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The 10 Best Thanksgiving Make Ahead Meals

The 10 Best Thanksgiving Make-Ahead Meals gives you a delicious and stress-free holiday. Appetizers, side dishes, and desserts ideas are featured in this roundup.

thanksgiving make ahead

The lead up to Thanksgiving is rapt with excitement, planning, and stress. Anything that can be done ahead of time or heated in a crockpot takes a little piece of stress off of my very heavy shoulders. The key to identifying the perfect Thanksgiving make-ahead appetizers, sides, and desserts is to find something that doesn’t lose flavor, get soggy or gross and reheats like a dream.

You can spend weeks trying out recipes and making copious notes about how each dish holds up. Or, you can just take advantage of all the testing I have already done, use this list below.


The Best Homemade Hummus 

DIY hummus, making hummus at home, easiest homemade hummus, homemade hummus, better than Sabra homemade hummus

Not only does this hummus taste fresh for days, but you can freeze it. Simply add an extra drizzle of olive oil after it has thawed and you’re good to go. I feel like there are so many heavy foods around the holidays, so I serve the hummus with sliced veggies for a healthier option.

Slow Cooker Buffalo Chicken Meatballs

thanksgiving make ahead

Photo by Root + Revel

You could form and freeze these meatballs ahead of time. Broil and throw in the crockpot the morning of and let them cook all day.

Mini Quiche

mini quiche

These quiches can be made ahead of time and frozen. Absolutely nothing changes about the flavor or texture when they are thawed. Even better, you can serve them cold which means that precious Thanksgiving oven space isn’t needed. I highly recommend mixing and matching toppings and flavorings to appeal to all the guests.

Side Dishes

Cranberry Sauce

cranberry sauce

In my eyes, no holiday dinner is complete without a gorgeous bowl of cranberry sauce on the table. This cranberry sauce tastes better if made at least a few days ahead of time. Given how limited fridge space is leading up to the big day, do yourself a favor and store this in a quart mason jar. Mason jars take up less horizontal space and can be stored on the shelves on the fridge door. I’ve even frozen cranberry sauce and had perfect results.

Winter Fruit Salad With Poppyseed Dressing

This beautiful fruit salad is sure to get the attention of your guests. With the citrus in this dish, you could prep almost all of it the night before without any browning of the fruit. I would hold off on the bananas until just before serving, but that is pretty low-impact in terms of extra work. Put a little kid with a butter knife in-charge of slicing the bananas.

The Best Mashed Potatoes

Best Mashed Potatoes

These taters are so creamy and amazing. I make them the day before Thanksgiving and reheat in the oven while adding a splash of milk.

Make Ahead Green Beans With Lemon-Herb Panko Crumbs

I still cannot fathom how green beans became part of the Thanksgiving tradition. They are done growing by mid-September, early-October max and have no business being on the table of a late-November feast celebrating the harvest. But they are ingrained in our society, and unfortunately usually covered in cream of mushroom soup (please pause while I vomit in my mouth). This recipe uses fresh green beans and peppy lemon zest for a healthier and dare I say more delicious version of a holiday favorite. You can blanche the beans and make the panko ahead of time. Quick flash cooking in a pan prior to serving and you have a fresh side dish for your guests.

No Knead Bread

no knead bread

This rise time on this generally takes a day or at least overnight. We serve it at church on Sundays, so I start it on Thursday, bake it on Friday, and deliver it on Saturday. It is such a low-stress homemade bread that makes you look like a total rock star in front of your guests.


Nordy Bars

nordy bars

Nordy Bars are not a traditional holiday dessert, but no one will be picky about it when you put a tray of these out after the dinner table has been cleared. They are addictive, super easy to make, and taste great even a few days after you bake them. Besides the taste, the best part of Nordy Bars is how the smell of them clings to your hair while you’re making them. I want to smell like that forever. That always needs to be a thing.

Pioneer Woman’s Pecan Pie

My friend Elaina turned me onto this recipe and I’ve made it for a few years now. I have changed the recipe slightly to use Lyle’s Golden Syrup instead of corn syrup, and I reduce the sugar by about 30%.

It’s always a hit served with a fresh dollop of homemade whipped cream. I bake the pecan pie the day before Thanksgiving and store it at room temperature.

Thanksgiving make-ahead meals are a game changer for a low-stress holiday. In addition to giving you more time with your guests, Thanksgiving make-ahead appetizers, side dishes, and desserts are great for one very important reason. Fewer dishes to wash on the big day!

What is your favorite Thanksgiving make-ahead dish?

The 10 Best Thanksgiving Make-Ahead Meals give you a delicious and stress-free holiday. Appetizers, side dishes, and desserts ideas are featured in this roundup.

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