The Best Recipes for a Perfect Thanksgiving Holiday Meal

Choose from 40+ recipes--turkey, sides, desserts, beverages and breakfast. Make-ahead options, too.


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I've prepared a lot of Thanksgiving meals through my years of raising a family and beyond. When I started this blog over a decade ago, I already had an arsenal of tried-and-true recipes to share with my readers, many of which were passed down from my mother and grandmother. This is a compilation of over 40 of my Thanksgiving recipes that includes turkey, sides, desserts, beverages, and breakfasts. You can pick and choose from those that appeal to you. My family has enjoyed every one of them at some point. 

My best tip for having a yummy yet relaxed and stress-free Thanksgiving is to prepare as much food ahead as possible. Many of these recipes can be made a day or two ahead, and several them can be made weeks ahead and frozen. My early prep tips are all included with the recipes.

APPETIZER


Truthfully, there is so much food at our main meal, that I don't go all out with appetizers. If we're having guests join us, I might ask them to bring an appetizer to share. But, often I just make up this cheese platter for light snacking before the main meal and leave it at that. You'll find other appetizer recipes in my recipe index.

Autumn Leaf Wreath Cheese Platter 
A festive appetizer for everyone to munch on before the big meal. It's as simple as cutting sliced cheese with leaf cookie cutters. Easy yet impressive, the platter can be assembled 2-3 days ahead.0_IMG_7637.JPG

 

MAIN COURSE -- TURKEY and GRAVY, OF COURSE!

 

Step-by-step Guide to the Best Roast Turkey 
I provide detailed photos and tips for beginner and experienced cooks alike.  You can prepare an easy, perfectly cooked and moist turkey with this method I learned from my mom. This is one of my most popular recipes. Read the comments at the end of the post to see how many people have finally had turkey roasting success. This method works for me--and many others--every time!1_teaserIMG_1552_watermark.JPG

How to Make Ahead and Reheat Turkey 
A holiday meal stress buster! Step-by-step directions on how to roast and carve turkey in advance and reheat it to moist perfection. I always roast my turkey a day ahead now. It's such a relief to just heat it up before the meal, and it tastes amazing!2_teaserIMG_2277.jpg

Turkey Neck & Giblet Broth
These are often removed from the turkey and discarded. But it's quick and easy to use the neck and giblets to make broth while the turkey cooks. Combine the broth with pan drippings to make gravy, or use it to moisten stuffing. 3_teaserIMG_2125_.jpg

Best Turkey Gravy 
What better way to finish your perfectly roasted turkey than with a gravy that not only boasts amazing flavor but is low in calories. This recipe is a tried-and-true family favorite. 4_teaserIMG_2465.jpg

Make-Ahead Turkey Gravy 
You can make this weeks ahead and freeze it--ready to reheat on Thanksgiving Day. It has amazing flavor! Oh, what a relief it is to have this task complete long before the big meal.5_teaserIMG_8249.JPG

 

SIDES

Everyone has a different favorite. These are the greatest hits in our family.

Slow Cooker Mashed Potatoes 
These can be made Thanksgiving Day or up to 2 days ahead. Cook and reheat them in a slow cooker to free up stovetop space. Easy and delicious!6_teaser_700IMG_8137_.JPG

Make-Ahead Cornbread Stuffing 
This stuffing is a healthy makeover of a family favorite recipe that my mom always made. It can be prepared in advance.7_teaser_squareIMG_6001.jpg

Cornbread Stuffing in A Bundt Pan 
This is easy to make and serve and looks impressive and beautiful on the table. It can be made up to 2 days ahead.8a_teaserIMG_2395.jpg

The Best Soft White Dinner Rolls
These light, fluffy rolls have the added convenience that they can be prepped the day before, refrigerated overnight, and baked the following day, so you can have freshly baked rolls on your holiday table.8b_teaserIMG_3015.jpg

Easy 10-Minute Cranberry Sauce 
This is a classic whole-berry recipe that's a snap to make ahead and refrigerate or freeze. For a smoother sauce, simply blend it. I use leftovers for jam on toast. Yum! 9_teaserIMG_3179.jpg

Cranberry Ginger Pear Relish
This is an easy-to-make blend of cranberries, pears, and ginger, with a hint of rosemary. It's a colorful, festive and delicious addition to your holiday table.10_teaserIMG_7539_.jpg

Green Bean Casserole with Bacon and Gruyere
There's no canned soup in this completely from scratch recipe. The flavor is amazing! You can assemble it 1-2 days ahead so it's ready to bake Thanksgiving Day.12_teasersquare_wm_IMG_3381.jpg

Easy Microwave "Fried" Onion Strings
Skip the canned kind and make this yummy, healthy version of crispy onions for topping green bean casserole. They can be made up to a week ahead. One reader said she loves them so much, she makes 2 batches so there's one for snacking on the "onion candy". 13_teaserIMG_3344.jpg

Sweet Potato Casserole with Marshmallows
A classic Thanksgiving holiday side dish using roasted sweet potatoes with a creamy, gooey topping. An easy recipe with make-ahead convenience.teaserPXL_20211122_214515004.PORTRAIT_1_resize1400

Honey Roasted Sweet Potatoes 
These have a honey glaze that caramelizes and coats the sweet potatoes as they roast in the oven. They're a healthier alternative to the traditional marshmallow-topped casserole.14_teaserIMG_1336resize1400.jpg

Best of Autumn Salad 
Roasted sweet potatoes, apples, cranberries, candied pecans and greens make this healthy, tasty combo ideal for Thanksgiving and holiday menus.15_teaserIMG_0117.jpg

Harvest Salad with Pears, Dried Figs, and Pepitas 
This fall salad has a distinctive blend of seasonal flavors that can easily be modified to suit your taste. 16_IMG_8019square_Copy.jpg

Maple Walnut and Cranberry Vinaigrettes 
These seasonal vinaigrettes are particularly perfect for dressing autumn and holiday greens.17_teaserIMG_7967square.jpg

Apple Cider Vinaigrette
Tangy with a hint of sweetness, this is a tasty dressing for autumn, Thanksgiving, and holiday greens.18_teaserIMG_0036.jpg

Brown Butter Pumpkin Cake 
This is hands-down my favorite cake! Browned butter in the cake and cream cheese frosting and a sweet and salty nut topping make this a showstopper. It can be made a day or two ahead and refrigerated. In fact, it's even better the next day. The frosted cake also freezes well for up to a month ahead. 19_teaserIMG_1113resize1400a.jpg

Grandma's Pumpkin Pie
A simple, classic recipe and old time family favorite for generations. It's the recipe my Grandma used from the back of the pumpkin can for Libby's Famous Pumpkin Pie. It's been around since before the 1950's.20_teaserIMG_8588.jpg

Grandma's Pecan Pie 
My grandma always made this pie during the holidays. It's another simple, classic recipe that has been a family favorite for generations.21_teasersquareIMG_8606.jpg

Pumpkin Seed (Pepita) Brittle 
I bought some similar brittle at Trader Joe's and had to figure out how to make it myself! It is dusted with pumpkin spice and is deliciously crunchy, sweet and salty. This easy recipe doesn't require a candy thermometer. It is awesome!
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Whole Wheat Pumpkin Bars with Kahlua & Cream Frosting 
This is a Fall dessert that everyone loves! This recipe is healthified and lower in calories than other pumpkin bars. It can be made ahead and frozen, so you can keep it on hand for a ready-made, tasty dessert.
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SOFT SOUR CREAM SUGAR COOKIE
This recipe is the most popular cookie on The Yummy Life blog. I've been making these sugar cookies for every special occasions since 1984. Kids love them, adults love them; they are simply loved by all. The soft, melt-in-your-mouth texture and amazing flavor are cookie perfection. They can be made in any shape to fit the occasion. These leaf shapes are perfect for Fall festivities.23a_IMG_9930resize1400tm.jpg

Pumpkin Spice Snowball Cookies. 
A classic cookie takes on the most popular flavor of fall. These have a melt-in-your-mouth, delicate texture. Total yum!
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Pumpkin Pie Spice Mix 
This is 
a blend of sweet spices that makes your recipes burst with flavor. You can buy a jar of pumpkin pie spice, but in under 5 minutes you can easily make your own using spices that are likely to already be in your pantry. Printable labels for gifts are provided, too. Makes a great host/hostess gift.23a_teaserIMG_9925.jpg

 

BEVERAGES

It's fun to mix up a few beverage options with flavors that celebrate the season.

Pumpkin Spice Simple Syrup 
This versatile syrup can be added to hot and cold drinks, stirred into yogurt or oatmeal, blended into smoothies and milk shakes or drizzled on waffles and pancakes. Makes a great host/hostess gift.
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Slow Cooker Mulled Pomegranate Apple Cider 
Throw the ingredients in the slow cooker in the morning so this spiced hot drink is available to enjoy throughout the day. It will fill your house with the lucious aroma of fall spices, too.24_teaser2IMG_2764.jpg

Apple Cider Sangria 
An easy recipe that celebrates the flavors of the season. It's a festive beverage to serve before, during, or after the main meal. The flavor improves if it's made a day or two ahead.
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Holiday Cranberry Sangria 
An easy, make-ahead recipe celebrating festive fruity flavors. Like the Apple Cider Sangria, the flavor is better made a day or two ahead. I like to make both so there's a choice for both red and white wine lovers.26_teaserIMG_3914.jpg

Slow Cooker Maple Pumpkin Spice Lattes
A healthier, low-calorie Starbucks copycat recipe that's is a yummy addition to breakfast or brunch. This big batch recipe is perfect for parties and the office. Or, keep it in your fridge and heat it up a mug at a time.27_Teaser700IMG_6672_.jpg

Pumpkin Spice Latte Instant Dry Mix 
Just add water to this instant mix for a delicious Starbucks copycat hot or cold pumpkin spice latte. Recipe includes both dairy and vegan options. Convenient for home, work, travel, dorm rooms and camping. Great for gifts; labels provided. 
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BREAKFASTS

Here are some favorite recipes to enjoy for a festive holiday breakfast. Some are healthy and others are sweet indulgences. 

Make-Ahead, Pull-Apart Sticky Buns
These yummy buns are tried and true--I've been making them for over 35 years now. Using frozen bread dough, they can be assembled in minutes. Make them the night before, let them rise overnight, and bake them in the morning for a gooey and delicious breakfast that tastes like it is totally made from scratch. My family has these for breakfast on Thanksgiving, Christmas and birthdays.28_teaserIMG_9157.jpg

Maple Pumpkin Pie Yogurt Breakfast Parfait
This easy, make-ahead parfait is like having pumpkin pie for breakfast; except this parfait is packed with nutrition. Layers of pumpkin yogurt and granola make this a healthy and delicious autumn breakfast.29_teaser_updatesquareIMG_5784.jpg

Slow Cooker Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal 
This is assembled the night before and cooks while you sleep. So, you can wake up to the aroma of a delicious, ready-to-eat, nutritious breakfast.
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Overnight, Slow Cooker, Eggnog Cranberry Steel-Cut Oatmeal
A delicious, festive combo of flavors for the holiday season. This cooks while you sleep, so you can wake up to the aroma of a delicious, ready-to-eat breakfast.31_teaserIMG_6294.jpg

Whole Grain Maple Pumpkin Spice Baked Donuts (& Muffins).  A healthier makeover recipe with a maple glaze or sugar spice coating. These are perfect for a Fall weekend breakfast treat.32_teaserIMG_5471.jpg

Cranberry Pull-Apart Sourdough Loaf
An easy, festive breakfast bread that can be assembled the night before. This is one of those recipes that looks pretty and impressive, but couldn't be easier.33_teaserIMG_7419.jpg

Overnight Pumpkin Pecan Croissant Bread Pudding
 Assemble the night before and pop in the oven in the morning for a warm, delicious breakfast casserole.34_teaserIMG_6236_Copy.png

Bakery-Style Pumpkin Muffins are big, tender and oh-so-delicious. They're a perfect weekend breakfast treat. This recipe can be easily adapted for other flavors like apple, blueberry, cranberry, and more. The recipe explains how.35_squareIMG_2538_resize700.jpg

 

PLAN AHEAD AND MAKE SURE YOU HAVE EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO MAKE THE MEAL!


Gear & Gifts for Thanksgiving & Holiday Cooking 
Explore the list of gear I use and recommend to help prepare for a relaxed, stress-free Thanksgiving. I gather all of my gear well in advance of the meal to make sure I have everything I need. If you use thermometers to check doneness (which I highly recommend), make sure the batteries are working and ready for checking the big bird!

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Wishing you a fabulous holiday meal! I'd love to hear what you make.

Make it a Yummy day!

Monica



Posted on Sunday, November 21st, 2021

Looking for holiday gifts for the foodie in your life?
Here are a few gift guides I made to help:








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