A Complete Make Ahead Thanksgiving

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The most important feast of the year just got easier with my menu for a Complete Make Ahead Thanksgiving. Make the turkey ahead, make it all ahead, make your life easier with these great recipes!

A table set for Thanksgiving with turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and pumpkin pie.

Don’t let this holiday stress you out; knock out the main course and all the trimmings well ahead of Thursday. You won’t need a dozen ovens to do it, either! By the time the big day arrives, you’ll actually have time to be thankful. 

This menu includes roast turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, pumpkin pie, cranberry sauce, and more! Some recipes, like roast turkey and cranberry sauce, lend themselves naturally to freezing and don’t need any tweaks (but I break down a lot of the helpful specifics for you, anyway).

Other recipes, like mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie, need a little wizardry to make the magic happen. And you don’t have to make it all ahead, either. Pick the things that make the most sense for you, and leave the rest.

Make Ahead Roasted Turkey

Of all the easy turkey recipes out there, this is the one to make. Well before guests arrive (days! weeks! months!), you can get all the carving out of the way, make the gravy, and make broth with the turkey carcass. Then you’ll be fully prepared to deal with whatever else happens on Thanksgiving Day.

A platter of sliced turkey.
Make Ahead Roasted Turkey
If you're pressed for time (or oven space), Make Ahead Roasted Turkey is just what you need. With this technique, cooking turkey the day before, the week before, or even the month before, still tastes delicious and freshly carved.
Make ahead roasted turkey on a blue platter.

Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes

This Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes recipe has a few tricks up its sleeve to make sure that fluffy, creamy, and decadent mashed potatoes can be made ahead and still be absolutely fabulous. In fact, this recipe has enough fat to protect the potatoes in the freezer for up to 6 months.

A bowl of mashed potatoes.
Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes
Reduce your Thanksgiving Day stress with Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes. These creamy, fluffy potatoes can be mashed a few days in advance and reheated in the oven or a slow cooker.
Make ahead mashed potatoes in a white bowl.

Make Ahead Stuffing

This classic stuffing is my mom’s recipe and my favorite part about Thanksgiving. Add in the advantages of make-ahead convenience and you’re officially out of excuses not to make it!

A pan of bread stuffing.
Make Ahead Stuffing
This is my favorite (and wildly popular) bread stuffing recipe updated with make-ahead instructions. It's a great way to get a jump-start on the holiday!
Bread stuffing on a plate with a fork.

Make Ahead Pumpkin Pie

Once you assemble this Make Ahead Pumpkin Pie, it freezes beautifully for future desserts. But you can also make it the day you need it. And as long as you’re working with a pre-baked crust, it doesn’t take up any prime real estate in the oven.

A slice of pumpkin pie with whipped cream on top.
Make Ahead Pumpkin Pie
This no bake, Make Ahead Pumpkin Pie can be made up to 2 weeks in advance and frozen. You'll love the maple-cinnamon topping, too!
Make ahead pumpkin pie topped with whipped cream.

Make Ahead Cranberry Sauce

Any cranberry sauce can be made ahead of time. Refrigerate it for up to 4 days, or freeze it for up to 3 months (thaw overnight in the refrigerator).

Cranberry Sauce
This classic Cranberry Sauce has just 5 ingredients and takes 10 minutes to make (plus chilling time).
Cranberry sauce in a clear glass decorative bowl.
Cranberry Sauce with Apples
Update your Homemade Cranberry Sauce with apples for a simple and sweet twist on the classic Thanksgiving side. Tasty without getting too crazy!
A bowl of cranberry sauce with apples.
Cranberry Relish
This 3-ingredient, 5-minute Cranberry Relish is the easiest side dish you'll make this Thanksgiving. Make it ahead, too; the flavor improves as it sits.
Cranberry relish in a white bowl.

Homemade Crescent Rolls

Even the fussiest eaters (hello, children!) can’t resist these Homemade Crescent Rolls. If they eat nothing else on the table, they’ll eat these!

The best part? Bake them a month in advance, cool, and freeze until the big day. Thaw at room temperature or warm in the oven before serving. Make a double batch if you want to enjoy some right away (you definitely want to!).

A baking sheet of homemade crescent rolls.
Homemade Crescent Rolls
Pillowy soft with a sweet, buttery taste, these Homemade Crescent Rolls are perfect for all the holidays or a weekend baking project.
A basket of homemade crescent rolls.

Slow Cooker Cranberry Apple Cider

While you could technically mix this up in advance, it’s so quick and easy, there’s really no reason. Just combine everything in a slow cooker a few hours before your guests arrive. Set out cozy cups and a big ladle and let your guests help themselves.

Slow cooker cranberry apple cider in a clear mug.
Slow Cooker Cranberry Apple Cider
Slow Cooker Cranberry Apple Cider is simple to make, sweet, and delicious. This welcoming, spiced hot beverage makes the whole house smell amazing, too.
Slow cooker cranberry apple cider in a clear mug.

Set the Table

Whether you’re looking for a casual event or a formal affair, find your preferred way to set the table for Thanksgiving.

How to Set a Table

Whether it’s a quiet supper for one or a dinner party for 12, setting a pretty table makes the occasion even more special. Break out your best china and polish the glassware; here’s a breakdown…

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150+ Thanksgiving Recipes

Discover 150+ Thanksgiving Recipes on Culinary Hill. Turkey, turkey techniques, all the side dishes, bread and rolls, desserts, drinks, and appetizers. It’s all here, organized by category. I also have sections for gluten-free, vegan, and…

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Thanksgiving for Two

Cooking for just a couple this year? Skip the turkey and prepare a pair of Cornish hens with stuffing. I’ve also scaled down the most important side dishes, and you can complete your meal with…

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A make ahead Thanksgiving feast on a table.

More Thanksgiving recipes

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Meggan Hill is a classically-trained chef and professional writer. Her meticulously-tested recipes and detailed tutorials bring confidence and success to home cooks everywhere. Meggan has been featured on NPR, HuffPost, FoxNews, LA Times, and more.

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    1. Hi Rich, cooked stuffing can be kept in a low-temperature oven for several hours. But keep in mind, food left in a warmer for more than two to four hours loses its freshness and starts to dry out. Hope this helps! – Meggan

  1. Thanksgiving stuffing – can you freeze two weeks in advance? If so is it better to freeze before or after Baking?

    1. Hi Mary! I recommend assembling the stuffing, freezing, then baking. The frozen stuffing will last up to 3 months in the freezer. Enjoy! – Meggan

  2. Thank you for making an effort to educate me on how to set a table for myself/family dinners.
    I’m learning a lot about table etiquette and how to prepare meals for my family.