Many people may be surprised by how much food prep can be done days in advance of Thanksgiving. This makes the day-of cooking almost a breeze and significantly reduces clean-up. You’ll have time to make—and enjoy—a holiday cocktail while counting the blessings that feel especially precious this year.
We’ve put together a three day countdown to Thanksgiving with make-ahead advice for each day. Up to three days before, make cranberry sauce and pie dough and cut bread for stuffing. Two or three days before, prep vegetables. With two days to go, make mashed potatoes and sweet potato casserole, cook fruit fillings for pie and roll out dough. The day before, finish your stuffing, prep green bean casserole, get your turkey ready for the oven and bake your fruit pies.
Homemade cranberry sauce keeps great and improves over time. Simmer fresh or frozen cranberries with sugar and citrus zest until they burst and reduce to a thick sauce. Cool and refrigerate in an air-tight container. Serve at room temperature.
Make and chill your pie dough in a round. (You’ll roll it out the next day and chill it flat for easy and mess-free pie assembly when ready to bake.)
If you’re making a pre-cooked, fruit-based filling with no custard (such as apple, pear, cherry, etc.) you can make the filling two to three days ahead, cool and refrigerate. If you’re using a crumb topping, make it now as well and refrigerate. Then, all that’s left to do is place rolled out dough in a pan, add filling, add the top crust or crumble, then bake. No rolling mess or cutting board to clean.
Bread for Stuffing (or Dressing)
If you’re cutting your own bread cubes for the dressing, you can do this two to three days in advance. If you want them to dry out, spread them onto a sheet pan and leave out. Or, store cut cubes in a large paper bag at room temperature. For soft cubes, store in zip-close baggies.