39 Make-Ahead Holiday Dishes That Are Perfect for Festive Family Gatherings
These classic recipes will help you get a head start on the festivities.
From decorating your Christmas tree to shopping for a one-of-a-kind gift for that special someone, there are plenty of things that you can do to prepare for the holiday season ahead of time. But what's a holiday celebration—whatever its size—without fantastic food? We have 39 festive make-ahead holiday recipes that you can start now and save for later. After all, just because your gathering will look different this year doesn't mean you shouldn't pull out all the stops in terms of the holiday meal. Even a celebratory gathering with your immediate family deserves a delicious, festive dinner and dessert.
Looking for an indulgent make-ahead dessert recipe? Try your hand at the No-Bake Chocolate-Eggnog Creme Brulee that's pictured here. Bittersweet chocolate brings the rich, dark color and ground cinnamon and freshly grated nutmeg add the classic spiced flavors that everyone associates with the holiday season. The combination is a joyful one—even better, you can make this dessert up to two days before you plan to serve it.
We also have several casserole recipes for the holidays that you can partially—and in some cases—fully prepare in advance. Dishes such as beef stew, lasagna, and a spectacular twist on Beef Wellington can be prepared earlier in the day so that you can spend as much time as possible with loved ones. While you're chatting with loved ones, the dishes bake, braise, and roast up until dinnertime—and you didn't have to miss out on any of the fun. The other perk of these make-ahead recipes for the holidays is that you can clean as you go, so there's no sink filled with dirty dishes or a countertop covered in flour marring the otherwise merry scene. When you cook in advance, you can clean in advance, too.
Whether it's making mashed potatoes for shepherd's pie, peeling and cutting vegetables, or making an entire dessert in advance, these make-ahead holiday recipes will help to make your season stress-free and so much sweeter.
Poached Pears with Saffron Whipped Cream
Not only is this holiday dessert recipe sweet as can be, it's also a favorite for home cooks because it can be made up to three days in advance. Use fresh or frozen fruit for juicy flavor and bright red color.
Classic Beef Stew
Dairy-Free Chocolate-Raspberry Cake
Guests will be amazed when you place this indulgent chocolate dessert on the table—and you'll be amazed at just how easy it is to make. Use your favorite ice cream flavor; we prefer the combination of chocolate and peppermint for the holiday.
Sausage-and-Kale Stuffed Shells
Mile-High Triple-Chocolate-Espresso Mousse Pie
Twice-Baked Potato-and-Raclette Casserole
Pork Wellington with Prosciutto and Spinach-Mushroom Stuffing
Looking for an easy and elegant dish to serve alongside a charcuterie board? How about this make-ahead, three-ingredient recipe for poached figs, which get a hint of sweetness from sugar and brandy?
We think this chocolate mousse is the ultimate make-ahead dessert for the holidays. It can be chilled in the refrigerator, is easy to serve individually (a bonus during COVID times!), and is totally decadent—what's not to love?
Shrimp and Crudité Platter with Two Sauces
Poach your vegetables and shrimp, stir your sauces, and assemble the platter all before the doorbell rings—as soon as your loved ones arrive, this showstopping appetizer will be ready.
Lasagna with Meat Sauce
A total crowd pleaser and a make-ahead marvel, that's this lasagna. You can brown your meat and assemble the entire casserole ahead, then pop it in the oven just about an hour before dinnertime.
Butternut Squash Soup with Coconut Milk and Ginger
Colcannon Shepherd's Pie
On a cold winter's night during the holiday season, nothing is quite as satisfying as shepherd's pie. This Irish-inspired dish is loaded with ground lamb, carrots, peas, and onions and topped with—what else—but mashed potatoes.
The beauty of braising meat such as brisket is that you can set it and forget about it. In this recipe, the brisket bakes with an assortment of spices including garlic, coriander seeds, oregano, orange wedges, and triple-sec until it becomes fork-tender and so flavorful.
Vanilla Pudding Pie
A subtly spiced white-chocolate vanilla pudding fills the chocolate wafer cookie crust in this make-ahead-friendly holiday dessert.
Cornbread Stuffing with Pancetta and Scallions
Stuffing is a seamless, easy side dish for the holiday season. You can get a head start on this recipe by making our classic cornbread and baking it until the cubes are crisp and dry. Or assemble the entire stuffing in advance and then reheat right before serving.
Pear-and-Raspberry Baked French Toast
Rolled Rib-Eye Roast
Rib-eye roast is a special treat on its own, but why not kick it up a notch by butterflying the meat and filling it with an herb blend that includes parsley, sage, and garlic? Let it stand at room temperature for one hour before roasting.
Pull-Apart Garlic Bread
No-Knead Plum Focaccia
Focaccia is normally a savory starter, but we brought in a touch of sweetness with wedges of plum, which are at their peak during the holiday season.
Mini Beef Wellingtons
Everything tastes better in miniature! These individual beef Wellingtons are as delicious as they are adorable. Everything but the final baking can be done up to two weeks in advance.
Italian Seafood Salad
We've deconstructed the traditional Sicilian pastry into a creamy dessert dip and cannoli "chips." Both components can be made up to 12 hours in advance and stored in the fridge.
Raw Swiss Chard, Cabbage, and Brussels Sprout Salad
Add some freshness to your holiday table with this bright, crunchy salad. It's one of those rare salads that gets better as it sits, so you can toss it up to an hour before guests arrive.
Maple-Whipped Sweet Potatoes
A staple of holiday meals, these airy whipped spuds get an extra dose of flavor from the maple syrup. This buttery dish can be made up to two days in advance and warmed over a low flame on the stove (make sure to stir constantly to keep the potatoes from sticking to the pan).
Eggnog Semifreddo Genoise Cake with Meringue Frosting
When else are you going to pull out this showstopper? This vertical-layer cake alternates layers of genoise with a nutmeg-and-rum-scented semifreddo and can be made a day in advance. Just make sure there's enough space to store it in your freezer!
Roasted Beet and Potato Borscht
Our take on the classic Eastern European soup is served hot and keeps for three months in the freezer. All you have to do on the day of the holiday party is thaw, reheat, and add garnishes.
Sweet-and-Sour Korean Cocktail Meatballs
Gochujang, a spicy fermented Korean chili paste, turns up the volume on this classic finger food. The meatballs can be formed up to a day in advance.
Lemony Snow Pudding with Tarragon Creme Anglaise
Seeking an unusual holiday dessert? Look no further than this sophisticated (and gluten-free!) winter sweet. Both the citrusy, meringue-like pudding and tarragon-infused creme anglaise can be made up to two days ahead.
Jewel-like grapefruit and orange segments and a fragrant blend of ginger and allspice take classic cheesecake to new heights. Make it the night before your holiday party and collect compliments on the day of.