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24 Portable Thanksgiving Dishes for the Road

Food that travels well.

If you think you're off the hook because you don't have to host Thanksgiving this year, and all you have to do is contribute one, single dish—think again. There's still the hurdle of actually transporting the dish from your countertop to your host's countertop. Maybe they live down the road, or maybe you'll be making quite the road trip this Thanksgiving. Either way, when sloshy soup or ornately decorated cupcakes are met with one not-so-subtle speed bump, things can go south fast. Ditch the delicate dishes and opt for heartier casseroles, stuffings, dips, and pies. From appetizers to dessert, we've rounded up the best portable Thanksgiving dishes for every stage of the meal.

Grandma's Green Bean Casserole
Pictured: Grandma's Green Bean Casserole | Photo by Sean Lemecha

5 Tips for Transporting Food

  1. Use glass containers if possible, as these hold heat better than plastic.
  2. Wrap containers in towels for the drive to help insulate the food. The towel will also come in handy for wiping away any spills that may have occurred during the drive.
  3. Wrap warm foods like breads or meats in foil to help retain heat.
  4. Consider purchasing insulated food storage bags (like this Amazon bestseller) to keep food hot or cold on the drive. If your drive is especially long, using a portable oven that plugs into your car's cigarette lighter can keep food warm for hours.
  5. Newspaper is a great insulator for a container you need to keep cool. Place cold dishes in an insulated bag and surround it with crumpled newspapers. Toss the soggy papers once you arrive at your destination.

Appetizers:

1. Sugar Coated Pecans

Pecans are coated in a cinnamon sugar mixture for an appetizer that can easily be transported in a storage container or serving dish, no reheating required. Reviewer CMOLSON says, "Even better after they cool off because they get much crunchier. Your house will smell great!"

2. Corn Fritters

Layer these corn fritters on paper towels to soak up any excess oil during the trip. This grab-and-go appetizer is hearty enough to survive the drive. "These are just like my mom's," says reviewer Karyn Steele Blaney. "I used an ice cream scoop to drop them in the grease—makes it easier and they're all the same size."

3. Sweet, Salty Spicy Party Nuts

"I find this technique much easier than the stovetop pan method," says Chef John. "You'll get beautiful, perfectly frosted nuts that are roasted evenly, with no bitter burned spots." This party nut mix makes a great appetizer or host/hostess gift.

4. Deep-Fried Stuffing

This dish turns a Thanksgiving classic into an easy-to-transport appetizer! Pair them with a gravy dipping sauce, as reviewer Carrie C. suggests, and you can't go wrong.

5. Chef John's Hot Spinach Artichoke Dip

This thick and hearty artichoke dip can handle a bumpy ride, but be sure to follow our tips above on how to keep your food hot during transport. Reviewer Sarah Jo says, "This dip literally lasted less than 20 minutes. Everyone loved it, especially my husband who swore up and down he doesn't like spinach-artichoke dip."

6. Sweet Potato Sage Balls

Recipe creator sueb says, "Sweet potatoes and sage combine into wheat-free snacks by using rolled oats! Great appetizers! May be served plain or with a dipping sauce." Celebrate fall flavors with this sweet potato appetizer.

Sweet Potato Sage Balls
Photo by Buckwheat Queen

7. Cranberry Salsa

Make this ahead of time and allow the flavors to mingle in the fridge overnight. Take it from reviewer CarolynWG, who says, "I made this for Thanksgiving, and it was a huge success with the whole family. I spread cream cheese on a platter and spread the salsa over the top of the cream cheese with whole berries for garnish—a great balance of flavors and pretty, too. This will be a regular for future holidays."

Side Dishes:

1. Grandma's Corn Pudding

Reviewer Melissa Boos says, "11 years later and this is STILL a favorite Thanksgiving dish!" This is the ultimate comfort food dish that transports well in a glass casserole dish.

2. Caramelized Brussels Sprouts with Pistachios

"Good flavor arises from the caramelization of the onions and Brussels sprouts, the little bit of sugar is just enough to eliminate the bitterness Brussels sprouts can have, and roasted, salted pistachios I used were the perfect complement, both in taste and appearance," says reviewer naples34102.

Caramelized Brussels Sprouts with Pistachios
Photo by pomplemousse

3. Yummy Sweet Potato Casserole

Potatoes are hearty enough to withstand transport, and this classic Thanksgiving side dish is no exception. "My family begs me to make this creamy baked dish every Thanksgiving and Christmas," says recipe creator TINA B. "What makes it so good is the pecan topping!"

Yummy Sweet Potato Casserole
Photo by Tamara B

4. Awesome Sausage, Apple and Cranberry Stuffing

Stuffing is the ultimate Thanksgiving side dish, and this bready casserole was made to travel. Reviewer vanityings says, "I will never make another stuffing again. Even if you don't cook often, this IS NOT HARD!"

Awesome Sausage, Apple and Cranberry Stuffing
Photo by beccajulia

5. Grandma's Green Bean Casserole

"This recipe is much better than the standard mushroom soup and French fried onion version," says recipe creator Amy Barry. This version of a classic Thanksgiving side dish has a thick texture, making it a solid choice for travel.

6. Slow Cooker Stuffing

This slow cooker stuffing needs to be made ahead of time, and can then be transported in the crockpot or transferred to a glass serving dish. Reviewer Michelle Rathbun recommends starting with less broth than called for in the recipe and adding more as needed.

7. Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes

"This is a GREAT time saver for a busy holiday," says reviewer KRoggenb. "I make ahead then throw in the crockpot on low the morning of the holiday so that I save oven space and they're ready to eat by the time the rest of the dinner's done." These thick and fluffy mashed potatoes don’t run the risk of an accident during transport, but make sure to take proper precautions to keep them warm!

Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes
Photo by bd.weld

8. Buttery Garlic Green Beans

"I was looking for a new green bean recipe to use as a side dish for Thanksgiving," says reviewer MINDY1315. "We have so many casseroles that we need a simple vegetable side—and this recipe delivers just that!" If you’re looking for a side dish that you can easily whip up in just 20 minutes and then get on the road—this simple green bean dish is for you!

9. Amazing Butternut Squash

This favorite fall squash is delicious in baked casserole form. "I made this recipe for Thanksgiving this year in order to use up a couple of butternut squash I had laying around...It was a hit! Everyone loved it and scraped the bowl clean! It even traveled the 60+ miles and reheated well."

Amazing Butternut Squash
Photo by ROBINBRADY

10. Rich and Creamy Potatoes Au Gratin

"I made the entire dish up to the point where it was ready to bake the night before, then covered and refrigerated it overnight," says reviewer JAMJMine. "They baked while I roasted asparagus and tossed salad, and were perfect. I loved the Gruyere in this, and would definitely make it again." This creamy texture of this dish makes it resistant to mishaps during travel.

Desserts:

1. Caramel Pecan Pie

This pie can be served hot or cold, making it the ideal travel companion. Recipe creator CORWYNN DARKHOLME says, "Buttery, nutty, and a touch of caramel, this is a very yummy pie! Full of flavor! Serve hot or cold, with a good size dollop of whipped topping or vanilla ice cream."

2. Apple Crisp II

An apple crisp is the perfect portable Thanksgiving dessert, as they can go from the oven to an insulated bag in the same baking dish. Reviewer naples34102 describes it as, "Nicely sweet and cinnamony with a substantial and hearty oat topping. Very good!"

Apple Crisp II
Photo by sassyoldlady

3. Bread Pudding II

"I took this to a Thanksgiving potluck party last year in Taiwan and fortunately I made extra because the pudding disappeared before I could even get to it! Everyone was raving about it," says reviewer IMANIOU. This is another casserole dish dessert that can be easily transported—and it makes for a great breakfast the next day!

Bread Pudding II
Photo by TTV78

4. Linda's Cranberry Cookies

Cookies don't require the delicate care that most other desserts do. Recipe creator Tori says, "Cranberries and white chips put a new spin on Chocolate Chip Cookies. These cookies are soft on the inside, with a little crunch around the edges. Perfect for the holidays."

Linda's Cranberry Cookies
Photo by pomplemousse

5. Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti

Biscotti has a long lifespan, so you can make these cookies days in advance (keep them stored in an airtight container) and simply grab them on your way out the door on Thanksgiving day. Reviewer Snuffles says, "This is the very best biscotti recipe! Usually I can't stand those nasty little bricks, but these are delicious! Try these even if you usually don't like biscotti."

6. Pecan Pie Bars I

What’s even easier to transport than pecan pie? Pecan pie bars. Reviewer Avon- status quo PRO says, "Because we are generally swimming in pies over the Thanksgiving holiday, this year I decided that I would make these instead of my traditional pecan pie. Am I ever glad I did. The shortbread crust just melts in your mouth and the gooey, toffee layer is the exact taste of the pecan pie in a hand held serving...These are terribly rich and make so many that there was plenty to last through the weekend for all the out of town, overnight guests, and still have a few to enjoy with my coffee Monday morning."

Pecan Pie Bars I
Photo Life Tastes Good 

7. Rolled Molasses Sugar Cookies

The firm, chewy texture of Molasses cookies makes them perfect for holiday travel and gifting. Recipe creator Kathy, "The trick to getting 'chewy' cookies is to bake them the minimum time necessary and then cool them directly on a surface (i.e. counter, table, etc). Don't cool them on a rack! You can also store them with a slice of apple."

Rolled Molasses Sugar Cookies
Photo by Beth

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Melanie Fincher

About Melanie Fincher

A Georgia native eating my way through the South. When I’m not eating it I’m probably writing about it.