Classic Southern Thanksgiving Dinner

Don't Forget the Cornbread Dressing

Thanksgiving Dinner

 Manny Rodriguez/Getty Images

A typical Southern Thanksgiving dinner usually includes ham or turkey—sometimes both—along with cornbread dressing, sides, and spectacular desserts. You're likely to find a big layered salad, the quintessential green bean casserole, mashed or scalloped potatoes, and soft dinner rolls or hot buttered biscuits.

Construct a traditional holiday meal with our collection of classic Southern dishes, and build your own menu by adding your family favorites.

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  • 01 of 06

    Turkey and Ham

    herb roasted turkey
    Diana Rattray

    Whether you're on Team Turkey or Team Ham we have simple and tasty recipes to help you navigate what can be a daunting cooking experience:

    • Herb Roasted Turkey: Our bird is a very simple and straightforward recipe. The whole turkey cooks in the oven to golden perfection with olive oil and a combination of fresh aromatics, including chives, rosemary, and dill that are placed between the skin and the meat so they're both perfumed with fresh flavors. Place onions, apples and oranges in the Turkey cavity to add moisture and flavor and bake for 5 hours. Remember to work backward from the time you want your turkey to be done (and rested for at least 1 hour) and prepare the rest accordingly. For a smaller family gathering, try a glazed turkey breast as an alternative.
    • Baked Ham: Most families go for turkey when it's time to chose a type of meat for the holidays, but ham is a strong contender because not everyone is fond of the mild-flavored bird. With its fabulous sweet honey, molasses, and bourbon glaze, our ham is sure to become a yearly tradition. Dijon mustard gives the sugary coating just the right amount of warmth and tanginess. Insert whole cloves into the surface of the ham for a beautiful presentation and also to add flavor to the meat. This ham is ready in 1 hour and 45 minutes.
  • 02 of 06

    Potatoes

    crock pot scalloped potatoes
    The Spruce

    The Thanksgiving table features potatoes in many forms. Whether scalloped, mashed or in casseroles, these starchy vegetables are a must because they soak up all the juices from the turkey and ham, and are irresistible with gravy:

    • Scalloped potatoes: This recipe is a breeze to fix up, freeing the oven and stovetop up for other dishes. Cook thinly sliced potatoes in a buttery cheddar cheese sauce for 5 hours with no need to oversee the process. Garnish with fresh parsley.
    • Baked scalloped potatoes: Our oven-baked scalloped potatoes can be in the same oven as the turkey if you have one that's big enough. Buttery and silky, this cheese-less casserole requires just 55 minutes of oven time. Prep the day before the festivities and bake while the turkey is resting.
    • Mashed potatoes: These fluffy spuds need no embellishments, but feel free to jazz them up with some herbs, garlic, or nutmeg. Ready in 40 minutes.
    • Instant Pot mashed potatoes: This recipe is helpful if you don't have room on your stove or you run out of time. If the guests are arriving and you're lucky enough to have one of these helpful pots at hand, simply prep and cook a beautiful side in under 20 minutes.
    • Sweet potato casserole with pecans: Sweet potatoes are a Southern favorite. This rich, borderline dessert casserole topped with pecans is one of the most popular preparations. With few ingredients and needing just 55 minutes in the oven, the tasty classic is easy to make. For a lighter, egg-less preparation with sweet potatoes, try our skillet candied sweet potatoes, which you can make vegan by skipping the butter and using vegan margarine.
  • 03 of 06

    Sides

    macaroni and cheese with bacon
    The Spruce

    Thanksgiving side dishes comprise a large variety of preparations depending on where you live and your family's preferences. From pasta to dressing, stuffing and gravy to corn, side dishes make or break your menu. The key to success lies in the variety of flavor profiles. Don't make too many of the same, like two different casseroles, but make many different ones. Here we present the most Southern recipes for you mix and match:

    • Macaroni and cheese: This popular side dish is found in Thanksgiving menus dating as far back as the 1800s. It's far more important to most Southerners than potatoes or other casseroles. The key for the holidays is that it's homemade, rather than the boxed style that's good enough the rest of the year. For our special holiday version, we use bacon and green onions to make it deserving of a place on your holiday menu. Prep and bake in 40 minutes.
    • Southern Dressing: Freshly baked cornbread and soft breadcrumbs team up in this homemade dressing. A variety of herbs, onions, celery, and chicken stock add flavor. Many Southern cooks stew a chicken to make the broth and they often add some of the diced chicken. Prep and bake in 1 hour.
    • Seven Layer Salad: Our spectacular classic vegetable salad should be served in a big glass bowl to show off all of the fresh, beautiful layers. Assemble the salad at least a few hours in advance or the day before so it will be thoroughly chilled when you serve it. A sweetened mayonnaise dressing flavors layers of lettuce, eggs, peas, bacon, and cheddar cheese.
    • Southern Sausage Gravy: There is no Thanksgiving without gravy and this creamy recipe is an all-time Southern favorite. Milk, flour, and sausage are the base of this simple and flavorful dish. Ready in 20 minutes, you can use it on biscuits or mashed potatoes, and you can add or subtract as much sausage as you'd like.
  • 04 of 06

    Vegetable Casseroles

    Cheddar Green Bean Casserole

    Cheddar Green Bean Casserole

    Cheesy vegetable casseroles are a country-wide staple during Thanksgiving. Our suggestions depart from the classic string beans and crispy onions, taking the ingredients and flavors a step further:

    Cheddar Green Bean Casserole: Our tasty casserole departs from the classic by using a cheese sauce made from scratch instead of condensed soup. Fresher ingredients make a difference, and string beans and mushrooms homecooked al dente come out perfectly crunchy to pair with a creamy sauce and crispy cheese topping. Serve your casserole after 50 minutes of prep and cooking.

    Scalloped Vegetable Casserole: A colorful vegetable casserole is always a crowd-pleaser. A simple creamy white sauce brings the fresh and frozen vegetables together in a buttery breadcrumb-topped bake. Carrots, peas, celery, and mushrooms are perfectly cooked while still having a lot of crunch. Prep and bake this casserole in 1 hour.

    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
  • 05 of 06

    Rolls and Biscuits

    Honey Buttermilk Dinner Rolls
    Diana Rattray

    Rolls and biscuits may seem unnecessary if you think about all the foods and carbs you're serving in one meal. But these tasty morsels are much needed when it comes to cleaning your plate, literally speaking, and to enjoy with thick gravies and sauces. These two types of Southern rolls are a great addition to your Thanksgiving table:

    • Honey Buttermilk Rolls: Bake these yeasty, airy dinner rolls in any shape you like. The buttermilk and honey give the rolls soft texture and subtle sweetness. Dinner rolls can be prepared, shaped, and refrigerated overnight or frozen for longer storage. Plan to give the rolls enough time to come to room temperature and rise before baking, and decorate with poppy or sesame seeds for a pretty presentation. You need just 40 minutes to prep and cook, 2 hours to give the dough a chance for a first prove, and 45 minutes more for a second.
    • Buttermilk Biscuits: Bake the biscuits just before it's time to sit down to your holiday feast and make sure there is plenty of softened butter to go around. This dough doesn't need proving so you can prep and bake in 45 minutes.
  • 06 of 06

    Southern Desserts

    cranberry upside-down cake
    Diana Rattray

    Desserts come in many shapes and flavors and there is no wrong way to end your meal. But there are some flavors that are expected, like pumpkin, cranberry, and apple pie. Our suggestions will fill your house with fall aromas and make a perfect, sweet ending to a marvelous meal:

    • Cranberry Upside-Down Cake: Cranberry sauce is expected at your Thanksgiving table, but instead offer this sweet and tangy flavor in an inverted cake. The beautiful finish will reveal a rich, moist cake with a sweetened cranberry topping. Prep and bake in 1 hour and 5 minutes.
    • Caramel Pear Upside-Down Cake: Drop the classic apples and go for pears with this beautiful and moist cake. Poach pears and arrange in a skillet, pour a sweet and eggy batter on top and bake for 35 minutes. Let rest for a few minutes before turning upside-down on a plate. Decorate with almonds and serve with heavy cream.
    • Pumpkin Pecan Pie: If you can't decide whether to bake a pumpkin pie or pecan pie, problem solved! This is truly the best of both worlds, featuring a layer of each classic Thanksgiving dessert. Make a homemade pie crust or use ready-made pie pastry sheets. Serve with vanilla ice cream.
    • Cranberry Gelatin Salad: This dish stands between a side dish and a dessert and you can offer it during the savory course in lieu of the cranberry sauce. A generous portion of sweet and fluffy cream cheese and whipped cream mixture covers a thick and chunky cranberry gelatin layer. With pecans and walnuts on top, this dish looks as good as it tastes. Make it the day before so it's easier to slice, or give it at least 6 hours in the fridge before serving. Prep in just 15 minutes.