If the Southern Living Test Kitchen hosted Thanksgiving, it would look like this: a glorious spread starring crowd-pleasing, family-favorite recipes you can prep in advance. Here's a feast that even the holiday hostess will enjoy this year.
Our Test Kitchen's Make-Ahead Thanksgiving
Oh, the Thanksgiving paradox: a house filled with loved ones who have traveled from near and far to see you, yet your quality time is spent with the stove. You try to seem a calm, cheery hostess, but in truth, you're frazzled. Your mind races with forgotten ingredients, you overmix the mashed potatoes, and the gravy burns. We're here to break the cycle. This year, we've designed every dish on our menu to be made ahead so all you have to do on the big day is reheat and assemble. As for the grocery list? Don't worry, we've written it all out for you—click here to get our Grocery Game Plan. A festive, fuss-free Thanksgiving? Now that's something to be thankful for.
One Month Ahead: Simple Chicken Stock & Make-Ahead Gravy
This easy homemade chicken stock adds loads of fresh flavor to our Make-Ahead Gravy.
Recipe: Simple Chicken Stock
Make Ahead: Pour cooled gravy into quart-size zip-top plastic freezer bags; seal and lay bags flat on a baking sheet. Place in freezer. Once frozen, the bags are easily stackable. Thaw three to four days in the fridge before reheating on the stovetop.
Recipe: Make-Ahead Gravy
One-Month Ahead: Easy Butter Rolls
Make Ahead: After Step 3, shape the dough into 1-inch balls, and place them on a baking sheet. Place baking sheet in freezer, and freeze completely. Transfer frozen balls to a large zip-top plastic bag. The day before baking, place three dough balls in each cup of a lightly greased muffin pan, cover with plastic wrap, and chill until ready to bake as directed. Serve with Herb Butter and Sorghum Butter.
Recipe: Easy Butter Rolls
One Month Ahead: Parsnip-Potato Soup
Make Ahead: Once it's cooled, freeze this silky soup in zip-top plastic freezer bags using the Make-Ahead Gravy method. Thaw in refrigerator three to four days before using. Reheat over medium-low heat. Add salt and pepper if needed, and garnish just before serving.
Recipe: Parsnip-Potato Soup
Three Weeks Ahead: Holiday Spice Cake & Grandmother Carter's Cornbread Dressing
Make Ahead: Use these cake layers for Cherry-Spice Cake Trifle. Wrap each cake layer twice with plastic wrap, and then once with aluminum foil. Place in a single layer on a baking sheet, and freeze. Once they are frozen, remove from baking sheet, and stack in freezer.
Recipe: Holiday Spice Cake
Make Ahead: Freeze the unbaked dressing mixture in 2 (1-gal.) zip-top plastic freezer bags, making sure to press out all the excess air. Thaw in refrigerator five days before Thanksgiving, and continue recipe with Step 4.
Two Weeks Ahead: Mashed Potatoes with Greens
Make Ahead: Prepare this recipe through Step 4, and freeze. Thaw potato mixture in the fridge at least 24 hours before you plan to serve, and let it stand 20 minutes before baking as directed.
Recipe: Mashed Potatoes with Greens
Cherry-Spice Cake Trifle
Make Ahead: Thaw Holiday Spice Cake layers (slide 4) , and prepare the recipe through Step 3. Assemble trifle the morning of Thanksgiving, and refrigerate. Remove 1 hour before serving.
Recipe: Cherry-Spice Cake Trifle
Three Days Ahead: Roasted Vegetable Salad with Apple Cider Vinaigrette
Make Ahead: Store roasted vegetables in a zip-top plastic freezer bag or an airtight container in the fridge. Before serving, return to room temperature and check seasoning.
Two Days Ahead: Pumpkin-Espresso Tiramisù
Make Ahead: Loosely wrap baked and cooled tiramisù in plastic wrap, and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Recipe: Pumpkin-Espresso Tiramisù
Two Days Ahead: Dry-Brined-and-Marinated Smoked Turkey
Make Ahead: Dry-brine the turkey two days before Thanksgiving, and smoke it the next day. Cut the turkey into pieces (legs, breast, wings, etc.), and place in a zip-top plastic bag. Store in refrigerator. About an hour before dinner, place turkey pieces in a single layer on a baking sheet, and cover with aluminum foil. Warm in 300° oven until heated.
Thanksgiving Day: Slow-Cooker Sweet Potatoes with Bacon
Make Ahead: Pop this sweet potato mixture into your slow cooker on Thanksgiving morning. It will be ready to serve as soon as everyone sits down to dinner.