Get a Head Start on Thanksgiving Dinner: 5 Easy Recipes to Make the Day Before

From cranberries to stuffing, cut your cooking time in half on Thursday by crossing a few of these off your list by Wednesday (if not sooner).
By: Foodlets
Related To:

Baked Mashed Potatoes with Parmesan Cheese and Bread Crumbs

Photo by: Tara Donne ©Tara Donne

Tara Donne, Tara Donne

Making dinner on a regular Thursday night is hard enough for most of us, but Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings can be a full-day affair. Now, I love cooking, but I also have four kids and our oldest is five, so I need to be strategic to pull it off and not spend the afternoon yelling at everyone to get out of the kitchen. Even if you aren’t swamped with little rascals running through your kitchen this year, I bet you’ll appreciate getting a few things done by Wednesday too. Here’s my plan:

These twice-baked mashed potatoes (pictured above) end up in a casserole dish, making them perfect for reheating on the big day. And with store-bought breadcrumbs and two kinds of cheese, they’re also my favorite mix of delicious food that’s easy to make. Grazie, Giada.

Photo by: Tara Donne

Ree Drummond says to put your bird in brine 16 to 18 hours ahead of time to “work its magic.” And when Ree says something, it’s always delicious, so you can bet my turkey will be brining on Wednesday. But whether you’re brining or not, you can still prep the flavorings for your turkey the day before. Slice lemons, mix dry spices, peel garlic, cut onions and so on. Whatever aromatics your recipe calls for, put them all together in a plastic bag so it’s all ready to pop out of the fridge and into the bird when you need it.

Cran Classic

Cranberry sauce is one of the heartiest, can’t-mess-it-up dishes in the Thanksgiving lineup. And because they’re even served cold, cranberries are an ideal candidate to make ahead. Even better? This Perfect Cranberry Sauce has a perfect 5-star rating.

There are many things to love about this Foodlets recipe for homemade rolls, and one of them is using your bread machine for the kneading. Once the dough is ready, pull it out, fashion the rolls and bake them off, minus 2 minutes. Once they’ve cooled off, store them in the freezer overnight. Just before you’re ready to pull everything out of the oven on Thursday, throw the rolls on a baking sheet and cook for about 7 to 10 minutes.

Not only can this casserole dish be made ahead of time, but the stuffing can actually be made a few days out. No matter which version you choose — from cornbread, sausage and apple, and more — we’ve got 70 mouthwatering recipes for stuffing and dressing right here.

Charity Curley Mathews is a former executive at Martha and, and the founder of Mini Foodies in the Making…Maybe. She lives in North Carolina with her husband and four small children, where she dreams of someday getting the dishwasher unloaded before it’s time to cook dinner again. For more of her practical recipes and ideas for feeding kids real food, visit

Keep Reading

Next Up

How to Make Your Entire Thanksgiving Dinner Ahead

Food Network Kitchen tested, tweaked and retested to come up with a full Thanksgiving menu that freezes perfectly, down to the whipped cream topping for apple pie.

How to Get Crispy Skin — Thanksgiving Tip of the Day

For crisper skin, unwrap the turkey the day before roasting and leave it uncovered in the refrigerator overnight.

Have a Question About Making Thanksgiving Dinner? Ask Us will answer all of your Thanksgiving questions on Saturday, Nov. 22 beginning at noon EST. Find out how to submit a question.

Thanksgiving Dinner: Where to Save, Where to Splurge

Melissa d'Arabian created a handy list to show you where to splurge and where to save on turkey-day groceries.

Thanksgiving Leftover Recipes Day 2: Eggs in Purgatory

Every day this week, Food Network offers a recipe for using your Thanksgiving leftovers.

In My Kitchen: Getting Started for Thanksgiving

Here’s how I've started planning for Thanksgiving -- plus, some healthy recipes I'm testing out and adding to my menu.

Got Leftovers? Try These Creative Day-After-Thanksgiving Recipes

Rather than zapping Thanksgiving leftovers in the microwave, make scrumptiously creative day-after recipes instead.

It's the Final Countdown — Day-Before Planning

The day before Thanksgiving is a great opportunity to cross off a hefty portion of your to-do list. Read more.