How to prepare a make-ahead Thanksgiving

Making a big Thanksgiving dinner is a fun but stressful ordeal. This year, don’t leave everything to the last minute. Take advantage of dishes that can be frozen, refrigerated and prepped in advance so you have less to do on the big day.

Woman baking pie

By preparing as much as possible in advance, all you’ll need to do on Thanksgiving is roast the turkey (which is mostly hands-off anyway) and reheat your sides and desserts.

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Even as far as a few weeks out, you can begin preparing a few dishes that are freezer-friendly and can be defrosted and reheated before the feast. Homemade cranberry sauce is a great candidate for freezing; just transfer it to the fridge the day before to let it defrost. Many items can be partially prepared, frozen and finished on Thanksgiving. For example, prepare your stuffing/dressing up to the point of baking and then freeze it. Defrost and finish off on Thanksgiving. Pie crusts, biscuits or rolls and cookie dough can be made (not baked), formed and frozen, then put directly in the oven when the time comes. Just add a few extra minutes of baking time.

Freezer-friendly Thanksgiving recipes:


To freeze or refrigerate dishes, first allow them to cool fully, then transfer to airtight containers or freezer bags, as appropriate.

Make a few days ahead

Many Thanksgiving dishes can be made a few days ahead of time, refrigerated and reheated just before dinner. Casseroles can be refrigerated then heated in the oven, and many vegetable side dishes can be reheated in the microwave. If you make mashed potatoes a few days in advance, add a little extra butter or milk as you reheat them to prevent the spuds from drying out. Pie can be made a day or two ahead of time and reheated as well.

Make-ahead Thanksgiving recipes:

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Prep ahead

Almost everything else, even if it can’t be made entirely in advance, can be prepped ahead. Wash and cut vegetables for salad and store them in zip-closed bags, ready to be tossed together just before dinner. Likewise, make the dressing and refrigerate it. Measure spices and chop herbs and vegetables for whatever recipes you need and keep them together in bags or containers.

Prep-ahead Thanksgiving recipes:

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