Make Ahead Thanksgiving — Sides and desserts will save time, oven space and sanity


Thanksgiving morning can be quite the frenzy in the kitchen, and if you want to keep your stove (both the top and the oven) from having a coronary, then having a few of your favorite side dishes and desserts made in the days leading up to your feast can help you relax a little on the big day.

Here are our favorite Make Ahead Thanksgiving Dishes and a few tips:

Mashed Potatoes — Make your favorite “plain” mashed potatoes recipe, meaning mash the potatoes and just add the milk and butter. Put the simple mashed potatoes in a freezer baggie and freeze them. The morning of the feast, thaw them in a warm bowl of water and mix in whatever other ingredients you’d like, such as caramelized onions or green onions, gruyere cheese or blue cheese, plus salt and pepper. Reheat and serve as if you’d spent 2 hours making them that morning. Pies — The crust, the filling, or the complete pie can all be made ahead and frozen. If you prefer your pies coming hot out of the oven, then make the filling or pie crust ahead of time so that you can assemble a “5-minute pie” that you can bake while you feast. Make whole chilled pies or cheesecakes ahead of time and let them thaw overnight in the fridge or on the counter so you can serve them perfectly chilled.

Cranberry Sauce
— Making cranberry sauce from scratch is so delicious, as you can add fun flavors like orange and apricot to the sauce. But it also is labor intensive, as you have to watch it closely to be sure it cooks and gels properly. Making it ahead give you one less dish to stress about, plus having it in the fridge overnight allows the flavors in the sauce to mix, mingle and merry.

Sweet Potato Casserole — Steam-bake your sweet potatoes the day before your feast and you’ll save yourself a dish and an hour in the oven. Once they are cooked, you can whip up your casserole in minutes and warm it in the oven that morning.

Bread — Homemade breads are labor intensive, but the most delicious. Make them the day before and keep them wrapped up in a towel on the counter. Pop them in the oven just minutes before your feast and you’ve got “fresh baked bread” to serve your guests.

Now that you’ve got your freezer full of goodies to just thaw and reheat, you might just have enough time to put your feet up on Thanksgiving morning to watch the parade. Or a few extra minutes to freshen up and put on make-up before you feast. Happy Thanksgiving y’all!

Erin Chase is the founder of $5 and author of The $5 Dinner Mom’s One-Dish Dinners Cookbook.


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  1. Allegra.Ringo

    2 years ago

    Great advice. Another plus of make-ahead food: I find that a lot of dishes taste better the day(s) after they’re made. I definitely think this is true of most pastries, and also baked savory dishes like casseroles, or mac and cheese. Pastries also seem to hold together much better after they’ve had a day to calm down.

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