Whether you’re cooking an entire Thanksgiving dinner or just pitching in, these make-ahead Thanksgiving recipes for gravy, stuffing, and sides are a sanity saver. Not only can you make them on your own time—just use our handy Thanksgiving meal planner to figure out when is best—but they make it possible to spend time with your family even on the busiest cooking day of the year.
Make-ahead Thanksgiving recipes: Gravy
Let’s start traditional, because Thanksgiving. Our recipe for perfect gravy calls for making homemade stock and roux, the two things that we believe are essential for mouthwatering results. Explain to your butcher that you’re making turkey stock ahead of time and she’ll hook you up with some turkey necks, hearts, and giblets, which is all you need to get started. You can make the stock as early as, well, now, and freeze it, then make the gravy as early as the Tuesday before turkey day.
This delicious Maple Bourbon Turkey Gravy at The Suburban Soapbox is a five-minute recipe that you can whip up at the last minute if you need to, but because it uses canned turkey stock, you can also make it ahead of time and heat it up when the turkey is done. It’s one of those little timesavers that ends up feeling like a huge relief.
A day centered around turkey can be hard for a vegan, but this Vegan Mushroom Gravy at My Darling Vegan (above & top) is a great option for your friends and family who skip the meat, but still want gravy to go with their veggies and sides. And don’t worry: Vegetable broth, red wine, and mounds of baby portobellos give this a deep, rich flavor that your meat-loving relatives will enjoy too.
It’s hard to find gluten-free gravy, but this Starch-Free Gravy recipe at Sweet Treats Baking is a great option. To make it ahead of time, follow Laura’s tips for butterflying the turkey early—she did it on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving—and use the neck and backbone to make the drippings for a full-flavored gravy.
Make-ahead Thanksgiving recipes: Stuffing
This recipe for Slow Cooker Cornbread Stuffing at The Salty Marshmallow is brilliant. Using your crockpot means that you can prep it the night before and set the cooker to turn on automatically on Thanksgiving morning. Then, you can cross stuffing off of your cooking list early. And, bonus: Using the slow cooker frees up oven space.
I can’t quite imagine Thanksgiving without stuffing, but if you have gluten sensitivities you’re probably used to skipping it. Not anymore, thanks to this recipe for Gluten-Free Apple Cranberry Stuffing at Veggie Primer. It also happens to be vegan, so this recipe is truly for everyone. You can prep this up to the point of putting it the casserole dish, then stick it in the fridge until it’s time to warm it up right before mealtime.
Having always gone with a traditional bread-based stuffing, I’m curious about ones made with rice like this Crock Pot Stuffing with Wild Rice, Cranberries, and Almonds at Well Plated (above & top). In fact, I’m putting this on my menu this year even if we do a traditional stuffing as well, because there’s no way that I can resist all of those flavors and textures in an easy, make-ahead recipe.
Make-ahead Thanksgiving recipes: Sides
Sweet potato casserole is a must on our family’s menu and, move over Team Marshmallows, because I’m definitely on Team Pecans. The Sweet Potato Casserole at One Lovely Life looks delicious and I love that Emily gives so many options to make it work for almost any diet, including paleo and vegan. She also gives tips on how to make this a day or two early, so your Thanksgiving day is a little less stressful.
Thanksgiving turkey isn’t complete without cranberry sauce, and it only gets better the longer it sets. You can make Julie Blanner’s Red Wine Cranberry Sauce as early as Monday or Tuesday before turkey day to give the flavors plenty of time to meld together. No matter when you make it, be sure to cook lots, because leftovers for slathering on Friday’s turkey sandwiches is essential.
This is a little different since you need to cook these Roasted Mushrooms at Love and Food For Eva immediately before serving, but you can do all the chopping and prep ahead of time so that it’s a quick, last-minute bake. They’ll add a delicious, earthy flavor to your Thanksgiving meal that you won’t regret.
Down here in the South, we’re used to having a green bean casserole at every family gathering. But, oof, the calories. I was excited to see this Healthier Lightened-Up Green Bean Casserole recipe at Noshing with the Nolans, especially since there are tips for how to make this ahead of time. Lighter and make-ahead? How can you not make this for your Thanksgiving meal?