Must-Have Dishes for Thanksgiving

Top 10 Must-Have Dishes for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is right around the corner, which means it’s time to start planning your menu! With so many delicious options, it can be tough to narrow down what dishes to serve. Here are 10 must-have recipes that should be on your Thanksgiving table this year.

1. Roast Turkey

No Thanksgiving meal is complete without a roasted turkey as the main event. A perfectly cooked turkey is moist and flavorful on the inside with crispy, golden brown skin on the outside. Turkey is a Thanksgiving tradition and a crowd-pleasing favorite. When selecting your bird, choose one that is about 1 pound per person, so you have enough leftovers.

Must-Have Dishes for Thanksgiving

Pro Tip: For the juiciest turkey, do not stuff the cavity. The stuffing prevents the heat from circulating properly, resulting in a drier bird. Cook your stuffing in a casserole dish on the side instead.

Here are some more tips for roasting the perfect turkey:

  • Thaw the turkey safely in the fridge 1-2 days before cooking. This prevents bacteria growth.
  • Pat the turkey dry with paper towels before seasoning. This helps the skin crisp up.
  • Rub butter or oil on the skin and sprinkle with salt, pepper, thyme, sage. This adds flavor.
  • Place turkey on a rack in a roasting pan to allow air circulation. This prevents soggy skin.
  • Baste every 30 minutes with pan juices to keep the turkey moist.
  • Use a meat thermometer to check doneness. Turkey is safe to eat at 165°F.
  • Let the turkey rest for 30 minutes before carving. This allows the juices to settle.

Following these tips will ensure a picture-perfect golden turkey on your table!

2. Classic Bread Stuffing

While you may not stuff your turkey, bread stuffing is still a must-have side dish. This savory blend of bread, veggies, broth, eggs, and herbs perfectly soaks up all the turkey drippings. Toss the stuffing with fresh parsley or sage to add color and flavor. For a twist, try swapping out the bread for cornbread, sourdough, or baguette.

Must-Have Dishes for Thanksgiving

Here are some variations on classic bread stuffing to try:

  • Sausage Stuffing – Add crumbled sausage and sage.
  • Apple Walnut Stuffing – Toss in diced apples and toasted walnuts.
  • Shrimp Stuffing – Fold in cooked shrimp for a seafood twist.
  • Cornbread Oyster Stuffing – Use cornbread and top with fresh oysters.
  • Wild Rice Stuffing – Use wild rice for crunch and whole grain goodness.

Get creative with different breads, herbs, veggies, fruits and proteins! A unique stuffing can be a real showstopper.

3. Cranberry Sauce

What is Thanksgiving without the tangy sweetness of cranberries? Cranberry sauce adds a pop of color and fresh flavor to the plate. Go for the classic homemade version simmered with oranges and spices or open up a can—either way works! Cranberries contain antioxidants and help cut through the richness of the meal.

Making your own cranberry sauce is easy and worth the effort. Simply combine fresh cranberries, sugar and orange juice in a saucepan over medium heat. Simmer until the berries pop and break down, about 10-15 minutes. Then season with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves or other warming spices. Pour into a mold to cool and serve chilled.

Must-Have Dishes for Thanksgiving

Some fun ways to jazz up canned or homemade cranberry sauce:

  • Swirl in orange or lemon zest for brightness
  • Fold in toasted walnuts or pecans for crunch
  • Mix in ginger or pureed pumpkin for unique flavor
  • Add a splash of bourbon or Cointreau for a kick
  • Top with sliced oranges or pomegranate seeds for extra color

No matter which way you make it, cranberry sauce is a must for your Thanksgiving spread!

4. Mashed Potatoes

Creamy mashed potatoes are an essential Thanksgiving staple. While russets are the standard choice, try mixing in sweet potatoes or cauliflower for more nutrients and color. After mashing, fold in butter, warm milk, and a sprinkle of garlic or cheese. Top with crispy fried shallots or onions for texture and crunch.

Must-Have Dishes for Thanksgiving

For especially creamy spuds, follow these tips:

  • Peel and cut potatoes into uniform chunks even for cooking.
  • Start potatoes in cold water then boil until tender when pierced.
  • Drain and steam briefly to remove excess moisture.
  • Mash while still hot using a ricer, food mill or electric mixer. Move quickly to prevent gumminess.
  • Gently fold in warm butter and milk until smooth and creamy.
  • Season with salt, pepper, garlic powder, Parmesan, sour cream or cream cheese.
  • Transfer to a greased baking dish, dot with butter and broil briefly for a crispy topping.

With these secrets, you’ll have the creamiest, dreamiest mashed potatoes to pass around the Thanksgiving table.

5. Green Bean Casserole

This classic casserole of green beans, cream of mushroom soup, and fried onions is a staple on many Thanksgiving tables. The combination of the crunchy onions, tender beans, and creamy sauce is irresistible. For a fresh take, use fresh green beans instead of canned or swap out the canned soup for a homemade mushroom sauce.

Must-Have Dishes for Thanksgiving

To make green bean casserole from scratch, follow these steps:

  • Steam or boil fresh green beans until just tender. Shock in ice water to stop cooking.
  • Cook sliced mushrooms and minced shallots in butter. Season with thyme, salt and pepper.
  • Stir in broth and flour to create a mushroom gravy.
  • Add cream or milk to a creamy sauce.
  • Pour sauce over green beans and transfer to a casserole dish.
  • Top with fried onions and bake until browned and bubbling.
  • For crunch, try using French’s crispy onions, panko breadcrumbs or crushed cornflakes on top.

Homemade green bean casserole takes a bit more effort but pays off in fresh flavor.

6. Roasted Vegetables

Round out your meal with a medley of roasted vegetables like brussels sprouts, carrots, parsnips, and butternut squash. Toss the veggies in olive oil, seasoning, and fresh herbs before roasting them in the oven until caramelized. The high oven heat helps bring out the natural sweetness.

Must-Have Dishes for Thanksgiving

Some more vegetables to consider roasting for Thanksgiving:

  • Sweet potatoes – Roast with maple syrup and cayenne pepper.
  • Parsnips – Toss with honey and rosemary.
  • Cauliflower – Sprinkle with cumin, coriander, and garlic powder.
  • Broccoli – Drizzle with lemon juice and black pepper.
  • Shallots – Coat with balsamic vinegar and brown sugar.
  • Potatoes – Mix with olive oil, garlic, and paprika.
  • Beets – Season with orange zest, thyme, salt and pepper.

Mix up your roasted veggies, aim for a variety of colors and flavors on the plate. Getting creative with seasonings takes them to the next level.

7. Dinner Rolls

Pass around a basket of warm, fluffy dinner rolls to soak up the delicious sauces and gravies on Turkey Day. Parker House rolls, crescent rolls, and sourdough rolls all pair nicely. Serve rolls with softened butter and jam for spreading.

Must-Have Dishes for Thanksgiving

Making your own dinner rolls ensures fresh, hot bread for the table. Try one of these easy roll recipes:

  • Classic Dinner Rolls – Simple yeast-risen dough shaped into balls or knots.
  • Crescent Rolls – Crescent shaped rolls made in a pinch with refrigerated crescent roll dough.
  • Sweet Potato Rolls – Mashed sweet potato gives these rolls color and flavor.
  • Pretzel Rolls – Soft pretzel style rolls made with bread flour and malt powder.
  • Cloverleaf Rolls – Individual balls of dough baked in muffin tins.

Whatever shape or style you make, warm homemade rolls are sure to be a hit.

8. Pumpkin Pie

No Thanksgiving meal is complete without dessert! Pumpkin pie is a classic choice with its spiced, custard filling and flaky pie crust. Make it the old fashioned way with fresh pumpkin or open a can of pumpkin puree—both taste great. Top your pie with freshly whipped cream or vanilla ice cream for pure bliss.

Must-Have Dishes for Thanksgiving

Pro Tip: Use a pumpkin pie spice blend to add cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves all in one.

If you want to venture beyond classic pumpkin, consider these festive pie recipes:

  • Maple Pecan Pie – With maple syrup and toasted pecans.
  • Apple Cranberry Pie – Filled with tart cranberries and apples.
  • Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie – A grown-up twist with cocoa and bourbon.
  • Sweet Potato Pie – Made with vitamin A-rich sweet potatoes.
  • Rustic Caramel Apple Galette – Free-form rustic apple pie with salted caramel.
  • Pear Ginger Pie – Beautiful fall pear pie spiced with ginger.

Thanksgiving pie doesn’t have to just be pumpkin! Get inspired by the season’s delicious fruits, nuts, spices and flavors.

9. Apple Pie

Apple pie is another quintessential Thanksgiving dessert. Make it with classic Granny Smith or Golden Delicious apples tossed with sugar and spices. Bake it up in a homemade pie crust and serve warm with ice cream. For rustic flair, try doing a free-form galette instead of a pie. Apples contain antioxidants that are great for your health.

Must-Have Dishes for Thanksgiving

Making a perfect golden brown apple pie starts with choosing the right apples. The best types of apples for baking include:

  • Granny Smith – Tart and firm, ideal for baking
  • Golden Delicious – Sweet mellow flavor
  • Gala – Holds shape well when baked
  • Braeburn – Good balance of sweet and tart
  • Honeycrisp – Juicy with mild sweetness

Mix together two or three types of apples for the best flavor and texture. Toss sliced apples with sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, lemon juice and flour to thicken. Bake in a flaky pie crust and brush with egg wash or melted butter for a shiny top. Let the pie rest before slicing so the filling can set. Top with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream for warm apple pie bliss.

10. Pecan Pie

Last but not least, pecan pie is a Southern favorite that rounds out any Thanksgiving meal. For best results, use fresh pecans and dark corn syrup. The gooey filling with toasted nuts bakes up into a sweet, indulgent treat everyone will love. Add a dollop of bourbon whipped cream on top to take it over the top.

Must-Have Dishes for Thanksgiving

Some tips for perfect pecan pie include:

  • Partially bake the pie crust before adding filling for a crisper crust.
  • Toast the pecans first to maximize flavor.
  • Add a touch of vanilla, cinnamon or nutmeg to the filling.
  • Use dark corn syrup for deeper flavor.
  • Bake the pie on a baking sheet to catch any drips.
  • Check for doneness when the center jiggles slightly.
  • Cool fully before slicing to allow the filling to set.

With these tricks, your pecan pie will have everyone begging for seconds!

With these 10 dishes on your table, you are sure to have a memorable and delicious Thanksgiving meal. Don’t be afraid to make some dishes ahead of time so you can relax and enjoy the day with friends and family. Happy Thanksgiving!

Troubleshooting Common Thanksgiving Cooking Issues

With all the dishes and moving parts of a Thanksgiving meal, some things are bound to go wrong in the kitchen. Here are some common cooking troubles and how to recover:

Problem: Turkey is not fully cooked and the breast meat is still pink.

Solution: Cover the turkey with foil and put it back in the oven for 15-30 minutes until the juices run clear and it reaches 165°F internally. The foil helps the turkey cook more gently.

Problem: The gravy is lumpy.

Solution: Pour the gravy through a fine mesh strainer to remove any lumps. If needed, mix together 1 tsp cornstarch + 1 tsp water and whisk into the gravy to thicken it up.

Problem: The pumpkin pie has cracks on top.

Solution: This happens due to a too hot oven or overbaking. The pie is still fine to eat. Next time, remember to reduce the temperature and watch closely towards the end of baking.

Problem: The stuffing is dry and bland.

Solution: Add a bit of chicken or turkey broth and mix it in to moisten and add flavor. You can also top it with gravy.

Problem: The sweet potato casserole lacks flavor.

Solution: Stir in a bit of brown sugar, maple syrup or orange juice to balance the flavor. A sprinkle of cinnamon helps too.

Problem: The dinner rolls are under-baked and doughy.

Solution: Pop the rolls back in the oven for 5-10 minutes until they are fully baked through and sound hollow when tapped. They may not look perfect but will still taste good!

Problem: The cranberries are burnt and bitter.

Solution: Unfortunately burnt cranberries can’t be rescued. Next time, watch the pot closely as they simmer and reduce heat if needed to prevent scorching.

Problem: The apple pie filling is runny and won’t set.

Solution: To thicken it up, mix together 1 tbsp cornstarch + 1 tbsp water and gently stir into the filling. Bake for 10 more minutes until thickened.

Problem: The whipped cream has deflated and liquefied.

Solution: Re-whip the cream by beating at high speed until fluffy again. If needed, add 1⁄4 tsp powdered sugar to stabilize it.

With a combination of patience and quick problem-solving, you can troubleshoot most Thanksgiving cooking mishaps. But even if everything doesn’t go perfectly, remember that time with loved ones is what really matters most.

If you want to try some additional unique Thanksgiving recipes, check out this article! My Top 10 Different Dishes for Thanksgiving!

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