This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy.
If you’re looking for a Thanksgiving Dinner Menu and how to plan for the big day, this guide will show you what you need to do to prepare for the big feast and includes some of our favorite recipes! Thanksgiving is known as a family-bonding holiday, but the cooks in the family (i.e. me!) spend most of it stuck in the kitchen. Rather than taking the entire day to prepare one meal, you can prepare a number of Thanksgiving recipes in advance to serve or reheat the next day.
Below are a few tips that will help you organize your Thanksgiving dinner with a menu to choose from and an action plan, whether you plan a large or small celebration with the Thanksgiving recipes you’ll need…desserts included!
Three weeks ahead
I know you just put away the Halloween decorations, but now is the time to get a jump on planning the next holiday menu. Time to get a jump on Thanksgiving.
- Count your people: This year might be slightly larger than last year’s more intimate gathering. Whether it’s just your immediate family or a larger bubble, the first step is nailing down your number.
- Plan a menu: Peruse your recipe collection and draw up a menu. Think about balancing your Thanksgiving dinner’s flavors, colors, and textures to provide pops of color like orange squash and green veggies among the beige turkey, gravy, and mashed potatoes.
- Delegate: If guests are expecting, figure out what you want them to bring. Ask the less culinarily inclined to bring nuts, olives, a cheese platter, a bakery treat, or bottled drinks.
- Start shopping: Stock up on non-perishables like drinks, canned pumpkin puree, baking supplies, canned stock, or anything you can freeze ahead of time. Choose your seasonal produce to add to the list, too.
- Order up: If you order your turkey and or pies or rolls from a specific source, now is the time to make sure you are first on the list.
- Cook or bake ahead: Lots of things, like homemade cranberry sauce or chicken stock (for gravy) and pie crust or even whole pies, can be made ahead and frozen. Refer to your particular recipes for guidance.
- Check your non-food items: Did you shatter your gravy boat during last year’s Thanksgiving dinner? Do you have enough chairs, plates, glasses, and flatware? A reliable meat thermometer and a roasting pan? Want an excuse to order new placemats? Now is the time to buy or borrow whatever you might need.
One week before thanksgiving dinner
- Buy the food: At this point, you can purchase all but the most perishable fresh foods.
- Schedule your defrosting: Did you buy a frozen turkey or freeze something substantial like a casserole or pie? Determine how long it needs to defrost and make room in the fridge. This chart gives tons of great turkey info, including defrosting times for turkeys based on weight.
- Make gravy, pie dough, or cranberry sauce: If you haven’t made any of these very keepable items, get busy. Even gravy, if you aren’t wedded to making it the day of from pan drippings, can be made three to four days out with separately roasted turkey or chicken parts.
- Get the kids involved: Literally, nothing is cuter than those turkeys that kids make by tracing their tiny hands. Use the drawings for place cards for the Thanksgiving dinner. Get out the googly eyes and pinecones, too. Can they help you with any baking projects? Check out my guide on tips for cooking with children.
- Plan your pickups: Especially this year, with some restrictions happening around crowds, picking up pre-ordered items may be more time-consuming than usual. Plan ahead.
Two days ahead
- Re-assess: Figure out what needs to be done and try and delegate anything you can, such as picking up extra drinks, ice, or ordering an extra pie.
- Go through your recipes: Add any missing ingredients to your last-minute Thanksgiving dinner shopping list.
- Pick up your fresh turkey: And other perishables you have waited on.
- Brine away: If you subscribe to these methods, wet or dry, brine your bird.
- Assemble serving ware: If you have room, haul out everything you need.
- Set the table: If you have a separate dining room that is not in heavy use, consider starting to set the table or enlist your kids to do it.
One day ahead
- Breathe: You are probably in good shape!
- Bake: If you haven’t baked ahead, the night before is a great time to do it.
- Wash, chop, and prep: Which recipes are you making tomorrow, that you can prep ingredients tonight? Wash herbs, chop onions, dice squash, etc., to save time. Some dishes like dressing might be able to be fully assembled and refrigerated, ready to dress the salad the next day.
- Create a schedule: It’s your stove’s busiest day of the year! Do a rough estimate of what needs to cook and when. Remember, slow cookers and Instant Pots can be deployed as extra burners to keep side dishes or soups warm!
- Order pizza: Or another takeout, because it is hard to prep and cook a regular dinner, too.
Thanksgiving dinner day 🦃
- Put final touches on recipes: This is the time to assemble everything that was washed, chopped, and prepped the day before.
- Follow your schedule: You took the time to create a schedule, so follow it to keep it cool. This is especially important for the oven.
- Enjoy and be grateful! 🙂
Thanksgiving dinner menu 2022
Pick and choose a few of these well-thought-out Thanksgiving recipes, from the sides to desserts, and the pièce de résistance, a beautifully roasted Turkey.
- Dry Brined Turkey Breast – Juicy, tender, and packed with flavor! If you haven’t tried dry brining a turkey breast, I highly recommended it! This is a fantastic alternative to roasting a whole turkey.
- Smashed Sweet Potatoes – A deliciously easy side dish that uses savory spices and parmesan cheese that creates a crispy crust and soft inside.
- Vegan Mushroom Gravy – Scratch made with caramelized mushrooms and onions, this easy gravy recipe is perfect over creamy mashed potatoes and your holiday turkey.
- Garlic Mashed Potatoes – The best garlic mashed potatoes you’ll ever eat! This recipe infuses garlic in the cream sauce and adds roasted garlic to the final dish. Yum!
- Pear Salad with Candied Walnuts – The many textures are what really elevate this clean, crisp salad with sweet pears, blue cheese crumbles, candied walnuts, dried cranberries, and a zesty citrus honey mustard vinaigrette.
- Thanksgiving Stuffing – Made with sourdough bread and cooked outside the turkey it’s a vegetarian side that your guests are sure to gush about!
- Oven Roasted Brussels Sprouts – Crispy and delicious, this is a quick and easy Thanksgiving side dish that has all the flavor without the fuss.
- Easy Baked Macaroni and Cheese – Creamy, buttery, and cheesy macaroni is baked and topped with homemade breadcrumbs for a super simple side dish.
- Cranberry Orange Sauce – Thanksgiving is better with cranberry orange sauce! Just 4 ingredients, and you have a delicious homemade side for the table.
- Pecan Pie – This is a healthier version of the classic dessert that uses dates instead of corn syrup. Just as tasty, super simple to make, and a satisfying Thanksgiving dessert as you’d expect!
Other Thanksgiving Recipes to Try
Pick and choose from an array of Thanksgiving recipes to build the perfect dinner menu with starters, soup and salad ideas, the main dish, sides, and desserts. I’ve included a few breakfast ideas to get your holiday morning started off right.
And if you’re looking to save some time on Thanksgiving day, consider making some of these dishes ahead of time. They can take a load off on the big day, and some actually taste better that way! Here’s a full list of Make-Ahead Thanksgiving Recipes for you to narrow down your menu.
Starters for Thanksgiving
- Baked Brie Cranberry in Bread Bowl – This elegant baked brie cranberry in a pull-apart bread bowl for dipping is so easy to make and only uses 3 ingredients!
- Mushroom Tartlets – These cheesy mushroom tartlets are the perfect appetizer for holiday parties – made with onions, mushrooms, and cheese on top of a buttery, flaky mini pastry!
- Vegetarian Stuffed Mushrooms – A perfect bite-size appetizer at your next holiday gathering. Stuffed mushrooms are crowd-pleasing finger food that you can prepare ahead of time.
- Cream Cheese Spinach Dip – This Cream Cheese Spinach Dip is a rich, creamy dip that is made with greek yogurt instead of sour cream – great with bread and crackers!
- Artichoke Tahini Dip – This creamy baked artichoke dip is meant for sharing! Served hot, bake it in the oven before being served to the table, or place it in a chafing dish.
- Charcuterie Board – Cheese boards are perfect for displaying an array of finger foods like cheeses, fruits, nuts, crackers, and jams.
- Butter Board with Fruit – This viral TikTok recipe may be the new charcuterie board fad, but you can really get creative with fresh fruit, nuts, and honey or try and savory topping instead.
- Baked Brie Appetizer – Another cheese board option with creamy baked brie with pomegranate, nuts, and honey.
- Candied Walnuts – Add these oven-roasted candied walnuts to a cheese board, on top of a salad or sweet potatoes, or as a crunchy sweet addition to dessert.
Soups and Salads
- Roasted Pumpkin Soup – A healthy and delicious cozy soup perfect for the fall that’s made with roasted pumpkin and seasoned with cinnamon, sage, cayenne, and maple syrup.
- Roasted Butternut Squash Soup – Another warm and comforting soup that is smooth, creamy, and only uses a few pantry staples. It’s a light starter to your Thanksgiving feast.
- Butternut Squash Quinoa Salad – This is a fantastic make-ahead salad recipe that can be served as a started or a side dish with caramelized roasted butternut squash, kale, quinoa, pomegranate, and crumbled feta.
- Fall Harvest Salad – A festive, delicious salad to include in your holiday spread that’s full of colors, textures, and tastes.
- Roasted Beet Salad – Roasted Beet Salad is made with two types of seasonal beets and served over a bed of arugula.
- Brussel Sprout Sweet Potato Salad – A veggie-loaded nutritious salad that can be served cold or hot, this is the perfect side for so many dishes, especially during the fall!
- Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe – If you’re looking for a fail-proof turkey roasting method, try this Easy Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe for a perfectly cooked bird with no fuss!
- Roasted Chicken with Garlic & Herbs – An alternative to turkey, this easy-to-make whole-roasted chicken is full of flavor and wonderfully juicy.
Thanksgiving Side Dish Ideas
- Melting Sweet Potatoes – This lighter version of candied sweet potatoes literally melts and dissolves in your mouth for a delicious bite.
- Roasted Parmesan Potatoes – These crispy oven-roasted parmesan potatoes are easy to make & taste amazing. The butter, parmesan, and spices soak right in while crisping up the outside!
- Potato Cauliflower Bake – An easy cheesy side dish that is always a crowd favorite. It’s simple to make with a few ingredients and is great for pairing with your annual Thanksgiving feast!
- Vegetarian Stuffing – Made with roasted vegetables and fresh herbs, it is also dairy free and vegan.
- Healthy Mashed Potatoes – A must-have Thanksgiving side dish, these mashed potatoes are made lighter by using low-fat sour cream and made more flavorful with vegetable broth.
- Creamed Corn – Delicious and easy, this vegetarian corn side dish is a must this Thanksgiving made with cream cheese and cheddar.
- Healthy Green Bean Casserole – You’ll love the flavor of the scratch-made mushroom soup and fresh green beans in this casserole to serve on your Thanksgiving table.
- Air Fryer Brussel Sprouts – Use the oven for other dishes and make these crispy Brussels sprouts in the oven in just 15 minutes!
- Homemade Dinner Rolls – No Thanksgiving is complete without fresh rolls, and this recipe is easy to make and comes out perfectly light and fluffy.
- Simple Gravy Recipe – This quick and easy gravy is made from scratch using drippings from your Thanksgiving turkey.
- Baked Cranberry Sauce – Hands-off recipe? Yes, please! This easy holiday side dish is exactly what you want on your menu, so you can focus on creating other delicious recipes.
- Instant Pot Mashed Potatoes – A traditional mashed potato recipe for your holiday spread, cooks in under 10 minutes and comes out perfectly creamy, fluffy, and rich!
- Mashed Sweet Potatoes – This savory recipe is a lighter option to the sugar-loaded, marshmallow-topped counterpart and is still full of naturally sweet flavor.
- Green Beans with Almonds – A light and crisp fresh side dish to serve on Thanksgiving and offers a nutritious and colorful dish to add to your meal.
- Mini Pumpkin Pies – These individual pumpkin pies are so easy to make and are the perfect treat for Thanksgiving and throughout the holiday season.
- Baked Apple Slices – Fill your house with amazing Fall spices and serve these warm baked apples with a scoop of ice cream.
- Easy Apple Pie – This easy apple pie is a quintessential fall recipe that you can make with pre-made pie dough and basic ingredients- perfect for Thanksgiving
- No Bake Pumpkin Cheesecake – If you love pumpkin pie and cheesecake, this recipe is for you! It’s creamy, pumpkin-y, and the perfect holiday dessert.
- Apple Bread Pudding – This bread pudding has a creamy custard, and fresh apples baked into a decadent dessert and so good served warm with homemade ice cream on top!
- No-Bake Cheesecake Cups – Perfect for making a day or two before the big holiday feast, this no-bake dessert is made with greek yogurt for a light version of cheesecake.
- Pumpkin Chocolate Chips Cookies – These tasty morsels are perfect for using up leftover pumpkin from holiday baking with just a few pantry ingredients.
- Apple Crisp – The perfect fall dessert made with juicy apples, cinnamon, and an oat topping!
- Vegan Pumpkin Pie – With creamy coconut milk filling, it’s the perfect dairy-free dessert to serve for Thanksgiving.
What to have for Breakfast on Thanksgiving
The morning of Thanksgiving can be hectic, but these recipes are festive and easy to make to get your morning started. Consider baking muffins, loaves of sweet bread, and cinnamon rolls ahead of time for a grab-and-go breakfast option.
- Cinnamon Apple Bread – An Autumn favorite, this recipe is packed with apple flavor and cinnamon that’s easy to make days before for a no-fuss breakfast on Thanksgiving morning.
- Pumpkin Pancakes – These are rich, fluffy, and super easy to make. Wake up the household with the aromatic pumpkin spice pancakes to start the holiday off right!
- Easy French Toast Casserole – This sweet breakfast casserole is a tasty holiday breakfast! It’s quick to prepare, and there’s no need for overnight chilling – perfect for a crowd.
- Cranberry Lemon Muffins – Bursting with cranberries and citrus zest, these can be enjoyed for breakfast or as a snack.
- Sweet Potato Waffles – Maybe save this one for the day after Thanksgiving as a way to use leftover sweet potatoes for a wholesome breakfast.
- Vegan Cinnamon Rolls – Perfect to make the night before, these cinnamon rolls are easy to make and are wonderfully fluffy and sweet.
- Broccoli and Cheese Quiche – Go ahead and bake this quiche recipe and freeze it until the night before Thanksgiving. Warm in the oven the morning of for a quick healthy breakfast.
- Veggie Omelet – Chop the veggies during your prep day to whip up this cheesy omelet in no time.
HOW TO KEEP FOOD WARM
- Oven: Once you’ve baked everything, set it to 200°F and store dishes in there to keep them warm.
- Aluminum Foil: If your oven is not free, you can simply use aluminum foil, which has reflective properties that protect the food from light and oxygen. The foil reflects the thermal energy back to the food, which maintains moisture, flavor, and texture.
- Slow Cookers and Instant Pots: Think of recipes that can be made in your slow cooker or instant pot that will keep warm during the party. You can even use them to keep food warm even if you don’t cook in them.
- Insulated coolers: You can use a cooler to keep food hot as well as cold. The insulation technology that keeps out the heat to maintain cold foods also works to trap heat in and keep food hot for hours at a time. You can even line the cooler with aluminum foil for even better results.
- Chafing buffet set: You can use disposable chafing dishes to keep everything warm. Set up a table to display all the hot dishes for easy access and maintain temperature throughout your meal.
HOW TO STORE ALL THE LEFTOVERS
If you’re like me, you always end up with leftovers after any big gathering. And while I’m not complaining (leftovers are the best!), it can be tricky to know how to store all of them. Here are a few tips:
- Cool it down. Make sure everything is cooled completely before storing.
- Label everything with the name and date. This will help you keep track of what’s what and also ensure that nothing gets lost in the back of the fridge.
- Use plastic containers or freezer bags. This will help keep your food fresh and prevent it from drying out.
- Save or trash? If you have any perishable items (like meat or dairy), make sure to store them in the fridge. If they have sat out longer than 4 hours, it’s probably best to throw it out.
MUST-HAVE GADGETS FOR Thanksgiving Dinner
From baking and cooking wares and items to make serving easy and painless to common and super helpful gadgets for prepping, here are some of my go-to Thanksgiving day kitchen and serving items:
Cookware & Bakeware
- roasting pan – A good roasting pan is a must when cooking a whole turkey. There are a variety of sizes to meet your needs.
- ceramic baking dishes – For a lovely tablescape, grab a set of baking dishes that match your theme or are simplistic enough to let the food be the show stopper of Thanksgiving dinner.
- wire baking rack – A wire rack is an excellent ware for baking bread, cookies, appetizers, and such.
- glass pie plate – Homemade pies bake up great in glass pie dishes, and these can be used for gifting a pie to friends and family, too!
- meat thermometer – One thing you want to ensure is food is cooked thoroughly. Invest in a good meat thermometer!
Serve Thanksgiving Dinner
- carving set – Thanksgiving dinner isn’t complete without a beautiful turkey carving set.
- chafing buffet set – Keep food warm throughout dinner and have a place for cooked dishes to keep temp while you finish baking and cooking all the food.
- gravy boat – Where else would scratch-made gravy go if not in a traditional serving dish?
Gadgets for Prepping Food
- garlic press – You can cut it all by hand if you want. Or, get a press to make preparing garlic a breeze.
- vegetable peeler – Peel everything you need with a sturdy vegetable or y-peeler.
- hand mixer – Have a reliable hand mix at the ready for potatoes, batters, and more.
- food processor – Prepare so many recipes with ease using a food processor. Easy to use and clean, and it makes prepping that much easier.
- mandoline slicer – Thanksgiving is a large meal; you could use an extra hand or get through prep using a slicer. Either way, you’ll get recipes together more quickly!
I hope the planner walking you through the week of Thanksgiving and these turkey day recipe ideas will help you plan your menu a little easier! It’s such a busy day in the kitchen; we can all use a little help!
FULL LIST OF RECIPES
Check out the picture cards for all the recipes listed above. You can click on any of the recipe cards to take you directly to those recipes.
For more similar roundups of recipes, be sure to check out:: Leftover Thanksgiving Turkey Recipes, Make Ahead Thanksgiving Recipes, Healthy Appetizers for the Holidays, Tips for Holiday Baking with Kids, Favorite Winter Recipes, and Fall Pumpkin Recipes.
If you find this guide for Thanksgiving Meal Plan useful, we’d love to hear from you! Please leave a comment below! It helps to create a dialogue with others who find this article. And if you snapped some shots of any of these tips and tricks, please share them on Instagram so we can repost on Stories!