Make-Ahead Thanksgiving Recipes

Stress-busters to help you enjoy the holiday!

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After 30 years of making Thanksgiving meals, here is my number one tip for reducing stress and enjoying a relaxed cooking experience on Thanksgiving day: 

Make ahead as much of the menu as possible!

Here is a round-up of 13 of my make-ahead recipes, including breakfast, appetizers, the main meal, beverages, and dessert. I'll be making, or have already made, several of these for our Thanksgiving meal. They're all tried-and-true. Many of these will work for Christmas meals, as well. To view any of these recipes, click on the photos.


Pull-Apart Sticky Buns
A family favorite for many years. (click on photo for recipe link) 

Pull-Apart Sticky Buns

Make-Ahead Tip: These sticky buns can be assembled anywhere from the night before to 48 hours in advance, covered, and put in the fridge to rise until baking time on Thanksgiving morning.


Pumpkin Pecan Croissant Bread Pudding
Serve it with warm maple syrup. (click on photo for recipe link)  

Pumpkin Bread Pudding2

Make-Ahead Tip: Assemble this at least 5 hours and up to 24 hours ahead, put it in the fridge, and it's ready to bake in the morning. 


Maple Pumpkin Pie Yogurt Breakfast Parfaits

A healthy, delicious option. (click on photo for recipe link)  

Pumpkin Pie Parfait

Make-Ahead Tips: There are two ways to make these parfaits ahead. 

  • The yogurt & pumpkin mixture may be combined the day before and refrigerated overnight for faster parfait assembly for breakfast the next day. The granola remains crunchy if the parfaits are assembled right before serving. Or...
  • Make the parfaits, start to finish, the day before, cover and refrigerate. The granola loses it's crunch, but the flavor is still great. The yogurt mixture firms up when the parfaits are chilled and makes a nice texture for eating. It sure is convenient to have the parfaits completely ready to serve when you wake up in the morning.


4. Snack or Appetizer
Easy Autumn Leaf Wreath Cheese Platter
(click on photo for recipe link)  


Make-Ahead Tip: The cheese can be cut into leaf shapes and arranged on the platter up to 2 days ahead. Cover it with plastic wrap & refrigerate. Right before serving, you can tuck in the optional pretzel crackers, if desired.


5. Snack, Appetizer, or Dessert
3 Easy Dips -- Pumpkin Pie, Caramel, & Peanut Butter
(click on photo for recipe link) 


Make-Ahead Tip: These can be made up to 3 days ahead and refrigerated until serving time.


6. Main Meal
Make-Ahead Turkey Gravy
This is my biggest stress-reducer on Thanksgiving Day. No more last-minute panic trying to get the gravy made after the turkey comes out of the oven.
(click on photo for recipe link)  


Make-Ahead Tip: This gravy can be made and held in the fridge for up to 3 days or frozen for up to a month.


7. Main Meal
Slow Cooker Mashed Potatoes
(click on photo for recipe link)  

Mashed Potatoes

Make-Ahead Tip: You can peel, chop, and soak your potatoes in water in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours in advance. Transfer them to a slow cooker the morning of Thanksgiving Day and time them to be cooked at least an hour before the rest of the meal. You can mash them and keep them warm in the slow cooker until meal time. Not only are they ready ahead of time, they don't take up any stove top space.


8. Main Meal
2 Recipes:

  • Cranberry Ginger Pear Relish 
  • Traditional Cranberry Sauce 

(click on photo for recipe link) 


Make-Ahead Tip: You can make either of these up to 3 days ahead or freeze them for up to a month.


9. Main Meal
Two Recipes:

  • Maple Walnut Vinaigrette
  • Cranberry Vinaigrette

Serve these dressings with salad greens for a simple, festive salad.
(click on photo for recipe link)  


Make-Ahead Tip: Both of these vinaigrettes can be made up to 2 weeks in advance and refrigerated.


10. Beverage
Slow Cooker Maple Pumpkin Spice Lattes

A big batch party recipe. (click on photo for recipe link)  

teaser redo

Make-Ahead Tip: These can be made the day before and reheated in the slow cooker or stove-top the next day.


11. Beverage
Spiced Hot Drink Mix

For cider, coffee, tea, juice, or wine. (click on photo for recipe link)  

Spiced Hot Drink Mix

Make-Ahead Tip: Make this mix and store it in an air-tight jar. It's ready for making a big batch of hot cider on the stove or the slow cooker, or it can be mixed a cup at a time. 


12. Beverage
Easy Homemade Cranberry Liqueur
Add a little of this to a glass of champagne for a yummy and pretty cocktail. 
(click on photo for recipe link)  

Cranberry Liqueur

Make-Ahead Tip: It's so simple to mix this up, let it steep for 4 days, strain it, and store it in a bottle until serving time. 


13. Dessert
Pumpkin Bars with Kahlua & Cream Frosting
A new favorite and crowd pleaser.
(click on photo for recipe link)  

Pumpkin Bars

Make-Ahead Tip: Make and hold frosted pumpkin bars in fridge for up to 3 days or freeze for up to a month. 


Hope these recipes are stress-busters for you so you can enjoy the holiday. What are you making ahead for Thanksgiving?

Make it a yummy day!

Click here for Easy Thanksgiving Decorating Ideas

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Posted on Saturday, November 19th, 2011

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