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An Easy Thanksgiving Turkey Dinner Menu That's Mostly Make-Ahead

For a stress-free feast, plan ahead, and prepare dessert and side dishes in advance.

two plates of prepared thanksgiving meals
Photography by: David Loftus

Whether it's your first time making a turkey dinner with all the fixings or simply need a reliable, doable menu, we've got you covered. First up is the bird itself: it's slathered inside and out with a make-ahead herb butter, filled with a rich cornbread-and-sausage stuffing, and roasted atop vegetables, which are combined with the neck and drippings for the gravy. Wild rice dressing studded with plump dried cranberries and buttery walnuts not only adds variety to the table, but also serves as a tasty option for gluten-free guests. 


Fall produce graces two other classic sides: butternut squash joins the mashed potatoes, and apples add earthy sweetness to roasted Brussels sprouts. Gingery cranberry chutney binds the whole meal together. Close out the feast with a sweet potato pie instead of the usual pumpkin—it'll be more memorable, especially with the irresistible sugared pecan topping. The best part? Our grocery list and step-by-step schedule will make preparing this special meal even easier.


roast turkey with herb butter
Photography by: David Loftus

The Menu

Main: Roast Turkey with Herb Butter and Rich Gravy

Amp up softened butter with fresh rosemary, sage, and thyme, then rub the mixture all over the turkey—under and over the skin. Fill with the savory stuffing below, then perch on a bed of aromatics and let the oven work its magic. Use the drippings and roasted veg to make a flavorful, deep-brown gravy.


Get the Roast Turkey with Herb Butter Recipe


Get the Rich Gravy Recipe

Side: Cornbread and Sausage Stuffing

Cubes of homemade or store-bought cornbread are enriched with pork sausage, giblets, and plenty of fresh sage for this meaty, aromatic stuffing. Cook part of it in the turkey and the rest in a pan, or transfer all of it to a large baking dish.


Get the Cornbread and Sausage Stuffing Recipe
wild rice dressing

Side: Wild Rice, Walnut, and Cranberry Dressing

Jewel-like dried cranberries and verdant fresh parsley stand out in a sea of wild rice and toasted walnuts in this dressing. It's a delicious side dish that just happens to be gluten-free.


Get the Wild Rice, Walnut, and Cranberry Dressing Recipe
cranberry chutney
Photography by: David Loftus

Side: Cranberry Chutney

Shallots, fresh ginger, and a splash of red-wine vinegar perk up this sweet-and-savory whole-berry condiment.


Get the Cranberry Chutney Recipe
potato squash mash
Photography by: David Loftus

Side: Potato and Squash Mash

Bring together fall's two most popular root vegetables in one irresistible mash. Yukon Golds and butternut squash become smooth and creamy with the assistance of butter and half-and-half.


Get the Potato and Squash Mash Recipe
brussels sprouts apple bacon
Photography by: David Loftus

Side: Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Apple 

Pork and apples may be a classic combination, but they work just as well with a third partner in the mix: Brussels sprouts. They can all be roasted on the same baking sheet hours in advance.


Get the Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Apple Recipe
sweet potato pie
Photography by: David Loftus

Dessert: Sweet Potato Pie with Pecan Topping

Pecans candied with brown sugar crown the silky sweet potato filling in this crowd-pleasing pie. It's the perfect grand finale for turkey day!


Get the Sweet Potato Pie with Pecan Topping Recipe
measured ingredients for cranberry dish
Photography by: David Loftus

The Timeline

Up to 2 Days Ahead

  • Make Sweet Potato Pie without topping; refrigerate.

  • Prepare Cranberry Chutney (can also be prepared up to 2 weeks ahead); refrigerate or freeze.

1 Day Ahead

  • Make Cornbread and Sausage Stuffing through step 2; store cornbread in a resealable bag, and refrigerate cooled sausage and onion mixture.
  • Make Herb Butter for turkey; refrigerate.

5 Hours Ahead

  • Proceed with step 3 of stuffing recipe; put stuffed turkey in oven. Refrigerate extra stuffing and extra broth.
  • Make Pecan Topping; store pie at room temperature.
  • Make Wild Rice, Walnut, and Cranberry Dressing; store at room temperature.

2 Hours Ahead

  • Make Potato and Squash Mash (or mashed potatoes); top with a thin layer of milk.
  • Make Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Apple through step 2; store at room temperature.
  • Remove Cranberry Chutney from refrigerator.

1 Hour Ahead

  • Remove turkey from oven; make the gravy.
  • Bake extra stuffing.  
  • If desired, reheat Brussels sprouts in a 350-degree oven, about 10 minutes; proceed with step 3.

Just Before Serving

  • Reheat and stir Potato and Squash Mash.
  • Remove stuffing from turkey before carving.
  • Reheat gravy if needed; whisk to combine.