20+ Tried-and-True Best Thanksgiving Recipes | The Rising Spoon

Friday, November 15, 2019

20+ Tried-and-True Best Thanksgiving Recipes

Want to serve the best recipes at your Thanksgiving meal? These are some of my tried-and-true dishes (main, side dishes, sauces, drinks, desserts, appetizers & leftovers) that I've been fixing for the past several years. I've tried every single recipe in this round-up myself. My family loves them and I hope yours will, too!


20+ Tried-and-True Best Thanksgiving Recipes

Since we're less than two weeks away from Thanksgiving, there's a good chance you're trying to plan your holiday menu ahead of time and want to find the best recipes (as a host or guest) for the big autumn feast.

There are loads of Thanksgiving recipe round-ups on the interwebz these days, but most of them are just curated lists of dishes that look good.

In other words, the person sharing them hasn't tried most, if any, of the recipes. These types of recipe collections are awesome for inspiration when you want to try one or two new dishes and you don't have anything riding on your success.

But, let's say you're hosting your first-ever Thanksgiving feast and are responsible for most of the cooking. Or, you're attending a feast at someone else's home and are in charge of bringing a specific dish that's a family favorite.

No room for screw-ups, eh?

If you do, though, (hopefully) your friends & family have the grace to gently make fun of you, laugh it off, and let you get on with the day. However, I aim to help you avoid that!

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My Favorite Thanksgiving Dishes That I Serve Every Year

How exactly? Well, I'm sharing my own tried-and-true Thanksgiving recipes that I've been fixing every year for the past several years (some even earlier). Mains, side dishes, sauces, drinks, desserts, appetizers & leftovers. 

Some of them are my own and the rest are solid recipes from other bloggers (like the turkey, green bean casserole, and gravy). 

The key here is that I have actually made every single thing on this list!

For practically my whole life we've had a family tradition of attending Thanksgiving at my grandparents' house in Northern Texas. Because of this, I'd help with things like the sides and other prep stuff, but most of it was out of my hands.

However, when my sister moved to Colorado several years back, she could no longer join because of her job and the difficulty/cost of getting down the mountain with all the inclement weather (she lives in Summit County at an altitude of almost 10,000 feet).

So, I started spending Thanksgiving with her instead and without the whole family in tow, we were forced to fix the whole feast ourselves--turkey, pumpkin pie, and all! 

{So much prep work. So many dishes.}

Solid Thanksgiving Recipes That Even a New Cook Can Handle

Back in the day I probably would have relied on a bunch of ready-made items, but these days (as you might expect if you've read my food philosophy) I love to make as many things as possible from scratch, especially on a holiday. It's an excuse to go all out!

I'm going to be sharing recipes in the following order (scroll down if you need something specific):
  • drinks - alcoholic & non-alcoholic (you make this before you start cooking, right?)
  • appetizers (snack food is a must for guests who show up early & the cooks who are busy in the kitchen)
  • mains (really just turkey!)
  • side dishes
  • sauces
  • desserts
  • leftovers (minus the classic turkey + mayo on bread combo)

With that said, I hope you enjoy! And if you have any questions about specific recipes, leave a comment below or hop over to the original post to ask there. :)

20 Tried-and-True Best Thanksgiving Recipes

20+ Tried-and-True Best Thanksgiving Recipes

Thanksgiving Drink Recipes (Alcoholic & Non-Alcoholic)

Cranberry, Orange & Apple White Wine Sangria

This is an easy & festive-looking sangria (i.e. wine infused with fresh fruit & juices + sometimes brandy) that you can make the day before your gathering or several hours before.

You and the other adults will love sipping on it! And it has apples, oranges and 100% unsweetened cranberry juice, which makes it healthy, right?

This sangria is just as simple to make as the cranberry one above, except it features cozy apple flavors + cinnamon, to boot. The cider + orange & cinnamon makes it smells SO good. 

Honestly, this is the perfect festive drink for Thanksgiving day drinking because it goes down easy but isn't too heavy. And you could always make a mocktail version with fresh apple cider + OJ + sparkling mineral water!


Thanksgiving Drink Recipe: Apple Cider White Wine Sangria

Citrus White Wine Spritzers

If your family & friends love to drink wine, turning it into a bubbly spritzer is a smart way to lower the alcohol content of your drinks while still enjoying them. It tastes good, stretches the wine further, and helps to keep things classy. 

You can't control what inappropriate or rude things come out of a person's mouth but you can (as a host) control what they drink! :P

Thanksgiving Drink Recipe: Citrus White Wine Spritzers



Homemade Hot Chocolate (Made with Good-Quality Bar Chocolate)

It's so easy to make your own homemade hot chocolate using a few simple ingredients like good quality bar chocolate (I love Divine, Alter Eco or Theo), milk & a few spices. No need to use those "cocoa" packets with tons of additives & preservatives (they always upset my stomach)

Hot chocolate doesn't take long to warm up on the stovetop and I promise you--everyone will be impressed! This is perfect for the kiddos or non-drinkers to sip on while everyone else is imbibing.

If you prefer marshmallows on your hot chocolate instead of whipped cream, make it extra special by fixing a batch of Homemade Honey-Sweetened Marshmallows from my friend Emily of Recipes to Nourish. They are so stinking good and easy, too! I've been making them for several years now and even give them as Christmas gifts. 

Thanksgiving Drink Recipe: Homemade Hot Chocolate



Pumpkin Spice Latte with Vanilla Almond Milk

I'm not trying to toot my own horn here, but this is my favorite recipe for pumpkin spice lattes! Fixing it at home lets you control the amount of sugar (waaaaaay less than what Starbucks adds) and honestly...it's just so much cheaper and better tasting.

Make a quick batch of pumpkin spice lattes the day before Thanksgiving to sip on while you're prepping and then the next morning while you're finishing up all the cooking. And if you're feeling zesty, this would taste good with a shot of bourbon added. ;)

Thanksgiving Drink Recipe: Homemade Pumpkin Spice Latte (Vegan)

Thanksgiving Appetizer Recipes


These nuts are seriously addicting! But, they'd make an excellent snack or appetizer for your Thanksgiving feast. Especially since you can make them days ahead of time. The combo of salty + slightly sweet + healthy fats + protein will help keep your guests hunger in check (so many folks show up with empty stomachs preparing for a feast) before it's mealtime. 

Thanksgiving Appetizer Recipe: Savory Rosemary Spiced Nuts


Meat, cheese & crackers are a classic appetizer combo, but it's even better when you make it a slightly larger spread by adding in other yummy seasonal ingredients like jam, sliced fruit, nuts, and olives. 

If you're hosting or attending a Thanksgiving gathering where the main meal doesn't happen until the evening and everyone's there all day hanging out, 100% fix a charcuterie board like this! You can make it as small or large as you like and it will keep everyone from wandering into the kitchen for snacks. 

Thanksgiving Appetizer Recipe: Fall Charcuterie Board (Meat & Cheese Platter)

Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe (Main Course)

Mom's Roast Turkey by Simply Recipes

Turkey is usually the dish that causes the most stress since people are afraid they're going to under-cook or over-cook it. 

Well, I'm happy to report that I've been using this exact recipe for the past several years and it always turns out perfect. The turkey is moist and delicious! Her technique is simple but effective (no brining required), so if you're planning on using your oven to cook the turkey this year, definitely check it out. 

The only thing I've changed recently is to start seasoning the turkey with my rosemary, orange & thyme herb salt! I make a fresh batch a few days before Thanksgiving so the herbs + citrus are still plenty potent. 

TIP: If you make a large enough batch, package up the leftovers into a glass jar and give them as holiday gifts!


Thanksgiving Main Course Recipe: Mom's Roast Turkey by Simply Recipes

Thanksgiving Side Dish Recipes

Orange, Maple & Cinnamon Mashed Sweet Potatoes
I came up with this recipe several years back when I was looking for an alternative to the super sugary sweet potato casseroles topped with marshmallows. This is now my favorite way to fix sweet potatoes for Thanksgiving and everyone loves them! 

The secret is roasting the sweet potatoes whole first, which brings out a ton of their natural sweetness, so you can get away with adding less sweetener. Pretty awesome, right?

Thanksgiving Side Dish Recipe: Orange, Cinnamon & Maple Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Creamy Green Bean Casserole From Scratch by Sally's Baking Addiction

Oh my gosh, this homemade green bean casserole is amazing! Just so you know, it is a little time consuming to make it the day of when you're trying to juggle a billion other things in the kitchen (mostly because of the onions), BUT it's oh so worth it. When I made this last year, it was everyone's favorite "leftover" and didn't last long. I can't wait to eat it again soon.


Thanksgiving Side Dish Recipe: Creamy Green Bean Casserole From Scratch by Sally's Baking Addiction

Balsamic Oven-Roasted Green Beans

For the folks who don't like green bean casserole or can't have it because they don't consume dairy, this is a yummy green bean alternative that's dairy-free, gluten-free, vegan, and paleo. It's easy to fix and you could definitely pop it in at the very end of your cooking right before the meal. This is also one of the most popular recipes here on The Rising Spoon, so I know it's solid. ;)


Thanksgiving Side Dish Recipe: Balsamic Oven-Roasted Green Beans

Colcannon (Irish Mashed Potatoes with Greens)

Colcannon is one of my favorite ways to fix mashed potatoes now and I'm sure it would be a big hit on any Thanksgiving table. It's pretty much regular mashed potatoes + sauteed cabbage (or kale) & onion + LOTS OF BUTTER. Sounds like an upgrade, right? You won't even need any gravy, although you could still use it.


Thanksgiving Side Dish Recipe: Colcannon (Irish Mashed Potatoes with Greens)

Homemade Croutons (For Stuffing / Dressing) 

If you want to make homemade stuffing (also known as dressing) that will wow everyone, skip the boxes and make your own seasoned croutons to use as a base.

These are the croutons I make every year and then use for homemade stuffing with onion, celery, butter, and drippings from the turkey (this is the secret to a good stuffing).  

I prefer to use a big loaf of crusty sourdough bread, but you can use whatever floats your boat! 

Note: This is one you'll want to make beforehand (you can just do it the day before if you want OR even a few weeks ahead of time if you're organized like that).


Thanksgiving Side Dish Recipe: Homemade Croutons for Stuffing & Dressing


This works as a healthy side dish or even an appetizer. It features lots of delicious fall ingredients and is quite pretty, too! 

It takes about an hour to make everything start to finish, but you can save time by making the butternut squash, candied pecans, and apple cider vinaigrette the day before Thanksgiving, then quickly prep and assemble this before serving. 

Thanksgiving Side Dish Recipe: Autumn Salad with Butternut Squash, Cranberries, Candied Pecans & Apple Cider Vinaigrette


Balsamic Oven-Roasted Root Vegetables

This is another yummy side dish option that is also healthy, uses seasonal fall ingredients, and is good for guests with a variety of food preferences (gluten-free, vegans, vegetarians, paleo, etc.) The balsamic vinegar + roasting in the oven really brings out the natural sweetness in all the root veggies.


Thanksgiving Side Dish Recipe: Balsamic Oven-Roasted Root Vegetables

Thanksgiving Sauce Recipes

Easy No-Fail Make Anytime Turkey Gravy via Food.com

This is also one of those critical recipes that you don't want to screw up (or at least it is for me). So, I searched on the interwebz and found this recipe. Just like the name implies, it's easy and it works! I've been using it ever since but I always (at least for Thanksgiving) use fresh turkey drippings.

Homemade Cranberry Sauce with Fresh Orange Juice

WHY did no one tell me how EASY it is to make homemade cranberry sauce? For years, the stuff in the can was touted as the "must-have" convenience food for Thanksgiving. ::face palm::

Well, it hardly takes any more work to fix it on the stovetop using fresh cranberries and it is WORLDS better when it comes to taste. 

Not to mention the fresh stuff has no high fructose corn syrup. Yuck. Seriously, friends don't let friends eat canned cranberry sauce. You can prep a few days beforehand so you have plenty on hand!

Thanksgiving Sauce Recipe: Homemade Cranberry Sauce with Fresh Orange Juice

Thanksgiving Dessert Recipes

Homemade Pumpkin Pie Spice Blend

Making pumpkin pie or another recipe requiring pumpkin spice seasoning? Save yourself a little moolah and mix your own a home! This is what I've been fixing for the past few years and love it for pie, lattes, oatmeal, and smoothies (pretty much anything pumpkin related in this round-up, too).


Thanksgiving Recipe: Homemade Pumpkin Pie Spice Blend

Old Fashioned Pumpkin Pie by Simply Recipes

I love pumpkin pie sooooo much. The day after Thanksgiving I usually eat it for breakfast and then the day after until it's all gone. Then I'm sad. {Ahem} Since I'm NOT an expert in baking, I defer to Elise of Simply Recipes who shares tried-and-true recipes like this pumpkin pie.

I've made her pumpkin pie a few times using maple syrup instead of white sugar and it turned out great, even up in the mountains! Now, I still need to master the crust (I currently use store-bought), but that's for another day.

Just know that her recipe is meant for a deep-dish pie dish, so if you use a regular-sized tin, you'll have an excess of the filling mixture.


Thanksgiving Dessert Recipe: Old Fashioned Pumpkin Pie by Simply Recipes

Homemade Whipped Cream (5-ish minute recipe)

Even if I haven't mastered homemade crust yet for pie, I can definitely handle homemade whipped cream for smothering over spooning on top of pies + any warm drinks like hot cocoa or pumpkin lattes. 

Homemade whipped cream is super duper easy & actually pretty fast and it's really fun to watch it go from liquid to pillowy whipped cream! It's magical. 

Oh, yeah, and you don't need any fancy gadgets to fix it either. Just a big cold bowl, a whisk, and a strong arm. ;)


Thanksgiving Dessert Recipe: Easy Homemade Whipped Cream

Thanksgiving Leftovers Recipes

Leftover Pumpkin Pie Milkshake

If you love pumpkin pie, please do yourself a favor and bake an extra pie (or horde a few slices somewhere) and buy a pint or carton of your favorite ice cream to prepare for Thanksgiving.

Then, a day or two after the big feast. Make yourself one of these milkshakes. It's heavenly. You can thank me later. :)

Thanksgiving Dessert Recipe: Leftover Pumpkin Pie Milkshakes

Skillet Pot Pie with Cheddar Garlic Drop Biscuits

I typically make this with shredded rotisserie chicken, except for Thanksgiving. Then I use chopped or shredded leftover turkey. It's a fabulous & super hearty way to transform your leftovers into a whole new meal.

I almost always bake a batch of cheddar garlic drop biscuits to serve on top, but you could also use leftover stuffing (bread or cornbread based) as a topping. Lots of options!

Thanksgiving Leftovers Recipe: Skillet Pot Pie with Cheddar Garlic Drop Biscuits


I'd like to hear from YOU!

What are your tried-and-true Thanksgiving recipes?

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Need More Recipe Inspiration? Check Out My Other Round-Ups:


UPDATE (November 2019): This post was originally published in November 2016, but I've since updated it with a few newer recipes that are now my favorites + created new graphics to share it on social media. 

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MEDICAL DISCLOSURE: The information included on this website is intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. None of the opinions expressed here are meant to diagnose or treat any disease or illness. You should always consult your healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for your own situation or if you have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan.


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