Cooking a Thanksgiving menu can be super stressful. It requires planning, careful thought, and supreme realism (aka don’t plan forty dishes for four people). But planning is the easy part – especially if you’ve read my tips on how to plan a stress-free Thanksgiving meal – whereas the actual cooking can get complicated.
Whether you’re hosting a big family feast or a small intimate dinner, it’s good to have some amazing and relatively easy dishes to fall back on.
Over the years, I’ve tried to make Thanksgiving easier and easier on myself, without cutting back on quality. The day is about quality family time, not about me losing my mind in the kitchen, but I still want to cook (and eat) delicious comfort foods.
To do that, I’ve carefully crafted and curated a collection of fantastic Thanksgiving menu ideas. I have my staples – including TWO slow cooker dishes – and the additions for when I’m feeling fancier (read: more optimistic and energetic) or for when I’m hosting more than just my immediate household.
My Thanksgiving Menu
I’ll start you off with what I consider the essentials – that way you have a whole, easy meal plan ready to go. After that, I’ll show you the other dishes I add in when I’m feeling up to it, to give you even more variety and options!
My Must-Have Dishes
Mom created this Red Wine Rosemary Garlic Marinated Sirloin Tip Roast recipe a few years ago and now we can’t get enough. If you’re like me and aren’t a huge fan of turkey or ham, then definitely give this recipe a try!
Along with the roast, we have my own labour of love: my Sausage & Apple Stuffing, a recipe I’ve been slowly perfecting for the last four years. It takes a little prep on the stovetop but then gets tucked into a slow cooker. It turns out so moist and flavourful, I can’t get enough. I never liked stuffing until I pieced together this recipe.
As a side dish, I always throw together some Corn Pudding. It couldn’t be easier – I mix together 6 ingredients (because I leave out the cheese) and put it in the slow cooker. Done.
I also have to have some mashed potatoes and candied sweet potatoes. Oh, and I can’t forget the cranberry sauce, which for me means simply opening up a can. If it’s not shaped like a can, I don’t want it!
To end the meal, Mom makes her Apple Bread Pudding with Bourbon Sauce and I pop the button on my jeans!
Note: for any of the years where I have been pregnant or breastfeeding, we used non-alcoholic red wine for the roast and left out the bourbon for the bread pudding. So if anyone else wants/needs to go alcohol-free, that’s still totally possible with this menu!
That menu covers our household of 3 adults and a toddler, with leftovers. On years where we want extra options or we’re hosting more people, we expand our Thanksgiving menu by adding in some of the following options:
One year when we were hosting my in-laws, Mom created four cream cheese appetizers. She took toppings – ones I’m not normally a fan of, even – and created these simple and delicious crowd-pleasers. I could live on them, I swear.
Another year, I grabbed a couple recipes from Martha Stewart – her Spinach, Bacon and Onion Dip and her Parmesan-Rosemary Icebox Crackers – and discovered two of our now favourite recipes of all time. The best part? Most of the dip recipe and all of the crackers recipe can be done ahead of time!
(After making them the first time, we decided to tweak the recipes so that there’s less spinach and more bacon and herbs in the dip, plus less Parmesan in the crackers, but they were still delicious before that.)
If you love cheese balls, Mom also created these Mini Cheese Ball Appetizers on a Stick, which are another popular option we’ve served over the years at both Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Other great Thanksgiving appetizer options include:
Main Dish & Gravy
If you’d rather have the traditional turkey instead of or in addition to the beef roast, here are some tasty options even I’d be willing to try:
- Pear-Thyme Brined Turkey
- Sage Butter Roasted Turkey
- Roasted Apple Turkey with Apple Brandy Gravy
- Brined Herb-Crusted Turkey with Apple Cider Gravy
- Overnight Slow Roast Turkey
Mom’s Honey Maple Bourbon Glazed Carrots are the first dish we add when we’re looking to expand our Thanksgiving menu. They are so delicious (and have a great alcohol-free version if needed).
She also makes these delicious Maple Pecan Candied Hasselback Sweet Potatoes as a fancier version of our traditional candied sweet potatoes. Another favourite is her Pumpkin Spice Polenta, for a bit of a southern twist.
For a green option that even people who don’t like veggies will eat, try this recipe for Brussels Sprouts with Heaps of Bacon. Or for a simple taste of fall, whip up some of these Sauteed Apples with Thyme.
When I was a kid, one of the things I looked forward to at every holiday was my grandmother’s dinner rolls. I laughed so hard when, years later, I found out that she bought them from the grocery store.
Made from scratch or not, breads can be a great way to add even more comfort to your meal.
I have made these Sweet-Potato Biscuits a few times and they are always a hit! One year, I used the Maple-Butter version of Martha’s Sweet Potato Puree and that made the biscuits even yummier.
Some other scrumptious bread options are:
I’d say these were the dishes you were waiting for, but honestly I can’t decide which is the best kind of Thanksgiving food.
I love this Pumpkin Swirl Roll so much! Mom makes it and it’s absolutely to die for. She says it’s really easy to make, and I say it’s really delicious to eat, so win-win, right?
In past years, I’ve also made these Chocolate Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars, which were very popular and tasty, if I do say so myself. The best part is that they can be made up to two days ahead of time, which was great for pacing myself when it came time to start cooking.
There are so many great Thanksgiving dessert ideas out there, though, so why not also consider these:
- Pumpkin Butterscotch Doughnuts
- Pumpkin Bundt Cake
- White Chocolate Pumpkin Cheesecake
- Ultimate Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake
Don’t forget to check out Mom’s printable Countdown to Thanksgiving Checklist. We hope you and your family have a very Happy Thanksgiving!
What’s going to be on your dinner plate this Thanksgiving? Let us know in the comments!
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