5 Make-Ahead Thanksgiving Dishes

Author: Lauren Ross

Pumpkin Pie

Every year around November I get excited for three fall favorites: pumpkin spice lattes, boots, and Thanksgiving. Turkey Day holds a special place in my heart, because it’s the one holiday where my whole family can get together. We watch the parade, laugh, eat, and express what we are all thankful for around the dinner table.

This holiday rocks, and it’s just around the corner! Thanksgiving morning is moderately – if not extremely – hectic for the host since they’re usually cooking and baking at the crack of dawn. Preparing all the side dishes, appetizers, desserts, the bird, and cocktails can be overwhelming if you’re doing it the morning of. If this sounds like the task you’ll be enduring November 26th, don’t worry! Here are 5 make-ahead Thanksgiving dishes you can do now that will save you time in the kitchen so you can be together with family and friends Thanksgiving morning.

1. Turkey

It’s too early to roast the turkey, but you can definitely begin to prep for it! The turkey brine and dry rub are easy to prepare early on, and doing so can save you precious kitchen time. Start by measuring out and combining the ingredients for the dry rub or the brine (sans liquid) and store into a Ziploc bag. Label each bag and store into a cool, dry place. Compound butter is also a great flavor enhancer, and if you’re using it, you can go ahead and portion what you need into a freezer bag.

Frozen turkeys require a little pre-Thanksgiving prep work, too. A bird that just came out of the freezer needs at least a couple days to thaw. An easy rule to remember is this: For every four pounds, set aside a full day to defrost. Cover the turkey with plastic wrap and place on a rimmed cookie sheet on the lower refrigerator shelf.

2. Gravy

Gravy goes well with almost any dish served on Thanksgiving. And in my house, it goes extremely fast! To make sure there is enough for your entire party, prepare a large batch of turkey stock for the gravy. After you have made the gravy, you should then freeze it in an airtight container.

Before you and your guests are about ready to eat, reheat the frozen gravy in the microwave, adding spare turkey drippings for an authentic, flavorful taste.

3. Cranberry Sauce

Because cranberry sauce is served chilled, it makes a great side dish to prepare early. After you’ve boiled, simmered, and let thicken, store cranberry sauce in an airtight container.  The Cranberry relish can last about four days in the refrigerator and keep even longer in the freezer. If you’re going to freeze your sauce, just make sure you thaw it well in advance before serving.

4. Pie

Yum! Pie is my favorite Thanksgiving Day treat, especially made-from-scratch pumpkin pie. Pie crusts are time consuming, but you can do them now to be ahead of the game. Mix and freeze your homemade pie crusts a few days prior to baking that delicious apple-, sweet potato-, or pumpkin pie.

5. Dinner Rolls

Bread is another dinner item that goes quickly, especially if they’re served warm and buttery. You can pre-make the dough and freeze it until Thanksgiving Day. You can also freeze fully-baked bread rolls. If you do freeze raw dough, just make sure they bake fully so they’re fluffy and golden when served at the table.