ! I had one year where I was hosting 25 while working full-time, and to preserve my sanity I made almost everything ahead and stashed it in the freezer. Another technique I learned from my mom is a variation on mise en place: measuring out ingredients and then stashing them in the fridge until ready to cook. For example, if I’m making green beans almondine, I’ll prep and measure out the beans and place in a bag, then measure out seasonings and almonds in another container, and even measure out the oil/butter. Label everything and it can sit in the fridge for a few days. Come go-time, the cooking goes quickly!
AntoniaJames September 4, 2023
Windishgirl, I do the same thing! My fridge is full of "pre-prepped" components of dishes as far in advance as possible. Spices for pies are measured a week before baking them . . . . dry ingredients for baked goods combined and stored in the pantry . . . . . cranberry sauce freezes really well, so I make that as soon as I see fresh cranberries in the store . . . . beets are pickled in September . . . . . there is so, so much you can do in advance. We always take a challenging hike (well, as challenging as the circumstances permit - 8 - 10 miles with 1200 - 1500 feet of elevation gain, which is actually a moderate hike for us) on Thanksgiving Day, which typically leaves about 2 hours on T-Day for cooking and serving, once we get back. I have everything organized, and so much done in advance, to make that not just possible, but fairly easy. I do make a detailed list of everything that needs to be done once we get in from our hike, leaving nothing to chance, as I'm usually a bit tired from the hike, so it's nice not to have to do much thinking. As you say, the cooking goes quickly!! ;o)
judy August 30, 2023
So much left for late summer early fall cooking. WAY too early for these Thanksgiving recipes. A couple of the baked goods can be done this far ahead, maybe...if one has a good freezer and plenty of space. But how about some seasonal recipes. It seems that lately Food52 is just compilation of recipes or a write up of some experience in life. Amazing food folks on staff, where are some great inspirations, suggestions and recipes from this group, as well as highlighting recipes added by readers!