Thanksgiving/ Thanksgiving dinner

Make Ahead Tips for Thanksgiving Dinner

A table ready for Thanksgiving dinner

Many Thanksgiving recipes can be prepped, made or even cooked the day before, or days or even weeks ahead of time. From cakes, pies and appetizers, to stuffing, gravy, casseroles and more.  Here are my Make Ahead Tips for Thanksgiving Dinner!

Living in Canada means we celebrate Thanksgiving in early October, and since ours has now passed by I thought it would be a great time to share some of my dinner prep tips!  While preparing our Thanksgiving celebrations I used almost all of these tips, which helped to take away much of the stress that comes with creating a delicious dinner!  I hope you find some useful ideas here for your own dinner.

A table full of Thanksgiving food

Make Ahead Tips for Thanksgiving Dinner

Before we get started, if you need some menu ideas, make sure to read this post where I share 50+ Thanksgiving food ideas, and download my printable Thanksgiving Dinner Menu!

Make Ahead a Week or More Before:

Cranberry Sauce

Homemade cranberry sauce is very easy to make ahead of time.  Once it is made you can freeze it until Thanksgiving day.  This is the Cranberry Sauce recipe I use for all my turkey dinners.

Chop Onions and Celery

One of my biggest time savers is chopping onions and celery, then freezing them.  I like being able to reach into the freezer to measure out what I need.  I usually chop up 1 bunch of celery and several onions, then I use them for things like stuffing.

Stuffing

You can make your bread stuffing up to a week ahead of time and freeze it.  Letting your stuffing rest allows all the flavours to come together.  Just take your stuffing out of the freezer on Thanksgiving morning (or even the night before) and allow it to thaw, then proceed with baking.

A cooling rack of white dinner rolls

Buns

You can make and freeze your buns until you want to serve them.  I make these White Dinner Rolls or Whole Wheat Rolls ahead of time and take them out of the freezer on Thanksgiving morning.

Gravy

If you really want to save time, or don’t wish to make gravy with the drippings, you can make gravy ahead of time using turkey stock, then freeze it until Thanksgiving day.  Just unthaw and reheat on the stove. Bonus tip: if the reheated stock is too thick, add some pan drippings from your freshly baked turkey.

Salad Dressings

If you’re serving salad with dressing make the dressing several days ahead of time and keep it in the fridge until you’re ready to use it.

A top down view of two pumpkin pies

Pie Crust Dough

Make any pie crusts you need well ahead of time, and just freeze them until you are ready to assemble and bake your pies.  I don’t freeze the crusts in the pie plates, I prefer to freeze the dough in discs then roll them out after they’ve thawed.  This is the recipe I use.

Ice Cream

If you’re making homemade ice cream make it well ahead of time.  Ice cream will last in the freezer for weeks.  I make this Pumpkin Ice Cream weeks ahead of Thanksgiving.

A top down view of Pumpkin Cheesecake Swirl Brownies squares

Make Ahead the Day Before:

Pies and Cakes

I used to think that pies and cakes were best the day they were made, but I have since learned that they’re actually better the next day.  I think the reason for this is that they have time to rest and set properly.  So definitely make your pies and cakes the day before the big dinner.

Whipped Cream

If you’re serving whipped cream with your desserts, make it the day before and keep it in a tightly sealed container in the fridge until it’s time for dessert.  This is such a time saver.

Buns

If you don’t want to freeze your buns ahead of time, you can make fresh bread dough the night before Thanksgiving dinner, and let it proof in the fridge overnight, then shape and proof once more the next morning before baking.

Pumpkin Puree for Pie

If you are making pumpkin pie from homemade pumpkin puree, you can make it a day or two ahead of time.  Here is a simple and delicious recipe for pumpkin puree from roasted pumpkins!

Vegetable Prep

Clean, chop, dice or slice any vegetables you will be serving for dinner.  Things like carrots, green beans and Brussels sprouts.

Sweet Potato Casserole

Make the sweet potato base for your Sweet Potato Casserole (no marshmallow topping) the day before you want to serve it.  Just add the marshmallows right before you’re ready to bake.  This method also works for any kind of root vegetable casserole like Turnip Puff or Butternut Squash Puff.

Roasted Squash

If you’re serving pureed roasted squash like Acorn or Butternut, you can roast and puree them the day before.  Just keep the puree in the fridge, then reheat either in the microwave or on the stove.

Turkey

The day before Thanksgiving dinner, get your turkey ready.  Get your turkey cleaned and put into the roasting pan so all you have to do on Thanksgiving day is season and roast.

Appetizers

You can prepare most appetizers, like dips and such, a day ahead, saving you loads of time.

I hope these tips help you to have a stress free Thanksgiving dinner!  If you have any tried-and-true tips you use, share them in the comments!

A table set for Thanksgiving dinner

If you’re looking for more delicious fall recipes, makes sure to follow me on Pinterest!

Happy Thanksgiving!

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2 Comments

  • Reply
    Lori L
    October 21, 2020 at 5:55 AM

    A tip for making gravy ahead and still getting the drippings: A week ahead of Thanksgiving or Christmas most supermarkets (at least in Canada) carry turkey wings and drumsticks. Buy a total of about 6 pieces. Put them in a roasting pan with about 6 4″ pieces of celery and two large onions quartered. Roast at 400 for 60-90 minutes or until the turkey pieces are golden and there is browning on the bottom of the pan. Deglaze the pan with chicken broth, scrapping up brown bits. Strain into measuring cup or gravy separator. Refrigerate. When fat has risen to top, use a few tablespoons of the fat in a saucepan with flour to make a roux and then add in stock and reserved pan drippings to make gravy. Gravy freezes! When you reheat it on the stove, it will sometimes curdle–just add a couple of tablespoons of ice cold water (like you do for curdled bearnaise sauce) and whisk vigorously. It will all come together.

    • Reply
      Jo-Anna Rooney
      October 21, 2020 at 10:10 AM

      This is a fantastic tip Lori! Thank you so much for sharing!

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