25 Thanksgiving Side Dishes You Can Make Ahead of Time

25 Thanksgiving Side Dishes You Can Make Ahead of Time

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Kelli Foster
Nov 16, 2016

Despite your most careful planning (did you make a detailed timeline?), cooking Thanksgiving dinner can still feel a little stressful come the big day. That's why we love getting a jump-start on the side dishes now. Most can be prepped, assembled, or even totally cooked anywhere from a day to a month in advance. From mashed potatoes and stuffing, to gravy and casseroles, these are the Thanksgiving sides to make ahead.

(Image credit: Leela Cyd)

1. Make-Ahead Mashed Potato Casserole

Mashed potatoes are a Thanksgiving essential, but they can take up precious time if you're making a big batch on the big day. Give yourself a head start with this casserole version of the dish.

(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

2. How To Make the Very Best Thanksgiving Stuffing

This classic turkey sidekick can be assembled and tucked away in the fridge up to a day before hitting the oven on the big day.

(Image credit: Faith Durand)

3. How To Make Turkey Gravy Ahead of Thanksgiving

Good news — you don't have to wait until the whole bird is out of the oven to tackle the gravy. This version, made with turkey pieces, can be made up to a few months in advance and stored in the freezer.

(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

4. Thanksgiving Slaw

Thanks to a hearty shredded cabbage base, this seasonal slaw will stay crisp for hours after being dressed. Or make it a day in advance and mix in the dressing just before serving.

(Image credit: Maria Siriano)

5. Baked Polenta with Greens and Gruyère

This ultra-comforting, veggie-heavy casserole can be prepped and assembled up to a day before cooking. Get an even bigger jump-start by making and freezing the filling up to one month in advance.

(Image credit: Maria Siriano)

6. Gluten-Free Cornbread and Mushroom Stuffing

This cornbread stuffing, filled with wild mushrooms, fresh herbs, and pecans, is even better when made in advance.

(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

7. Sour Cream Balsamic Sweet Potatoes

This majorly upgraded side starts with whole baked sweet potatoes that can be cooked a few days in advance. All that's left to do is reheat and mix in the sour cream and balsamic before serving.

(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

8. How To Make Cranberry Sauce

This sweet turkey accompaniment can be made up to two weeks in advance and tucked away in the fridge until the turkey is out of the oven.

(Image credit: Faith Durand)

9. Light & Easy Broccoli Salad

This shredded broccoli salad benefits from staying put for an hour or two after being dressed. Want to get more of a jump on your salad? Prep the salad and dressing separately a day or two in advance, and then mix them just before serving.

(Image credit: Melissa Ryan)

10. Stovetop Whipped Sweet Potatoes with Maple Pecan Drizzle

You'll want to hold off on the maple and pecan drizzle until just before this crowd-pleasing side hits the table, but the potatoes can be made a few days in advance.

(Image credit: Nealey Dozier)

11. Baked Potato Casserole

This decadent casserole takes a basic baked potato to a whole new level. Best of all, it allows you to get a head start on what's sure to be everyone's favorite side.

(Image credit: Faith Durand)

12. Smoky Creamed Kale

If you love creamed spinach, consider this recipe an invitation to branch out beyond the classic. Added bonus: It can be prepared a day or two before Thanksgiving.

(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

13. Wheat Berry Salad with Blood Oranges, Feta & Red Onion Vinaigrette

You'll want to make this wholesome whole-grain salad ahead to let the citrus, feta, and onions really blend together. Let it come to room temperature before serving.

(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

14. How To Make the Creamiest Mashed Cauliflower

Not only does this super-creamy side dish offer a lighter alternative to mashed potatoes, but you can also whip it up a few days before you plan to serve it.

(Image credit: Maria Siriano)

15. Whipped Sweet Potatoes with Coconut Milk & Vanilla Bean

Rich coconut milk and fragrant vanilla bean kick everyday sweet potatoes into holiday mode. Get a jump on Thanksgiving day by making this side dish a few days in advance.

(Image credit: Kelli Foster)

16. No-Knead Sweet Potato Dinner Rolls

Fresh-baked rolls make holidays even more special. Make this sweet potato version ahead of time, then warm them in the oven just before dinner.

(Image credit: Anjali Prasertong)

17. Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad with Apples, Hazelnuts & Brown Butter Dressing

Get ahead of dinner by prepping this elegant Brussels sprout salad the day before Thanksgiving.

(Image credit: Rachel Joy Baransi)

18. Spiced Cranberry Sauce

Simmer the cranberries with warm spices like cinnamon sticks, cardamom, nutmeg, and cloves at the beginning of the week, then store the finished sauce in the fridge until Thanksgiving.

(Image credit: Leela Cyd)

19. Herbed Olive Oil Fantail Rolls

This is the kind of impressive side that deserves plenty of attention before Thanksgiving day arrives. Make them ahead and warm them in the oven just before dinner.

(Image credit: Kelli Foster)

20. Roasted Butternut Squash Purée with Goat Cheese

When made in advance, all that's left to do on Thanksgiving day is to reheat this velvety purée and stir in the crumbly goat cheese.

(Image credit: Faith Durand)

21. Cheesy Mashed Potato Puffs

Get a head start on assembling these individual potato puffs, and then pop them in the oven to reheat and re-crisp just before dinner.

(Image credit: Erin Alderson)

22. Cumin-Roasted Carrots with Wild Rice and Chickpeas

Tackle this fresh and fragrant side by making the components a day in advance, then reheat and top with the cheese right before it hits the table.

(Image credit: Katie Webster)

23. Roasted Delicata Squash Salad with Warm Pickled Onion Dressing

When the squash is roasted in advance, all that's left to do on Thanksgiving day is toss the ingredients together and heat up the warm dressing. And yes, you can totally use the microwave.

(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

24. How To Make Classic Green Bean Casserole

You'll want to wait to add the fried onion topping until right before serving, but this classic casserole can be made up to three days in advance.

(Image credit: Diana Yen)

25. Sicilian Meatball Stuffing

Not only does this meat-filled recipe offer a welcome twist on your Thanksgiving stuffing, but it also comes with big make-ahead potential.

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