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A stack of four glass casserole dishes with gray lids are filled with and labeled as make ahead mashed potatoes, make ahead sweet potato casserole, make ahead green casserole, and make ahead stuffing. A mason jar filled with and labeled as make ahead gravy rests is placed in front of the casserole storage dishes. The dishes sit atop a light peach textured surface with a peach background. A red muted linen napkin and Fall colored florals rest in the background.

Make Ahead Thanksgiving Guide (Easy Recipes & Prep Timeline!)

  • Author: Jess Larson
  • Prep Time: 6 hours
  • Cook Time: 6 hours
  • Total Time: 12 hours
  • Yield: serves 10-12, easily scaled
  • Category: Techniques & How-Tos, Thanksgiving Recipes
  • Method: Meal Prep, Make Ahead
  • Cuisine: American

Description

Thanksgiving is, no doubt, one of the most important meals of the year. And if you’re hosting Thanksgiving dinner, that also makes it one of the most overwhelming meals of the year. If you’re feeling the stress of planning & cooking dinner, we totally feel you!

PWWB’s Make Ahead Thanksgiving is a complete guide designed to help you break your Thanksgiving prep work out over several days (or even a few weeks if you want!). By the time Thanksgiving Day rolls around, there’s not much left to do except reheat & dig in. It’s the easiest way to enjoy a deliciously stress-free holiday!

Use instructions below as a condensed timeline & check list of make-ahead Thanksgiving to-dos. Refer to the blog post, above, for much more guidance including Thanksgiving dessert, drink, & tablescape ideas.

Prefer a printable? We’ve got you covered! We’ve already prepared a free printable guide (including all the recipes you’ll need), & we’ll send it straight to your inbox. Sign up now! Happy Thanksgiving! ♡



Instructions

2-3 Weeks Before Thanksgiving

  • Plan your menu. Feel free to use our Make Ahead Thanksgiving menu, or scroll through all PWWB Thanksgiving Recipes for even more inspiration to get you started.  
  • Confirm your equipment. Read the recipes for necessary equipment & cross-check with what you have in the kitchen. If you don’t have an essential piece of equipment, like a roasting pan, kitchen shears, or a potato masher, you still have plenty of time to get it ordered before Thanksgiving Day! 

Up to 1 Week Before Thanksgiving

  • Prep turkey seasoning. Making a killer herb butter or oil is an easy way to infuse your holiday bird with tons of flavor. Plus, the longer it sits, the more its flavors meld – a make ahead Thanksgiving win! If you’re making an Herb Butter Roast Spatchcock Turkey or Maple Glazed Spatchcock Turkey, prepare the herb butter up to 1 week in advance, storing it in the refrigerator until Thanksgiving Day. 
  • Prep hardy veggies. Look over your menu & identify any hardy veggies you can prep in advance (e.g. roughly dice sweet potatoes for casserole, trim green beans, etc.). Most hardy veggies will keep, stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. 

5 Days Before Thanksgiving

  • Prepare Make-Ahead Turkey Gravy. It’s as simple as building a roux & whisking in some turkey broth or turkey stock! 

3-4 Days Before Thanksgiving

  • Defrost your turkey. Safely thawing a turkey takes some time! As a general rule of thumb, plan for 24 hours of refrigerated thawing for every 4 pounds of turkey (that means a 12-14 pound turkey requires 3-4 days of thawing).
  • Prepare Make Ahead Sweet Potato Casserole. Mash & season the sweet potatoes & prepare a nutty streusel topping. Store both separately for assembly later on.
  • Prepare Make Ahead Stuffing. Toast up easy homemade bread cubes & mix them with plenty of fresh herbs & aromatics. Store the stuffing mix in a baking dish for later.

1-2 Days Before Thanksgiving

  • Prepare Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes. Mash the creamy potatoes & load them up with butter for easy reheating later on.
  • Prepare Make Ahead Green Bean Casserole. Blanch fresh green beans & prepare a creamy mushroom sauce – all from scratch, no cans here! Store in a casserole dish for later. (45 minutes active prep)

The Night Before Thanksgiving

  • Spatchcock your turkey. Allowing the spatchcocked turkey to sit uncovered in the fridge overnight helps the skin lose moisture, ensuring it gets especially golden & crispy as it roasts.

Thanksgiving Morning

  • Empty the dishwasher.
  • Take the herb butter out of the fridge to bring it up to room temperature before you roast your turkey.

Thanksgiving Day

  • Roast the turkey or chicken. Prep your spatchcock turkey or Thanksgiving chicken for roasting, planning to get it in the oven about 2 – 2 ½ hours before you’d like to sit down to dinner.
  • Reheat make ahead Thanksgiving side dishes. Each of these dishes requires a 350 degree F oven & about 40 minutes of reheating time, so you can reheat them all at once. Remember, your Thanksgiving turkey or chicken will need about 30 minutes to rest before it’s ready to carve & serve, so you should have a perfectly timed meal! 
  • Finish Make Ahead Turkey Gravy. This takes just 10 minutes on the stovetop. Prep options for gravy making with and without turkey drippings.

Notes

  • Thanksgiving Cocktails & Mocktails: I like to set up a drink station Thanksgiving morning. Drinks are easy to mix in advance. Set everything up near the snack table & set out ice just before your guests arrive. Check the blog post, above, for Thanksgiving drinks we love! 
  • Thanksgiving Appetizers & Snacks: Fridge-friendly dips & cheese balls are easy to prep up to 1 week in advance. Keep everything stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, & on Thanksgiving Day all you have to do is set them out with crackers or crudite veggies. Check the blog post, above, for Thanksgiving apps & snacks we love! 
  • Thanksgiving Desserts: I love to plan an entire day just for baking! Most Thanksgiving desserts benefit from having a day to rest, especially cakes & pies. Check the blog post, above, for Thanksgiving desserts we love! 

Keywords: make ahead thanksgiving recipes, thanksgiving side dishes, easy thanksgiving prep work, stress free thanksgiving hosting