The Essential Thanksgiving Menu of Easy Classics

published Nov 8, 2017
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(Image credit: Susanna Hopler)

Whether you’re cooking Thanksgiving dinner for the first time or the 10th time, you can never go wrong with the classics. These recipes are the tried-and-true dishes served again and again, becoming well-loved family favorites by many. From roast turkey and gravy, to stuffing and cranberry sauce, here is your essential menu for a classic Thanksgiving dinner.

The Menu + A Few Tips

This menu is complete with all the traditional dishes that come to mind when you think of Thanksgiving dinner — everything from the turkey with stuffing and gravy right down to the apple and pumpkin pies. It’s designed to be a classic meal, with easy, straightforward recipes.

More Thanksgiving Menus

More menus to suit your exact needs and guests this year.

What to Drink

The best approach to Thanksgiving beverages is to keep it simple. A few bottles of wine, even dry cider, along with some pitchers of water on the table should do it. Or skip wine and go for an easy sangria like this one or this budget number.

As for what wines to pair with your turkey (we’re fans of white Bordeaux, Beaujolais, and Pinot Noir), there’s truthfully there’s no right or wrong answer and it really all comes down to what you and your guests enjoy.

Tips on What to Drink with Thanksgiving Dinner

The Turkey and Gravy

The turkey, in all its roasted glory, will be the centerpiece of your table, and it hardly feels complete without a bowl of savory gravy for drizzling.

How To Cook a Turkey: The Simplest, Easiest Method: This is a simple and straightforward, no-frills method for roasting a turkey, and it’s the one I’ve been using for years. It makes for a turkey with wonderfully crispy skin, and tender, succulent meat.

How To Make Turkey Gravy for Thanksgiving: This gravy comes together quickly. After the turkey comes out of the oven, you use the drippings from the bird. But if you want to get a head start, you can also make the gravy in advance.

Remember These Helpful Turkey Tips!

The Side Dishes

The turkey might be the centerpiece of the meal, but the side dishes are arguably the very best part of Thanksgiving. These are the much-loved classics that always have a place at this holiday meal.

How To Make the Very Best Thanksgiving Stuffing: Technically bread dressing, this classic version tastes of savory herbs and onion (similar to classic Stove Top from a box) in a way that is quintessentially Thanksgiving.

How To Make Perfect Mashed Potatoes for Thanksgiving: The best way to start this lush and comforting side is with a bunch of Russets or Yukon Golds, or even a combination of the two. For a richer flavor, swap milk for half-and-half.

How To Make Classic Thanksgiving Sweet Potatoes: Classic sweet potato casserole, mixed with brown sugar and cinnamon spice and topped with a fluffy cloud of meringue, is a Thanksgiving indulgence that’s hard to resist.

How To Make Cranberry Sauce: The Simplest, Easiest Method: Cranberry sauce is a Thanksgiving staple and a welcome spot of brightness on a table full of brown, orange, and tan. It has a subtly sweet, tart and bitter flavor that balances the richness of the other side dishes. This is also an easy dish to make ahead of time.

How To Make Classic Green Bean Casserole: For added convenience, this creamy casserole starts with frozen (and thawed) green beans, but it skips the condensed mushroom soup in favor of a quick sauce made on the stovetop.


There are so many dessert choices when it comes to Thanksgiving, but the only two that really matter are apple and pumpkin pie. Since it’s always so tough to choose between the two, I say go for both — and I’m sure your guests will agree. Consider serving with a generous bowl of whipped cream and a good container of vanilla ice cream.

Double-Crust Apple Pie: This is the classic, tried-and-true version of apple pie that we all know and love. It starts by par-cooking the apples on the stovetop, which I encourage you not to skip. Since the fruit shrinks down as it cooks, this smart step helps to prevent that gap that often occurs between the pie filling and crust.

How To Make Classic Pumpkin Pie for Thanksgiving: Mixed with pumpkin purée, brown sugar, a slew of spices, and cream, this custard pie is a holiday classic. If you have time, go ahead and make your own pie crust, otherwise opt for the convenience of a frozen store-bought crust — there are a lot of good options.