I love hosting Thanksgiving — roasting the turkey, making gravy, setting the table — it's one of my favorite weeks of the year. I have a hosting secret, though, that I think makes cooking, cleaning, and hosting in general actually enjoyable: I delegate drinks, sides, and desserts to other guests. There are probably a few folks who may think this is cheating and that hosting means you have to cover every detail, but I believe Thanksgiving is designed to be a collaborative celebration, so let's collaborate.
With that in mind, here are the five dishes you can ask guests to bring. And hint, hint — if you're a guest, these are dishes that travel and reheat well, and actually help a host out.
How to Ask Someone to Bring a Dish for Thanksgiving
When a guest offers to bring something, get specific and tell them what you already have, what you need, and what other guests are bringing (unless you want to end up with four store-bought pumpkin pies but no green bean casserole, that is). Trust me on this one — experience is the greatest teacher.
Here are the dishes that should really be nonnegotiable if you are hosting: turkey and its gravy or another main dish centerpiece like a honey ham. Not only because they require most of the prep work, but also because they don't travel very easily.
After a few years of lackluster mashed potatoes (I blame traveling and reheating) I'd also highly suggest that you make the mashed potatoes too — unless someone in your friend or family circle wants to make this excellent potato casserole.
5 Dishes You Should Ask Someone to Bring for Thanksgiving
1. Dressing (even if you call it stuffing)
Even if you plan to stuff your turkey, you can still delegate this dish out (remember, it will take the turkey longer to cook if the cavity is filled) — especially if you've got vegetarians coming over. Dressing also travels well and can be easily transported.
2. Sweet Potato Casserole
While mashed potatoes don't seem to travel well, sweet potato casserole can be made ahead and even reheated when it arrives. It's a classic that can do double duty as dessert, if all pies fail to arrive.
3. Cranberry Sauce
I assign this to my sister in-law who is always hurried and arrives late, but has good taste. One year she brought the most beautiful jar of handmade cranberry preserves from a local canning store and another year she forget it entirely, but no one complained. Almost anyone can grab a can of cranberry sauce in a pinch.
Make it homemade: How To Make Cranberry Sauce: The Simplest, Easiest Method
Kitchn editors all agree that a slaw on Thanksgiving is a total game-changer. The raw, cool, crunchy vegetables play a contrasting role to all the warm side dishes on the table. Plus, don't you always feel like your plate needs something green?
Read more: Thanksgiving Slaw
If I can impress on you nothing else, let it be this: Delegate desserts! Most guests don't want to arrive empty-handed, and pies or cakes are so easily picked up or baked no matter who the guest is. Make sure to give a little direction, though. Saying something like "Holly is bringing a pumpkin pie; could you bring a chocolate dessert?" ensures you don't have duplicates and there's something for every dessert taste.
A game changing holiday dessert: How To Make Pumpkin Dessert Lasagna