7 Thanksgiving Side Dishes You Can Prep in Advance

Making Thanksgiving dinner can take a lot of work. Save time by cooking this make-ahead Thanksgiving side dishes.

November 13, 2015
By: Blythe Copeland

Photo By: iStock

Photo By: iStock

Photo By: iStock

Photo By: iStock

Photo By: iStock

Photo By: iStock

Photo By: iStock

Thanksgiving morning should be all about putting the finishing touches on your turkey, setting the table, and heading out to watch your local high school football game or holiday parade -- all of which is much easier and more relaxing if you can prep most of the meal in advance. Here, seven recipes you can make ahead so that, this year, you can list "a quiet morning" among the things you are most grateful for.

Sausage, onions, celery, pecans, and fresh herbs combine with day-old cornbread in this recipe for a savory stuffing (some call it dressing) from Bon Appetit. Prepare and cook the dish a day in advance, cover, and store in the refrigerator; then reheat for about an hour just before serving. To save even more time, use store-bought cornbread instead of homemade.

Making mashed potatoes ahead of time can be a little tricky, since they can dry out or change texture with too much time in the refrigerator. Martha Stewart's recipe for luxurious mashed potatoes solves the problem by adding plenty of butter and cream to potatoes mashed the day before Thanksgiving, then suggesting you reheat them in a foil-covered baking dish for about 20 minutes before serving.

If you've always left your gravy until the last minute so you can add flavorings from the turkey pan, try Mark Bittman's make-ahead version to save time without sacrificing flavor. You can make the base five days before your meal -- saute onions in butter, then add flour and stock and whisk until smooth -- and reheat on the day of while the turkey finishes cooking. Add the pan drippings to the premade gravy just before serving.

Fresh, warm rolls are a Thanksgiving staple -- but you can store these sweet potato biscuits in the freezer for up to two weeks and your guests will never know the difference. Brown sugar, cayenne pepper, and fresh herbs add flavor and spice to the sweet potato base, while the rolls go from frozen solid to warm and toasty with just about 10 minutes in the oven.

If your family is devoted to canned cranberry sauce, then you're in luck: No prep required. But if you prefer the real thing, then this easy recipe from Real Simple -- made with fresh cranberries, apple juice, sugar, and orange zest -- comes together in about half an hour and can be stored in the refrigerator for four days. Bonus: You can serve it cold, so your guests never need to know that you forgot to take it out until just before they arrived.

Instead of a heavy, creamy, green bean casserole, lighten up your sides with apricot-glazed green beans tossed with savory bacon. Cook the beans the day before and store in the refrigerator; then cook the bacon just before serving (so it stays crisp) and reheat the beans in a large skillet on the stovetop (which leaves plenty of room in your oven for the main dish).

Deep dish apple pie from Ina Garten can be stored for up to a month in the freezer --which is a major time-saver, since the recipe calls for homemade pie crust, hand-mixed filling, and more than an hour of cooking time. Spend an afternoon in early November putting it all together, and then thaw overnight in the refrigerator when you're ready to eat.

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