These make-ahead Thanksgiving dishes are true sanity-savers. Over the years, I learned that a stressed-out host makes for a lousy shindig. Because I was that hot holiday mess (sorry, friends and family!)
So, over time, I changed. I chilled. In particular, these three things helped immensely:
- I simplified. As much as I want to make three desserts – one with flames, of course – it’s not worth losing my ever-loving mind to make it happen.
- I got myself a husband who sees to it that the house is spic-and-span so that I don’t have to worry about it. I seriously lucked out on that front.
- Make ahead, make ahead, make ahead. The freezer, in particular, is my very best friend. A best friend who helps make sure that I’m enjoying my guests, wine glass in hand, as opposed to sweating bullets and cursing quietly (or not so quietly) in the kitchen.
With its myriad of dishes – and large ones, at that – Thanksgiving is a prime candidate for the make-ahead strategy. Every year, I like to challenge myself to make as much as humanly possible ahead of time in early November (or even October). Man, does it help with Thanksgiving Day chaos.
With me?! If so, here are 5 Make-Ahead Thanksgiving Dishes for the Freezer.
Table of Contents
My very favorite thing to make ahead and freeze for the big day. This recipe is for a basic (but delicious!) sauce, but if you’d like to mix it up, how about one of these? Thanksgiving Cranberry Sauce, Honey Sweetened Orange, Orange Maple, Apple Cranberry, Spiced Wine, Raspberry Red Wine, Lemon and Miso. So many options!
Freeze gravy, you say? Yes! Once when I was whipping up this recipe, I realized that with that list of ingredients, there was really no reason why it shouldn’t freeze and thaw perfectly. And it did! Now, I’m not sure if this method will work with your traditional turkey drippings gravy – I haven’t tried it there. But with these broth-based gravies, it’s totally doable! Just make it, cool it, freeze it in an airtight container or zipper bag. Then pull it out a day or so before Thanksgiving and put it in the freezer. Once it’s thawed, you can just heat it up in a saucepan on the stove. It looks a little weird cold, but it comes right back together once it heats up. I love all three of these: Vegetarian Onion Gravy, Vegan Garam Masala Brown Gravy, and Vegan Mushroom Gravy.
Unlike most potato-potatoes, sweet potatoes are perfect for making ahead and freezing. Who knew?! Not me, until this year. I can’t wait to give it a whirl. More sweet potato recipes to try: Mashed Sweet Potato Casserole, Best-Ever Sweet Potato Casserole with Apples, or Sweet Potato Casserole Lightened Up.
Rolls are known for freezing wonderfully, and these honey whole-wheat swirls are no exception. Make these rolls, partially bake them, then freeze. Finish them off in the oven right before the feast for that can’t-be-beat, fresh-baked taste. More rolls and other delicious stand-ins that are perfect for freezing ahead of time: Soft & Fluffy Dinner Rolls, Overnight Dinner Rolls, Pumpkin Cornbread, Skillet Honey Cornbread, Cranberry Pumpkin Rolls, Honey Whole Wheat Buttermilk Rolls, Parmesan Thyme Crackers and, for slathering, Cranberry Honey Butter.
There are all kinds of freezer desserts that will have everyone oohing and ahhing, including you. But your oohs and aahs are because all you had to do was cut and serve – the work was done weeks ago, then it kept beautifully in the freezer! Life is good. Freezer-friendly dessert ideas: Apple Cranberry Crisp, Brownie Bottomed Cheesecake, Vegan Gingerbread Pear Bundt Cake, Pumpkin Cream Cheese Rolls, Carrot Cupcakes, Fresh Cranberry Brownies, and Vanilla Bean Caramel Pecan Bars.
5 Make-Ahead Thanksgiving Dishes for Freezing
- Cranberry Sauce
- Sweet Potatoes
- Pick a dish and a recipe to make ahead and freeze.
- Come back and choose another one, and enjoy your stress-free Turkey Day!
My make ahead recipes:
~Ginger Pumpkin Scones for breakfast (freeze and heat to refresh in AM)
~Mashed Potatoes can be frozen, thawed overnight then reheated.
~Yeasted Dinner Rolls also can be frozen then refreshed in the oven.
~Compound Butters (like Cranberry, Orange, Ginger or Persimmon) can be made up to a couple of weeks ahead and then frozen. Put on the table an hour before dinner to defrost.
~Fresh Cranberry-Orange Relish can make 4 days ahead, and is better for it!
~Spiced Brandied Apricots or Spiced Apples (or Crab Apples) are best made a couple weeks ahead of time.
~Make Pie Dough up to a month ahead of time and freeze.
~Pecan Bars can be frozen and defrosted in the morning of the event.
~Walnut, Pumpkin, Persimmon & Cranberry Breads can be made a couple of weeks ahead of time and frozen. Reheat to refresh.
~Pumpkin Cake can be made ahead. Again reheat to refresh and then frost the day before the party.
~Cookie Dough can be made ahead and frozen. Logs of dough can be easily sliced or pre-formed nuggets easily baked the day before the event. Cookies can even be baked, then frozen to be defrosted the day of the event, though I would underbake then reheat a bit to refresh them.
~Almond Brittle (or any nut brittle) can be made 5 days ahead and stored in an airtight tin in the cupboard.
~Pumpkin Fudge can also be made a few days ahead and stored in an airtight container in the refer.
–I think I need to start cooking…
I got stopped in my tracks by that drop dead gorgeous cranberry sauce, but I’m glad I kept scrolling, all these recipes look fabulous, thanks for including me 🙂
Thanks for including my Overnight Dinner Rolls! I love how simple and easy all these Thanksgiving recipes sound!
I remember my endeavors early on. The stress was unbelievable. Especially for those that are too hard on themselves. I learned to detest recipes that say “serve immediately”! How does one serve five + recipes immediately?! At any rate, with the passing of time, increasing wisdom, and remembering that nobody is perfect, my dinners have just gotten better and better. (Also, brining your turkey is a must). Lesson learned? Be kind to yourself and read great suggestions by folks like you and use them. Also, the house does not need to look like Martha Stewart’s crew came to call. People want to see you and your family. Not your house. Be kind to yourself.
YES! Such good tips. It’s all so true. 🙂
Thank you so much for including my whole wheat rolls! I will have to give the other 4 recipes a try! I am all for making Thanksgiving as painfree as possible!
On the cheesecake, couple questions: 1) I assume after it cools you need to wrap it well in plastic wrap for the freezer? and 2) how much time is needed to defrost it from the freezer to serve it? Thanks!
How do you freeze cheesecake? Thank you!!! I will look into your cookbooks.