20 Make Ahead Thanksgiving Recipes

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Make ahead Thanksgiving recipes save time and help ensure you'll have an enjoyable holiday with your family this year.

A photo collage of several make ahead tricks for Thanksgiving recipes.

Fall flies by and then I can hardly believe that Thanksgiving is just a couple weeks away. Does that happen to you, too?

If you use the weekends in October and November strategically, you can have several key turkey day recipes all prepped and ready to go with so little effort!

Make one or two during one weekend and another one or two the next weekend and your holiday dinner will be easy peasy!!

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Make Ahead Side Dishes

Want to keep Thanksgiving extra easy? Use these delicious make ahead side dishes for the bulk of your holiday menu.

Then just add a few easy Thanksgiving vegetables and you'll be all set.

Make Ahead Sweet Potato Casserole

The ONLY sweet potatoes that grace our holiday table.

I've made these for more years in a row than I can count.

I assemble the entire dish and freeze it. Let it thaw in your fridge the night before Thanksgiving.

Or, check the post for instructions on how to make it ahead the day before and store in the fridge.

Make Ahead Sweet Potato Casserole
This delicious make ahead sweet potato casserole with pecans is the perfect holiday side dish. Split the recipe into two 8x8-inch pans and serve one for Thanksgiving and freeze one to be served later at Christmas.
4.35 from 64 votes
A baking dish filled with the finished sweet potato casserole with pecan topping.

Italian Sausage Stuffing

I swear this Italian sausage stuffing actually tastes better when it is baked the next day!

Make it ahead the day before and simply bake it after the turkey comes out of the oven on Thanksgiving day.

Italian Sausage Stuffing
This classic Italian sausage stuffing is the perfect Thanksgiving side dish but tastes great with any special dinner all winter long. Make it up to one day ahead for an easy addition to your menu.
5 from 43 votes
A baking dish filled with homemade sausage stuffing sits next to a striped towel.

Crockpot Mashed Potatoes

Prep these in the morning and the mashed potatoes will take practically no work for you later in the afternoon.

You could also make them ahead the day before. Check out the post for reheating instructions if you want to go that route.

Crockpot Mashed Potatoes
This is the creamiest, fluffiest mashed potatoes recipe you'll ever find. It's the perfect make ahead side dish for a busy holiday dinner. Use the Keep Warm setting and the potatoes will be ready when you are!
5 from 54 votes
A silver Crockpot has finished mashed potatoes that are sprinkled with fresh chives and two pats of butter.

Make Ahead Mac and Cheese

Prep this easy baked mac and cheese in advance and just bake it before serving at dinner.

Make Ahead Mac and Cheese
This easy baked mac and cheese recipe is the perfect side dish or dinner fix. Topped with plenty of crunchy breadcrumbs and perfectly cooked pasta, it will be your go-to recipe at the holidays.
4.57 from 41 votes
A blue baking dish filled with mac and cheese with bread crumb topping. A serving spoon has removed a portion to show the creamy elbow noodles.

Slowcooker Acorn Squash

Another prep-ahead recipe, you could chop all the veggies and fruit the day before the holiday and simply pop it all into the Crockpot on the morning of the feast and let it cook itself.

Slow Cooker Acorn Squash with Apples and Raisins
This easy side dish is perfect for Thanksgiving or other fall dinners. Pop the acorn squash and apples into the crockpot and enjoy a sweet side dish with turkey or pork.
5 from 42 votes
A sliced open acorn squash has been filled with red dried cranberries and a spoonful of brown sugar.

Make Ahead Cranberry Sauce

This is a freezer-friendly cranberry sauce that is perfect for making ahead the day before or weeks in advance for holiday baking.

Cranberry Sauce with Grand Marnier
Freezer-friendly cranberry sauce with Grand Marnier has a delicious burst of orange flavor from the orange juice and liqueur. Serve it for Thanksgiving or split the batch and save half for Christmas morning cranberry cinnamon rolls.
5 from 56 votes
A pot of fresh cranberries is cooking with a wooden spoon to stir.

Make Ahead Breads

Thanksgiving breads are an excellent option for make ahead recipes because bread freezes so well.

You can bake holiday dinner rolls or loaves of Italian bread to turn into stuffing and freeze them for later.

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Bread Machine Italian Bread

This Italian bread is the base of my sausage stuffing but would be a delicious addition to your Thanksgiving bread basket.

It also makes great leftover turkey sandwiches the next day. Pop it into your bread machine and the bread actually bakes itself.

Bread Machine Italian Bread
This delicious Italian bread is the perfect partner for a hot bowl of soup or a simple sandwich. It will quickly become your favorite bread machine recipe.
The recipe is featured in The Ultimate Bread Machine Cookbook.
4.70 from 30 votes
A loaf of bread machine Italian bread sits in a basket next to a few sample wedges near a plate of olive oil for dipping.

Rosemary Dinner Rolls

You can bake these homemade dinner rolls the day before and then simply reheat them in the oven for 5 minutes before serving and they'll taste fresh.

I usually make two pans!

Buttery Rosemary Rolls
These pull-apart butter dinner rolls are topped with salted rosemary and make the perfect dinner roll for the holiday. Open them up to make small sandwiches from the holiday roast or main dish.
4.98 from 49 votes
A spatula is lifting a rosemary pull apart roll from the 9x13-inch baking pan it was baked in.

Freezer Friendly Crescent Dinner Rolls

These homemade crescent dinner rolls are bigger and fluffier than the kind from the can.

You can bake them in advance and freeze them. Thaw them in the fridge overnight and reheat them in the oven before serving.

Bread Machine Crescent Dinner Rolls
Easy homemade bread machine crescent rolls are perfect for a delicious holiday bread. Serve them at Easter, Thanksgiving, or Christmas warm from the oven. Can be made ahead and frozen for an even easier serving.
5 from 57 votes
A bread basket is lined with a napkin and filled with golden crescent dinner rolls from the bread machine.

Make Ahead Desserts

I always bake my Thanksgiving desserts the day before Thanksgiving since they can rest on the counter overnight or chill in the fridge.

My easy pumpkin pie and pecan pie recipes are perfect examples.

Some of my holiday desserts are also freezer friendly and are perfect for making even farther ahead of time.

But if you're traveling to the holiday at someone else's house, you might need my list of make ahead Thanksgiving desserts that travel well.

Freezer Friendly Apple Crisp

My most popular make-ahead recipe on this entire site, thousands of readers have loved this freezer-friendly apple crisp.

Serve with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce if you want to dress it up a little fancier.

Freezer Friendly Apple Crisp
This freezer apple crisp will change your holiday baking forever. Make one big batch but split it into two smaller desserts -- one to bake now and one to stash in your freezer for later. Perfect quick and easy Thanksgiving dessert. 
4.34 from 86 votes
A freezer-friendly metal pan holds an 8x8-inch apple crisp with crumble topping.

Freezer Friendly Apple Pie

Apple pies are perfect for the freezer. Read how to bake the perfect one in advance here.

Apple Slab Pie
This freezer-friendly apple slab pie is a delicious fresh apple dessert any time of year. The flaky pie crust and juicy apples are great with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top!
5 from 40 votes
A square piece of apple pie has a fork taking a bite.

Freezer Friendly Cherry Pie

This cherry slab pie will take up very little room in your freezer and is the perfect make-ahead dessert to bake in the oven when you want to serve.

Cherry Slab Pie
A simple way to feed a crowd, this delicious cherry slab pie can be baked with frozen cherries or fresh cherries during the peak of the season.
4.93 from 57 votes
A cherry slab pie sits in a metal baking pan and has heart-shaped cut outs for the top crust.

Make Ahead Garnishes

Take a little time the weekend before Thanksgiving to make these super easy recipes so you have an amazing homemade touch to the holiday.

A little drizzle of caramel or a sprinkle of sugared cranberries makes you look like the ultimate holiday host with very little extra effort.

Homemade Caramel Sauce

This homemade caramel sauce can be made up to a week in advance and is the perfect Thanksgiving dessert garnish for pecan pie, pumpkin pie, or my apple crisp from up above.

Homemade Salted Caramel Sauce
This addictive homemade caramel sauce makes an excellent ice cream topping or dessert sauce for fall treats.
4.98 from 46 votes
A mason jar filled with homemade caramel sauce with a spoon.

Sugared Cranberries

You will be shocked to see just how simple these elegant sugared cranberries are to make.

Use them for garnishes on the Thanksgiving desserts table or as an addition to your table centerpiece.

You can make them days in advance and just store in an airtight container.

Sugared Cranberries
This super easy sugared cranberries recipe makes a breathtaking garnish for your holiday dessert or accent for your holiday table. Let your kids prepare them, they will love watching the process!
5 from 2 votes
A bowl of sugared cranberries up close so you can see the sparkly sugar.

Freezer Friendly Pumpkin Bread

Everyone needs a little something to snack on when the turkey feast is hours away.

Wake up Thanksgiving morning to a fresh pumpkin bread thawed from your freezer! Bake these weeks in advance for a special treat all season long.

Easy Pumpkin Bread Recipe
This big batch of pumpkin bread makes three loaves -- 1 to keep, 2 to freeze or share with friends. Such a tasty recipe for fall entertaining and easy breakfasts. Freezes so well!
4.87 from 59 votes
3 pans of homemade pumpkin bread cool on a stove top.

More Thanksgiving Ideas

Now that you've got your plan for making ahead these easy dishes,, what about the rest of your Thanksgiving meal plan?

Don't miss my other easy Thanksgiving recipes for your family feast:

The photo collage shows several scenes from kitchen prep making ahead Thanksgiving recipes -- a knife on a cutting board, a pie being assembled, a casserole being frozen, bread being sliced, and cranberry sauce being stirred.
5 prep ahead for Thanksgiving recipes you can make right now


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