collage make-ahead thanksgiviing

Famous Make-Ahead Sides for Your Holiday Meal

Thanksgiving Day should be filled with rest and relaxation as we pause our regular routines to give thanks for the many blessing we have received over the past year. That’s easy to say if you are not the one preparing the splendiferous feast.

collage make-ahead thanksgiviing

The secret for cooks who wish to participate fully in having the day off is to embrace a meal prep and cooking method known as make ahead. This means you do all the hard work days, maybe even weeks, ahead, storing the meal in the freezer or refrigerator. Then on the big day, it’s simply a matter of topping, baking, heating, or warming the dishes and bringing them to the table.

Selective process

Not every recipe out there is conducive to the make-ahead process. Those that are, have the added benefit of an outcome that is even better than if it had been made just hours or minutes before consumption. Flavors marry, textures blend. It’s amazing.

Today, I’m sharing dishes, recipes, and resources from my family’s Thanksgiving Dinner Menu—nearly all of it will be made days ahead as we start counting down to the big reveal.

Warning: This is not a day for dieting, trust me on that. Without apology, these sides are high-calorie, decadent, fabulous, pull-all-the-stops-out for this once-a-year meal.

One more thing: Make-ahead has no specific time frame. You could do all of this even one day ahead and still benefit fully, knowing the work is done so you can enjoy the day, too.

No-Knead Soft Dinner Rolls

This recipe is the brainchild of Nagi of Recipe Tin Eats. It’s fabulous. And so easy. You don’t need a stand mixer or any unusual equipment. Just make sure you read the recipe carefully following Nagi’s make-ahead instructions.

I have friends, family, and neighbors who actually beg for these rolls—they’re that good!

Caution: You will be tempted to go over and beyond by kneading the dough (to make it better.) Nope. Don’t do it! That will not help, and may actually hurt the outcome. Nagi knows best.

Recipe and instructions HERE


Ruth’s Chris Sweet Potato Casserolemakeahead RC Sweet Potato cssrle

It’s famous. It’s creamy, crunchy, but not too sweet—the perfect holiday side dish.

For years, chefs and home cooks have attempted to copycat this dish from the renowned Ruth’s Chris Steak House restaurant. We can only guess that RC got so tired of all requests and guessing they posted the recipe online. With one problem: No make-ahead instructions. But not to worry. Gotcha’ covered there, too.

Tess of The Gifted Gabber food blog has taken the RC recipe, expanded it to serve 10-12, and added excellent make-ahead instructions.

Recipe and instructions HERE


Classic Green Bean Casserole

If you have never eaten totally from-scratch green bean casserole (even the crunchy onions on top), you have not fully enjoyed a Thanksgiving meal.

Again from Nagi, this is the only green bean casserole recipe you will ever follow again. The beans and mushrooms are fresh (no cans here, please!), the sauce is from scratch (again, no cans!), the crunchy onions from scratch!

Nagi graciously includes optional make-ahead instructions to be followed precisely. Prepare to be amazed.

Recipe and instructions HERE


Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes and Gravy

I know what you’re thinking: Make the mashed potatoes AND gravy ahead of time—up to several days before the big day? Like, serve leftovers for the biggest best meal of the year? You have got to be kidding!

Well, yes that is exactly what I am suggesting and will be doing myself, but let me be clear—this is not leftovers.

What you are about to learn is so amazing—and I’m not talking about only the recipes, but also the how-tos and full instructions. This can completely transform your Thanksgiving dinner prep by moving the two big last-minute tedious kitchen tasks—mashed potatoes and gravy—from the last minute to days ahead.

You have to trust me on this. Once ready to serve, the flavors will have melded in ways you could not have predicted.

Recipes and instructions HERE


Cabbage Casserolecabbage casserole made with Ritz Cracker topping

The basic ingredients are cabbage and sweet onion, combined in a baking dish, covered with yummy “sauce,” then topped with a lovely blend of crushed crackers and cheese. Several other ingredients play a minor role. Baked until golden, Cabbage Casserole is nutritious, delicious, and budget-friendly.

I have recently added a make-ahead option to the recipe, so look for that in the recipe Notes.

Recipe and instructions HERE

Updated and Republished for 2023: 11-7-23




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6 replies
  1. Barbara J. Eakins says:

    Mary, I made your “Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes” for our Christmas get together with my two children and their spouses recently. There were six of us. They were all eaten and were a big hit. I made the cabbage casserole for a pot luck at church. It was delicious. I love your entire presentation every day. I don’t know how you do it unless you have a wonderful staff helping you. Thank you so much. Have a wonderful Christmas and Happy New Year.

  2. Victoria Jacobs says:

    Crockpot, or slow cooker, etc. Mashed potatoes in one and stuffing/dressing in another. Put on a few hours ahead, with the pot plugged in out of the kitchen. Forget it until just before dinner is on the table. Just whip the potatoes, then dish out into a serving bowl. Or, if being less fancy, put the crock pot inserts on the table.

  3. Gina Stevens says:

    Mary, I made the No Knead Dinner Rolls and they were easy and very tasty. I also employed Nagi’s raising method (in a pre-warmed clothes drier!) and those rolls tripled in size in less than an hour! Thank you, Mary!


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