10 Thanksgiving Recipes That You Can Make Ahead

Get an early start so you can be cool, calm and collected when guests arrive

Updated 11/12/18

Stocksy

It's almost Thanksgiving! Getting ahead of the game is key when it comes to hosting any dinner party, and it's especially important for a big meal like this one. In order to stay sane, it's a good idea to prep as much as possible ahead of time (the last thing you want is to be madly trying to pull everything together during cocktail hour with a stream of hungry guests waiting at the kitchen door). Give yourself a break and make the bulk of your appetizers, side dishes and desserts a day or two prior to the big event. This gives you more time to gather up all your serving pieces, set the table, and have a drink (or two) with friends and family.

Baked goods and desserts are number one for day-ahead prep (and it's much more fun when you can spread out around the kitchen with all your baking gear). Same goes for cranberry sauces, chutneys, and many dressings- the extra time can even help let the flavors meld and marinate. Clear out your fridge the week before Thanksgiving (or Friendsgiving!) to make sure there's space for everything to rest evenly on the shelves, and that there's ample room for both ingredients and finished dishes. If you have a huge Thanksgiving menu, it's a good idea to label dishes so it's super easy to bring things out without stress. And when it comes to the big statement recipes that are assembled right before the meal (cue the turkey) you'll have much more time to devote to them so they won't fall prey to overdone-ness.

01 of 10

Make Ahead Gravy

Photo by Michael Graydon and Nicole Herriott

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 pound chicken wings
  • 1 large onion, unpeeled, coarsely chopped
  • 1 large carrot, peeled, coarsely chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, coarsely chopped
  • A small handful of rosemary, thyme, and/or bay leaves
  • 1 cup dry white wine 6 cups (or more)
  • Thanksgiving Stock or low-sodium chicken broth

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1⁄4 cup Wondra or all-purpose flour

1⁄2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper

Method

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high. Cook chicken wings, turning occasionally, until golden brown, 10–12 minutes. Add onion, carrot, and celery and cook, stirring and turning wings often, until everything in pan is deeply browned, 14–16 minutes. Add herbs and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Pour in wine and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits stuck to the bottom of pan. Bring to a boil and cook until wine is reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add stock and return to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until liquid is reduced by a third, 35–40 minutes.

Strain fortified stock through a fine-mesh sieve into a heatproof bowl. (You should have about 4 cups. If you don’t, add enough stock or water to get you there.) Discard solids. Keep fortified stock warm while you make your roux.

Heat butter in a medium saucepan over medium. Whisk in flour and cook, whisking constantly, until roux is golden brown and looks smooth and shiny, about 4 minutes.

Whisking constantly, ladle fortified stock into roux, pouring in gradually and making sure to incorporate after each addition before adding more. Simmer, whisking often, until gravy is thickened and reduced to about 3 cups (it should coat a spoon), 8–10 minutes. Stir in Worcestershire sauce, taste, and season with salt and pepper

Do Ahead: Gravy can be made 5 days ahead. Let cool; cover and chill. Reheat over low before serving.

02 of 10

Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Chile Yogurt and Mint

Photo by Michael Graydon and Nicole Herriott

Ingredients

  • 4 pounds medium sweet potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 21⁄2 cups plain whole-milk Greek yogurt
  • 1 serrano chile, finely grated
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

11⁄2 cups mint leaves, torn if large

Flaky sea salt

Method

Preheat oven to 400°. Toss sweet potatoes with 2 Tbsp. oil on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet. Roast, turning halfway through, until tender, 50–60 minutes. Remove from oven; increase oven temperature to 450°. Let sweet potatoes cool slightly, then tear into large pieces (including skin)—irregular pieces look best. Spread out on the same baking sheet and roast until browned and crisp around the edges, 20–25 minutes.

Combine yogurt, chile, lemon zest, and lemon juice in a medium bowl; season with kosher salt. Coarsely crush sesame seeds on a cutting board with a flat-bottomed mug (or leave them whole).

Spread chile yogurt on a platter; top with sweet potatoes. Scatter mint, sesame seeds, and sea salt over; drizzle with oil.

Do Ahead: Sweet potatoes can be roasted 6 hours ahead. Let sit at room temperature. Reheat in a 400° oven just to warm through before serving. Chile yogurt can be made 1 day ahead; cover and chill.

03 of 10

Everything Spice–Coated Cheddar Cheese Ball

Photo by Danny Kim

Ingredients

  • 2 ounces pancetta, finely chopped
  • 11⁄3 cups finely grated extra sharp cheddar
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 scallion, thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • Kosher salt

5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1⁄2 cup vegetable oil

2 shallots, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon poppy seed

1 teaspoon sesame seeds, toasted

Crackers (for serving)

Method

Cook pancetta in a medium skillet over medium heat, stirring often, until browned and crisp, 5–8 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain; let cool.

Process cheddar, cream cheese, and butter in a food processor until smooth. Pulse in scallion, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, and pancetta; season with salt. Scrape mixture into a small plastic wrap–lined bowl; gather plastic around cheese, using your hands to shape into a ball. Chill until firm, 3–12 hours.

Just before serving, cook garlic in oil in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring often, until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Drain on paper towels.

Add shallots to saucepan and cook, stirring often, until golden brown and crisp, 5–8 minutes. Drain on paper towels; let cool. Discard oil. Mix garlic and shallots in a medium bowl. Roll cheese ball in mixture to coat. Sprinkle with poppy seed and sesame seeds, pressing lightly to adhere. Serve with crackers.

04 of 10

Cabernet Cranberry-Kumquat Sauce

Photo by Mikkel Vang

Ingredients

  • 21⁄2 cups fresh (or frozen, thawed) cranberries (one 8-oz. bag)
  • 1 cup dry red wine (such as Cabernet Sauvignon)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1⁄2 cup seeded sliced fresh kumquats

Method

Bring cranberries, wine, sugar, and kumquats to a boil in a medium saucepan, reduce heat, and simmer, stirring often, until cranberries burst and release juices, 15–20 minutes. Let cool.

Do ahead: Sauce can be made 5 days ahead. Cover and chill.

05 of 10

Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes

Photo by Michael Graydon and Nicole Herriot, Food Styling by Rebecca Jurkevich, Prop Styling by Kalen Kaminski

Ingredients

  • 4 lb. medium Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed
  • Kosher salt
  • 2⁄3–1 cup heavy cream
  • 2⁄3–1 cup whole milk
  • 11⁄4 cups (21⁄2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1⁄2 cup sour cream
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Special Equipment: A potato ricer or food mill fitted with fine disk

Method

Place potatoes in a large pot and pour in cold water to cover by 1". Add a large handful of salt (water should taste briny, like the ocean) and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are very tender but not crumbly, 30–40 minutes. Drain and return potatoes to warm pot to dry (off heat).

Meanwhile, heat 2⁄3 cup cream and 2⁄3 cup milk in a small saucepan over medium until just about to simmer. Reduce heat to low and keep warm until ready to add to potatoes.

Pass hot potatoes and butter through ricer into a large bowl (this will help combine them quickly; most of the skins should stay behind but pick out any small pieces that get through if you want); season generously with salt. Mix with a potato masher until butter is melted and combined.

Mixing constantly, gradually add warm cream mixture to potatoes, then mix in sour cream. Taste and season with salt and pepper as desired.

Do Ahead: Potatoes can be made 2 days ahead. Let cool; cover and chill. To serve, transfer potatoes to a small pot and add 1⁄3 cup heavy cream and 1⁄3 cup whole milk; reheat over medium-low, stirring often to prevent scorching.

06 of 10

Buttermilk Cornbread

Photo by Michael Graydon and Nicole Herriot, Food Styling by Rebecca Jurkevich, Prop Styling by Kalen Kaminski

Ingredients

Makes one 13x9" pan

  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups medium-grind cornmeal
  • 1⁄4 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. baking powder
  • 2 1⁄2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 3⁄4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 large eggs

2 cups buttermilk

1⁄2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted, slightly cooled

Method

Preheat oven to 400°. Lightly coat a 13x9" baking dish with nonstick spray. Whisk flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Whisk eggs, buttermilk, and butter in a medium bowl. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in egg mixture; stir into dry ingredients with a wooden spoon until combined. Scrape batter into prepared pan and smooth top.

Bake cornbread, rotating dish halfway through, until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 20–25 minutes. Let cornbread cool slightly in dish, then cut crosswise into 4 large pieces. Transfer to a wire rack with a large spatula and let cool completely.

Do Ahead: Cornbread can be baked 2 days ahead. Store tightly wrapped at room temperature.

07 of 10

Roasted Citrus Relish

Photo by Michael Graydon and Nicole Herriott

Ingredients

  • 11⁄2 pink grapefruits
  • 11⁄2 navel oranges
  • 3 lemons
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1⁄4 cup fresh parsley leaves
  • Flaky sea salt (such as Maldon)

Method

Preheat oven to 350°. Slice 1⁄2 grapefruit, 1⁄2 orange, and 1 lemon crosswise into paper-thin rounds; remove seeds. Toss in a medium bowl with sugar, oil, and kosher salt. Roast on a parchment-lined baking sheet until golden in spots and crisp, 20–30 minutes; let cool.

Meanwhile, cut all peel and white pith from remaining grapefruit, orange, and lemons. Working over a medium bowl, cut along sides of membranes to release segments into bowl; discard membranes. Tear roasted citrus into pieces and toss with segments, breaking up larger segments. Stir in parsley; season with sea salt.

Do ahead: Citrus can be roasted and segmented 1 day ahead. Store roasted citrus wrapped tightly at room temperature; cover and chill citrus segments.

08 of 10

Classic Herb and Fennel Stuffing

Photo by Michael Graydon and Nicole Herriot, Food Styling by Rebecca Jurkevich, Prop Styling by Kalen Kaminski

Ingredients

  • 1 2-lb. loaf country-style bread, torn into 1"–11⁄2" pieces
  • 1⁄4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 1 fennel bulb, finely chopped
  • 4 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 1⁄2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup chopped parsley

2 Tbsp. chopped sage

1 Tbsp. chopped rosemary

1 Tbsp. chopped thyme

3 tsp. kosher salt

2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

2 large eggs

21⁄2 cups low-sodium chicken broth

Method

Place a rack in middle of oven; preheat to 250°. Arrange bread in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake, tossing occasionally, until dried out, about 1 hour. Let cool; transfer to a very large bowl. Increase oven temperature to 350°.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Cook onions, fennel, and celery, stirring often, until softened but not yet browned, 8–10 minutes. Add wine and cook, stirring, until almost completely evaporated, about 1 minute. Add butter and cook, stirring, until melted, about 3 minutes. Scrape vegetable mixture over bread in bowl and mix in parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, salt, and pepper.

Whisk eggs and broth in a medium bowl to combine. Pour over bread mixture; fold gently until thoroughly coated. Divide between two 8x8" baking dishes (you can also put it all in a 13x9" baking dish if you prefer) and pack stuffing down. Cover with foil and bake until you can see some bubbles around the edges of the dishes, 30–35 minutes.

Increase oven temperature to 425°. Uncover stuffing and bake until top is golden brown and crisp, 20–25 minutes. Let sit 10 minutes before serving.

Do ahead: Bread can be baked 2 days ahead; store airtight at room temperature. Stuffing can be assembled 1 day ahead; cover and chill. Bring to room temperature before baking.

09 of 10

Deep-Dish Apple Pie

Photo by Gentl and Hyers

Ingredients

Dough

  • 31⁄2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 11⁄2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 11⁄2 cups (3 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

Filling and Assembly

  • 4 pounds Pink Lady or other sweet-tart, firm baking apples, peeled, cored, thinly sliced
  • 1⁄3 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
  • 1⁄4 cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt

1⁄4 teaspoon ground allspice

1⁄4 teaspoon ground cardamom

All-purpose flour (for surface)

11⁄2 cups unfiltered apple cider

1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 large egg

2 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces

Demerara sugar (for sprinkling)

Special Equipment: A 9-inch deep pie dish

Method

Dough

Pulse flour, sugar, and salt in food processor to combine. Add butter and process until largest pieces of butter are pea-size. Transfer to a large bowl.

Combine vinegar and 1⁄2 cup ice water in a small bowl and drizzle over flour mixture, mixing with a fork to combine. Mix until shaggy pieces form, then knead in bowl a couple of times with your hands to bring together (dough will look very clumpy, dry, with loose bits). Transfer large clumps of dough to work surface, drizzle 1 Tbsp. ice water over remaining flour mixture in bowl and knead again to bring it together. Place on top of dough on work surface. Working with half of the dough, press into a single mass, incorporating dry bits, then pat down to make a 3⁄4"-thick square. Using a bench scraper or knife, divide dough into 4 pieces. Stack pieces on top of one another, placing any unincorporated dry bits in between layers, and press down to combine. Form dough into a 3⁄4"-thick disk and wrap tightly in plastic. Repeat with remaining dough. Chill at least 2 hours.

Do Ahead: Dough can be made 5 days ahead. Keep chilled, or freeze up to 1 month.

Filling and Assembly

Toss apples with brown sugar, granulated sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon, salt, allspice, and cardamom in a large bowl to coat. Let apples sit until they start to release their juices, at least 1 hour and up to 3 hours.

Let dough sit at room temperature 5 minutes to soften. Working one at a time, roll out disks of dough on a lightly floured surface 1⁄8" thick. Stack on a parchment-lined baking sheet, separating layers with a sheet of parchment, and chill while you prepare the filling.

Place apple cider in a medium saucepan and scrape in seeds from vanilla bean; add pod. Bring to a boil and cook, whisking occasionally, until reduced by two-thirds. Pour off juices that have accumulated in bowl of apples and add to apple cider. Return to a boil and cook until reduced to about 1⁄2 cup; remove vanilla pod. Stir cornstarch into 3 Tbsp. water in a small bowl to dissolve, then whisk into apple cider. Cook, whisking constantly, until cider mixture is very thick and bubbling, about 1 minute. Let cool slightly, then scrape over apples; toss to coat.

Carefully transfer dough round to pie dish. Lift up edges and allow dough to slump down into dish (if too cold to be pliable, let it warm up slightly first). Press dough firmly against sides and bottom of plate. Trim, leaving about 1" overhang. Beat egg with 1 tsp. water in a small bowl and brush over edges of dough. Scrape in apple filling, creating a mound in the center; dot filling with butter. Place remaining dough round over filling. Trim edges of top round, leaving a 1⁄2" overhang. Fold edge of bottom round up and over; press together to seal. Crimp edge and brush top with remaining egg wash. Sprinkle with demerara sugar and cut a few vents in top. Place pie on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet and chill in freezer 10 minutes. Preheat oven to 375°.

Bake pie until crust is deep golden brown and juices are thick and bubbling, 11⁄2–2 hours (yes: 2 hours!). Transfer pie to a wire rack and let cool at least 4 hou_Do Ahead: Pie can be made 1 day ahead. Let cool; store covered with foil at room temperature.__

10 of 10

Margaret's Maple Sugar Pie

Photo by Alex Lau

Ingredients

Makes one 9-inch pie

Dough

  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 11⁄4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for surface
  • 4 tablespoon chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1⁄4 cup chilled lard or shortening
  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray

Filling and Assembly

  • 2 cups (packed) light brown sugar
  • 1 cup heavy cream

1⁄2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

1 tablespoon whiskey

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

5 large eggs, room temperature

1 cup all-purpose flour

3⁄4 teaspoon kosher salt

Whipped cream for serving

Method

Dough

Pulse sugar, salt, and 11⁄4 cups flour in a food processor to combine. Add butter and pulse until the largest pieces are pea-size. Add lard and pulse again until mixture resembles coarse meal. Transfer to a large bowl and drizzle in 3 Tbsp. ice water; mix with a fork to combine. Knead 3–4 times to bring dough together (only a couple of floury spots should remain). Flatten dough into a 1⁄2"-thick disk, wrap in plastic, and chill until firm, at least 2 hours.

Let dough sit at room temperature 5 minutes to soften.

Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to a 12" round, rotating often and dusting with more flour as needed to prevent sticking. Transfer to a 9" pie dish. Lift up edges and allow dough to slump down into dish. You should have about 1" overhang. Fold edges under and crimp. Freeze 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 425°. Lightly coat a sheet of foil with nonstick spray and place in pie crust, coated side down, pressing into bottom and up sides. Fill with pie weights or dried beans and bake until edges of crust are pale golden, 15–20 minutes. Carefully remove foil and weights and continue to bake crust until bottom is golden and looks dry, 12–18 minutes more. Transfer dish to a wire rack and let crust cool.

Do Ahead: Dough can be made 3 days ahead; keep chilled, or freeze up to 1 month. Crust can be baked 1 day ahead; store tightly wrapped at room temperature.

Filling and Assembly

Preheat oven to 325°. Heat brown sugar, cream, and butter in a large heatproof bowl set over a large saucepan of barely simmering water, stirring constantly, until butter is melted, sugar is dissolved, and mixture is smooth (do not let bowl touch water). Remove bowl from heat and stir in whiskey and vanilla. Whisking constantly, add eggs one at a time, incorporating completely after each addition. Add flour and salt and whisk just until smooth. Scrape filling into crust and place on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet.

Bake pie until filling is browned all over, puffed around the edges, and still slightly wobbly in the center, 45–55 minutes. Transfer dish to a wire rack and let pie cool at least 4 hours before slicing (the longer you can wait, the easier it’ll be to slice; do not refrigerate).

Serve pie topped with whipped cream.

Do Ahead: Pie can be baked 1 day ahead. Let cool, then store loosely covered at room temperature.

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