christmas

52 Make-Ahead Christmas Dinner Ideas That’ll Save You Stress

updated Dec 5, 2023
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Credit: Olive & Mango

No matter how much thought goes into planning your Christmas dinner, the day can have a way of feeling hurried as you you take part in gift-giving, a brisk walk in the snow, and then getting into the kitchen to cook.

One strategy that makes it feel easier and more manageable is sticking with options for a make-ahead Christmas dinner. Maybe it’s getting a head start with the main course or something sweet for dessert, or perhaps you prefer to get the bulk of the meal done ahead of time. From the appetizers to the main course to the sides and dessert, we’re sharing more than 30 recipes for festive make-ahead Christmas dinner.

Appetizers

Dips, spiced nuts, and deviled eggs are perfect make-ahead options since they can be tucked away in the fridge and pulled up when you need them — no reheating required.

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Slinky Red Peppers with Capers and Sherry Vinegar
A fast and fancy red pepper appetizer recipe from Sheela Prakash’s cookbook, “Mediterranean Everyday”.
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Feta Dip
Serve this creamy 5-ingredient app with crackers, crostini, or crudité.
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Goat Cheese Spread
This quick and easy spread gets a big boost of flavor from pickled jalapeños (and the juice from the jar!).
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Make-Ahead Gougères
The secret to being the hostess with the mostest? Gougères in your freezer.
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Caramelized Onion Dip
This big-batch dip is the perfect way to put a bag of onions to work. Serve with chips, veggies, or toasted bread.
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Maple-Tamari Roasted Almonds
Maple syrup and tamari aren't flavors that join forces often, but after making these nuts you'll quickly learn they should be. The balance between sweet, salty, and savory is the ideal complement to those festive cocktails.
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Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms
Classic stuffed mushrooms are made even easier when you rely on extra-flavorful Italian sausage for the filling.
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Roasted Red Pepper Tapenade
Reach for a jar of pitted Niçoise olives to save yourself the hassle of pitting them before tossing them into the food processor.
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Moroccan-Spiced Roasted Carrot Hummus
This fragrant hummus keeps for up to seven days when stored in an airtight container in the fridge. That means you can make it ahead of time, when you have a few moments to spare, and simply spoon it into a serving bowl when guests arrive.
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Fresh Veggies with Cumin-Lime Yogurt Dip
This smoky, tangy dip is just the answer to instantly jazz up your veggie plate.
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Beet-Pickled Deviled Eggs
Is there a more beloved appetizer than a platter of freshly deviled eggs? I don't think so!
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Main Dishes

Main dishes that can be prepared in the slow cooker or fully cooked and rewarmed for dinner are your best options. Things like a pasta bake, brisket, and short ribs are especially great as they often taste better the next day.

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Classic Beef Brisket in the Slow Cooker
Let’s talk about falling back in love with a classic dish. When is the last time you made a classic beef brisket?
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French Onion Soup Casserole
This French onion soup casserole takes everything your know about the homey dish and gives it a rich and luxurious update. Expect big flavor on this one!
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Smoky Mozzarella Pasta and Meatball Bake
How can you improve on the good ol' combination of pasta and meatballs? This saucy casserole, filled with fire-roasted tomatoes and meatballs, is proof that it can be done.
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Slow-Cooked Boeuf Bourguignon
Boeuf bourguignon is so much more than just another beef stew. It's layered with rich, complex flavors, and even better on the second day.
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Slow Cooker Red Wine-Braised Short Ribs
The slow cooker yields tender, fall-off-the-bone short ribs swimming in a savory broth, made deeper and richer thanks to several glugs of Cabernet.
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Lasagne alla Bolognese
Making classic Italian lasagne alla bolognese is an act of love, and the final result is absolute bliss.
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Instant Pot Pot Roast with Carrots and Potatoes
Cook up tender chunks of beef, carrots, and potatoes in a rich gravy in less than hour with an Instant Pot.
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Creamy Vegan Mushroom Lasagna
Here's how to make a hearty and satisfying lasagna that's 100% plant based. With mushrooms and a rich cashew cream, there's nothing to miss!
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The Best Slow Cooker Mississippi Pot Roast
This 5-ingredient, shortcut slow cooker recipe is going to completely change how you think about pot roast.
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Christmas Manicotti
This comforting, extra-cheesy casserole relies on tender crêpe shells rather than store-bought pasta.
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Vegetable Lasagna
While this lasagna is packed with vegetables, it doesn't skimp on the pasta or cheese.
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White Lasagna
What makes white lasagna so special and totally irresistible is the impossibly creamy white sauce that’s blanketed throughout the casserole.
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Instant Pot Brisket
This classic sweet and tangy brisket cooks in a fraction of the time thanks to the electric pressure cooker.
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Red’s Brisket
This simple, slow-cooked brisket is tender and rich, with plenty of juice to drizzle over roasted potatoes.
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Sweet & Tangy Slow-Cooker Brisket
Meaty brisket is simmered in the slow cooker with a sweet and tangy tomatoey sauced laced with tender onions and just the right amount of spices.
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Side Dishes

Hearty casseroles, grain salads, and creamy vegetable dishes are always good bets when you want to get a head start.

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Cheesy Baked Mashed Potatoes
These creamy baked mashed potatoes are loaded with two kinds of cheese and are make-ahead-friendly.
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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 it reheat and mix in the sour cream and balsamic before serving.
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Broccoli Rabe and White Bean Gratin
This dish also brings a lighter touch when it comes to the cream and cheese — although not at the sacrifice of flavor.
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Wild Rice Pilaf with Squash, Pecans, and Cranberries
Wild rice studded with butternut squash, pecans, and dried cranberries, which can be enjoyed warm or cold.
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Baked Polenta with Greens, Artichokes, 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 right now.
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Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad with Apples, Hazelnuts & Brown Butter Dressing
This salad takes a little more time to make than the usual shaved sprouts salad, but the extra work is worth the flavor and texture combination of brown butter vinaigrette, Brussels sprouts, apple, and hazelnuts.
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Smoky Creamed Kale
Meet the modern answer to creamed spinach.
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Make-Ahead Holiday Salad Recipe
Layer crunchy greens, sweet date-pickled onions, and crisp fried shallots up to a full day in advance for the ultimate holiday salad.
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Cacio e Pepe Potato Gratin Recipe
Thinly sliced potatoes get tossed with a flavorful cream sauce, layered with plenty of Pecorino Romano, and baked until browned and bubbly.
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Make-Ahead Freezer Biscuits
Learn how to make biscuits with less mess any night of the week. (Hint: Make them ahead.)
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Make-Ahead Creamy Mac & Cheese Casserole
A creamy, dreamy mac and cheese that you can prep days ahead of time and just pop in the oven.
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Rosemary Focaccia Recipe
This no-knead focaccia is a simple Italian flatbread topped garlic, rosemary, and flaky salt.
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Pennsylvania Dutch Potato Filling Recipe
Mashed potatoes meet stuffing in this new classic Thanksgiving side dish.
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Desserts

There are plenty of desserts that can be made ahead of time, but for something extra festive, we love red and white peppermint roll cake, spiced bundt cake, or tiramisu.

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Christmas Tree Cookies
The act of decorating and munching on Christmas tree cookies is an easy-peasy way to spark holiday cheer.
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Sopapilla Cheesecake
Sandwiched between layers of buttery crescent rolls and topped with cinnamon sugar, these cheesecake bars are the make-ahead dessert of our dreams.
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Panna Cotta
Creamy panna cotta is the most lovely dessert that has the power to satisfy everyone around the table. It’s easy, quick, practically foolproof, and can accommodate just about any dietary preference.
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Gingerbread Bundt Cake
A beautiful bundt cake is an easy win when it comes to holiday dessert. We especially love this one, full of warm-yet-citrusy coriander, fragrant allspice, clove, and cinnamon, and rich molasses.
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Peppermint Red Velvet Cake Roll
If you're looking for something that will impress, this cake does the trick every time.
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Citrus-Cranberry Tart
This festive tart features a spiced speculoos cookie crust, a citrus-cranberry curd, and a sweet-tart cranberry glaze.
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Classic Tiramisu
What better time to make this beloved classic. It's one of our favorite make-ahead picks since it needs to chill for at least 8 hours (though preferably a full day) before serving.
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Dark Chocolate Pots de Crème
Looking for the most luxurious chocolate pudding you’ve ever had? This is for you, the most serious of chocolate-lovers. Dive in and you’ll be rewarded with creamy, dark chocolatey richness in every bite.
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Chocolate Olive Oil Cake
This ultra-moist chocolate cake is deep and rich in flavor and best served with whipped cream and toasted hazelnuts.
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Flan con Queso with Cranberry Jellies
This holiday twist on creamy flan features the addition of sweet-tart cranberry sauce.
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Raspberry Cheesecake
With a simple 3-ingredient topping, this dreamy raspberry cheesecake is the perfect balance of sweet and tart.
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Mousse Cake
A bowl of chocolate mousse is a decadent treat, but a double-layered chocolate mousse cake with a cookie crust is next level.
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