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Chef John's No-Fail Thanksgiving Recipes and Cooking Tips

Chef John. He’s like a friend in the kitchen. The best kind of friend, the professional chef kind. And he’s here to make this the Best Thanksgiving Ever. Below: His top tips, Thanksgiving recipes, and how-to videos gathered in one place.

The Self-Basting Bird: Chef John's Roast Turkey

Chef John shows you a terrific way to loosen the turkey’s skin so you can slip herbed butter beneath it. Buttering up the bird like this, keeps the meat wonderfully moist and flavorful. The turkey bastes itself, essentially. See how Chef John preps a turkey.

Chef Johns Roast Turkey and Gravy

Photo by Cynthia Ross 

Make-Ahead Masterpiece: Mascarpone Mashed Potatoes

Creamy mascarpone cheese creates wonderful texture and a buttery, golden brown crust. Make these mashers in advance; spoon them into a casserole, and then simply bake until the tops are beautifully golden brown. They’re so good, gravy is almost optional. (Almost.)

Mascarpone Mashed Potatoes

Photo by loremipsum

No Mushy Stuff: Pecan & Apricot Stuffing

The pilgrims avoided soggy stuffing by not actually having stuffing on the Thanksgiving menu. But that’s not really an option for us. Good thing Chef John has a few slick tricks for keeping it crispy. See how he does it:

The French Connection: Green Bean Casserole

This is not your mother's green bean casserole. Although it could be your grandma's. Chef John reaches into the past for inspiration, giving traditional green bean casserole a delicious update. Homemade from start to finish, his version features caramelized onions and Gruyere cheese—the French-onion-soup treatment, you might say.

Caring Is Sharing: Tangerine Cherry Cranberry Sauce

Does anything say "I care" like cranberry sauce made from scratch? Probably. Because homemade cranberry sauce is just so incredibly easy to make. Combine a few ingredients, simmer on the stove, done! The big reveal here is that you should make this recipe instead of opening a can of cranberry sauce.

Tangerine Cherry Cranberry Sauce

Photo by Chef John

Rah-Rah-Raw for the Win: Raw Kale Salad

Another great recipe to make before dinner prep gets cah-RAY-zee. It’s also raw and healthy, which can be a nice change of pace. But how do you turn a bitter green like kale into a Thanksgiving-friendly food? Chef John has the answer. Add crunch to the mix and then dress it up with a tangy-sweet dressing.

The Sexy Dollop: Classic Pumpkin Pie

After years of experimenting, Chef John has perfected his pumpkin pie formula. Rich and custardy with ideal texture, it’s also much less likely to crack in the oven. This video also features the semi-famous "sexy dollop" scene. Anyone can drop a dollop of whipped cream onto a slice of pie, but a sexy dollop? Chef John shows you how it's done.

The Secret Turkey: Turkey Manicotti

By day 3 of eating leftovers, serious turkey fatigue has set in. And that's the genius behind this recipe: it completely disguises the turkey, hiding it in homemade crepes covered with tomato sauce and cheese—three things that are in no way associated with Thanksgiving dinner. Such a welcome change.


Chef John's Turkey Manicotti

Photo by Allrecipes Magazine


7 More No-Fail Thanksgiving Recipes from Chef John

Ultimate Mashed Potatoes

Chef John’s mashed potatoes do not shy away from the butter. And that’s pretty much the secret to these amazing mashers. Chef John insists his bold butter method is not only rational, it’s also reasonable. You be the judge.

Sweet Potato Casserole

Chef John’s slightly less sweet take on Sweet Potato Casserole features a touch of maple syrup instead of brown sugar and pistachios instead of mini-marshmallows.

Turkey Gravy

Balsamic vinegar. It's Chef John's secret ingredient for balancing out flavors in turkey gravy.

Red Curry Butternut Squash

Here’s a non-traditional Thanksgiving side. Which side? The wild side. And if curried squash is too out there for Thanksgiving dinner itself, try it on Day 2 with the turkey leftovers.

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon Dressing

Believe it or not, the key to making delicious Brussels sprouts is...don’t cook them. Of course, a warm bacon dressing doesn't hurt either. Pour the dressing over thin ribbons of sliced raw Brussels sprouts for a side dish that will dazzle.

Old-Fashioned Cracker Dressing

Here's a very simple variation on a classic stuffing recipe, only crushed saltine crackers stand in for bread crumbs. And there’s also a little cream in the mix. These two simple additions create a dressing with a firm, dense texture.

Chocolate Pecan Pie

This rich, nutty pie combines a sugary crust, a gooey-sweet filling, and a semi-sweet chocolate surprise. And that's only half the good news. Because one of the most delicious pies ever is also one of the easiest to prepare.

Explore more of Chef John's favorite Thanksgiving recipes


Carl Hanson

About Carl Hanson

Carl will eat that. Share with him @CarlNo9 on Twitter.