50+ Make-Ahead Thanksgiving Recipes For The Perfectly Prepared Host
Oh, the Thanksgiving paradox: a house filled with loved ones who have traveled from near and far to see you, yet your quality time is spent with the stove. You try to seem a calm, cheery hostess, but in truth, you're frazzled. Your mind races with forgotten ingredients, you overmix the mashed potatoes, and the gravy burns. We're here to break the cycle. This year, we've designed every dish on our menu to be made ahead so all you have to do on the big day is reheat and assemble. We have all the classic dishes like Old School Green Bean Casserole and Candied Sweet Potatoes on deck for easy to prepare beforehand dishes. Don’t worry: We didn’t forget about the grand finale—a gorgeous dessert—we’ve got an all-star lineup of seasonal treats. Revel in good company and delicious dishes this holiday season. A festive, fuss-free Thanksgiving? Now that's something to be thankful for.
Homemade Green Bean Casserole with Crispy Leeks
Fried leeks give this classic green bean casserole the most elegant topping. Make the casserole the day before Thanksgiving then fry the leeks the day of.
Classic Cornbread Dressing
Recipe: Classic Cornbread Dressing
For all the go-getters and holiday planners, this heavenly cornbread dressing can be prepared a month ahead of time and stored in the freezer until the holidays.
Hasselback Sweet Potato Casserole
This elegant hasselback technique has completely transformed the traditional sweet potato casserole. Make this dish the day before turkey day.
Savory Sweet Potato Casserole
Recipe: Savory Sweet Potato Casserole
Toasted pecans, cheese, and breadcrumbs gives this Sweet Potato Casserole some extra savory nodes.
Savory Corn Pudding
Recipe: Savory Corn Pudding
This fluffy and creamy corn pudding has won over our hearts and will win over yours too! This dish can chill up to two days then be reheated for the big feast.
Gingerbread Cheesecake with Lemon-Ginger Glaze
Impress your guests by serving this showstopping dessert. Create this cake two days in advance to allow enough time for its required chill time.
Fudgy Pecan Bourbon Balls
Recipe: Fudgy Pecan Bourbon Balls
Form these decadent treats the week of Thanksgiving and store them in your fridge until they’re ready to be served.
Corn Pudding Casserole
Recipe: Corn Pudding Casserole
We cut some corners with this cheesy corn pudding by substituting frozen corn for fresh corn. Prepare this crowd-pleaser a day ahead of time.
Classic Cranberry Salad
Recipe: Classic Cranberry Salad
This fruity dish requires a 24-hour chill time, so you have an excuse to go ahead and get started.
Classic Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes
These buttermilk potatoes can be prepared ahead of time and reheat oh-so beautifully. We like to add a sliver of butter on top as the finishing touch.
Recipe: Buttermilk-Pecan Pralines
These sugary, rich treats are so heavenly and can be stored in an airtight tin for up to a week.
Old-School Green Bean Casserole
Recipe: Old-School Green Bean Casserole
You can mix up this classic casserole dish up to 3 days in advance—just slide it in the oven and add toppings the day of.
Cheesy Mashed Potato Casserole
Recipe: Cheesy Potato Casserole
This delicate and rich casserole is so creamy that you wouldn’t believe us if we told you we prepared this ahead of time.
Best-Ever Macaroni and Cheese
Recipe: Best-Ever Macaroni and Cheese
It's true what they say, macaroni and cheese tastes even better the next day. Store this best-ever dish in the refrigerator the day before the feast then let it sit out for 30 minutes before sliding it in the oven.
Apple Stack Cake
Recipe: Apple Stack Cake
This award-worthy apple delight requires two to three days of chill time to solidify.
Salted Butter-Pecan Shortbread Cookies
Create this cookie dough in advance. You can stick it in the fridge for up to two days before baking.
Recipe: Fruitcake Bark
Holiday bark is the perfect make-ahead treat to set out on the dessert table.
Classic Candied Yams
Recipe: Classic Candied Yams
You can assemble this holiday classic three days in advance.
Roasted Broccoli Macaroni and Cheese
Make your way through the first half of this recipe a day in advance. Just cover and refrigerate. Once you're ready to complete, just bring it to room temperature and keep on cooking.
Crème Brûlée Cheesecake
Recipe: Crème Brûlée Cheesecake
Let this tangy and sweet cheesecake chill overnight then add the final brûlée touch when dessert time comes around.
Cherry-Spice Cake Trifle
Recipe: Cherry-Spice Cake Trifle
Take out the Holiday Spice Cake layers to thaw then use it to create this one-of-a-kind holiday trifle.
Recipe: Pumpkin-Espresso Tiramisù
Forget the pies this Thanksgiving, make-ahead Tiramisu is the smarter way to go.
Slow-Cooker Sweet Potatoes with Bacon
Wake up on Thanksgiving morning and put this sweet potato mixture into your slow cooker. It'll be ready to serve by dinnertime.
Turkey Cheese Ball
Make-Ahead Turkey Gravy
Herby-Pecan Cornbread Dressing
Recipe: Herby-Pecan Cornbread Dressing
This earthy version of classic cornbread dressing included toasted pecans for a bit of fall brunch. You can prepare the cornbread up to three days in advance, and store it, covered at room temperature.
Caramel-Pecan-Pumpkin Bread Puddings
Swap out your usual parade of pies for a seasonal bread pudding recipe. This decadent dessert can be made in a 13x9 dish or individual ramekins and can be prepped up to a day in advance.
Wild Rice-and-Greens Casserole
Recipe: Wild Rice-and-Greens Casserole
Add this greens casserole to your repertoire of Thanksgiving side dishes this year. We chose kale, but you can use whatever greens are your favorite. To make this new addition ahead of time, cover and chill up to three days before baking.
Cheddar Cheese Straws
Recipe: Cheddar Cheese Straws
It wouldn’t be a holiday in the South without a snack bowl full of homemade cheese straws. This old-school recipe can be stored in an airtight container for up to a week before Thanksgiving.
Overnight Yeast Rolls
Recipe: Overnight Yeast Rolls
Trust us when we say these rolls are just as easy as buying the frozen ones. With just about 20 minutes of hands-on time and seven ingredients, you should definitely give homemade rolls a shot this Thanksgiving. Prepare the dough a day ahead of Thanksgiving and let it chill overnight.
Roasted Herb Turkey and Gravy
Recipe: Roasted Herb Turkey and Gravy
Season the turkey and let it chill for up to one day before baking for a classic Thanksgiving feast. For the best gravy, we added onions, carrots, and celery to the roasting pan.
Recipe: Pumpkin-Chocolate Brownies
With pumpkin, pecan, and apple pies galore, Thanksgiving isn’t always the holiday for chocolate lovers. These beautiful swirled brownies will satisfy them and more. Let your freshly baked brownies chill, uncovered, overnight. For perfect slices, cut the brownies while they’re still cold and serve at room temperature.
Mashed Potato Casserole
Recipe: Mashed Potato Casserole
If your family has a debate each Thanksgiving about whether buttery crackers or fried onions are the best casserole topper, leave them all speechless with this creamy potato casserole that’s topped with both. The potatoes can be made up to two days ahead and stored in the refrigerator. When you’re ready to serve, remove the pan from the refrigerator while the oven preheats. Prepare the breadcrumb topping, then sprinkle it on top of the casserole and bake it in the oven as directed.
Slow-Cooker Cornbread Dressing
Recipe: Slow-Cooker Cornbread Dressing
Would you believe this Thanksgiving staple can be made in your slow cooker? Not only does this recipe leave your more room in the oven for other dishes, but it can also be made as far in advance as you need. Either make it a day ahead and simply reheat it in the slow cooker or make it a few weeks in advance, freeze it, and then reheat it in the slow cooker.
Blue Cheese-and-Pecan Stuffed Cherry Peppers
These pretty one-bite delights won’t spoil anyone’s appetite before the big Thanksgiving feast. Not only do they make for presentation that wows, but they are so easy to put together. You’ll be amazed at how much flavor and texture are packed into these little gems!
Make-Ahead Sweet Potato Casserole
Cook this Thanksgiving mainstay a day or three ahead of time and just warm it up before the meal. Instead of a sticky-sweet marshmallow topping, we made our own creation with brown sugar, butter, spices, and rolled oats for just the right hint of sugar.
Recipe: Butterscotch-Spice Trifle
Instead of cutting the homemade spice cake layers into cubes, we left them as they are for a more modern trifle look. You can assemble the entire trifle up to a day in advance and top with whipped cream and ground cinnamon before you serve it.
Hurry-Up Homemade Crescent Rolls
Recipe: Hurry-Up Homemade Crescent Rolls
Instead of hitting up the freezer aisle, you can make these fluffy crescent rolls way ahead of time (we’re talking up to two months in the freezer!). A breadbasket full of homemade rolls is just the personal touch your Thanksgiving table is missing.
Root Vegetable Gratin
Smoked Turkey Breast
Recipe: Smoked Turkey Breast
This flavorful turkey recipe requires the turkey to rest in a brine for at least five and up to 12 hours, so you basically have to make it ahead. If you’ve only depended on your oven when it comes to the Thanksgiving turkey, it’s time to turn to the smoker.
Sweet Potato and Chorizo Sausage Bites
We put a fall twist on your old-school sausage ball recipe, and you’re going to love it. Chorizo adds a bit of spice, and mashed roasted sweet potato and a touch of cinnamon add just the right about of fall flavor. You can freeze these in advance and bake straight from frozen!
Pumpkin Layer Cake with Caramel-Cream Cheese Frosting
If your family is full of pumpkin spice lovers, this layer cake by New Orleans cookbook author and food blogger Joy Wilson is a must-bake. The spiced cake layers are delicious alone, but when paired with cream cheese frosting that’s swirled with ribbons of homemade caramel, this cake becomes something stunning. Make the cake layers up to three days in advance and store them in the refrigerator before decorating.
Candied Yams with Rosemary and Orange Zest
The sweet potato casserole might get all the attention at Thanksgiving, but we’re making the case for old-fashioned candied yams. Fresh rosemary and citrus brighten up this dish, which you can assemble up to three days ahead of time.
Ultimate Make-Ahead Gravy
Recipe: Ultimate Make-Ahead Gravy
This one-pot, 30-minute recipe is the absolute easiest way to get a helping of gravy on the table this Thanksgiving. It can be made and chilled up to three days in advance and heated up just before the meal.
Aunt Grace's Best Cornbread Dressing
Travel editor Valerie Luesse’s Aunt Grace knew a thing or two about Thanksgiving dressing, as this “silky smooth and ultra-moist” recipe proves. If you want to make it ahead, she has her own method: wo days ahead: Prepare breads and chop veggies. One day ahead: Mix all ingredients except eggs and refrigerate. Thanksgiving Day: Bring dressing mixture to room temperature, add eggs, and bake.
Broccoli Cheese Casserole
Recipe: Broccoli Cheese Casserole
Every Southerner needs a trusty broccoli cheese casserole in the recipe repertoire. This rich side dish is a surefire way to get the kids to eat their veggies.
Recipe: Cheese Dreams
If their name is any indication, these bites are an absolute delight. Assemble them the day before and refrigerate or freeze them for up to three weeks before Thanksgiving. Decadent but not too hearty that they’ll ruin anyone’s appetite before the main event, these are the perfect Thanksgiving appetizer.
Layered Pumpkin Cheesecake
Recipe: Layered Pumpkin Cheesecake
If you’ve been asked to bring dessert to Thanksgiving and you’re unsure what to make, surprise everyone with this two-in-one recipe where pumpkin pie and cheesecake meet. Make it the night before, chill in the refrigerator, and top with fresh whipped cream when you’re ready to serve.
Slow-Cooker Collard Greens with Ham Hocks
No one will complain to see old-fashioned collard greens among the heavy casserole lineup at Thanksgiving. You can make this classic side dish a week or two ahead of Thanksgiving and freeze in air-tight bags or a day or two in advance and refrigerate in the slow cooker insert (if you have room!). Let the insert stand at room temp for 30 minutes, then return to the slow cooker to reheat. A tip from the Test Kitchen: Do not reheat the cold insert straight from the fridge or it will crack.
Twice Baked Potato Casserole
Recipe: Twice Baked Potato Casserole
Instead of serving individual baked potatoes, serve up the same flavor your family loves in portable, big-batch casserole form. Prepare it one day in advance and chill the unbaked dish, covered, in the refrigerator. Let the dish come to room temperature before popping it in the oven.
Make-Ahead Yeast Rolls
Recipe: Make-Ahead Yeast Rolls
This recipe appeared on the pages of Southern Living all the way back in November 1995, and 25 years later, it’s still good as gold. You can make the dough ahead of time, refrigerate it, and let it rise at room temperature until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours. Or you can make the rolls, let them cool, and freeze them in Ziploc freezer bags. However they arrive at your table, these tender, buttery rolls will be gone in no time.
Southwestern-Style Spoonbread Dressing
We looked back in the archives to November 1994 and found this gem of a casserole. Prepare the recipe according to the directions one day (omitting the garnishes), let it cool to room temperature, then store it, covered, in the refrigerator. Reheat before serving and top with red bell pepper strips and celery leaves.
Sweet Potato Sheet Cake
Recipe: Sweet Potato Sheet Cake
There’s nothing better than a soft sheet cake when you need to feed dessert to a crowd. With sweet potatoes, pecans, brown sugar, apple pie spice, and even bacon, this one has all the fall flavor you crave in a Thanksgiving dessert. No one will believe a dessert with this much flavor started with a box of cake mix (and you don’t have to tell them). Make it the day before and keep it in the fridge till you’re ready to serve!