31 Time-Saving Thanksgiving Recipes You Can Make Days Ahead of Time

published Nov 6, 2023
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Credit: Photo: Paola + Murray; Food Styling: Barrett Washburne

I’m just gonna say it: is tiring. From roasting the turkey to preparing a slew of everyone’s favorite sides — and baking at least a pie or two — you’re usually exhausted by the time you sit down at the table. Thankfully, you can make the mega-meal less daunting by getting a head-start on the chopping, sautéing, and baking. 

Chip away at some of the dishes in the , and once the holiday arrives, the rest of the cooking will seem totally manageable. Just remember to save some oven space for cooking and reheating! To help you get going, here are 31 of our best make-ahead Thanksgiving recipes.

Main Dishes

While you might not be able to roast a whole turkey ahead of time, you can make plenty of holiday-worthy mains before Thanksgiving.

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Vegetarian Thanksgiving Lasagna

You can make this lasagna filled with a crème fraîche and pumpkin sauce, roasted squash, and Fontina cheese two days in advance, or freeze it for up to one month.

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Turkey Roulade

Assemble juicy turkey breast swirled around sausage and herb cornbread stuffing up to 24 hours before you pop it in the oven.

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Mini Pumpkins Stuffed with Onion, Mushrooms, and Chard

These simple but impressive mini pumpkins can be stuffed a day ahead of time and refrigerated until you're ready to bake them.

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Skillet Vegetable Pot Pie

This easy meatless pot pie is filled with sweet potatoes, mushrooms, and kale, and prepared and baked in the same skillet.

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Roasted Turkey Legs

Juicy, herb-rubbed turkey legs are the ultimate holiday main that you can prep 24 hours before you roast them.

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Vegan Sweet Potato and Butternut Squash Shepherd's Pie

Make this comfort food a day before Thanksgiving, and store the squash-potato mash topping separately from the veggie filling dotted with "meat" crumbles.

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Side Dishes

You can prepare plenty of delicious side recipes partially or completely ahead of time.

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Smashed Potato Casserole

Mashed potatoes aren't typically something you make ahead, but you can prep this cheesy casserole a full day ahead of time.

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Wild Rice Pilaf with Squash, Pecans, and Cranberries

Cook the wild rice and butternut squash up to two days before you plan to serve the dish, and store prepped ingredients in separate containers.

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Jiffy Corn Casserole

Thanks to a box of Jiffy corn muffin mix, this corn casserole comes together quickly and can be made two days in advance.

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Wild Mushroom Stuffing

This stuffing is packed with in-season wild mushrooms and an earthy blend of herbs. You can assemble the entire dish the night before the big day.

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5-Ingredient Sweet Potato Casserole

Hold off on the marshmallows when you prep this dish three days before Thanksgiving, and then add the topping right before you bake it.

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Kale Slaw

This easy slaw is a colorful mix of shredded cruciferous vegetables, almonds, dried cherries, and a tangy honey-mustard dressing that can chill on the table two hours before dinner.

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Make-Ahead Creamy Mac & Cheese Casserole

This creamy, dreamy mac and cheese can be prepped two days ahead; pop it in the oven when you're ready to start cooking.

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Twice-Baked Potato Casserole

You can assemble and cover this casserole overflowing with melty cheese and crisp bacon two days before baking.

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Thanksgiving Lentil Salad

This hearty side is loaded with butternut squash, red onion, and kale in a roasted garlic vinaigrette. Leave out the parsley when you make it a day ahead and add it right before serving.

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Classic Green Bean Casserole

This green bean casserole uses grocery store shortcuts to rival the classic back-of-the-box recipe; make it three days ahead without the topping and add the onions before you bake it.

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Lemony Brussels Sprout Gratin

Prep this light yet comforting dish (minus the topping) a day ahead. When it's time to bake, uncover it, sprinkle the topping, and cook as directed.

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Gravy and Cranberry Sauce

Of course you want to serve top-tier condiments on the Thanksgiving table, but that doesn’t mean you need to stir a pot while simultaneously checking your turkey’s temperature. In fact, you can get going on gravy and cranberry sauce way in advance.

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Very Basic Cranberry Sauce

This simple sauce is made with fresh or frozen cranberries, sugar, and water; store it for up to two weeks in the fridge or two months in the freezer.

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Citrus-and-Fig Cranberry Sauce

Citrus and figs amp up this flavorful cranberry sauce. Make it up to two weeks before you plan to serve it.

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Make-Ahead Turkey Gravy

When your Thanksgiving turkey is roasted and the guests are seated, you won't have to worry about your gravy because you froze it ahead of time.

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Vegan Brown Gravy

This vegan gravy gets its flavor from caramelized onions and earthy mushrooms. Make it five days in advance if you're planning to store it in the fridge, or keep it in the freezer for up to two months.

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Desserts

In addition to classic Thanksgiving pies like pumpkin and pecan, you can also whip up cheesecake and pie bars before Turkey Day.

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Maple Pecan Pie Bars

Get all the flavor of pecan pie with none of the fuss when you whip up this dessert as many as five days ahead of time.

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Classic Pumpkin Pie

You can bake the perfect pie for your Thanksgiving table two days before you plan to slice it.

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Mini Apple Pies

Make the pie crust for the individual desserts beforehand, and store it in the refrigerator until you're ready to use it. Once baked, these pies will keep for four days.

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Pumpkin Pie Bars

With just five ingredients, these pumpkin pie bars are easy to make, and you can do so almost a week before the holiday.

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Slow Cooker Cheesecake

This creamy, silky, slow cooker cheesecake comes from none other than Martha Stewart, and you can get going on it up to a week before Thanksgiving.

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Pecan Pie

You can get to work on your dough four days ahead, or freeze it for up to three months. Your finished pecan pie will stay fresh for up to three days.

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Apple Crumble Pie

The crumbly topping puts a twist on a classic, and you can make it three days before Thanksgiving.

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Cranberry Curd Bars with Walnut Shortbread Crust

Tangy-sweet cranberry curd meets buttery walnut shortbread for a twist on the classic lemon bar you can prepare 24 hours before the big day.

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Pumpkin Cheesecake

The creamy goodness of a New York-style cheesecake balances the lively, familiar spices of classic pumpkin pie. You can make and freeze it up to one month ahead of time.

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Salted Caramel Apple Pie

You can make your homemade salted caramel sauce up to two weeks in advance. When baked, this sweet-salty apple pie will stay fresh for three days.

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