Thanksgiving Menus for Beginners to Experts

Whether this is your first time preparing Thanksgiving dinner or your fiftieth, we’ve got a menu just for you.

Chef John's Roast Turkey and Gravy

Photo by Cynthia Ross


Easy Menu
Keep it simple and classic
Advanced Menu
Add new twists to the traditional meal

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  • Store-bought rolls or bread

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Shredded Brussels Sprouts

Photo by iristsai

Game Plan for Easy Menu
The trickiest part of preparing a holiday meal is the timing. The key is to make as many items ahead of time as you can, and reheat them on Thanksgiving Day.

One to Two Weeks Ahead:

  • Make a shopping list; beat the holiday rush.
  • Make and freeze Yummy Yam Casserole (omit topping).

Two Days Before Thanksgiving:

  • Place turkey in refrigerator to thaw (birds larger than 12 lbs. will require 3 days to thaw).
  • Make cranberry sauce.
  • Bake pecan bars. Cool completely; slice bars. Store tightly covered with plastic wrap in a cool, dry place.

Day Before:

  • Toast almonds for green beans in ungreased skillet over med. heat until golden and fragrant. Transfer to a bowl or lidded container. Cook bacon for green beans, if using; crumble and mix with toasted almonds and refrigerate.
  • Make mashed potatoes; store in the refrigerator.
  • Make stuffing; store in the refrigerator.
  • Prepare Pumpkin Cream Pie.
  • Set the dining room table. Include serving dishes for gravy, dinner rolls, butter, and green beans, plus serving utensils.

Night Before:

  • Place Yam Casserole in the fridge to thaw.
  • Prepare Easy Turkey Gravy; store jar or container in fridge.

Thanksgiving Morning:

  • Remove an oven rack, if necessary. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Roast turkey as directed. Remove from oven and let stand for 30 minutes before carving.
  • Add pecan topping to yam casserole.

An hour before dinner:

  • Increase oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Replace oven rack. Bake the mashed potatoes, the stuffing, and the yam casserole.

Half an hour before dinner:

  • Wrap dinner rolls in foil. Place in oven to heat.
  • Warm gravy in saucepan over medium-low heat.
  • Melt butter for green beans in a large skillet over medium heat.
  • Cook beans until tender. Stir in almonds and crumbled bacon and cook until heated through.

Finishing Touches:

  • Transfer gravy, rolls and green beans into serving bowls.
  • Carve the turkey and arrange meat on a warmed platter.
Pumpkin Cheesecake in a Gingersnap Crust

Photo by yacqueli

Game Plan for Advanced Menu
One to Two Weeks Before:

  • Make a shopping list; beat the holiday rush.
  • Make dinner rolls; proof for twenty minutes, then freeze. When firm, transfer rolls to plastic freezer bag.
  • Make pastry for pecan pie (use recipe of your choice). Chill dough, then roll out and line a nine-inch pie shell. Freeze until firm. Wrap frozen dough and pan with plastic wrap and store in the freezer.

Three Days Before:

  • Thaw turkey in refrigerator.
  • Prepare and bake cheesecake crust; cool and wrap with plastic wrap. Store at room temperature in a cool, dry place.

Two Days Before:

  • Make chutney.
  • Cube bread for stuffing: use a mix of multigrain, rye, and country white bread for Old-Fashioned Stuffing, or make pumpkin bread for Ibby’s Pumpkin-Mushroom Stuffing.
  • Bake pie shell (see Perfect Pie Crusts for instructions on blind baking). Cool and wrap with plastic wrap. Store at room temperature in a cool, dry place.

Day Before:

  • Remove giblets and neck from turkey cavity.
  • Brine turkey.
  • Make stock out of turkey neck and giblets (do not use the liver for making stock, as it can make broth bitter), celery, onion, carrot, and aromatics.
  • Bake cheesecake.
  • Bake pecan pie.
  • Prep veggies for roasting.
  • Toast pine nuts and cook bacon for Brussels Sprouts; store in refrigerator.
  • Make stuffing.

Night Before:

  • If you have room in the fridge, arrange frozen dinner rolls on sheet pan and thaw overnight in the refrigerator. (Otherwise, thaw at room temperature on Thanksgiving morning.)
  • Set the dining room table. Include serving dishes for gravy, dinner rolls, butter, and side dishes, plus serving utensils.

Thanksgiving Morning:

  • Brush dinner rolls with egg wash.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake rolls and stuffing.
  • Light coals; prep grill.
  • Increase oven temperature to 425 degrees F and roast vegetables.
  • Grill turkey.

One hour before dinner:

  • Make mashed potatoes. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and rest bowl over pan of simmering water to keep warm.

Half an hour before dinner:

  • Collect drippings from roasting pan under turkey. Make gravy.
  • Prepare Brussels sprouts.
  • Keep stuffing and roasted vegetables warm in a 300 degree F oven.
  • Wrap rolls in foil and warm in oven, if desired.

Additional Articles
Recommended reading:

Thanksgiving Helper