Delicious Make-Ahead Dishes To Add to Your Thanksgiving Feast

It is that time of year again where we are all dusting off our favorite dishes to grace the Thanksgiving table. I get to help host Thanksgiving dinner every other year and this year we will have both sides of our family joining us at our table. With seventeen people coming for dinner, I decided this year that I could concentrate on the turkey, mashed potatoes, & beverages and give everyone a dish idea for something that they could bring to the feast. With everyone contributing, this year should be fun & relatively easy… at least that is always the game plan!

I wanted to round-up a few great recipe ideas that I have used in years past  for Thanksgiving.  Most of these recipes can be made ahead for the big day so that you can actually relax and enjoy being together as a family!

Just as in years past, these make-ahead mashed potatoes are going to be created this week for the big day. This is perhaps my most impressive make-ahead dish because it is always a dilemma on how to get those mashed potatoes on the table, keep them hot, and not make a complete disaster in the kitchen while your guests are arriving.

These mashed potatoes not only freeze beautifully, but they also can be reheated on low in the slow cooker. Both of these qualities make them a winner because I can keep the oven freed up for the other dishes and I can make them early.

Here is my recipe, adapted to our personal taste, perfect for any holiday get together! These are creamy and have a hint of tang to them from the sour cream. Sprinkle with a little paprika, if you so desire, and enjoy the convenience of pulling these out of your freezer for this holiday season.

Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes
Serves 15

5 pounds of potatoes
1 block (8 oz) of low-fat cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup low fat sour cream
4 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup milk (or more if desired)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Peel potatoes and cut into small cubes. Throw the potatoes in a large pot filled with cold water. Cook for 25 minutes or until fork-tender. Drain the potatoes and put them back into the hot pot. Add cream cheese, butter, milk, and salt. Mash with a potato masher or use a hand mixer to whip the potatoes. Spoon mixture into a freezer-safe container and label.

Thanksgiving Day: Put potatoes in the fridge 1-2 days before to allow them to completely thaw. Spray slow cooker with cooking spray and put potatoes in the slow cooker. Brush the top of the potatoes with a tablespoon of butter and sprinkle with paprika. Cook on low for two to four hours.

If you would rather bake these, bake the potatoes at 350 degrees for thirty to forty minutes or until completely hot.


I know green bean casserole is a family tradition, but if you are opting for a healthier tradition, I have the perfect green bean dish! While these can’t be made ahead, necessarily, they are quick cooking and could be thrown in the oven while you are carving the turkey. Within just a short time, you have an elegant side dish that will be elegantly plated with your turkey and mashed potatoes this year.

The original recipe did call for fresh green beans, but I use the fancy frozen ones and they are a little cheaper than the fresh variety. I added an extra ten-fifteen minutes cooking time for these and they were perfect for our taste. You can roast them longer, if you like, but this amount of time seemed to fit well for me.

Roasted Green Beans

2 pounds fresh green beans (or a bag of frozen fancy green beans)
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons minced garlic (I use the bottled garlic to save a little time)
Salt & Pepper
Zest from one or two lemons (save the juice for later)

Thanksgiving Day: Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Grab a jelly roll pan and dump green beans on the pan. Sprinkle seasonings, lemon zest, and garlic over the green beans. Drizzle the olive oil over the green beans and then toss with your hands until they are all coated with the seasonings and zest. Spread out in a single layer and slide your cookie sheet into the oven. Roast fresh green beans for 20-25 minutes and roast frozen green beans for an additional 10-minutes. When they are done, pull from the oven and put them on a serving platter. Squeeze the lemon juice over the top (from the lemon you zested) and serve.


If you are looking for an easy and fool-proof homemade roll recipe, then I highly recommend this one. These can be made the night before and waiting in the fridge for you for the big Thanksgiving Day feast. These are the most delicious rolls and the only thing that make them even more glamorous is serving these with a little homemade pumpkin butter.

Buttery Bread Machine Rolls Recipe

1 cup warm milk (70 to 80 degrees F.)
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 cups bread flour
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast

In bread machine pan, put all ingredients in order suggested by manufacturer. Select dough setting. When cycle is completed, turn dough onto a lightly floured surface. 4. Divide dough into 24 portions. Shape dough into balls. Place in a greased 13 inch by 9 inch baking pan. Cover and let rise in a warm place for 15 minutes. Tuck into your fridge for Thanksgiving Day.

Thanksgiving Day: Pull the rolls from the fridge and allow them a half hour to an hour to rise on your counter. Bake at 350 degrees for 13-16 minutes or until golden brown.


When my kids grow up and leave the house, I hope that it is mom’s pumpkin cornbread muffins that they talk about and how much they loved me for them. Everyone should have at least one dish that is their “famous dish” and these cornbread muffins are my claim to fame at my table.

To have fresh baked cornbread muffins at your table, make this batter the night before and tuck it in your fridge in a covered bowl. In the morning, you can bake these and have them in a basket, ready for your dinner guests. These are best served at room temperature so it makes them the perfect bread accompaniment to make ahead!

Pumpkin Cornbread Muffins

1 1/4 cups flour
3/4 cup cornmeal
2/3 cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup canned pumpkin puree
3/4 cup buttermilk (I substituted with regular milk and a teaspoon of vinegar to sour)
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 eggs, room
2 tablespoons honey
Sugar for sprinkling (I used the raw sugar)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin tin with muffin liners. In a bowl, toss together flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon. In another mixing bowl, mix with a wooden spoon, the pumpkin puree, sour cream or buttermilk , butter, eggs and honey, until well combined. Add the pumpkin mixture to the flour mixture just until combined. Store batter in a covered bowl in the fridge.

Thanksgiving Day: Transfer to the prepared muffin tin. Sprinkle with a little sugar (I used raw sugar) on top. Bake for about 20-25 minutes, or until edges just begin to color (Note: If you pull the batter right from the fridge that it may require an extra five minutes, but keep one eye on it!) . Cool to room temperature. Makes approximately 12-13 muffins.


No get together in our family is complete without a big punch bowl that is overflowing. This punch is always a hit and it can be ready when everyone arrives. It is loved by kids and adults alike. The night before you can prepare an easy ice ring to keep it cold so you can eliminate the need for a bucket of ice and keep it nice & cold for your guests.

Thanksgiving Day Party Punch

2 liter bottle strawberry-flavored soda (I found this at Walmart)
2 liter (half a bottle) Cherry 7-Up
1 (12 ounce) can frozen pink lemonade concentrate
1 can pineapple juice

Mix all the ingredients together for the punch. This will fill one large punch bowl or two smaller ones.

Ice Ring
Orange slices
Lemon slices
Lime slices
Maraschino cherries
Cherry juice or red food coloring
Metal ring mold (I use my bundt pan for this one)

Create your ice ring by throwing in the citrus fruit slices and then pouring in the jar of cherries (juice and all) Top the bundt pan off with water and then freeze overnight. To serve, unmold ice ring into punch bowl and then add your party punch ingredients.


Next week I will be doing a round-up of great appetizers and board games that can be enjoyed after the big feast! If you are anything like my family, this is an all day event, and it is fun to have a few snacks on hand and activities to be enjoyed once the feast concludes!

In the meantime, be sure to visit my tips for Easy Thanksgiving Entertaining Ideas on the Snackpicks site! Check out the fun recipes for stuffing and a snack mix to keep the little ones quiet while you are working hard to get that turkey on the table

What is your favorite dish for Thanksgiving Day? Do you have any techniques for getting the feast on the table easier? Please feel free to share those recipes & links!

Published November 08, 2010 by:

Amy Allen Clark is the founder of You can read all about her here.

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