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Want to get a head start on the biggest cooking holiday of the year? Don’t miss this list of 35 Thanksgiving Recipes that Can Be Made Ahead including turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, stuffing / dressing, and desserts. Some of these can even be made weeks ahead! Stress less, enjoy the holiday more.

a grid of photos of food for thanksgiving

Why I love a Make-Ahead Thanksgiving

For the past few years, I’ve made the Thanksgiving dinner almost entirely ahead. On the actual holiday, the only work I like to do is set the table and slide everything in the oven. Both my mom and my grandma always roasted the turkey a day ahead and did much of the work early in the week, so a make-ahead Thanksgiving has always made sense to me.

And really, the Thanksgiving meal is a natural one to prep ahead. Many of the dishes can be made as casseroles that hold in the fridge. And it’s one of those holidays where you should really get to enjoy the meal if you’re the one cooking it!

Appetizer Recipes

Muhammara (Roasted Red Pepper Dip) (one week ahead; refrigerate)

Muhammara (Roasted Red Pepper Dip) is a savory, smoky vegetable-based dip. With roasted red peppers, toasted walnuts, garlic, and spices, it’s perfect for serving everyone at your table – naturally vegan and gluten-free

an overhead view of red pepper dip in a white bowl, on a plate with cucumbers, red peppers, carrots and breadsticks.

Herb and Cheese Puffs (Gougères) (4 months ahead; freeze)

Herb and Cheese Puffs (Gougeres) are bite-sized breads that are light as a cloud and served warm from the oven. Surprisingly quick to mix up, these can be baked right away or frozen and baked from the freezer. 

cheese puffs on a parchment lined sheet pan

Bacon-Wrapped Dates with Brie and Balsamic Honey (2 days ahead; refrigerate)

Bacon-wrapped dates are just about the coziest bites of food you’ll ever find. The bacon is crisp and savory, the dates are sweet and warm. This version has creamy brie tucked inside and is drizzled with balsamic-infused honey.

overhead view of bacon wrapped dates on a parchment lined sheet pan

Herb and Cheese Stuffed Sweet Peppers (2 days ahead; refrigerate)

With a 4-ingredient herb and cheese mix, these Stuffed Sweet Peppers are a great appetizer for entertaining. Assemble them ahead and just slide them in the oven right before guests arrive for a warm, crowd-pleasing appetizer.

cheese stuffed sweet pepper halves on a white plate with dipping sauce

Cheese Pinwheels with Crispy Prosciutto (3 months; freeze)

Cheese Pinwheels with Crispy Prosciutto make a fun snack or appetizer. They can be made ahead and served at room temperature for an elevated snack that lets the flavors of savory Grana Padano cheese and rich Prosciutto di Parma shine.

cheese pinwheels in a blue towel lined basket

Turkey Recipes

How to Roast a Turkey Ahead (1 day; refrigerate)

Don’t want to worry about roasting a whole turkey on the holiday? Whole turkey or turkey breast can be roasted and carved ahead and reheats beautifully with these easy instructions. No one will ever know you didn’t cook it right before serving! 

a sliced turkey in a white rectangular baking dish

Gravy Recipes

Turkey Gravy with White Wine and Sage (3 days; refrigerate)

Turkey gravy made with fresh sage and white wine is a classic recipe with an upgrade. The result is smooth, rich, and has a subtle herb flavor. 

gravy in a white gravy boat on a white table

Make Ahead Turkey Gravy (3 days; refrigerate)

Don’t want to mess with making gravy right before your holiday meal? Try Make-Ahead Turkey Gravy. You can make the gravy up to 3 days ahead, using flavorful homemade turkey stock. 

pouring gravy from a gravy boat onto sliced turkey on a white plate

Side Dish Recipes

Homemade Green Bean Casserole with Bacon (3 days; refrigerate)

Homemade green bean casserole uses fresh green beans and mushrooms, a simple creamy sauce, and crispy bacon. This version includes French’s Crispy Fried Onions on top so it still has all the crunchy vibes of the classic. Assemble and refrigerate up to 3 days ahead.

overhead view of green bean casserole in a rectangular white baking dish on a white table

Focaccia and Bacon Stuffing (2 days; refrigerate)

Focaccia and Bacon Stuffing is a unique twist on a classic. The olive oil in Italian focaccia bread makes a stuffing / dressing with rich flavor while crispy bacon adds richness. 

overhead view of focaccia stuffing in a white rectangular baking dish

Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes (3 days; refrigerate)

Make-ahead mashed potatoes are super smooth and creamy with a golden crisp parmesan crust on top. The dish can prepped up to three days ahead to save time (and dishes!) on the day of serving.

overhead view of baked mashed potatoes in a white rectangular baking dish on a wooden cutting board

Creamy Butternut Squash and Spinach Casserole (3 days; refrigerate)

Creamy Butternut Squash and Spinach Casserole has just enough cream sauce between its layers to feel rich and festive. It’s a colorful vegetarian and gluten-free side dish that is perfect for the holidays.

removing a slice of butternut squash casserole from a white oval baking dish

Roasted Cranberries from Peel with Zeal (2 weeks; refrigerate)

This roasted cranberries recipe is a simple, sophisticated side dish. It is perfect for your holiday table but easy enough for every day. Flavored with bourbon and orange, this recipe is paleo, gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan.

an overhead view of roasted cranberries in a white bowl on a wooden table

Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes (1 day; refrigerate)

Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes with Marshmallows are a twist on the classic sweet potato casserole. It’s an elegant (yet still easy) twist on the classic holiday dish. 

baked sweet potato halves, topped with mini marshmallows and pecans, on a parchment lined sheet pan

The Ultimate 6-Cheese Macaroni and Cheese from State of Dinner (1 day; refrigerate)

This six-cheese macaroni and cheese recipe is truly the ultimate! There are 3 kinds of cheese in the sauce and 3 more layered between the noodles. If you are looking for a creamy, cheesy, flavorful macaroni and cheese you have found it!

overhead view of baked macaroni and cheese in a white rectangular baking dish

Balsamic Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Pecans (1 day; refrigerate)

We’ve packed a whole bunch of savory, sweet and tart flavors in this Balsamic Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, Dried Cranberries and Pecans that has the power to convert even non-brussels-sprouts-lovers.

brussels sprouts, bacon and pecans in a cast iron skillet

Overnight Sausage and Sage Stuffing (1 day; refrigerate)

Thanksgiving isn’t complete without Overnight Sausage and Sage Stuffing. Butter-crisped bread, tender vegetables, sausage, and sage make this the holiday dish that everyone will be reaching for. 

overhead view of sausage stuffing in a white rectangular baking dish

French Potatoes au Gratin (Dauphinoise) (1 day; refrigerate)

Does any one ever turn down creamy, cheesy potatoes? And this version of the French classic has a little twist. Underneath those tender, thin-sliced potatoes is a layer of garlicky, creamed kale. It is all assembled and baked in one pan and is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. 

overhead view of au gratin potatoes in a spiral in a cast iron skillet

Cranberry Sauce with Orange and Ginger (2 weeks; refrigerate)

With its tangy-sweet flavor and bright red color, Cranberry Sauce is a must-have for any holiday meal. With only four ingredients, this recipe is quick, easy, and can be made ahead.

overhead view of cranberry sauce in a grey bowl

Instant Pot Mashed Potatoes (3 days; refrigerate)

Instant Pot Mashed Potatoes are made by steaming (not boiling), resulting in potatoes that are fork-tender, never water-logged, and perfect for mashing. 

overhead view of mashed potatoes with melted butter in a grey bowl

Sweet Potato Stacks with Butter and Thyme (3 days; refrigerate)

Sweet Potato Stacks with Butter and Thyme require just a few ingredients and a muffin tin. The individual stacks make serving this holiday side dish a breeze at your Thanksgiving or Christmas celebration.

stacks of sliced sweet potatoes on a grey board

Salad Recipes

Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Apple Cider Vinaigrette (1 day; refrigerate)

Dressed in a simple apple cider vinaigrette, this sweet butternut squash salad is rich with flavor and perfect on it’s own or as an accompaniment to a hearty main course. Filled with vibrant leafy greens and crunchy sweet and tart textures, this salad is as easy as it is delicious! 

overhead view of butternut squash salad in a white bowl

Shredded Brussels Sprouts Salad with Poppyseed Dressing (1 day; refrigerate)

Fresh shredded Brussels sprouts pair with sweet, tangy poppyseed dressing in this salad that is great for fall and winter gatherings and can be entirely prepped ahead. Finish the salad with pears, almonds, and parmesan cheese.

overhead view of brussels sprouts salad in a white bowl

Bread Recipes

1-Hour Light and Buttery Dinner Rolls (3 months; freeze)

As the title promises, light and fluffy dinner rolls are a one bowl, one hour recipe that is simple enough for any home cook. Brush melted butter over the rolls before and after baking for a golden color and buttery flavor.

pulling a roll out of a white baking dish full of rolls

Garlic Butter and Parmesan Dinner Rolls (3 months; freeze)

Ready in just about an hour, Garlic Butter and Parmesan Dinner Rolls are wrapped in buttery garlic flavor and dusted with parmesan cheese. They have golden crusts, soft centers, and don’t take long to make.

overhead view of garlic dinner rolls in a round pan on a grey countertop

1 Hour Light and Buttery Crescent Rolls (3 months; freeze)

These quick, homemade crescent rolls are an easy (and buttery) addition to dinner or your next holiday party.  Make them at home instead of popping them out of a can and you will be surprised how much more delicious they are.

crescent rolls in a basket lined with a brown towel

Dessert Recipes

Gluten Free Gingerbread Trifle from Scratch Fast (1 day; refrigerate)

This stunning gingerbread trifle features spiced gingerbread cake, homemade vanilla pudding, chopped English toffee and whipped cream. It’s the ultimate dessert for a special occasion or the holidays, and it can be completely made ahead.

gingerbread trifle in a small glass

Slow Cooker Pumpkin Cheesecake (1 day; refrigerate)

Whether you’re making Pumpkin Cheesecake for Thanksgiving or another fall gathering, try baking it in the slow cooker for a reliable, fail-proof method. The slow cooker’s low temps minimize cracks and help to create a super smooth, creamy filling.

overhead view of slow cooker cheesecake on a wooden cutting board

Easy Apple Crumble (1 day; refrigerate)

Filled with tender, caramelized apples and topped with a sweet oat topping, this rustic, easy Irish Apple Crumble is always a crowd-pleaser. Even better topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream!

apple crumble, topped with vanilla ice cream, in a white bowl with a spoon

Pecan Tarts from Southern Bytes (1 day; refrigerate)

Pecan Tarts (or pecan tartlets as they are often called) are a true holiday treat. Take your favorite pecan pie – brown sugar, butter, and pecans, in a cream cheese and butter pastry crust – then shrink it. They are perfect, bite-size delicious treats.

overhead view of pecan tarts on a white plate

Vanilla Cake Roll with Nutella Cream (1 day; refrigerate)

If you’re looking for a dessert that says celebration, a Vanilla Cake Roll with Nutella Cream is it. This dessert is as delicious and indulgent as it is beautiful. 

overhead view of vanilla cake roll on a white marble cutting board

No Bake Pumpkin Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust (1 day; refrigerate)

Your search for an easy pumpkin dessert is over. Thick, creamy cheesecake gets a pumpkin spice makeover with this No-Bake Pumpkin Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust recipe.

pumpkin cheesecake on a white plate

Pumpkin Pie (4 days; refrigerate)

Classic pumpkin pie can (and should!) always be made a day ahead. Who wants to mess with pie crust on the big day? The flavors will develop and the texture will be spot-on. This one is super creamy.

a slice of pumpkin pie topped with whipped cream on a white plate

Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars (2 days; refrigerate)

If you like to have a bite-sized dessert and one that you can slice ahead, try these pumpkin cheesecake bars with a graham cracker crust. Just add whipped cream right before serving.

pumpkin cheesecake bars on a white platter

Cocktail Recipes

Apple Cider Punch with Bourbon (3 days; refrigerate)

This festive apple cider punch comes together with delicious apple cider, ginger beer, and bourbon and can be made in batches to serve to a crowd.

apple cider punch in small mason jars on a wooden table

Sweet and Creamy Pumpkin Spice Martini from Mitten Girl (3 days; refrigerate)

Pumpkin spice latte meets vodka martini in this easy and delicious drink. With all the flavors of fall – like pumpkin pie and cozy spices – this Pumpkin Spice Martini makes a fantastic Thanksgiving cocktail.

sprinkling nutmeg over martini on a grey countertop


If you roast your turkey ahead, you can make stock at any time using the bones. It’s super simple, and you’ll love using the stock to make cozy soups all winter long. 

homemade turkey stock in mason jars on a sheet pan

Favorite Tools for Thanksgiving Recipes

You can find my timeline for a make-ahead Thanksgiving here.

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About Jess Smith

Jess is the recipe creator and photographer at She spent nearly a decade as the Chief Recipe Developer for the award-winning meal planning app Cook Smarts. Her colorful, healthyish recipes have been featured in popular online publications including Parade, Hallmark, and HuffPost.

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