Your one stop shop for all things Thanksgiving! We’re going over the perfect menu and how to plan ahead. You’ll love the many options for appetizers, salads, side dishes, and dessert!
The BEST Thanksgiving menu!
Hosting Thanksgiving can be quite overwhelming. You want to be able to serve a delicious meal, but also not have it take the entire day. If you’re hosting, you may be wondering how many side dishes and desserts to make, and which ones can be made ahead.
This guide is here to help. I absolutely love Thanksgiving, and nothing makes me happier than a house full of guests! This year we’ll be lucky to have my brother’s family visiting, and I cannot wait.
Now is the time to know exactly how many people you’ll be feeding, and taking an inventory of your kitchen and cooking supplies. Do you need a few extra plates? Maybe an extra large casserole dish? I head to Home Goods this time of year to get everything I need, and I also grab a few fun things to decorate my table.
Let’s get started!
- Soups and Salads
- Side Dishes
- Main course! Turkey, Duh
- Thanksgiving timeline! Planning in advance
A perfect Thanksgiving Menu starts with some appetizers!
I like to keep things simple in the appetizer department. Sometimes it’s just a cheese or veggie board! This will depend on what time you are eating. Otherwise, here are a few fun appetizers:
- Sausage and Cranberry Stuffed Mushrooms: These are a huge hit! Taste just like my delicious stuffing 😉
- Pomegranate Avocado Salsa: I love this recipe because it’s so pretty, and delicious too. It’s perfect for the holidays.
- Slow Cooker Sweet and Spicy Meatballs: these are fun and always a HUGE hit. Bonus, they are such an easy recipe to make when you use store bought frozen meals. Literally, set it and forget it!
Soups and Salads
Some people find that soups and salads to be a bit more “optional”. But one of the reasons I love them is because you can make ahead!
- Creamy Carrot and Ginger Soup: Made in the Instant Pot or Slow Cooker, a reader favorite! Loaded with vegetables and nutrients.
- Pumpkin and Butternut Squash Bisque: This combo soup is perfect for Thanksgiving. Also made in the Instant Pot!
- Apple Slaw with Toasted Pecan Vinaigrette: This is the one I make on Thanksgiving. The Toasted Pecan Vinaigrette is a favorite among my family and friends.
- Fall Harvest Salad with Pumpkin Vinaigrette: This salad has some fun additions, like bacon and cranberries. The pumpkin dressing is also smoky and amazing!
The best Part: Side dishes!!
I live for the Thanksgiving side dishes. To me, this is the star!! For feeding a group of 10, I will make 5 total sides (+ a salad, and cranberry sauce!) Three starchy sides, and 2 green vegetable sides. HINT: The first three listed are my three favorite side dishes. But I am giving you lots more options below!
- Sausage and Sage Sourdough Stuffing: Always my favorite, and this is the one side dish I have made the longest! Over 15 years going strong. You can make this Gluten-free, or you can go an extra step further to make it healthier by trying my Roasted Cauliflower Rice Stuffing with lots of the same ingredients, but without the bread.
- The BEST Green Bean Casserole: Yes, this one is truly ridiculously amazing. It has a white cheddar wine mushroom garlic sauce. I mean, talk about decadent and delicious!! You can also try my dairy-free Paleo Spicy Green Bean and Mushroom Skillet or my Skillet Green Beans with Bacon.
- Butternut Squash Au Gratin: My most requested recipe from family and friends….EVER!!! This one is loaded with a creamy parmesan sauce, leeks, and fresh sage. My husband’s favorite (and he doesn’t even like butternut squash that much).
- Maple Balsamic Brussels Sprouts with Cranberries and Bacon: This Brussels sprouts recipe is elevating brussels to another level! This is not one to make ahead, so plan accordingly and same some stovetop room. If wanting to make an Air Fryer or oven recipe, try these Air Fryer Brussels with Bacon, or my Honey Garlic Roasted Brussels!
- Instant Pot Mashed Potatoes: I absolutely love this variation of Potatoes! So simple to make and saves you room on the stovetop. This variation doesn’t even require straining the potatoes. Talk about ultimate ease!
- Slow Cooker Cranberry and Pomegranate Sauce: I love the combo of these two together, especially with some freshly grated orange zest and orange juice. Such a compliment to the turkey!
- Sweet Potato and Apple Casserole: This sweet potato casserole is a nice lightened variation of the desert like sweet potato casserole! Perfectly sweetened and spiced.
It’s Turkey Time!
Being totally honest, the Thanksgiving Turkey used to be my least favorite part of the Thanksgiving meal. UNTIL….. My husband got a Big Green Egg and made the BEST EVER TURKEY! Yes, it’s absolutely incredible. He smokes the turkey perfectly so it’s juicy and incredibly flavorful. I also love the juices it produces to make an amazing smoky gravy!
My version of Thanksgiving Turkey walks you step by step through the brining process, and how to make a turkey on the grill or smoker. You can use a charcoal grill, or any smoker to make it happen! I love that it saves room in the kitchen 😉
End with a decadent dessert!
So many options here. I would personally make two different desserts, regardless of the size you are hosting. One that is pumpkin flavored, and the other either apple or pecan. Here are some great options:
- Chocolate Pecan Pie: This is our family tradition, and it’s not Thanksgiving until we all have a slice. All of my people will gladly pass on pumpkin for my variation of pecan pie. It’s made with rich maple syrup (no corn syrup), and a grain-free crust that everyone loves! Looking for a more traditional pecan pie? My Maple Pecan Pie Bars are just like an amazing pecan pie but in a portable form.
- Pumpkin Cheesecake with Salted Caramel: This variation is Vegan, Paleo, and No-Bake! Super simple to make even a week in advance as it stores in the fridge. You can also make my Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars for a more portable variation that’s very similar.
- Apple Crisp: Apple crisp is made super quickly and another one you can make in advance! It’s grain-free with a nut topping, and also has a delicious salted caramel sauce. Apple Pie Bars are also a delicious and portable way to enjoy apple pie!
- Pumpkin Bundt Cake with Maple Pecan Glaze: Oh yes, this one is just as good as it sounds! This grain-free/Paleo cake is so perfectly moist and sure to be a huge hit.
Your Thanksgiving Timeline and Game Plan
So to get organized and stay ahead, here are some tips to save you time.
- 1 week before: shop for your ingredients on the Thursday or Friday before Thanksgiving. I find that Saturday/Sunday at the grocery store is very crowded. You can even buy the bread for stuffing and place in the freezer to keep it fresh.
- 5 days before: Be sure to look at the size of your turkey and consider thawing it in the fridge if it’s over 20lbs! If making the pumpkin cheesecake, today is a great day to get that done! It stays in the freezer and will be perfectly fresh for the big day.
- 4 days before: You can also make the cranberry sauce this early in the game. The cranberry sauce will stay really yummy for up to one week. So even plenty of time to enjoy the leftovers!
- 3 days before: Prep your table! Look at brining the turkey on this day, or prepping to brine the turkey. Make any soup if serving on your menu.
- 2 days before: Make any pies or dessert. Pies can stay at room temperature for 3-4 days and still taste delicious. I also make my salad dressing on this day and store in the fridge.
- 1 day before: I get a few of the sides prepped and ready. Make the Butternut Squash Au Gratin and Green Bean Casserole (just don’t do the final baking step). On the day of, all you will need to do is pop it in the oven! You can also make the mashed potatoes ahead of time, but I find that making on the day of is also fine. You can prep the stuffing by cutting the bread cubes and toasting.
- Morning of Thanksgiving: Make the turkey, chop up everything you need for the salad, and prep the stuffing. 3 hours before eating, make the mashed potatoes. 2 hours before eating, make the stuffing and place in a warming drawer (or room temperature). 1 hour before, heat up the green beans and butternut squash in the oven, make the gravy and Brussels Sprouts. 20 minutes before eating, carve the turkey, toss the dressing in the salad.
The Ultimate Thanksgiving Menu: Green Bean Casserole
30 minutes of bake time and real food ingredients is all you need for this amazingly delicious Green Bean Casserole! So comforting and perfect for the holidays!
- 1.5 lbs fresh green beans
- 8 oz sliced mushrooms
- 3 small shallots
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 tbsp butter, avocado oil, or olive oil
- 1 tbsp arrowroot starch
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 3/4 cup white wine*
- 3/4 cup milk**
- 1.5 cups grated sharp white cheddar cheese
- 1/3 cup breadcrumbs***
Before starting, prep the vegetables. Trim the green beans and cut into 1 inch pieces. Dice up the mushrooms, shallots, and garlic. Add 8 cups of water to a large pot and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add the green beans. Boil for 8-10 minutes until softened. Strain and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Heat a medium sized saucepan to medium heat. Once hot, add in the oil or butter. Saute the shallots, mushrooms, and garlic for 5-7 minutes.
Sprinkle the vegetable mixture with arrowroot starch and stir to coat the vegetables. Now add in the white wine and milk, increase the heat until the mixture begins to bubble. Reduce the heat to medium low and add in the cheese. Mix until the cheese is melted.
Place the green beans inside a 9×13 inch greased casserole dish. Pour the cheesy mushroom mixture on top. Top the casserole with breadcrumbs or topping of choice. Transfer to the oven.
Bake for 30 minutes, or until casserole is bubbly and lightly browned. Season with salt and pepper, and optional fresh thyme to serve!
*Use a dry white wine like a sauvignon blanc or chardonnay. You can also use vegetable or chicken broth in it’s place!
**This can be whole milk or full fat coconut milk.
***Breadcrumbs can be a GF variation like nutcrumbs, or GF panko. Feel free to replace with your favorite crunch topping (crispy onions, cracker crumbs, or homemade breadcrumbs).