17 of the Best Make Ahead Thanksgiving Side Dishes - so you can get ahead!

We know it’s a few weeks away, but we believe in doing all that we can do ahead of time to reduce the stress that comes along with Thanksgiving preparations. Certain duties will inevitably command your attention up until the last minute – such as, say, the turkey – but it would be nice not to focus on a thousand tasks, and by the time company arrives, to relax, catch up and enjoy a cocktail or two (rather than being in the midst of a mad dash). When it comes to side dishes, there are a lot of delicious options with which you can lighten your day-of load. Whether you’re just knocking off a handful steps a few days in advance (and up to a month beforehand), or executing from start-to-finish, there is much that can be done, with classic and unique side dishes alike. They say the early bird gets the worm!

1. Gravy

Wouldn’t it be nice if you didn’t have to wait for the bird to be done? In place of drippings, you can make homemade turkey stock ahead of time using turkey wings. A quicker option is to substitute store-bought chicken stock. (Recipe and photo: How Sweet It Is)


2. Buttery Dinner Rolls

Soft, fluffy, and – you guessed it – buttery, you can make and freeze the dough for these rolls well in advance. Well, what are you waiting for?! (Recipe and photo: The Baker Chick)

Buttery Dinner Rolls

3. Potato Crescent Rolls

If you wanted to try out a test-batch of mashed potatoes before the big shebang, now you’ve got yourself a nifty repurposing technique. (Recipe and photo: Yummy Healthy Easy)

Potato Crescent Rolls

4. Cranberry Sauce with Ginger and Maple

Thankfully, some recipes exist to be tackled ahead of time. Allow this cran sauce at least a few days to chill and thicken while the autumn spices work their magic. (Recipe and photo: The Roasted Root)

Cranberry Sauce with Ginger and Maple

5. Orange Compote with Candied Cranberries

A zesty alternative to ordinary cranberry sauce that is sweet, tart, and extra colorful. (Recipe and photo: Taste and Tell)

Orange Compote with Candied Cranberries

6. The Perfect Mashed Potatoes

This must-make thanksgiving side often involves much guesswork, and is also notoriously tricky to reheat. Not only did we develop the recipe for perfectly rich and fluffy mashed potatoes, but we cracked the code on whipping them up ahead of time. (Recipe and photo: NoshOn.It)

The Perfect Mashed Potatoes

7. Kale Salad with Apples, Cranberries and Pecans

For a fun and healthy addition to any holiday spread, schedule some time to massage your kale days in advance, so that you can massage your feet the day of. (Recipe and photo: Cookie and Kate featured on NoshOn.It)

Kale Salad with Apples, Cranberries and Pecans

8. Butternut Squash Soup

Don’t get squashed under your holiday preparations, and refrigerate a batch beforehand (or freeze, depending). This version of the fall favorite features sauteed onions, apples, and fresh ginger. (Recipe and photo: My Baking Addiction)

Butternut Squash Soup

9. Cauliflower Gratin

Lighter than your average gratin and still oh so delicious, featuring hearty cauliflower with a silky sauce and a cheesy breadcrumb crust. (Recipe and photo: Fashionable Foods)

Cauliflower Gratin

10. Root Vegetable Mash

As an alternative (or addition) to those trusty mashed potatoes, choose a mash-up of your favorite roots to showcase, such as the suggested sweet and savory trio of sweet potato, celery root, and rutabaga. (Recipe and photo: Taste Food)

Root Vegetable Mash

11. Vegetable Pot Pies Topped with Sweet Potato Biscuits

Who says that you have to wait for pie until after the meal? There may be a lot of chopping involved, but you can prep your veggies and sauce beforehand. (Recipe and photo: Five and Spice)

Vegetable Pot Pies Topped with Sweet Potato Biscuits

12. Cranberry and Smoked Almond Quinoa Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette

Healthy and seasonal, this one’s for the quinoa lovers. Simply hold off until the last minute to dress with vinaigrette. (Recipe and photo: The Housewife in Training Files)

Cranberry and Smoked Almond Quinoa Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette

13. Chorizo Cornbread Stuffing

For many, the stuffing is just as important as the turkey, which can feel like a big responsibility. Instead of stuffing all of your responsibilities into a tight schedule, make the cornbread ahead of time for a flavor-packed version that is wonderfully crumbly and brings just the right amount of jalapeno heat. (Recipe and photo: Damn Delicious)

Chorizo Cornbread Stuffing

14. Parsnip Gratin with Gruyere and Thyme

Equal parts dreamy and creamy, get ready (a day or two ahead of time) to be in parsnip heaven. (Recipe and photo: Feasting at Home)

Parsnip Gratin with Gruyere and Thyme

15. Roasted Butternut Squash Casserole with a Sweet and Crunchy Pecan Topping

This freezer-friendly crowd pleaser brings out the sweet side of one of our favorite gourds, complete with a crunchy, sugary pecan topping. (Recipe and photo: Seasons and Suppers)

Roasted Butternut Squash Casserole with a Sweet and Crunchy Pecan Topping

16. Green Bean Casserole

You can assemble this take on an all-American holiday side dish a day ahead of time prior to baking. (Recipe and photo: The Galley Gourmet)

Green Bean Casserole

17. Butternut Squash Lasagna with Crispy Sage

Cold-weather comfort food is what it’s all about, and perhaps Thanksgiving just won’t feel complete this year without some form of noodle dish. Follow the majority of the recipe, get your layering on, and then freeze until you’re ready to bake. (Recipe and photo: Spabettie featured on NoshOn.It)

Butternut Squash Lasagna with Crispy Sage