Breeze through Thanksgiving and lap up the compliments with these EASY Thanksgiving Menu ideas! Make ahead tips, mix and match, tips for how to create a menu, and most importantly, recipes that work and taste even better than they look!
I first shared an Easy Thanksgiving Menu back in 2015, so I’m updating the original post with the recipes I’ve added to my Thanksgiving collection since then, as well as fresh new tips for how to make cooking for Thanksgiving a breeze. Because there’s nothing worse than being stuck in the kitchen while everyone else is at the table, having fun (nibbling on the appetisers you made), and being a stressed out wreck to prepare a holiday feast is no fun at all!
Mix and match these recipes to your taste, based on logistics, making ahead vs making fresh, dietary requirements and how many people you’re catering for. The vast majority of these are recipes from my site, however, because I haven’t finished filling out my complete Thanksgiving recipe collection yet (couple more years to go!), I’ve included a couple of recipes from other sites that I have either personally tried and loved, or are from a source that I trust implicitly. 🙂
Ready for a smorgasbord of food?? Let’s hit it!
A REALLY EASY THANKSGIVING MENU
This is my easiest Thanksgiving menu that requires no advance preparation (e.g. brining). The recipes are straight forward, and much of it can be prepared in advance, if you so choose. ** See next section to build your own menu using my guide and tips. **
* Juicy Slow Cooker Turkey Breast & Gravy – 5 minutes prep, no brining, then cook in Slow Cooker. Brown briefly in oven while you make the gravy. Recipe here.
* Cranberry Sauce – Super easy, make ahead! Nice extra sauce option – and the colour is gorgeous! Recipe here.
* Wild Rice Salad – Adding beautiful colour to your table! Prepare ahead, with ingredients displayed (photo below), then toss at the table. The flavour of this one is incredible!! Recipe here.
* Fresh Salad – try this Brussel Sprout Salad with Hazelnuts, Bacon and Apple (a winner even with Brussel Sprout haters!) or a simple leafy or garden salad with any of these dressings (except the Asian one). Keep this salad fresh and simple, a nice palette cleanser!
* Creamy Corn Casserole, Skillet Corn Bread, or Corn Bread Muffins! Make these fresh on the day or make ahead and reheat – they reheat beautifully! Or consider No Knead Soft Dinner Rolls – you can even rise them in the fridge overnight then bake fresh the next day!
* Pumpkin Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting for dessert. Easy and fabulous, the cake is so moist and that frosting is everything!! Recipe here.
Printable list, including tips for when to make what and how to reheat each component, are in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
MY THANKSGIVING MENU
I call this “my” Thanksgiving menu, but as my regular readers know, we Aussies don’t celebrate Thanksgiving! So this is the Thanksgiving Menu that I would be making for you, if you were here. 🙂
* Garlic Herb Butter Roasted Turkey – because I’m a little obsessed with this! The herby garlicky buttery flavour is epic, and the leftover turkey is the best I’ve ever had. Recipe here. Plus Cranberry Sauce as another sauce option for the turkey (made ahead) – recipe here. Close second is this Cajun Turkey with Sausage Stuffing / Dressing. Made in one pan, the flavour of this is EPIC!
* Julia Child’s Potato Dauphinoise – because I prefer it over scalloped potatoes (cream trumps roux every day of the week), everybody loves it and it reheats beautifully in the microwave (I almost always make it in advance). Recipe here.
* Sausage, Apple Stuffing Pancetta Cups – everyone goes nuts over these. I only put out ONE per person…….. Bake while the turkey is resting. Recipe here.
* Corn Bread Muffins – because I’m known for these. 🙂 They are not real Southern ones which are kind of dry (supposed to be!), mine are much more moist. These are a 30 second microwave reheat job. Recipe here. Otherwise, I would make my No Knead Soft Dinner Rolls.
* Stovetop Glazed Carrots – I’d make this while the Stuffing Cups are in the oven. Recipe here.
* Wild Rice Salad – Bit obsessed with this salad right now, for all the flavour and because it’s so gorgeous! Plus a terrific make ahead salad. Recipe here.
* Brussel Sprout Salad for freshness. I’m a big fan of that salad, plus the components keep very well prepared ahead. Recipe here. Or I would make this Lemon Parmesan Cabbage salad without the chicken, or this Corn Salad with Avocado (because corn and avocado is on my table all year round), or this Herby Iceberg Lettuce Salad which is a personal favourite.
* Pecan Pie for dessert. Because I’m obsessed! Recipe here for my Pecan Pie with a perfectly set filling and no soggy bottom in sight!
HOW TO CHOOSE YOUR THANKSGIVING MENU
When I am creating a menu for an occasion, the main thing that affects the dishes I choose (other than dietary requirements) is logistics. I’m restricted by oven space, and even stove space and fridge space. Plus, I’m a control freak so when I host a gathering, I want to do everything myself!
I never compromise on a menu, but I do select items based on practicality. Here is how I approach the creation of a menu:
- Number of people: The more mouths to feed, the larger the quantities required. So I do not choose things that require preparation for individual servings, like my Mini Potato Gratin Stacks;
- Food order of priority: By this, I mean I number the dishes in order of importance. Like – turkey trumps side dishes every day of the week, and 10 times on Thanksgiving. This determines what gets priority for oven use (I only have one oven). So, for example, I rarely make Truly Crunchy Roast Potatoes for holiday feasts because they must be made fresh and they take 50 minutes in the oven, beyond the resting time for turkey. Turkey trumps potatoes!!! So I use other potato sides.
- Making ahead vs freshly made: Determine what must be served fresh and what can be reheated. I always, always include dishes that can be made ahead, or at the very least only require bare minimum effort just before serving. My microwave works hard when I host gatherings.
- Create a Schedule: Yes, I really do. I list things to be done prior to the day, but most importantly, I list what needs to be done on the day, splitting that up between “do in morning” and “must be done just before serving” <— KEY TIP!! I will never forget the day I proudly plonked a turkey on the table then I almost burst into tears when I realised I hadn’t made the gravy!! 😭
Don’t feel the need to make everything you want on your Thanksgiving table. Mix ‘n match as needed with store bought vs homemade. My tip with store bought things is to dress them up or freshen them up with extra herbs / lemon etc depending on what it is. The most important thing is that you enjoy Thanksgiving and that you aren’t stuck in the kitchen being a stressed out wreck!!!
I’ve created a Thanksgiving recipe collection which you can browse at your leisure. But to help you choose, I’ve written a brief summary about each recipe below, including indicating the difficulty and whether it needs advance preparation (e.g. brining) and how well it reheats.
MY BEST THANKSGIVING RECIPES
THE MAIN EVENT
1. JUICY SLOW COOKER TURKEY BREAST (Very Easy • No brining • Best served fresh • Recipe Video provided)
Wildly popular all year round, with good reason. This is without a doubt the safest and easiest way to cook turkey breast without brining. It’s moist, juicy, and takes 3 minutes to prepare. And the juices from the slow cooker are used to make a killer gravy! Recipe here.
2. GENIUS DRY BRINED TURKEY (Easy to Intermediate • 1 – 3 Days Brining • Best served fresh)
Forget trying to wet brine a giant turkey. Logistics and food safety aside, the flavour of the turkey itself is compromised and there’s a high risk of the pan juices being too salty to use for gravy. Dry brining is easier, tastier, you can start with a frozen turkey and it roasts faster. 🙂 Wait until you see how juicy the turkey is…. Mind. BLOWN! Recipe here.
3. CAJUN TURKEY WITH SAUSAGE STUFFING (Easy to Intermediate • No Brining • Best served fresh)
A gem of a recipe given to me by a sassy Southern lady, this turkey breast is rubbed with punchy Cajun flavours and roasted to perfection WITH a sausage stuffing in the same pan so it soaks up the turkey juices as it bakes. It is sensational, this was my Thanksgiving centrepiece last year. There was almost a fist fight over the last of the stuffing. Recipe here.
4. GARLIC HERB BUTTER ROAST TURKEY BREAST (Easy to Intermediate • No Brining • Best served fresh • Recipe video)
The latest addition to my turkey collection, and it’s epic! Intensely garlicky herby butter is smeared under the skin (don’t be daunted by this, turkey skin is easy to loosen and is not prone to accidental tearing), then the breast is roasted to golden perfect. The garlic butter pan juices make the most amazing sauce to serve the turkey with. WAIT UNTIL YOU SEE THE VIDEO!!! Recipe here.
Tip: Don’t forget to include some freshness, not just all things creamy / cheesy / sweet / carby (essential food groups for sure, it’s just… well, you know. Sometimes people need something a bit fresh!).
1. CRANBERRY SAUCE (Easy • Make ahead)
Many argue that Thanksgiving would not be complete without Cranberry Sauce! Sweet and tart, this pairs exceptionally well with turkey. Recipe here.
2. STUFFING / DRESSING* (Easy • Good reheated but best made fresh)
My favourite Dressing recipe is this Sausage Pork Dressing recipe by Hapa Nom Nom (left photo, which I made) which I have used every year since I came across it. I use that recipe to make Pancetta Stuffing Cups (right) which steals the show at every holiday gathering I take them to!
Cooking logistics: Pop it in the oven on the shelf below the turkey. Allow an extra 5 to 10 minutes cook time (because jam packed oven = longer cook time). Both are also excellent reheated. The Dressing can also be prepared the day before up to the point before coming liquids with bread-sausage mixture. Then mix together on the day of, just before baking.
* Quick trivia: Same base recipe, but Stuffing is when it’s cooked inside turkey, Dressing is when it is baked in a pan. I prefer Dressing because you get the golden crunchy bits on top and also because in order for Stuffing to be cooked to a safe temperature, the turkey meat ends up overcooked. 🙂
3. POTATO GOODNESS – No feast is ever complete without some form of potato goodness! Here’s a selection of the best of the best that I’ve shared to grace your Thanksgiving table.
Left to right, top to bottom:
* Epic Parmesan Crusted Potatoes (Easy • Best served fresh but also reheats very well)
* Easy Cheesy Potato Bake (Easy • Make Ahead) – Diced potatoes instead of thinly sliced, smothered in a creamy cheesy sauce.
* Adorable Mini Potato Gratin Stacks (Easy to Intermediate • Make Ahead) – made in a muffin tin!
* Velvety make ahead Mashed Potato (Easy • Make Ahead) – restaurant secret!
* Glowing, caramelised Rosemary Sweet Potato Stacks (Easy to Intermediate • Best served fresh)
* Julia Child’s Potato Gratin Dauphinoise (Easy • Make Ahead) – I prefer this to Scalloped Potatoes because cream trumps roux always.
* Truly Crunchy Roast Potatoes (Easy • Best served fresh) – The most incredible roast potatoes ever, however, the restriction with these is that they take 50 minute to roast and are best served fresh.
* Mrs Brodie’s Famous Bacon Potato Salad (Easy • Make Ahead) – The most stress free potato side, made entirely ahead, tastes even better the next day and is served at room temperature!
3. MAC ‘n CHEESE (Easy to Intermediate • Partly Prepare Ahead • Recipe video provided)
Someone once told me that in her opinion, Mac and Cheese must always have a crunchy top! I tend to agree. Recipe here for my Baked Mac and Cheese with the essential crunchy top. It’s a bit saucier than most straight out of the oven, which ensures it doesn’t dry out while sitting on the table. This can be mostly made ahead, then assembled and baked on the day.
In case you’re running out of oven space, here’s my Stovetop Mac and Cheese (sprinkle with buttery breadcrumbs and pop it under the grill/broiler for a few minutes and it will be just like the baked version).
4. MORE SIDES
* No Knead Soft Bread Rolls (Easy to Intermediate • Make Ahead • Recipe video) – nothing beats fresh homemade bread! Do the overnight rise in the fridge option then bake them while the turkey is resting. Recipe here.
* Creamy Corn Casserole (Easy • Make Ahead) – a recipe I received from a sassy Southern lady, this corn casserole is made entirely from scratch, no Jiffy mix! Reheats extremely well in the microwave. Recipe here.
* Skillet Corn Bread (Easy • Make Ahead) – Warning: My recipe is not traditional Southern corn bread which is drier and more crumbly. Mine is moist enough to eat plain! Recipe here – or try the Corn Bread Muffins (my favourite!!)
* Stovetop Glazed Carrots (Easy • Best Made Fresh) – Stovetop because I always run out of oven space and carrots are behind many other things that take priority in the oven! Recipe here.
5. SALADS WORTHY OF YOUR THANKSGIVING TABLE
* Celebration Wild Rice Salad (Easy • Prepare Ahead Ahead • Recipe video) – This is such a beautiful salad, prepare it to show off all the ingredients separately, then toss it at the table. Great suggestion from a reader! Recipe here;
* Roasted Sweet Potato Salad (Easy • Partly Prepare Ahead • Recipe video) – Wonderful holiday salad! Everything except the roasted sweet potato can be prepared ahead. Recipe here.
* Strawberry Spinach Salad with Strawberry Balsamic Dressing (Easy • Prepare Ahead) – A beautiful salad that tastes as good as it looks! Prepare all components ahead but don’t toss. Then dress and toss just before serving. Recipe here.
* Brussel Sprout Salad with Bacon, Pecans and Apple (Easy • Prepare Ahead • Recipe video) – I kid you not, even brussel sprout haters love this salad. Beautifully refreshing. Prepare all components ahead then toss before serving. Recipe here.
* Fresh Garden Salad of your choice – use greens of your choice, then use one of these Dressings.
* More Salad Suggestions (Easy • Prepare Ahead) – Or try this Lemon Parmesan Cabbage salad without the chicken, or this Corn Salad with Avocado, or this Herby Iceberg Lettuce Salad which is a personal favourite.
6. OTHER THANKSGIVING WORTHY READER FAVOURITES!
* Pecan Pie (Easy with bought pie crust, Intermediate with homemade • Prepare Ahead • Recipe video) – master the great American classic with step photos and a video tutorial! Recipe here;
Pumpkin Pie – I haven’t published a recipe yet. Next year! I have made this Pumpkin Pie recipe by Smitten Kitchen and can highly recommend (I skipped the extra topping);
* Pumpkin Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting (Easy • Prepare Ahead) – a wonderful recipe I got from a sassy Southern Lady! Great cake for feeding a crowd. Recipe here;
* Red Velvet Cake (Easy • Prepare Ahead• Recipe video)– not sure if this is traditional, but this is a cake that makes a statement at any celebratory gathering! Recipe here.
I’m a little short on Thanksgiving desserts and have long term plans to fill out this collection over the coming years! See all my Dessert recipes here.
Phew! That’s a lot of food talk!! Hope you found it useful. 🙂
As we don’t have Thanksgiving here in Australia, I’ll be around and working through over that holiday period. Which means I’ll be here to answer any questions you might have about a recipe, just leave them in the comments section of the recipe – I’ll respond to these daily in the days leading up to Thanksgiving. 🙂 – Nagi x ❤️
🍁 SO. MUCH. GOOD. FOOD!!! 🍁
- 1 Juicy Slow Cooker Turkey Breast & Gravy
- 1 Cranberry Sauce
- 1 Easy Cheesy Potato Bake
- OR Make Ahead Mashed Potato
- 1 Wild Rice Salad
- 1 Brussel Sprout Salad with Hazelnuts , Bacon and Apple
- OR one of these Salad Dressings with a simple garden or leafy salad
- 1 Creamy Corn Casserole , Skillet Corn Bread, or Corn Bread Muffins
- 1 Soft NO KNEAD Dinner Rolls (these are world famous!)
- 1 Pumpkin Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting for dessert.
Cranberry Sauce - serve at room temperature.
Pumpkin Cake - store at room temperature.
Soft No Knead Dinner Rolls - make and rise dough, then form into balls then do the 2nd rise in the baking pan in the refrigerator overnight. Then bake just before serving (20 min).
Creamy Corn Casserole, Skillet Corn Bread and Corn Bread Muffins all reheat extremely well in the microwave.
Easy Cheesy Potato Bake reheats well but if you have the oven time, this is one that is really great made fresh.
Make Ahead Mashed Potato can be made ahead then reheated in the microwave.
Morning - prepare turkey and place in slow cooker. Start cooking based on serving time. Turkey is best served fresh for optimum juiciness.
Prepare salads - keep salad components separate (including dressing). Toss just before serving.
LIFE OF DOZER
I cannot clarify what his definition of “work” is….