Classic Thanksgiving Menu and Recipes

From Turkey to Dessert: A Classic Thanksgiving Menu With Recipes

thanksgiving dinner dishes
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The classic Thanksgiving dinner includes old-time favorites that never change: turkey, gravy, stuffing, potatoes, veggies, and pie. But the way these dishes are made or added to is everchanging because of food trends and different dietary requirements.

Our collection offers recipes that deliciously check every box of a Thanksgiving dinner, in ways traditional or innovative.

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Watch Now: The Easiest and Most Elegant Way to Carve a Turkey

  • 01 of 12

    Turkey

    roast turkey
    Claire Cohen

    The roast turkey is the quintessential main dish for Thanksgiving feasts. Remember that no matter what you choose to make, the key to a successful dinner is having a turkey large enough to feed everybody – and to have some leftovers for yourself. Try these recommendations for the star of the show:

    • This roast turkey recipe includes directions for defrosting, stuffing, trussing, seasoning, and roasting. It also gives you the instructions for how to bake the turkey if you prefer to leave it unstuffed.
    • A roast turkey with bacon will be a crowd-pleaser. The bacon helps keep the moisture on the turkey meat, giving it a smoky flavor and a juicy finish.
    • For sweeter palates, think of a balsamic and honey roast turkey, enhanced by thyme and oranges. Simple and flavorful.
  • 02 of 12

    Ham

    brown sugar glazed baked ham
    Claire Cohen

    Not all households are fans of turkey for their Thanksgiving dinner. Many chose a flavorful ham instead of the bird. Make this meat your main:

    • This maple and brown sugar glazed ham is an excellent choice; it cooks in just 2 hours and needs very little prepping. It requires 4 ingredients besides a fully cooked ham.
    • Our gammon recipe transforms this cut of pork into a beautiful baked ham flavored with apricots, cloves, and red wine.
    • Cross the ocean and try a British take on ham. Serve the amazing flavors of cider and peppercorns with a simple recipe for Welsh cider ham.
  • 03 of 12

    Stuffings and Dressings

    bread dressing with fresh sage
    The Spruce

    Stuffing and dressing are alike but not the same. The main difference is that stuffing is cooked inside of the bird and dressing is cooked and served separately. But this distinction is less strict nowadays with the growing preference for cooking turkeys with no stuffing inside (increasing information about food safety shows how stuffing inside the turkey can soak in uncooked poultry juices contaminated with salmonella).

    Stay on the safe side and cook these beautiful sides, well, on the side:

    • This fragrant, moist bread dressing with sage is a Thanksgiving classic. You can add chopped nuts, raisins, diced apples, or dried cranberries depending on your preferences.
    • Our old-fashioned, Southern-style cornbread dressing has cornbread and soft breadcrumbs along with chopped vegetables and herbs.
    • If you have any vegetarian guest at your table, this quinoa stuffing is definitely a good option for them to have an equally filling and hearty meal.
    • A chicken and dressing casserole is an easy dish that doesn't take hours of prep.
  • 04 of 12

    Mashed Potatoes

    roasted garlic mashed potatoes
    Diana Rattray

    Mashed potatoes and gravy are one of the favorite combinations on Thanksgiving plates. Our suggested recipes have different flavorings and cooking options so you can choose the one that works best:

    • These extra-special garlic mashed potatoes are loaded with flavor. Butter and milk help with the creamy texture but feel free to replace them for dairy-free beverages and margarine if there are dietary needs at your table.
    • If your stovetop is covered with other dishes and the oven isn't an option, make these Instant Pot mashed potatoes. Cooked in a fraction of the time, you can forget about them and work on other things.
    • If everything is ready and you forgot to make the mashed potatoes, don't panic! Follow this 16-minute preparation for microwave mashed potatoes.
    Continue to 5 of 12 below.
  • 05 of 12

    Turkey Gravy

    basic turkey gravy
    The Spruce

    For many, the gravy is as important as the turkey. Our suggestions are quick and simple, letting the main flavors shine. Your gravy should be thick and as flavorful as your roast and these recipes do exactly that:

    • This classic Southern turkey gravy is rich and delicious. Pan drippings from turkey (or chicken) provide the flavor.
    • A dripping-less gravy is a smart solution if you aren't cooking a turkey. Lard and chicken or beef make this a rich and silky gravy.
    • A more elaborate take on gravy, this cider bacon gravy recipe uses the drippings from a bacon turkey roast and adds herbs, tomatoes, and roasted onions for an extraordinarily rich gravy.
  • 06 of 12

    Cranberry Sauce

    instant pot cranberry sauce
    Diana Rattray

    Cranberry sauce has a lot of variations, and can easily take on citrus flavoring, liqueur, or spices without losing its character. Our collection of cranberry recipes offers quick and flavorful preparations that will compliment your turkey roast or ham:

    • Cranberry sauce in the Instant Pot takes 15 minutes. Use vanilla, cinnamon, orange, and maple syrup to bring a piece of fall into your saucer.
    • For this quick cranberry sauce, you need 4 ingredients and 15 minutes. It's a last-minute addition to your menu that you can also use like jam, or cake or cupcake filling.
  • 07 of 12

    Sweet Potato and Yam Sides

    Easy Sweet Potato Casserole With Brown Sugar Pecan Topping

    The Spruce Eats / Katarina Zunic

    Sweet potatoes and yams are mistakenly thought of as the same thing. Despite both being root vegetables, they're not the same, nor are the flavor and texture they bring to your holiday table. Both are a must-have on Thanksgiving but many families have a favorite. Pick yours and follow our suggestions:

  • 08 of 12

    Vegetable Sides (Cooked)

    Bacon roasted brussel sprouts

    The Spruce

     

    Vegetable sides are as varied as there are vegetables. There is no standard menu when it comes to veggies so our recommendations offer many different flavors and texture:

    • Brussels sprouts are definitely a holiday favorite. These bacon roasted Brussels sprouts are a simple preparation and their crunch complements the creamy texture of mashed potatoes and the silkiness of gravy.
    • A tasty cheddar cheese sauce is featured in this cauliflower and cheese casserole, crunchy and filling – a good option for vegetable lovers.
    • Glazed carrots are so easy to make. Adding just water, butter, and sugar, you have a side dish ready in 30 minutes.
    • Maple syrup and brown sugar team up in this delicious squash dish, a great, less traditional alternative.
    Continue to 9 of 12 below.
  • 09 of 12

    Salads

    apple fig salad
    Leah Maroney

    Salads have taken over holiday tables and the options are so numerous and flavorful that it's hard just to pick a few that best complement your mains. We suggest a few autumn-inspired dishes filled with fall flavors, crunchy nuts, and seasonal fruits, and two fruit-based creations to offset the saltiness and richness of other holiday dishes:

    • This apple, blue cheese, and fig salad is an autumn celebration and easy to put together. Toss apples, cheese, figs, pine nuts, and greens in a balsamic-mustard sweet dressing.
    • This is another inviting colorful autumn salad of dried fruits, bacon, and goat cheese tossed with baby spinach and romaine with a balsamic and shallot dressing.
    • Make this frozen pineapple-cranberry salad the day before in 15 minutes and then freeze overnight. Pineapple, cranberry, and sour cream make a fruity treat that can go on the plate with the main dishes or as a refreshing dessert.
    • For another fruity concoction make this vanilla citrus salad to pair with your meats.
  • 10 of 12

    Rolls

    Parker House Rolls
    The Spruce

    Even if your dinner menu is already a bounty of dishes, rolls have a key part to play in Thanksgiving dinner. They are a beautiful and soft vehicle to clean your plate and are sought after because of the buttery and flaky texture. Try these bready suggestions:

    • Soft, delicious Parker House yeast rolls have a famous shape that makes them extra special. A fluffy circle of dough is buttered and then folded in half before baking, giving the final roll extra crispiness and a flaky middle.
    • For a vibrant, colorful roll basket, make cloverleaf rolls, flavorful and crunchy thanks to the pepitas on top.
    • If you want to go the extra mile, make brioche dough for these french miniature rolls.
  • 11 of 12

    Apple Pie

    homemade apple pie
    Leah Maroney

    Homemade apple pie is a staple on Thanksgiving tables. You can't skip it, but you can browse our suggestions to find the one that you like most:

    • Our classic apple pie uses cinnamon and nutmeg to perfume tart apples. You can serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
    • For an alternative look, use this apple phyllo pie, which is as beautiful to look at as it is tasty to eat.
    • Although a holiday feast may not be the time to think about calories, this lighter apple pie version is a tasty and flavorful recipe.
  • 12 of 12

    Classic Autumn Pumpkin Pie

    Autumn pumpkin pie recipe

    The Spruce

    Like apple pie, pumpkin pie is a dessert you absolutely can't skip. Most people have one slice of each!

    Some of our recommendations have interesting plays on the pumpkin flavor but others are simple and traditional:

    • This classic pumpkin pie contains just the right blend of spices and creaminess; sprinkle cinnamon before serving, or whip some cream to top it.
    • Pumpkin crème brûlée is incredibly delicious and can be made a day in advance. When it's time for dessert, all you have to do is take it out of the fridge, top it with sugar, and torch it to make the burnt sugar topping.
    • To finish your dinner with a kick of spices, go for this cardamom pumpkin pie, also perfumed with ginger and nutmeg.