Thanksgiving Menu Plan


I know some of you are planning Thanksgiving menus so I thought I’d throw out my personal Thanksgiving menu for this year. This is what my menu consists of so far; of course I reserve the right to change my mind up to the day of since there are just so, so many recipes worthy of the big day, if you know what I mean.

Because I have nerdy spreadsheet tendencies, I’ve thrown the recipes into a matrix of step-by-step plans so you know what you can do one week in advance (or further), 2 days in advance, 24 hours in advance, 4-6 hours in advance…and you probably get it by now. It’s similar to the plans for feeding a crowd just focused on Thanksgiving instead (and not necessarily extrapolated to feed your entire town).

So there you go! I know many of you have versatility to your menus and won’t need/want to make every single recipe from here but in case you are still looking for inspiration and need some help figuring out how to make a robust, delicious Thanksgiving menu without pulling three all-nighters in a row, this plan is for you.

Thanksgiving Menu Plan: A Step-by-Step Guide to Preparing in Advance (PDF version)

Thanksgiving Menu Plan: A Step-by-Step Guide to Preparing in Advance (Editable Word version)

Happy Thanksgiving menu planning, friends!

36 Responses to My Thanksgiving Menu Plan: A Step-by-Step Guide to Preparing in Advance

  1. Jessica says:

    Thank you, Mel! I just pulled off my first Thanksgiving and it was perfect – all because of you and your plan! I can’t thank you enough. I had so many compliments on everything and I’ve shared your site with everyone who asked for a recipe. Seriously, I couldn’t have done this without your help. Thank you for giving me the confidence I needed to make this happen.

  2. Ms. Amy says:

    Thank you for putting together the Planner! I modified it to fit our menu & timeline, and it has worked beautifully. I’ve made so much in advance that all I need to do is roast the turkey, bake the rolls & stuffing & warm a few dishes. Thank you Thank you!

  3. Ty says:

    Happy thanksgiving
    Discovered this site about a month ago and is increasingly becoming one of my go to resources. I wanted to stop in and tell you I/we LOVED your mashed potatoes (served with our turkey day meal today). We rarely divert from basic salt butter pepper and now this one may become our norm

    This was also my first time roasting garlic and it will not be my last 🙂

  4. LB says:

    Thanks so much for this! I arrived here from org junkie. I am hosting thanksgiving net year and already freaking out over it lol This plan will help me organize it so much.

  5. Lindsay* says:

    Mel! You are amazing! Thank you! This relieves a lot of stress, as I’m hosting Thanksgiving this year!!

  6. Diane says:

    Okay, so we’re probably just going to do Thanksgiving with our very own tiny family and so I love your list. Except we’re probably going to do ham instead of turkey. Since I haven’t bought it yet, I’m not sure I’m going to be able to fit my ham and my sweet potato casserole in the oven at the same time – I know you said the turkey will stay plenty warm for about an hour (or more?) but is that true for a ham? Do you know?

    • Mel says:

      Diane – well-covered, the ham should stay warm and juicy for an hour. If you need to pop it back in for 10 or so minutes after the other dishes come out, you could definitely do that too.

  7. Stephanie C. says:

    Hi Mel!

    Thanks so much! This is my first Thanksgiving cooking so I’m kind of nervous. I did have a question about the turkey. I was wondering if I could put it in a roasting bag with all of the aromatics in the cavity? Or would those flavors become overpowering? Thanks so much for your help! I love your blog. We just had your sweet balsamic glazed pork for dinner and it was so good!

    Thank you!

    • Mel says:

      Stephanie – you’ll do great! I’ve never baked the turkey in a bag but if that is your preference, I think it would work (you might miss out on some of the delicious pan drippings for gravy, though).

  8. slb224 says:

    That is nerdy that you made a spreadsheet! But it is so helpful too! Thank you for the help in planning. I’ve always cooked a turkey in a bag before, but I’m going to try it on a roasting pan this year. And thank you for a green bean casserole recipe that doesn’t use canned soup.

  9. natalie says:

    Thank you so much for this! I have been racking my brain around the logistics for my first ever Thanksgiving at my home. This is a lifesaver! Thank you again!

  10. Kristin says:

    Hi Mel!
    I’m hosting Thanksgiving dinner at my place this year for the first time ever (yikes!). I just made your stuffing and mashed potatoes tonight as a “test” to make sure everything went smoothly and they were both delish!! My question for you is this – we live in a townhome with a small kitchen (very minimal counter space) and an even smaller oven. I checked tonight and when the turkey is in the oven there is no room for anything else. I’m thinking if i follow your (awesome!) plan and make a bunch of the dishes the day before, they can cook/heat in the oven once the turkey is out and resting. Besides this, do you have any other ideas or suggestions for me or anyone with a small space to cook and prep in? Anything I should/shouldn’t do or serve?

    thanks!! 🙂

    • Mel says:

      Kristin – good luck with your Thanksgiving dinner! You’ll do great! I think your plan is a good one…the turkey can rest for a good hour or so well-covered and still be warm and tender when ready to serve. You can make all the desserts/pies 1-2 days ahead of time and keep them refrigerated (or covered outside in the cold weather if you live in a cool climate). You could also use your slow cooker if you have one to keep the mashed potatoes warm instead of using the oven which would help on oven usage. Good luck!

  11. Laura says:

    This is fantastic….thank you!

    Quick question: I’d like o do the green bean casserole, but I think I can make it the day before. How would you cook it from being refrigerated versus being frozen??

  12. bluebaker says:

    Hi Mel- This looks like a great plan! I’m getting better about a menu plan and then designing a shopping list to go along with it. Just curious what you- and others- do for the days surrounding the holiday. This year I need something simple for the day after-
    chili or tacos maybe. What do you plan for the rest of Thanksgiving week ? I have to have less expensive meals since I spend a little more on the holiday foods.

  13. I know I can count on you and your AWESOME recipes to help me create a delicious Thanksgiving!

  14. Gail says:

    Ooooooh – thank you!

  15. Michele says:

    I was wondering about the pumpkin pie bars, too! 🙂 Your Thanksgiving Menu Plan is awesome!

  16. Liz B. says:

    You are so awesome, thank you for doing this! I’m hosting at my house for a group, and was nervous about what i was going to make and how I was going to organize it – this is perfect!

  17. Jen says:

    I love your recipes so much and we too are hosting Thanksgiving…with one oven! Yikes. The spreadsheet with the times to prep everything will help me so much!

  18. Kristin C. says:

    This is AWESOME and so helpful. We’re having Thanksgiving dinner at our house for the first time ever and i’m kinda-sorta freaking out about it! This is a great tool to help me plan and feel like everything is a bit more under control. Thanks!! 🙂

  19. Anne Marie says:

    Love your nerdy tendencies towards spreadsheets, because this is a holiday lifesaver for me. (and your recipes look pretty awesome too!) Thanks so much.

  20. Jen T says:

    I was just making up my Thanksgiving menu today, so this is perfect! Thank you!!!

  21. Jen M says:

    I’m so glad you posted this! I am hosting Thanksgiving this year and hopefully this will help me not feel so stressed out in the hours before dinner.

  22. joyce says:

    I don’t believe I’ve seen a post on the Pumpkin Pie Bars that you feature in your menu. Is this a new one? I adore pumpkin pie and make it every year, but the bars seem so simple.

    • Mel says:

      Hi Joyce – I wondered if anyone would catch that (sharp eye!). I haven’t officially posted the pumpkin pie bars yet but I will next week. I didn’t want to wait to get out the Thanksgiving menu plan. They are delicious! It’s like a sneak preview to a recipe that will be coming soon.

  23. Lisa says:

    LOVE this!! Thank you so much for the timing chart. That is the hardest part for me, knowing what to do when so I’m not in crisis mode at the last minute.

  24. Emily says:

    Great plan! Just curious, but do you feed a crowd or do you make all of this for just your family?

    • Mel says:

      Hi Emily – we are feeding a few extra people for Thanksgiving (probably a total of 6 adults and 10 kids). But because I always make too much food, knowing me, I’d still make all this for just my little family and we’d eat it for days.

      Bluebaker – good question! I always use my turkey leftovers up the weekend after Thanksgiving (or freeze them) so the day after Thanksgiving, I refuse to cook at all, and we eat T-day leftovers or something simple like pancakes for dinner. The two or three days following Thanksgiving, I’ll usually make another repurposed meal with leftover turkey (like enchiladas, pasta, etc).

  25. Hillary says:

    I have just started planning over the last couple of days, so it is perfect timing for this! As always, you’re the best!

  26. Alisha says:

    Awesome. Considering you’re my #1 food blog, I menu plan from your site 90% of the time, it’s been a beyond crazy month AND everything looks delish on this plan. I’m printing and following!

  27. Great tips! Planning is the key to success.

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