Make Ahead Thanksgiving Meals

Thanksgiving is a holiday to give thanks and appreciation to those around us. It shouldn’t be a day of stressful scrambling in the kitchen to make sure every dish is cooked to perfection. Save yourself from Thanksgiving angst by preparing the following make ahead Thanksgiving recipes.

Holiday Table

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What's your best Thanksgiving kitchen time-saving tip? Foil roasting pans? Fix and freeze recipes?

Scalloped sweet potato recipe

Serves 8

A nice change from mashed potatoes, these scrumptious scalloped sweet potatoes can be made up to two days ahead and simply reheated in the oven.


  • 2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled, halved, and sliced 1/8 inch thick
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto (about 4 slices), cut into small squares
  • 3/4 cup coarsely ground fresh whole grain breadcrumbs
  • 1 small clove garlic, smashed to a paste with a pinch of salt
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup shredded fontina cheese
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 cup cream


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook sweet potatoes until just tender. Drain and spread out on a baking sheet to cool.
  3. Coat a 1-1/2 quart baking dish with a bit of the melted butter. Add remaining butter to a medium sized skillet and place over medium heat. Add prosciutto and cook, stirring often, until lightly browned. Toss the breadcrumbs and garlic with the prosciutto and set aside.
  4. Arrange a single layer of sweet potato slices in the baking dish. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle half of the cheese and thyme on top. Repeat with another layer of sweet potato slices, salt, pepper and the remaining thyme and cheese. Top with a final layer of sweet potato slices and season again with salt and pepper.
  5. Meanwhile, bring the cream to a simmer in a small saucepan. Gently pour the cream over the sweet potatoes and scatter the prosciutto mixture on top. Bake for 25 minutes or until sweet potatoes are fork tender.
  6. Let cool completely and refrigerate. When ready to serve, preheat oven to 400 degrees F. and bake for 20 minutes or until heated through and top is golden.

Get Thanksgiving Dessert Recipes! >>

Glazed carrots and parsnips recipe

Serves 8

Sweetly caramelized carrots and parsnips are a kid-friendly fave that adults certainly won't turn down. This yummy gem of a Thanksgiving side dish recipe can be made up to two days ahead and reheated.


  • 1 pound small carrots, cut into 2-inch lengths
  • 1 pound small parsnips, cut into 2-inch lengths
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons agave nectar
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon thyme leaves
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


  1. In a large skillet over medium heat, combine carrots, parsnips, water, and orange juice. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are just tender.
  2. Add butter, agave, and thyme and cook, uncovered, stirring often, until liquid has evaporated and vegetables are glazed. Season with salt and pepper, stirring one last time.
  3. Remove from heat and let cool completely. Refrigerate until ready to serve. To reheat, place carrots and parsnips in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook, stirring often, until heated through. You can add a bit of water if skillet is dry.

More Thanksgiving Recipes including Turkey, Sides, Desserts and Tips! >>

Pumpkin mousse recipe

Serves 8

A creamy dreamy make ahead Thanksgiving dessert, this pumpkin mousse recipe is simple to prepare and super delicious to eat.


  • 1 envelope unflavored gelatin (2.25 teaspoons)
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 1 (15-ounce) can pure pumpkin
  • 3/4 firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 cups chilled heavy cream, divided
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Finely chopped candied ginger for garnish


  1. In a small saucepan, sprinkle gelatin over water and let sit until gelatin has softened. Bring mixture to a low simmer over low heat and stir until gelatin has dissolved.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together pumpkin, sugar, spices, salt, and gelatin mixture. Set aside.
  3. In a large chilled bowl, beat 1 cup cream and the vanilla until soft peaks form. Fold cream into pumpkin mixture. Spoon into 8 dessert glasses. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  4. When ready to serve, beat remaining 1 cup cream until soft peaks form. Dollop cream on top of pumpkin mousse and garnish with candied ginger.

More ways to take the stress out of Thanksgiving

Planning your family's Thanksgiving
Sandra Lee's last minute appetizers
Traveling safely with your turkey dinner


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Comments on "Make ahead Thanksgiving recipes"

Chris Taylor November 23, 2010 | 6:34 PM

Everyone in my family brings a dish or two of something. Some family members always has something new for us all to try, so that's usually a pleasant surprise.

Patricia Rosendahl November 21, 2010 | 6:46 PM

Our whole family gets together, so we all share in the food chores. Each couple/family brings something (dessert, cheese platter, salad, etc.) It also helps with the cost!

S.Y. GORAUM November 18, 2010 | 8:12 PM

Make all sides (up to a few days before "T" day) that can be refrigerated and then reheated on "T" day; set the table the night before "T" day; get a good night's sleep so that when you wake up you can enjoy Thanksgiving day.

Tiffany Williams November 18, 2010 | 1:46 PM

Dice all your onions, celery, green onions, etc. ahead of time and store in Rubbermaid container in fridge. A lot of dishes call for these, and it's easier to have them diced already.

Brianna Beers November 18, 2010 | 9:41 AM

Make everything except the turkey the day before, then all I have to focus on is the turkey, stffing and gravy.Love it!

Janelle King November 17, 2010 | 12:05 PM

Making all the desserts the day before!

Amy November 17, 2010 | 12:04 PM

Delegate!! I print out the menu and all of the siblings pick sides and desserts to make.

jennifer green November 17, 2010 | 11:57 AM

Delegate jobs to everyone in the house so that you dont have to take out the trash, and everything else.

Brianna Beers November 17, 2010 | 11:39 AM

I have everyone in the family take part in helping to prepare the Thanksgiving meal, however big or small their part in helping is, its an excellent time saving tip!!

Truthful Mommy November 17, 2010 | 11:35 AM

Desserts are done the day before as is sweet potato casseroles ( any casseroles for that matter)and all other is prepped night before:)

susan smoaks November 17, 2010 | 11:33 AM

get other people to help!

Sheila Rosso November 17, 2010 | 10:27 AM

I do a lot of things combinded. If you can set the table 2 days before and cove with Sheets to keep clean,then room off limits. The day before prepare some of the dishes to be served, maybe some pies. Up early the day of to welcome a freind or family membor for breakfast and helper to cook the turkey and prepare remaining dishes andlast minute details. Last but not least I may ask guest to bring something. however make it something you can do with out, incase they are late or they forget or don't show.

Kimberly Fisher November 16, 2010 | 12:33 PM

I plan my menu a week ahead of time.. each day closer I do what I can do ahead of time. The night before I get all the cooking supplies ready so when i wake up I can start cooking.. As I cook & prepare everything gets cleaned & put away.. As items are taken out they are put back right away, clean & dry.. so when company comes it doesn't even look like dinner was made.. it is all plated & ready to eat.

teressa November 16, 2010 | 12:19 PM

I do as much as I can the day or 2 before, but on "T" day I always make sure I wash the dishes and utinsils that I use as I go along the day so they all dont get piled up for later.

Brianna Beers November 16, 2010 | 10:14 AM

Make everything a day ahead, it always takes better the next day and I dont feel rudhed like the rest of the world and I can enjoy time with family!

Carlene Campbell November 15, 2010 | 11:44 AM

My Nana taught me to clean as I go. Then after dinner you can relax and not worry over cleaning up.

Susan November 15, 2010 | 10:59 AM

Pour gravy from an insulated coffee carafe and it stays hot the whole meal.

Brianna Beers November 15, 2010 | 8:06 AM

My time saver is using foil pans, for almost everything!

alicia brandtq November 15, 2010 | 7:43 AM

Clean as you go! It sounds so simple, but saves soooo many headaches. Keep filling that dishwasher, get the kids to wash and dry utensils, measuring cups. Truly a happier event and a happier cook!

Nikki November 15, 2010 | 7:23 AM

Have an awesome mother like mine who makes 95% of the meal. I make the rolls and bake them the night before.

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