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37 Make-Ahead Thanksgiving Recipes To Help You Get A Jump On The Big Day

food, 37 make-ahead thanksgiving recipes to help you get a jump on the big day

Southern Baked Mac & Cheese

Making Thanksgiving dinner this year? No matter whether you’re hosting your entire family, a small group of friends, or are just cooking for yourself and a partner or roommate, we bet you know that prepping beforehand is the best way to ensure a smooth Turkey Day. But which things can and can’t be made ahead? Is it sacrilege to make mashed potatoes a day early? How early is too early to start thawing the turkey? Can you make gravy ahead without any meaty drippings? We’ve got answers to all your questions and concerns here—37, in fact. Turns out, you can make a TON of Thanksgiving dishes ahead of time—for everything else, there’s usually at least one step you can get a jump on before the big day. Check out our time-saving, make-ahead Thanksgiving recipes for ideas—you’ll be thanking us this year for all the time they save you.

If you’re all about fresh flavor and don’t want to make too much ahead, do yourself a favor and at least make your appetizers and pies the night before. Desserts like pumpkin pie, pecan pie, or apple pie are actually better baked a day ahead, so their fillings have time to set up for a clean slice. Appetizers are also important to have ready to go early so you can fend off hungry guests while you take your time reheating all the mains. Our pumpkin cheese ball, our cranberry brie pull-apart bread, or our turkey cheese ball are sure to keep your guests entertained, no matter how impatient they are for dinner.

Casseroles are another great option for making ahead, because you can assemble them, then put them directly into the oven to bake the next day. Get a head start on all the classics—like green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, and corn casserole—so you can breathe easier on the big day. Hot tip: Make a breakfast casserole, like our overnight French toast or our egg & hash brown casserole, the night before, then bake it while you’re getting ready for the hubbub of the day. You (and any overnight guests) will be glad you did.

We’ve also included a number of recipes here that MUST be started ahead of time in order to be their best on the big day. Turkey is the best example—no matter whether you’re going with a wet or dry brine or something different altogether, most birds benefit from being paid some attention before Thursday. In the very least, you’re going to want to confirm at least three days before that your bird will be the right temperature when you go to roast it (no one wants to have to deal with an unexpectedly still frozen bird).

Another example is stuffing. Most stuffing recipes want to be made of stale, crunchy bread that can soak up all the yummy flavors without getting soggy. You could toast them in the oven, but space is at a premium in there, and you wouldn’t want to risk toasting them too much or too little. Optimum texture is really best achieved through being left out overnight or longer, so plan ahead.

Want even more Thanksgiving ideas? Check out our top Thanksgiving cocktails, our favorite Thanksgiving desserts (that aren’t all pie), and our must-have Thanksgiving side dishes too.

food, 37 make-ahead thanksgiving recipes to help you get a jump on the big day

Cranberry Sauce

This sweet-tart sauce is almost as easy as opening up the canned stuff, and you know your Thanksgiving spread deserves better. This is one of the Thanksgiving dishes you can make up to a week in advance. (Bonus: The flavors will meld and deepen while it hangs out in the fridge.)

Get the Cranberry Sauce recipe.

food, 37 make-ahead thanksgiving recipes to help you get a jump on the big day

Classic Stuffing

The key to amazing stuffing is freshly dried bread, not store-bought bread cubes. Cut your favorite type of bread into 1/2″ cubes and lay them out on a baking sheet or in a large bowl. Let them dry out on the counter for about 48 hours or toast them at a very low temperature in the oven (anywhere from 275° to 325°) until dehydrated. You can also assemble this whole dish the night before, then bake off on the big day.

Get the Classic Stuffing recipe.

food, 37 make-ahead thanksgiving recipes to help you get a jump on the big day

Southern Baked Mac & Cheese

This isn’t your average mac & cheese. Chef Millie Peartree puts an entire layer of pure cheese in between two layers of (already cheesy) macaroni. Game. Changer. Save your future self some time and prep this macaroni up to 5 days ahead too. Once it’s done baking, allow it to cool to room temperature and wrap the entire pan tightly in plastic wrap and a layer of heavy-duty foil. Reheat at 350° until heated through.

Get the Southern Baked Mac & Cheese recipe.

food, 37 make-ahead thanksgiving recipes to help you get a jump on the big day

Dry Brined Turkey

The one thing you can do to ensure a bird that stays juicy and doesn’t dry out in the oven: Brine it! To properly brine your turkey, you’ll want to do it for a minimum of 48 hours. This gives the salt plenty of time to soak into the meat and start tenderizing your bird. It does take a little bit of forethought, but you’ll end up with a turkey that’s juicy, flavorful, and has extra-crispy skin.

Get the Dry Brine Turkey recipe.

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Stuffed Mushrooms

To make these, we stuff baby bella mushrooms with garlicky, herby bread crumbs and plenty of cheese. Stuff them ahead of time and bake them off when you’re ready for an easy appetizer or simple side dish this Thanksgiving.

Get the Stuffed Mushrooms recipe.

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Harvest Chicken Casserole

This satisfying casserole has ALL of your fall favorites—Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, cranberries. Make it for a big crowd for Thanksgiving, then make it all fall long—it’s a make-ahead DREAM.

Get the Harvest Chicken Casserole recipe.

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Pecan Pie

Nothing screams Thanksgiving more than a classic pecan pie. The craggy, crunchy top gives way to that delicious, rich interior FULL to the brim of nuts. We provide instructions for a flaky, buttery pie crust, but this pie tastes nearly just as good with frozen pie crust; just make sure to thaw it before baking. You can also make it ahead of time!

Get the Pecan Pie recipe.

food, 37 make-ahead thanksgiving recipes to help you get a jump on the big day

Overnight French Toast Casserole

We’ve got three words for you that are going to change your Thanksgiving morning forever: Overnight. French. Toast. It’s comically delicious, thanks to a long overnight soak in a heavy cream-infused custard, which transforms the sliced challah into a pudding-y delight.

Get the Overnight French Toast Casserole recipe.

food, 37 make-ahead thanksgiving recipes to help you get a jump on the big day

Turkey Cheeseball

Of all things resembling a turkey, this cheese ball has to be the cutest. We used carrots, pecans, pretzels, and bell peppers to create the iconic look. Feel free to sub out for different ingredients for what you have on hand. Make the cheeseball itself ahead of time, then add decorations and dippers day-of.

Get the Turkey Cheese Ball recipe.

a pan filled with meat and vegetables

Green Bean Casserole

Save some time (and oven space) on the busy holiday by making this Thanksgiving side ahead of time. Simply assemble the casserole, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until you’re ready to bake! Whatever you do, DON’T forget to add the fried onions until after the first round of baking to ensure their signature crispy crunch.

Get the Green Bean Casserole recipe.

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Vegetarian Mushroom Gravy

Vegans and meat-eaters alike will be piling this flavor-packed gravy on top of all the Thanksgiving sides. This gravy comes together in minutes—and you won’t miss roasting a whole turkey or chicken to make it. The best part? You can make it ahead of time and store it in an airtight container in your refrigerator for up to five days.

Get the Vegetarian Mushroom Gravy recipe.

food, 37 make-ahead thanksgiving recipes to help you get a jump on the big day

Best Mashed Potatoes

This might be controversial, but we’re going for it—you CAN make mashed potatoes ahead of time. 😲 Simply reheat them with a little extra butter or milk before serving. If you don’t want to make the entire dish ahead, you can definitely peel your potatoes and store them in water the night before. Then pull them straight from the fridge and onto the stove.

Get the Perfect Mashed Potatoes recipe.

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Perfect Cornbread Dressing

Homemade cornbread is preferred for this dressing, and buttermilk cornbread is even more classic. BUT using boxed-mix or store-bought cornbread in this recipe is totally okay too, as is assembling this 24 hours before you’re ready to bake. As the oven preheats day-of, let it rest and come to room temperature on the counter. Bake until set in the middle and crispy on top.

Get the Cornbread Dressing recipe.

food, 37 make-ahead thanksgiving recipes to help you get a jump on the big day

Roasted Red Potatoes

The tricks to roasting these potatoes are cooking at a high temp, making sure they’re cut side down, and taking extra care to not overcrowd your pan. If this sounds like a lot for Thanksgiving day, do it ahead of time! Simply give’em a few minutes in the oven day-of to get them hot and crispy again.

Get the Roasted Red Potatoes recipe.

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Fresh Cranberry Relish

Unlike traditional cranberry sauce, this easy relish doesn’t require any cooking and can be made entirely in the food processor. Make it ahead of time for one less thing on your prep list this Thanksgiving.

Get the Fresh Cranberry Relish recipe.

food, 37 make-ahead thanksgiving recipes to help you get a jump on the big day

Turkey Roulade

Sometimes, roasting a whole turkey is just too much of an undertaking. A roulade, though? It’s surprisingly easy (we swear!), super-flavorful, and much easier to carve. Get it prepped ahead of time, then bake it off day-of.

Get the Turkey Roulade recipe.

food, 37 make-ahead thanksgiving recipes to help you get a jump on the big day

Best-Ever Turkey Brine

You should brine your Thanksgiving turkey at least overnight, but the longer it sits in the brine, the more irresistible flavor it gives. If you have the time, letting your turkey sit in the brine for up to 24 hours will give the most moisture and flavor to your main dish. We suggest brining a fresh or thawed turkey, but if you’re really in a pinch, you can thaw it while you brine. BUT be prepared for it to take even longer to defrost in the brine—up to two days!

Get the Best-Ever Turkey Brine recipe.

food, 37 make-ahead thanksgiving recipes to help you get a jump on the big day

Pumpkin Soup

Pumpkin soup is something that never gets old. It’s light and creamy, and is great for Thanksgiving because you can easily make it ahead of time. You can use various winter squashes to make this soup, but our top two favorite types are sugar pumpkins and kabocha squash, with calabaza and butternut squashes as runner-ups.

Get the Pumpkin Soup recipe.

food, 37 make-ahead thanksgiving recipes to help you get a jump on the big day

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

The sweet, squashy, and slightly earthy flavor that comes from a butternut squash makes it our go-to choice when it comes to whipping up a warming, fall soup. The added creaminess from the blended potatoes, plus the savory herbs, make this a more than welcome addition to your Thanksgiving menu, particularly because it can be made ahead of time.

Get the Roasted Butternut Squash Soup recipe.

food, 37 make-ahead thanksgiving recipes to help you get a jump on the big day

Cranberry Brie Bites

These are a fan favorite every fall. They always disappear within minutes, probably because the combo of salty, creamy brie, sweet-tart cranberry sauce, and crunchy pecans is PERFECT. They come together fast, thanks to store-bought crescent dough, and you can assemble them a day early, then bake off when your guests arrive.

Get the Cranberry Brie Bites recipe.

food, 37 make-ahead thanksgiving recipes to help you get a jump on the big day

Pumpkin Pie

Every Thanksgiving dessert table needs pumpkin pie. It’s basically the law. We’ve got tons of tips and tricks for how to bake your best one ever. First up, make the pie ahead of time, then just focus on the homemade whipped cream day-of.

Get the Pumpkin Pie recipe.

food, 37 make-ahead thanksgiving recipes to help you get a jump on the big day

Homemade Apple Cider

Warm, full of spice, and just sweet enough, homemade apple cider is the perfect drink for when you’re hosting guests—it will make your home smell like fall! Make it up to two weeks in advance, then serve it cold, hot, or spiked.

Get the Homemade Apple Cider recipe.

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Sweet Potato Casserole With Marshmallows

Most sweet potato casseroles have only marshmallows or pecans. Don’t even think about making this mistake. Topping with a pecan streusel and then marshmallows helps this Thanksgiving casserole stand out above all the rest. You can cook and mash the sweet potatoes and assemble the casserole (including the pecan topping) up to a day in advance. Keep the whole thing in the refrigerator until ready to top with mini marshmallows and bake.

Get the Sweet Potato Casserole With Marshmallows recipe.

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Corn Casserole

This classic Southern side is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. If you prefer, drained and rinsed canned corn can be used instead of frozen, and you could substitute more milk in for the heavy cream. You can also make it ahead of time—simply prep the casserole, wrap in storage wrap, and place in the fridge until you’re ready to bake the next day.

Get the Classic Corn Casserole recipe.

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Cranberry Brie Pull-Apart Bread

Pull-apart bread reaches a whole new level, thanks to brie and cranberry sauce. Using sauce you’ve already made ahead of time (good on ya!), prep this through step 3, then bake for just 20 minutes before guests arrive.

Get the Cranberry Brie Pull-Apart Bread recipe.

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Roasted Garlic-Parsnip Puree

Parsnips are sweet like carrots and creamy like potatoes, making them a perfect alternative for mashing with some roasted garlic. You might just like them more than mashed potatoes. To make ahead, roast the parsnips and garlic, then combine them with the rest of the ingredients to blend day-of.

Get the Roasted Garlic-Parsnip Puree recipe.

food, 37 make-ahead thanksgiving recipes to help you get a jump on the big day

Classic Biscuits

Like most baked goods, these biscuits are best fresh out of the oven, but they will keep in an airtight container for a couple of days. Re-toast them in the oven for a few minutes right before Thanksgiving dinner to help make them warm and soft again!

Get the Homemade Biscuits recipe.

food, 37 make-ahead thanksgiving recipes to help you get a jump on the big day

Sour Cream & Onion Dip

Letting the onions caramelize properly is key to the flavor of this dip. Going low and slow allows them to develop color while breaking down and becoming sweet and jammy. Stir them into this easy dip with some chives, and you have a simple appetizer that’s crazy addicting. It will stay good in the fridge for a few days, so it’s great to make ahead of time.

Get the Sour Cream & Onion Dip recipe.

food, 37 make-ahead thanksgiving recipes to help you get a jump on the big day

Egg & Hash Brown Casserole

Listen, we love a big breakfast featuring all the usual suspects—fluffy scrambled eggs, crispy hash browns, a plate of breakfast sausage, and a pile of sautéed spinach for good measure. Enter this casserole, which delivers all those classic breakfast foods in ONE single dish (means a lot less work and dishes before you get to cooking the big meal!). Prep it ahead of time, then throw it in the oven first thing on the big day.

Get the Egg & Hash Brown Casserole recipe.

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Sweet Potato Casserole

This recipe is for everyone who hates marshmallows atop their sweet potato casserole—in their place is a buttery, brown sugar pecan topping that’s still perfectly sweet and Thanksgiving-worthy. To make it ahead, simply prep the casserole up to step 2, then refrigerate until you’re ready to bake (we recommend no more than a few days ahead of time). When you’re ready to bake, then you can prepare and top with the crumbly topping!

Get the Sweet Potato Casserole recipe.

food, 37 make-ahead thanksgiving recipes to help you get a jump on the big day

Roasted Pear Salad

This simple yet satisfying fall salad packs a flavorful punch with slightly smoky seared pears, creamy blue cheese, and ultra-crunchy candied pumpkin seeds. Tied together by a sweet-sour honey vinaigrette, it’s the perfect holiday side salad. Want to prep ahead of time? The dressing and candied seeds can be made up to 1 week in advance.

Get the Roasted Pear Salad recipe.

a piece of chocolate cake on a plate

Turkey Cake

Have you ever seen a cake so adorable? Impress everyone from your in-laws to kids with this super-easy, super-cute Thanksgiving dessert! Make it the day before, then put it out for decoration so it can welcome in your guests as they arrive. Use your favorite cake recipe or stick with boxed to keep it simple like we did.

Get the Turkey Cake recipe.

food, 37 make-ahead thanksgiving recipes to help you get a jump on the big day

Pumpkin Cheese Ball

Part retro, part cult classic, it’s hard to go wrong with a cheese ball. This festive pumpkin rendition may not contain any actual pumpkin, but it’s full of fresh herbs, minced jalapeño, and of course, plenty of cheese. Prep it (and all the veggies) ahead of time so you can put it out just as Thanksgiving guests are starting to arrive.

Get the Pumpkin Cheese Ball recipe.

food, 37 make-ahead thanksgiving recipes to help you get a jump on the big day

Classic Cornbread

Forget Jiffy! This cornbread comes together super-fast, and it’s wayyy better than the boxed stuff and almost as easy. Make it ahead of time, then wrap it in foil or plastic wrap and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week. Give it a little toast before serving, and you’ll be good to go.

Get the Classic Cornbread recipe.

food, 37 make-ahead thanksgiving recipes to help you get a jump on the big day

Roasted Butternut Squash

Butternut squash is a fall (and Thanksgiving!) staple, but it can take a while to get it peeled and cut (not to mention how long it takes to roast). Get it prepped in the days before Thanksgiving, then roast it day-of. (Hot tip: Get your oven SUPER-hot for best results.)

Get the Roasted Butternut Squash recipe.

food, 37 make-ahead thanksgiving recipes to help you get a jump on the big day

Apple Pie

Every fall, we turn to this recipe because we think it’s, well, pretty perfect. We like to fill our homemade flaky, buttery, lattice crust with a combination of apples for an irresistibly sweet-tart filling. We’re being 100% serious when we say this is the BEST apple pie recipe out there. Make it ahead of time so the filling can set in order to achieve perfect slices. If you prefer it warm, simply put it in the oven a few minutes before you’d like to serve dessert.

Get the Apple Pie recipe.

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Gravy Without Drippings

Drippings are obviously ideal, but they aren’t totally necessary to make a really good gravy. Quick and easy, this is the perfect way to make gravy ahead of time, before you’ve cooked the turkey or roast chicken.

Get the Gravy Without Drippings recipe.

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