Ultimate Guide to a Classic Midwestern Thanksgiving

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Plan your perfect Thanksgiving meal with some of the most popular holiday recipes on Culinary Hill. This Ultimate Guide to a Classic Midwestern Thanksgiving contains a planner to get ahead, a printable shopping list, menu cards, and links to all 12 recipes on the menu.

A plate of roasted turkey with gravy, mashed potatoes, bread stuffing, veggie casserole, cranberry sauce with apples, and roasted asparagus.


When I think about my Ideal Thanksgiving Feast, these are the recipes on it.

An amazing, show-stopping turkey with gravy made from the drippings. Creamy, fluffy (and EASY) mashed potatoes. A killer bread stuffing (traditional! no trendy ingredients!). A variety of savory vegetable sides (vegetable casserole with Velveeta and green bean casseroles are both non-negotiable). A sweet and puckery cranberry sauce, and buttery, homemade crescent rolls.

I love to finish up the meal with all the classic pies, enough so everyone can try a slice of each: apple, pecan, pumpkin. Whipped cream or ice cream are optional toppings, and maybe a dusting of cinnamon and sugar too? This is the feast of my childhood in the Midwest and my dreams, and it’s certainly the must-have holiday meal I’m cooking up this year.

I already did all the planning for myself, and I’m sharing it with you! Below you’ll find the menu (with printable menu cards), a printable shopping list, and a printable timetable of events to help you orchestrate your schedule.

Wherever you are, I hope you’ll invite a touch of Midwestern Thanksgiving into your home this November and onto your table.

The Menu

This menu feeds at least 12 adults (or fewer with ample leftovers).

Want a copy of the menu for your guests or to help you stay organized? This printable Thanksgiving dinner menu has a complete list of recipes in a printer-friendly format.

A Thanksgiving menu graphic.

Shopping list

This printable Thanksgiving shopping list has EXACTLY what you need to make all 12 recipes in this collection.

Already have some ingredients on hand? Of course you do! Just go through your pantry and spice cabinet, identify what is already in there (ground cinnamon, sugar, etc.), and cross it off the list.

Thanksgiving planner

This printable Thanksgiving planner is a road map to your Thanksgiving success. It tells you what to do and when, up to 5 days in advance, so you can get started as soon as possible.

Perfect Roast Turkey with Gravy

My idea of a perfectly roasted turkey involves juicy meat, butter-crisp skin, and plenty of flavor. Luckily, there’s a way to get all three of those things without a giant bucket of salted water or a vat of boiling oil. Whether you’re a first-time turkey roaster or a seasoned Thanksgiving host, this recipe is easy to follow and always makes people come back for seconds.

A platter of roast turkey garnished with grapes.


Perfect Roast Turkey

The most Perfect Roast Turkey recipe relies on dry-brining and butter-basting for the juiciest, most delicious turkey you've ever had. Save your pan drippings too for an easy classic gravy recipe.
Get the Recipe

Best Mashed Potatoes

No matter what’s on the menu for the holidays, mashed potatoes are a staple and should always make an appearance. There are millions of recipes out there, some with cream cheese or sweet potatoes, but if you’re looking for an old-school, classic mashed potato recipe that really lets the flavor of the potato shine, make this one. It is tried and true and absolutely foolproof.

The Best Mashed Potatoes in a blue Dutch oven.


The Best Mashed Potatoes

The Best Mashed Potatoes in the world are just 3 ingredients (plus salt and pepper) and so simple, they barely even need a recipe.
Get the Recipe

Classic Bread Stuffing

This stuffing is rich and savory, soft but with crispy edges. There are some vegetables and herbs, but nothing so strange that it changes the overall texture. There are no walnuts, pears, or gorgonzola. There are no giblets, mushrooms, jalapeños, sausage, or bacon. It’s traditional, like your mom’s or grandma’s maybe, and I hope you love this stuffing recipe as much as I do.

A baking dish full of classic bread stuffing.


Classic Bread Stuffing

An easy Bread Stuffing made with all the classic flavors like onion, celery, and sage. Dry your bread the night before on the counter or in a 300-degree oven for 40 minutes.
Get the Recipe

Slow Cooker Green Bean Casserole

Traditional green bean casseroles can easily get mushy and bland, what with all the canned beans and canned soup and all. The only thing saving the texture is the canned onions! The better, tastier way to make this Thanksgiving favorite is to use frozen green beans and make the cream of mushroom soup from scratch. And yes, let’s keep the canned onions!

Slow cooker green bean casserole on a patterned platter.


Slow Cooker Green Bean Casserole

This Slow Cooker Green Bean Casserole is a great mix of convenience and from-scratch cooking and won't take up any oven space.
Get the Recipe

Vegetable Casserole

I’m not a food snob, and I don’t shame people who eat Velveeta. I love it! I don’t eat it every day, of course, but if I’m going to eat it, let me eat it like this. Colorful vegetables (but frozen because we’re busy), creamy Velveeta, and that buttery cracker topping. All good things!

A pan of vegetable casserole with Velveeta and cracker crumbs.


Vegetable Casserole

Vegetable Casserole, just like mom used to make! Made with frozen veggies, Velveeta, and buttery cracker crumbs, it's always the first side dish to disappear.
Get the Recipe

Roasted Asparagus

With everything else going on, the asparagus needs to be easy! And it is. Simple, flavorful, delicious. Good enough to go up against everything else at the feast, too.

A baking sheet full of roasted asparagus with lemons.


Roasted Asparagus Recipe

You'll love this easy Roasted Asparagus recipe with olive oil, garlic, and lemon. The high oven temperature cooks it to tender-crisp perfection in 10 minutes or less making it a quick, easy, and healthy side dish.
Get the Recipe

Homemade Crescent Rolls

Growing up, grandma’s Homemade Crescent Rolls were always a tradition at all the holiday tables. They looked like store-bought crescent rolls but had a sweet, buttery taste that was unmatched by anything you could pop out of a can. Even the fussiest eaters (hello, children!) can’t resist homemade rolls. If they eat nothing else on the table, they’ll eat these!

A basket 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.
Get the Recipe

Cranberry Sauce with Apples

In my family, Thanksgiving is all about traditions. So when it comes to cranberry sauce, there isn’t a whole lot of wiggle room. It must still look and mostly taste like cranberry sauce. But I can get away with adding apples! Apples add an element of surprise without upsetting anyone, and apples mixed with cranberries somehow make a lot of sense.

A bowl of cranberry sauce with apples.


Cranberry Apple Sauce

For a sweet and simple twist on the classic Thanksgiving side dish, try Cranberry Apple Sauce. It's a tasty without getting too crazy on a menu that is rooted in tradition.
Get the Recipe

Best Apple Pie

Raise your hand if your brother is an apple aficionado who has an orchard and grafts his own apple species! Just me, then? My brother Matt, the aforementioned apple genius (no, not THAT kind), always makes an Apple Pie at Thanksgiving. He uses a variety of apples, more species than the rest of us could name collectively, and that pie puts all other apple pies to shame.

But if you don’t have time to take up an apple orchard hobby, you can get the same fantastic results with just a few good baking apples and this easy recipe.

A slice of apple pie on a light blue plate.


The Best Apple Pie Recipe

The best Apple Pie Recipe can be on your table in just one hour. No one will guess this classic apple pie starts with store-bought pie crust; the filling is just like your favorite bakery's desserts!
Get the Recipe

Best Pecan Pie

You’ll love this recipe because the homemade crust is easy to make (make it ahead!) and so flaky and buttery. The pecan filling is sweet and soft without being too jelly-like, and you can top it off with a decorative touch or just a pile of chopped pecans. Easy!

Slices of pecan pie on a board.


Pecan Pie

The best Pecan Pie has a flavorful, balanced filling that's just sweet enough, tucked inside a flaky, buttery crust that never gets soggy.
Get the Recipe

Best Pumpkin Pie

The Best Pumpkin Pie is the one that’s easiest to make! You can have a delicious, semi-homemade pumpkin pie without sacrificing an ounce of authenticity.

A slice of pumpkin pie on a gray plate.


Pumpkin Pie Recipe

The best Pumpkin Pie Recipe just so happens to be an ultra-easy dessert recipe. Start with a store-bought crust, whisk together a tasty filling, and bake. No one will guess this is a semi-homemade pumpkin pie!
Read More

Homemade Whipped Cream

For desserts that are truly over-the-top, you need to make your own whipped cream. What it lacks in convenience, it makes up for in cool, creamy richness that is never properly imitated by the store-bought cans. If you can’t swing it, no worries! FYI: Although it’s best made soon before you need it, you can get away with making it up to 10 hours in advance. Just store it covered in the refrigerator.

A bowl filled with piped whipped cream.


How to Make Whipped Cream

By mixer or by hand, I'll teach you how to make whipped cream (so much better than canned!) with 3 ingredients and in 5 minutes! Use this homemade whipped cream in shortcakes, pies, sundaes, and so much more.
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How to Set a Table

Growing up, some Thanksgivings called for heirloom China, while others called for Dixie’s best paper plates (fewer dishes to do, am I right?). Really, it’s just about being together, and sometimes it doesn’t matter what plate you eat off of. And no matter what you choose this year, a casual event or a formal affair, you can 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, learning How to Set a Table can make any occasion more noteworthy. Break out your best china and polish the glassware; here’s a breakdown of how to do it.

View Recipe

Classic Midwestern Thanksgiving dishes

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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. Meggan, what a great gift to all cooks! Unfortunately, I lost my husband this past Summer and my children all live at a distance, plus I have outlived most of my relatives, so I won’t be cooking for 12 people. But that doesn’t mean I won’t try at least one of your recipes. Thank you.

    1. You’re welcome, Doris! I can’t describe how much it means that you found something in my recipes that resonates warmly with you, especially during the holiday times. I’m sorry for the loss of your husband and the distance that separates you from family. I hope trying one of my recipes brings a bit of joy or a fond memory of happy times. Take care Doris and please don’t hesitate to write again! – Meggan

  2. You gotta be old to make this comment. When growing up, I remember my grandmother using that cast aluminum cookware on a wood and coal-fired cookstove. Talk about hot in the summertime! We also popped corn in a wire basket with a sliding lid that was constantly shaken over the firebox. The corn was dried hung outside on the porch on the cob. Good memories with incredible aromas when I see that cookware.

    BTW, Do you happen to have the clamp-on handle that turns that pot into a saucepan? That’s why the handles are cast in that interesting shape. “Form follows function.” :-)