Thanksgiving recipes for kids help ensure that everyone at your holiday table is happy. Learn how to plan a Thanksgiving menu for picky eaters. Don't miss the easy recipes kids can cook for the holiday dinner, too!
Ah, Thanksgiving with kids.
This holiday can really go one way or the other if you've got little ones at the table:
Some kids LOVE all things Thanksgiving -- they want to eat a little of everything, they want to help in the kitchen, they are Turkey Day Super Fans.
Some kids DREAD Thanksgiving -- all those strange grown-up dishes touching on their plate, mysterious casserole dishes parading buy with who knows what inside. Thanksgiving can be a picky eater's worst nightmare.
Believe it or not, I've experienced both of those attitudes at my Thanksgiving table -- from the same kid!
With the right approach to your Thanksgiving menu and a positive attitude, even a picky eater can turn into a Thanksgiving super fan if given enough time.
Maybe not this year, maybe not next. But keep trying! Just remember, change doesn't happen overnight and this holiday is meant to be about family.
Give your kiddos a hug and let the rules go for just one dinner.
- Why These are the Best Recipes
- Thanksgiving Recipes Kids Will Eat
- Baked Mac and Cheese
- Open Face Turkey Sandwiches
- Sweet Potato Casserole
- Plain Mashed Potatoes
- Kid-Friendly Thanksgiving Vegetables
- Thanksgiving Bread Basket
- Homemade Applesauce
- Snicker Salad
- Cranberry Cinnamon Rolls
- Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake Bars
- Thanksgiving Recipes Kids Can Cook
- Pumpkin Bread
- Green Bean Casserole
- Homemade Cranberry Sauce
- Pumpkin Butterscotch Cookies
- Pistachio Fluff
- Pineapple Marshmallow Salad
- Sugared Cranberries
- More Recipes for Kids
- More Thanksgiving Ideas
- 💬 Comments
Why These are the Best Recipes
After almost two decades of cooking for kids at my Thanksgiving table, I've learned a little bit about the best Thanksgiving recipes for kids.
I've broken down this fantastic list of ideas into two categories:
- Recipes Kids will Eat: These are kid-friendly Thanksgiving recipes that appeal to picky eater palettes.
- Recipes Kids can Cook: If you've got a more adventurous eater who wants to help in the kitchen, I've picked my best easy Thanksgiving recipes for beginner cooks.
Thanksgiving Recipes Kids Will Eat
If you've got a kid just learning to like typical Thanksgiving foods, there are a few simple strategies you should keep in mind:
- Keep it Simple: Now is not the time to go gourmet. Stick to traditional Thanksgiving dinner recipes and you'll have much better luck.
- Offer Options: Thanksgiving foods are really built all around such simple ingredients. If your kid tends to avoid one item, just be sure to have another option handy.
- Avoid Touching: Any recipe you can choose that allows the item to be eaten without touching another item is a huge win!
Keeping that in mind, here are some of the recipes that have been most popular with my kids through the years:
Baked Mac and Cheese
When my girls were younger, I made them a deal:
As long as they took an adventurous bite of the traditional dishes being passed at the table, I would guarantee we'd embrace the southern tradition of having mac and cheese as part of the holiday meal.
This easy recipe has been on our table ever since and there's no need to feel guilty about it!
Open Face Turkey Sandwiches
Big slices of turkey and all those side dishes can overwhelm kids.
My TEENS love these open face turkey sandwiches so much, they look forward to the Thanksgiving leftovers almost more than the official holiday meal!
Sweet Potato Casserole
While a marshmallow topped sweet potato casserole may be more traditional, this recipe is a much greater hit with my kids because of the pecan crunch.
If they start by learning to like slowcooker sweet potatoes, it is even easier!
If you've got a toddler at the table, you might want to try my mashed sweet potatoes and pineapple, too.
Plain Mashed Potatoes
While one kiddo won't touch potatoes with a 10-foot pole, my other kiddo could eat this entire crockpot filled with mashed potatoes if I let her.
Sometimes it is the gravy on top that puts kids off the mashed potatoes. Try serving it plain with just a little melted butter and see if that helps more.
Kid-Friendly Thanksgiving Vegetables
So here's the tricky part when it comes to serving kids for Thanksgiving -- all those vegetables and sides mixing and mingling on their plates sends most kids running for the hills.
If you want to make the kids at your table happy, there are five excellent strategies:
- SIMPLE Cooked Veggies: Serve a simple veggie like frozen corn or a can of green beans, all by itself. No sauces, no seasonings, nothing added to it that they can see.
- Glazed Baby Carrots: Use the recipe my mom always used on me and make her easy glazed baby carrots with brown sugar and butter.
- Raw Veggies & Dip: Let them dip raw baby carrots into a simple dip like my dill dip.
- Veggie Snacks BEFORE the Dinner: Want less fights at the Thanksgiving table? Get the kids to eat something with veggies in the afternoon before the main meal and then just let it go at dinnertime. Let them enjoy putting what they want on their plates.
- Just Don't Stress It: It's a holiday. You don't have to fight the vegetable fight all 365 days of the year. You can get right back to encouraging vegetable exposures tomorrow.
Get all the best easy Thanksgiving vegetables here
Thanksgiving Bread Basket
When in doubt, there's always the bread basket! Almost every kid I've ever known would happily fill up on dinner rolls, biscuits, or crescent rolls.
Be sure to bake up plenty if you are hosting kids for the holiday.
Get all the best Thanksgiving breads here
Homemade applesauce is even easier in the microwave!
At least this is a Thanksgiving side dish where you can control how much sugar and/or cinnamon is involved.
You can even tailor the type of apples to your kids' favorite!
If you're a Midwesterner, you're likely familiar with the Minnesota salad tradition of serving Snickers salad at the holidays.
Delight your kids with this fun addition to the feast!
This is actually a recipe the kids could make, too. Just be sure to turn a blind eye when they take a "chef's nibble" to make sure it turned out ok.
Cranberry Cinnamon Rolls
Even though my kids won't eat my homemade cranberry sauce with dinner, they absolutely LOVE it rolled into these easy cinnamon rolls using refrigerated dough.
Save some cranberry sauce for the day after Thanksgiving and make these for breakfast.
It is a great exposure to cranberry sauce and maybe by next year they'll be willing to try a taste with their turkey.
Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake Bars
Not all kids love pumpkin pie but these pumpkin gooey butter bars are always a hit with my kids.
The texture has a little more cake-like bite and we love the crispy edge pieces.
Thanksgiving Recipes Kids Can Cook
If you've got a little chef who is eager to help in the kitchen, be sure to embrace that and welcome them in!
As the author of The Totally Awesome Ultimate Kids' Cookbook, I've been cooking with my kids in the kitchen since they could pull up a chair to the counter.
For the best success during a busy holiday, here are a few tips to get you started:
- Plan Ahead: Talk with your kids about what they want to do and how they want to help before the actual holiday arrives.
- Pick a Recipe Together: Give your kids some buy-in and control. Select 2 - 3 recipes you are comfortable with them making and let them pick.
- Give them Space: Set them up in a corner of the kitchen where you are ok with them getting to work. Make sure they have everything they need to get started and be available for questions.
Here are some of my kids' favorite things to cook all by themselves:
This one bowl pumpkin quick bread makes three loaves but what makes it so fantastic is that it can be baked and frozen well in advance.
This lets your child bake for the holiday and have your help as needed when you have a little more time.
They still feel special on Thanksgiving that they had something to contribute to the feast but the work was done and out of the way early.
Green Bean Casserole
Teach your child how to open a can opener and then set them free to cook this entire recipe all by themselves.
BONUS: They get to decide how many (if any!) crispy onions get included.
Homemade Cranberry Sauce
Want to know the BEST way to get a picky eater to try a new food?? Invite them to cook it themselves.
You just have to be sure to promise they don't have to try it. (And stick to that promise.)
When it isn't forced and they had a hand in helping, they almost always want to try a bite.
Kids LOVE watching the cranberries burst for this sauce. The grown-up version has Grand Marnier in the mix, just have kids substitute with orange juice.
Pumpkin Butterscotch Cookies
This one bowl cookie recipe is loaded with butterscotch chips.
It is a fun Thanksgiving treat for young bakers to bring to the holiday.
Another fun holiday side dish for kids is this pistachio fluff fruit salad -- with or without the chopped pecans on top.
Pineapple Marshmallow Salad
If the kids aren't into pistachio, this pineapple marshmallow salad is a zesty addition to your holiday table.
This awesome holiday garnish for the dessert table is one part stunning recipe and one part science experiment!
The kids will love watching what happens to the berries as they dry overnight.
More Recipes for Kids
Whether you're cooking for kids or you want recipes for kids to cook, you can't go wrong with my family-friendly cookbooks for kids.
These kid-friendly recipes are great for you to cook with your kids (or hand off and let them try on their own.)
More Thanksgiving Ideas
Now that you've got your easy Thanksgiving recipes for kids all picked out, what about the rest of your meal plan?
Don't miss my other easy Thanksgiving recipes for your family feast: