Easy Thanksgiving Recipes are the key to a happy holiday for all! This collection of easy recipes delivers great flavor without slaving for days in the kitchen!
Updated November 2018
Thanksgiving is quickly coming up and I for one want to serve up a fantastic meal without spending hours doing so. With some simple tips and tricks, and the right recipes, you can enjoy a wonderful meal without spending days in the kitchen to create it!
These recipes have been selected since they are particularly easy. For more options in every Thanksgiving category check out the Thanksgiving recipes index.
Gluten-Free diners! All these recipes are either naturally gluten-free or have an easy gluten-free option included in the recipe.
How to Make Thanksgiving Easier
Here are my keys to success for making easy Thanksgiving recipes and to make Thanksgiving easier all together:
- Mix recipe types between the stove top, oven, slow cooker and Instant Pot. What I love about the slow cooker and Instant Pot is they are out of the critical path for recipe prep. I can add my ingredients and forget it! It helps keep cooks and recipe from colliding at the stove top and oven.
- Try to balance making anything possible beforehand so you are not in the kitchen all Thanksgiving Day. Appetizers or drinks like a punch or sangria are perfect to be made the day before. Pies too. Space preparing easy Thanksgiving recipes out over a few days.
- Don’t stress about table décor. One of our favorite things to do is to create a simple Gratitude Tablecloth made from craft paper. Set it up with different writing utensils and enjoy everyone writing small thoughts of gratitude or a game of hangman between courses.
Easy Thanksgiving Recipes
A great part of Thanksgiving is hanging out while the cooking happens all day. Though a big meal is the culmination of the day, having snacks to nibble on while waiting for that is key.
- Cranberry Pecan Goat Cheese Roll is a three-ingredient option to be set out with crackers and sliced apples.
- Sweet Spiced Nuts can be prepared the day before and set out in bowls.
- Cranberry Salsa is a fun spin on traditional salsa keeping with the season. Can be made ahead of time!
- Baked Brie is always elegant but SUPER easy and fast to make. Add a few toppings, bake for 6-10 minutes and it’s ready to go. Here are some favorite combinations:
Easy Turkey Recipe
Easy Roast Turkey is absolutely the way to go. There is no brining involved (but if you are ready to step up your turkey game there is a brined turkey recipe in the Thanksgiving recipe index) and the prep work is minimal. A special little trick ensures moist turkey meat without a fuss!
Not feeling turkey this year or having a small gathering? Lemon Herb Roasted Cornish Game Hens are a great alternative and are served one per person. They are easy to make and elegant to serve.
Easy Gravy Recipes
Gravy, though one of the simplest dishes on Thanksgiving, is a bit of an art form. Gravy from scratch is made using the turkey pan drippings, stock (it can be made from scratch with the turkey parts while the turkey cooks), and a roux (thickener made with flour and fat).
Here are two easy gravy recipes that I have not personally made but get high ratings. In reading through them, and the comments from those who have made them, I think they would be a great addition to an easy Thanksgiving recipes menu:
This Classic Turkey Gravy recipe is made with a simple from-scratch turkey stock. All the instructions are simple and timing for everything is included.
No-Fail Make Anytime Turkey Gravy is ready in 20 minutes and uses pan drippings or stock (or a combination. With over 200 reviews it has 5 stars and sounds delicious.
Easy Potatoes Recipes
I’ve started to develop recipes using my Instant Pot pressure cooker more this year with an eye toward how to stay out of the kitchen mainstream and do everything in one device.
These Instant Pot Mashed Chipotle Sweet Potatoes add a kick to the dinner and are ready in a flash; no mini marshmallows included, sorry.
Instant Pot Mashed Potatoes with Sour Cream and Garlic offer a tangy, creamy alternative to traditional mashed potatoes. Using the Instant Pot keeps the stove top open for other dishes to be prepared.
Roasted Garlic Buttermilk Smashed Potatoes are made traditionally but with updated flavors that will pop on your dinner plate.
Easy Dressing/Stuffing Recipes
Dressing or Stuffing? Stuffing goes inside the turkey and I don’t recommend it. It both takes longer but also takes more monitoring to ensure both the turkey and stuffing are cooked to a food-safe level. It’s challenging to cook the turkey ‘just right’ AND get the stuffing to the right temperature to kill bacteria from being inside the bird.
Instead make Dressing. It’s made on its own which makes it easier to time as well. I have several recipes I love and they are all equally easy:
- We love Spicy Chorizo Cornbread Sage Dressing.It has a homey rustic feel with spicy chorizo and sage flavors.
- English Muffin English Muffin Sausage Dressing this changes up the base of the dressing to use English Muffins instead of bread. Either gluten-free or regular English muffins can be used.
- Any ‘everything bagel’ lovers? Everything Bagel Sausage Dressing builds on the garlic onion goodness of the bagels and bakes it into a delicious dressing (gluten-free or regular bagels can be used).
Easy Cranberry Sauce Recipes
The absolute easiest thing to make for Thanksgiving dinner is cranberry sauce. Cranberry sauce takes about 15 minutes and can be made the day before so you don’t have to worry about it or take the time on Thanksgiving to make it.
Some of my favorite recipes for cranberry sauce include:
- Fresh Cranberry Orange Sauce
- Spicy Jalapeno Cranberry Sauce
- Slow Cooker Cranberry Pear Sauce with Ginger (which is made in a slow cooker so it’s out of the other recipes on the stovetop). They are all great tasting and give options to change up the flavors.
Easy Side Dish Recipes
I did a fancy version of the traditional green bean casserole a few years ago and though it’s delicious it takes more time than I’d comfortably call ‘easy’. Instead I recommend:
- Fresh Green Beans with Bacon and Sliced Almonds
- Warm Cranberry Honey Dressing and Winter Salad is a nice addition to the Thanksgiving meal and breaks up heavier dishes with some greens.
- Balsamic Roasted Fall Vegetables with Sumac are beautiful, mouthwateringly good and super easy to prepare. The addition of Sumac adds a nice bright almost citrusy flavor to the vegetables.
- Herb Roasted Garlic Brussels Sprouts, Sweet Potatoes and Carrots are another seasonal recipe that is easy and perfect for Thanksgiving.
- Instant Pot Baby Carrots with Mint is another fast, easy recipe with some lighter flavors to offset the heavier holiday favorites.
Easy Large Batch Boozy Drinks Recipes
Wine is popular with Thanksgiving dinner however it can be nice to offer options of have something on hand before the meal.
- Sparkling Cranberry Vodka Punch is fun, festive and only has a handful of ingredients. You can make it in less than 5 minutes.
- Autumn Sangria is a wonderful wine and fruit infusion that can be made the day before and kept in the fridge in a spigot jar ready for easy serving.
Easy Mocktails Recipes
It’s nice to have a mix of alcohol and non-alcoholic drink options when entertaining a group especially for an all-day hang out.
Slow Cooker Mulled Apple Cider can be set up in the slow cooker and left for guests to serve themselves leaving you to focus on preparing the Thanksgiving meal.
Sparkling Apple-Pear Mock Sangria is an infusion like actual sangria but without any booze. This sparkling version feels like a party for kids, or anyone opting out of other adult drinks.
Easy Thanksgiving Desserts Recipes
Everyone has their own favorite Thanksgiving dessert, usually pie. We tend to go for a traditional pie and something which has become our family tradition that is completely NOT traditional: Grasshopper Pie.
- No Crust Pumpkin Pie has the best part of traditional pumpkin pie without the hassle of making a crust.
- Sour Cream Raisin Pie is an old school pie that is brimming with the spices of the season and plumped raisins in a creamy custard.
- For something different Caramelized Roast Pumpkin is a candied pumpkin that is wonderful with whipped cream or a scoop of ice cream.
- Spicy Apple Crisp with Cranberries and Walnuts is a homey seasonal dessert with a bit of spicy heat to end a filling meal!
When it’s ALL over, you have to make Holiday Turkey Hash the next day! A delicious leftovers recipe to use turkey, gravy and stuffing/dressing. Serve it over mashed potatoes to use those too!
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Originally published November 14, 2017