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Smart Thanksgiving Side Dish Make-Ahead Ideas

If you're tackling any or all of the Thanksgiving cooking this year, I'm going to let you in on a big sanity-saving secret: Most of your Thanksgiving menu can be prepared way before Thanksgiving. In fact, you'll cut a lot of stress out of turkey day if you prep a few side dishes now. Just stash them in the freezer and you'll have even more to be thankful for on Thanksgiving.

Note: You can freeze these make-aheads for up to a month; after that, the texture and flavor may start to go off.

1. Gourmet Sweet Potato Classic

Prep up through step 3, cool and freeze. To cook, sprinkle with topping before baking. Cover with foil and bake at 350° F for 30 to 40 minutes, or until potatoes are steaming hot. Uncover and bake for another 20 to  30 minutes, until topping is crisp and brown. No matter what sweet potato casserole you choose, hold back on the toppings until you're ready to actually bake the casserole. Pro Tip: Line the baking pan with foil so you can lift out the frozen casserole and put it back in the freezer while you reuse the baking pan.


Gourmet Sweet Potato Classic

Photo by ALFANN02

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2. Make-Ahead Turkey Gravy

Having a big batch of turkey gravy ready to heat and serve eliminates the frenzy of making gravy after the turkey comes out of the oven. Just make sure the recipe you choose does NOT have cream or milk in it, otherwise it will separate when you thaw it; you can always add it in after thawing. Thaw gravy in the fridge overnight and bring to a boil before serving. Pro Tip: You can strain and degrease the pan drippings from the turkey before stirring them into your make-ahead gravy.  Add an extra boost of flavor with McCormick® Turkey Gravy Mix, and your gravy will do your turkey proud.


Make-Ahead Turkey Gravy

Photo by lutzflcat

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3. Holiday Cranberry Sauce

Prepare cranberry sauce, cool and freeze. Thaw in the fridge overnight. Pro Tip: Best choices for freezing are simple cranberry sauces that don't contain other fresh fruits and vegetables, as the freezing process can damage their texture.


Holiday Cranberry Sauce

Photo by larkspur

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4. Curried Butternut Squash Soup

Prepare and purée the soup, but do not add the half-and-half. Cool and freeze in a gallon-size freezer bag with the air squeezed out and the bag laid flat on a baking sheet. Thaw in the fridge overnight, whisk in the half-and-half, and heat to steaming. Pro Tip: Freezing can intensify the flavor of the onion in the soup, so taste before serving and adjust the seasonings.


Curried Butternut Squash Soup

Photo by Jessa Cottrill

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5. Butter Flaky Pie Crust

You can either shape the dough into a disk and freeze it, or form the pie crust and freeze it in the pan. Thaw the dough overnight in the fridge or use the frozen pie crust as is. Pro Tip: Wrap the dough or crust in heavy-duty aluminum foil or freezer wrap.


Butter Flaky Pie Crust

Photo by cook399

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More Best Bets and Smart Ideas For Thanksgiving Side Dish Make-Aheads

Do Not Freeze

  • Fresh salads
  • Eggs in shells
  • Raw potatoes


Vanessa Greaves

About Vanessa Greaves

Good food, friends, and fun are always on the menu. Find me as foodelicious on Allrecipes and vanny.gee on Instagram (but only if you don't mind cat pics and cocktails).