22 Beginner Recipes for First-Time Thanksgiving Cooks

Skillet Mac and Cheese with Breadcrumbs
Photo: Hector Manuel Sanchez

So it's your first time hosting the family Thanksgiving, and you're not sure where to start. Thankfully, there are a million and one resources out there offering easy Thanksgiving recipes for beginners. We've rounded up our own collection of recipes that are beginner friendly and welcome additions the Thanksgiving spread. There are even a few make-ahead recipes and slow-cooker recipes so that you can keep your oven free for the other important dishes during the day. Of course we had to include easy Thanksgiving turkey recipes for beginners so that you can worry less about making sure the star bird turns out okay and worry more about making sure your guests don't spoil themselves with crackers and cheese ball servings before your delicious meal is even ready. We've included a Thanksgiving punch, so that your guests will stay crowded around the bar cart instead of in your kitchen. Consider this your guidebook to the easiest – and most delicious – Thanksgiving meal you can prepare. We start out with the drinks and appetizers before offering a few options for the main dish (turkey and ham, or both, if you're brave), then we have a lineup of irresistible sides ready for your choosing and finish with the crowning jewels: Thanksgiving desserts.

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Thanksgiving Punch with Rum

Thanksgiving Punch
Photo: Alison Gootee; Styling: Suzonne Stirling

Recipe: Thanksgiving Punch with Rum

Keep everyone out of the kitchen with a big pitcher of this punch sitting in the living room. This punch has just about every holiday flavor you can imagine mixed into one delicious concoction.

02 of 22

Hot Toddy

Hot Toddy
Micah A. Leal

Recipe: Hot Toddy

If it's a cold Thanksgiving, warm up your guests with everyone's favorite spiced drink. You can multiply the ingredients in this recipe to accommodate a larger crowd or set up a self-serve station where guests can have fun mixing their own drinks.

03 of 22

Fire Crackers

Fire Crackers

Recipe: Fire Crackers

This recipe takes 7 ingredients and 15 minutes to make. Pop them in the oven when your first guest arrives and have them out piping hot in no time.

04 of 22

Warm Cheese-and-Spicy Pecan Dip

Warm Cheese-and-Spicy Pecan Dip
Victor Protasio; Prop Styling: Mindi Shapiro Levine; Food Styling: Torie Cox

Recipe: Warm Cheese-and-Spicy Pecan Dip

A warm cheese dip is always a good appetizer idea. Serve this gooey dip with baguette slices and your favorite crackers.

05 of 22

Acorn Squash Soup

Acorn Squash Soup
Photographer Victor Protasio, Food Stylist Victor Protasio, Prop Stylist Claire Spollen

Recipe: Acorn Squash Soup

If you have just a few sides waiting to cool, treat your guests to a seasonal soup before the feast begins. The sprinkle of crispy pancetta on the top is the perfect finish touch for this Thanksgiving starter.

06 of 22

Simple Roasted Turkey

Simple Roasted Turkey
Antonis Achilleos; Prop Styling: Audrey Davis; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall

Recipe: Simple Roasted Turkey

If you want to make a whole turkey on Thanksgiving, this simple roasted turkey recipe is as easy as they come. In just three hours, it will be on the table and ready for carving. Seasoned hosts know that the secret to a great roast is all in that seasoning prep work. Be sure to reserve the drippings for your gravy recipe.

07 of 22

Slow Cooker Turkey Breast

50 Best Thanksgiving Smoked Turkey Breast
Jody Horton

Recipe: Slow Cooker Turkey Breast

Hot Tip: A slow cooker is your best friend when it comes to preparing your first Thanksgiving feast. We know 5 hours of cook time can appear daunting but trust us that the slow cooker is truly doing all the work for you. While your turkey is roasting and sealing all those delicious flavors, you can focus on the real stars of the show like the green bean and sweet potato casseroles.

08 of 22

Old-Fashioned Turkey Gravy

Turkey Gravy
Greg Dupree

Recipe: Old-Fashioned Turkey Gravy

Gravy always deserves a spot in the Thanksgiving line-up and this Southern favorite can be paired with just about any dish.

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Instant Pot Cranberry Sauce

Instant Pot Cranberry Sauce
Photo: Greg Dupree

Recipe: Instant Pot Cranberry Sauce

You may have been taught to prepare the cranberry sauce in a slow cooker, but we're here to tell you that an Instant Pot, or any programmable multi-cooker, is the real hero of Thanksgiving. Have this sauce cooked in an hour and let it chill for two before serving on your table spread.

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Glazed Ham with Pineapple Chutney

Glazed Ham with Pineapple Chutney
Greg Dupree; Prop Styling: Audrey Davis; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall

Recipe: Glazed Ham with Pineapple Chutney

If you didn't grow up with a turkey on Thanksgiving, and prefer ham instead, you're sure to impress your guests with this delicious, bourbon-glazed ham. The best part is you can use the leftover Pineapple Chutney as a sauce for virtually any protein.

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Ham-and-Cheese Sliders

Ham-and-Cheese Sliders
Photography and Styling: Karen Rankin

Recipe: Ham-and-Cheese Sliders

You could pass up a turkey all together this year, and your guests wouldn't even miss it with these ham-and-cheese sliders on deck. They're gooey, salty, and simply irresistible. The ideal recipe for a first-time Thanksgiving cook.

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Yeast Rolls

Thanksgiving Yeast Rolls
Iain Bagwell

Recipe: Yeast Rolls

You can prep these yeast rolls up to a month before Thanksgiving. After you've let the dough rest for 8 hours, roll out 8-inch strips, roll them up, and place them on a baking sheet in the freezer. After the rolls are completely frozen, you can transfer them to a zip-lock bag. The day before Thanksgiving, place each roll into the cup of a lightly greased muffin tin, cover with plastic wrap, and chill until ready to bake as directed.

13 of 22

Instant Pot Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Instant Pot Mashed Sweet Potatoes
Photography: Caitlin Bensel, Food Styling: Rishon Hanners

Recipe: Instant Pot Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are a must-serve dish at Thanksgiving, and this Instant Pot recipe is the easiest way to keep your stove clear for the other necessary dishes. You'll still get that seasonal sweet potato taste we all love.

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Slow Cooker Sweet Potato Casserole

Slow-Cooker Sweet Potato Casserole
Southern Living

Recipe: Slow Cooker Sweet Potato Casserole

If you're looking for the classic flavor of a sweet potato casserole without taking up more oven space, this slow-cooker sweet potato casserole is simple enough and has all the delicious elements of the oven version.

15 of 22

Classic Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes

Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes
Photo: Alison Miksch

Recipe: Classic Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes

This recipe is for all the potato loyalists out there. These potatoes are so good that they really don't need to be smothered in gravy, but we won't tell you how to enjoy your meal.

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Old-School Green Bean Casserole

Old-School Green Bean Casserole
Victor Protasio; Prop Styling: Ginny Branch Stelling; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall

Recipe: Old-School Green Bean Casserole

There's nothing like that tangy crunch from a classic green bean casserole on Thanksgiving Day. Preparing so many side dishes can feel like a race to the finish line, so we've got a secret for you – make the green bean casserole ahead of time. You can refrigerate it a day in advance and add the crispy fried onions right before serving.

17 of 22

Best Cornbread Dressing

Best Cornbread Dressing
Antonis Achilleos; Prop Styling: Audrey Davis; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall

Recipe: Best Cornbread Dressing

You have to serve some form of dressing at Thanksgiving so that you can wipe your plate clean of all the delicious sauces. The key to a great cornbread dressing is ensuring the cornbread cubes have completely dried out before letting them soak in the delicious broth and onion mixture.

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Skillet Mac and Cheese with Crispy Breadcrumbs

Skillet Mac and Cheese with Breadcrumbs
Hector Manuel Sanchez

Recipe: Skillet Mac and Cheese with Crispy Breadcrumbs

Who can say no to a healthy dollop of creamy mac and cheese on their Thanksgiving plate? Three cheeses and crispy breadcrumbs take this mac and cheese recipe to the next level, and it still takes less than an hour to make. The hardest part of this recipe is waiting to let it cool before digging in.

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Roasted Root Vegetables

Roasted Root Vegetables
Laurey W. Glenn

Recipe: Roasted Root Vegetables

As much as we love loading on the carbs and experiencing that post-meal nap, it's always a good idea to sneak in some nutritious vegetables. These roasted veggies can be prepared in advance and stored in airtight bags in the fridge until you're ready to serve them. Let them come to room temperature before checking the seasoning and reheating them.

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Easy Skillet Apple Pie

easy apple pie
Luca Trovato

Recipe: Easy Skillet Apple Pie

Every good Thanksgiving feast ends with dessert. The hardest part of this apple pie recipe is cutting and peeling two pounds of apples, but we promise that it is 100% worth it. The cast iron skillet ensures that the crust turns out extra crisp, while retaining all the moisture from the cinnamon sugar mixture on the apples.

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Our Easiest Pumpkin Pie Ever

Our Easiest Pumpkin Pie Ever
Greg Dupree; Styling: Heather Chadduck Hillegas

Recipe: Our Easiest Pumpkin Pie Ever

It wouldn't be Thanksgiving without a slice (or two) of pumpkin pie. Buttermilk gives this pie a distinct tanginess and creaminess that just can't be beat.

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Spiced Pecan Pie Bars

Spiced Pecan Pie Bars
Antonis Achilleos; Prop Styling: Christine Keely; Food Styling: Chelsea Zimmer

Recipe: Spiced Pecan Pie Bars

Offer your guests a finger-food dessert option so they can easily grab a bar before they settle into their designated nap spot after your unforgettable meal.

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