Best Thanksgiving Recipes

(Mostly) Traditional Thanksgiving Recipes

By The Old Farmer's Almanac
Thanksgiving Recipes
Brent Hofacker Shutterstock

Few feasts are so steeped in tradition as Thanksgiving! We’ve collected our (mostly) traditional Thanksgiving recipes for you—featuring roast turkey, cornbread stuffing, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, and more.

Let’s start with the big bird as it’s the one menu item that needs to be considered well in advance.

Preparing the Turkey: 3 Tips

  1. If you’re planning on the traditional turkey, order your turkey in plenty of time. We suggest ordering 2 to 3 weeks in advance. Order one pound per person—or more for leftovers!
  2. It’s also important to have 1) a good roasting pan and a rack (which often comes with the pan) and 2) an instant-read thermometer to best determine when the turkey is done. With all your planning, it’s worth buying a meat thermometer—for safety, if not peak flavor. See how to use a meat thermometer.
  3. If you buy a frozen turkey, it’s important to start defrosting days in advance—one day for every four pounds—and it is recommended that you defrost it in the refrigerator. If your turkey is not frozen, unwrap it a couple days before cooking and let it air dry in the refrigerator so the air dries its skin tight.

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Photo by Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock

5 Turkey and Gravy Recipes

We recommend roasting the Thanksgiving turkey, though it’s not the only way to cook the bird. Review our advice on How to Cook a Turkey for roasting tips and times.

Here’s a simple turkey recipe, plus award-winning recipes from our Almanac readers! 

  1. Simple Roast Turkey With Gravy
  2. Pilgrim’s Thanksgiving Turkey (Almanac recipe winner)
  3. Bag-Roasted Turkey with Cornbread Stuffing (Almanac recipe winner)
  4. Roast Turkey With Apple-Pecan Stuffing (Almanac recipe winner)
  5. Cider-Sage Gravy

Have plenty of stock on hand. If you don’t have turkey stock, chicken stock is fine. Avoid the boxed stock for Thanksgiving. Here’s a simple recipe to make your own homemade turkey stock!Make sure you know how to carve a turkey before you’re facing the big bird! Watch How to Carve a Turkey.

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Photo by Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock

Thanksgiving Stuffing and Dressing

First, what’s the difference between “stuffing” and “dressing”? Traditionally, “stuffing” is cooked inside the turkey, whereas “dressing” is cooked outside the turkey. Nowadays, the terms tend to be interchangeable though there are purists.

Southern cooks have always served their “dressings” as separate side dishes so you’ll only hear the term “dressing” in the South.

In recent years, more and more folks are cooking outside the bird due to safety concerns. Warm, moist stuffing is a potential breeding ground for bacteria such as salmonella (unless you know how to cook the stuffing properly).

On a related note: You don’t need to truss your turkey (tie up the legs) unless you’re stuffing the bird. Keep in mind that a trussed turkey takes longer to cook.

Recipes

  1. Classic Cornbread Stuffing
  2. Stuffing of Artichokes, Currants, and Grapes
  3. Traditional English Dressing
  4. Chestnut, Apple and Pancetta Dressing
  5. Roast Goose Stuffing

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Try adding a colorful Cranberry Chutney to roasted or grilled meats—or it’s great as an appetizer with goat cheese on toasts. (Photo by vm2002/shutterstock)

5 Thanksgiving Side Dish Recipes

The turkey may be the centerpiece of the Thanksgiving meal, but it’s the mix of delicious sides that make it memorable.

Think about selecting side dishes that add color and variety to your meal so it’s not a white and beige dish of turkey, mashed potatoes, and stuffing! We love bright red cranberry, deep orange sweet potatoes, and the crunch of pecans.

To go beyond the five classic recipes below for something different—perhaps historically-inspired?—see our Thanksgiving Side Dish Recipes!

Mashed Sweet Potatoes 

Plain baked sweet potatoes are great; this way of preparing them is sublime. 

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Photo by Elena Veselova/Shutterstock

Basic Cranberry Sauce

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Photo by Anna Shepulova/shutterstock

Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes 

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Photo by Anna Kurzaeva/shutterstock

Green Bean Casserole

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Photo by Sam Jones/QuinnBrein

Fall Harvest Squash Rolls

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Photo by Becky Luigart-Stayner

5 Thanksgiving Pie Recipes

Here are five classic pie recipes—plus, our Indian Pudding recipe for something different. (The pudding can be made in advance)

If you’re a beginner cook, perhaps you skip the pie and give that responsibility to the guest who asks what he or she can bring to the table. However, if you want to try your own hand at pie, it’s really not as hard as it sounds—and it’s actually quite fun to make if you’re forgiving. Frankly, we’ll eat any style of homemade crust, perfectly latticed or delightfully lopsided. See how to Make Pie Crust!

The pie dough can be made ahead and frozen for up to one month or refrigerated up to three days, but most pies shouldn’t be baked more than 24 hours in advance. Once the pie is baked, it should rest on a counter or flat surface, not in the refrigerator.

  1. Mini Cranberry-Apple Pies
  2. Creamy Pumpkin Pie
  3. Pecan Pie
  4. Apple Crumb Pie
  5. Sweet Potato Pie
  6. Indian Pudding

Want more dessert ideas? See our 10 Most Popular Thanksgiving Dessert Recipes.

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    Mini Cranberry-Apple Pies

    5 Thanksgiving Table Tips

    • Before Thanksgiving week arrives, clean out your freezer (to make space for leftovers) and see our Kitchen Cleaning Checklist.
    • Whether you use table linens or place mats, be sure they are cleaned and ready. See How to Care for Table Linens.
    • No matter what your style, we advise cloth napkins for your guests; paper gets too messy with a meal this big. See our tips on Napkin Folding.
    • Refresh your memory on How to Set a Table or Set Up a Buffet.
    • If you’re not sure how many plates or glasses to use, just use less. It’s really not that important for a family-style meal!

    We recommend that you make some of your Thanksgiving dishes ahead so that you can relax with company on the feast day. See our Make-Ahead Thanksgiving Recipes for ideas!

    What’s your favorite Thanksgiving recipe? Let us know in the comments!

    Reader Comments

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    Alternate way of thawing your frozen turkey

    In the above article, the section that deals with preparing your turkey, it states that "IT MUST BE DEFROSTED IN THE REFRIGERATOR"! That simply is not true! There is another PERFECTLY SAFE way to thaw out your frozen turkey, and I use this method EVERY time that I cook a frozen bird. First, I clean (& rinse) my kitchen sink out very well! Then, simply put your frozen turkey in your clean sink, and fill the sink up with COLD water so that it covers your turkey (be sure to place turkey in the sink BEFORE filling with water so that the proper water level can be obtained). If your turkey is so large that the water level coesn't quite cover the whole bird, just simply turn the bird over every couple of hours for even thawing. NOTE!!! You ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY MUST use COLD water to thaw out your turkey for this method to be safe!

    how to defrost a turkey

    Thanks for sharing your method with us, Randy.

    comment

    Thank you as post yammy recipes i can try this all

    Best Thanksgiving Recipes

    What bean dish is shown on the plate with this article?

    Green Beans

    While we do not have the exact recipe that is pictured, we do have a similar one: Green Beans with Roasted Almonds. The pictured dish appears to have slices of red bell peppers and portobello mushrooms mixed in.