Thanksgiving is a BIG deal in my family. And that includes the food…which is why I feel like I have some of the best Thanksgiving recipes around. You know, the tried-and-true ones that the family requests over and over.
See, I have a big extended family, and we spend the day before baking, cooking, and prepping. The morning of Thanksgiving is always insane—my mom’s up super early with the turkey, then leaves around 10:30 to get down to my grandma’s. I get up a little later, go for a run, finish up all the remaining dishes, and head down around noon.
We eat a huge lunch, then graze all afternoon and have leftovers for dinner. We play football, watch football, play cards, and talk. Chase the kids around.
When you’re cooking for a big crowd (anywhere from 25 to 50 in past years; usually around 25-30 these days), there are some realities in the kinds of dishes that make sense. Anything super time-intensive that doesn’t yield a lot of servings is automatically out.
So these are some of my favorite relatively easy Thanksgiving recipes that I’ve contributed over the years, and it’s all about the sides, breads, desserts, and cocktails. Turkey just…exists. Hope you enjoy and everyone has a safe, happy (American) Thanksgiving with family and friends!
What I’ve got for you in this post:
- Sides (what Thanksgiving meal is all about)
What I don’t have?? Turkey. Meh. You can figure that out separately. I have turkey PTSD, from that time I had to make six 25+ pound turkeys and they hadn’t been thawed properly and…basically I don’t mess with it. But I’ve got you covered on everything else. If you’re hosting for the first time, this article from The Kitchn has great tips to make it seamless.
Great Bread Options
Everyone’s bread strategy is different, and this is the one thing that depends the most on how many people you’re feeding and how much time you have.
Technically any of these can be made the night before, but the rosemary olive oil bread is best for that (plus it requires rise time, where the others don’t as much). A mixture of these different breads is what we typically go with, because we’re feeding hordes…
The most traditional, and absolutely perfect. Pile on the jam or honey.
This is basically a non-negotiable in my family at Thanksgiving…seriously like the best bread in the world. It’s really easy, but takes 3-4 hours including the two separate rising times. You can make this the night before as well, if that’s easier.
If you’re looking for easy Thanksgiving recipes, these are probably your fastest option out of all of these, about 20-30 minutes total. But soooooo good.
Another great quicker option, and goes wonderfully with just butter or topped with all manner of jams and jellies.
This focaccia bread is delicious and easy, but would really only work for a smaller group.
The best. My go-to for basically anything (and makes amazing French toast with leftovers).
Thanksgiving Side Dishes
This doesn’t include some of my favorites—including my aunt’s au gratin potatoes and Stove Top stuffing. Yes, Stove Top stuffing. I absolutely refuse to have any other kind of stuffing. Sue me.
A Thanksgiving staple in my family…and none of that marshmallow nonsense. One of the best Thanksgiving recipes around.
A new favorite, and how I’ve helped convert my mom to how amazing brussels sprouts can be. A great veggie side that can be made ahead and just warmed up.
This was a new entry into our Thanksgiving pantheon this year, but it’ll be a keeper. My sister decided she wanted to make a roasted butternut squash dish, so I couldn’t make the brussels sprout-butternut squash recipe above. But I still wanted brussels sprouts, so decided to give this one a try. Now I’m obsessed and making it constantly on random weeknights too.
I love a good mac & cheese, and the butternut squash and kale here really elevates this. You can leave out the sausage to make it a side dish.
I’m not really a mashed potato fan, but they *are* tradition. These ones are creamy and dreamy.
Would be challenging for a big group but perfect for a smaller Thanksgiving feast…hearty, chewy, and perfect.
Best Thanksgiving Dessert Recipes
Confession: I’m not a pumpkin person. So you won’t find a pumpkin pie below. The whole internet has your back if you’re looking for that.
I love fruit desserts, a quality pecan pie once or twice a year, and some less traditional types of desserts. Plus my mom’s molasses cookies, which are the BOMB. These are some of my go-to desserts for Thanksgiving, the ones that *I* look forward to serving myself a plate of. And if you’re looking for gluten-free options, I have a whole post dedicated to that.
One of the best Thanksgiving recipes out there, and I will fight anyone who says otherwise.
I didn’t grow up on pecan pie, but living 12 years in Georgia definitely made me a believe that this is a holiday must-have. The addition of bourbon here just elevates and lifts the flavors.
My dad: “This is the best dessert I’ve ever tasted.” Seriously amazing, and has now become an annual favorite at Thanksgiving. Pear is one of my true loves, and the spices, bourbon, crumble, and more make this totally addictive.
Legit my favorite cookie OF ALL TIME. And these spices and the soft texture…this is just the flavor of fall in every mouthful.
I loooooove cherries and this one is perfect with either fresh or frozen dark sweet cherries, and crazy easy. (Ignore the fact that this pic doesn’t have the crumble topping on yet…basically the photo with topping looks like any other pie with streusel topping.)
This is a comfort go-to, something that’s actually decently healthy and I whip up whenever I’m in the mood (especially with whole wheat pie crust). Sometimes I add banana. Things get crazy in my kitchen sometimes…
My sister brought this to Thanksgiving last year and I immediately fell in love. This cranberry cake features a buttery vanilla cake batter studded with fresh cranberries, and only takes 15 minutes to throw together.
It’s perfect for any occasion, including a great Thanksgiving dessert antidote to all the overly-sweet pies and bars.
This has been at my family’s Thanksgiving since I can remember…not as a dessert, but as the thing we munch on all afternoon and evening. It’s the perfect holiday snack, and so easy to make!
This amazing little cake shouldn’t be SO GOOD but it is…confusing, delicious, and even better the second day. So perfect for making the night before.
The flavors in this are out of this world, with the fragrant warm fall spices and tart apricot jam.
I realize this is kind of an odd choice for a “dessert”, but I’m a sweet bread and pastry fan, and these chelsea buns are sheer heaven and packed with fall flavors. I’ll take this over pumpkin pie nonsense any day.
Bonus: Cocktails for Thanksgiving
Let’s be honest, I’m here for the side dishes and the cocktails. Depending on the size of your group, you want delicious but also easy…this isn’t the time for fussy cocktails. Just a few ingredients, a little shaking or stirring, and call it a day.
If you’d ever told me I would be obsessed with a whiskey-based milk punch made with sweetened condensed milk, I would have told you that you’re nuts.
BUT HERE WE ARE.
I don’t like manhattans on account of the vermouth, but when it’s replaced by a ruby port I’m here for it.
Both light and punch-drunk at the same time, with the flavors of fall and spring together.
As a gin girl, I had to include at least one gin cocktail even though seasonally people don’t typically think of this spirit during Thanksgiving. This is so satisfying, tart, refreshing, and QUITE boozy, it’s perfect in small doses.
So now you know what my family considers the best Thanksgiving recipes, and particularly the ones that have been on our table for years.
A few other holiday favorites you’ll love:
I’d love to hear from you as well…what are the best Thanksgiving recipes in your family? What’s an absolutely non-negotiable??
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