Ultimate Thanksgiving Menu Guide with Free Printable Planner

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, I'm excited to share with you the ultimate guide to creating a fantastic Thanksgiving menu. This special time of year is all about delicious food and making wonderful memories with friends and family.

In our guide, we'll cover all those favorite traditional dishes that make Thanksgiving so special. Think about the juicy turkey, the fluffy stuffing, creamy mashed potatoes, and let's not forget those mouth-watering desserts. Yum!

A thanksgiving turkey on a white platter with mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce.

But I know that preparing for Thanksgiving can sometimes feel a bit overwhelming. So, I'll also share some easy-to-follow tips and tricks. These will help you get some of the cooking done in advance, so you can enjoy the day without too much stress.

Together, we'll dive into the world of Thanksgiving cooking, balancing the classic tastes we all love with some neat kitchen shortcuts to make your life easier. So, let's roll up our sleeves and get ready to make this Thanksgiving one of the best yet!

Thanksgiving Menu Ideas

A wheel of brie, topped with cranberries, honey, walnuts, and rosemary.


Lentil Soup: A perfect opener for your feast. It's rich, comforting, and a crowd-pleaser.
Butternut Squash Soup: Smooth, creamy, and full of autumn flavors.
Cranberry Baked Brie with Honey: This dish is a beautiful blend of sweet and savory, ideal for kicking off your meal.
Charcuterie Board: Need ideas for an epic charcuterie board? I've seen some amazing ideas on Pinterest, but really like this fall charcuterie board.

Thanksgiving turkey on a platter surrounded by side dishes.

Main Dish:

Simple Roasted Turkey: The star of the show! Here's my go-to recipe for a juicy, flavorful turkey. Have a lot of leftover turkey every year? Check out this Leftover Turkey Pot Pie recipe!

Vegetarian Mains: Stuffed Butternut Squash is a great choice for a vegetarian main dish.

Balsamic Maple Glazed Carrots

Holiday Side Dishes:

You'll want a mix of sides. Some heavier carbs, because what is a holiday dinner without your classic mashed potatoes, other veggies, and you can even sneak some healthy greens in! I can never decide if the sides or desserts are my favorite part of any holiday meal.

Veggie Sides: Balsamic & Maple Glazed Carrots are so easy to make and delicious! Cheesy Brussels Sprouts with Bacon is a fun way to get some green veg in. Green Bean Casserole Without Mushroom Soup is another option if you don't like the traditional green bean casserole. You can also do your favorite combination of roasted root vegetables.

Sweeter Sides: Bacon Sweet Potato Casserole with Pineapple is my unique twist on the classic sweet potato casserole. I was never a fan of cranberry sauce until I made this one with fresh cranberries and orange!

Bread & Rolls: This is one I've found varies greatly depending on your location. Growing up in the midwest, holiday dinners were always served with a basic dinner roll. Then I learned others do biscuits or cornbread! Now we do a combination including crescent rolls.

The Classics: Don't forget the savory stuffing, mashed potatoes & gravy, Old-Fashioned Corn Pudding, and macaroni & cheese for a traditional spread.

Maple pumpkin pie on a white plate, topped with whipped cream and sprinkled with a spice like cinnamon or nutmeg.


I'm a firm believer in mixing up the holiday dessert table. You've gotta have the traditional pumpkin pie, but there are so many other options!

Classic and Creative Pies: From traditional pumpkin to unique twists, you've got to check out all these delicious pies from my friend Lauren over at MM! And don't miss my super easy Banana Cream Pie.
Cookies: Oatmeal Raisin are my personal favorite, but you can't go wrong with chocolate chip and snickerdoodles!
Fun Cupcakes for All Ages: Check out these adorable Turkey Cupcakes and Thanksgiving Mickey Cupcakes from Ruffles and Rain Boots.


This Harvest Punch is a refreshing blend of autumn flavors, perfect for guests of all ages. Or you could provide a combination of easy options, like water, tea, juice, coffee, and soda. Try to include a variety of options that include sugar-free and/or caffeine free for guests.

Preparation Tips & Tricks:

Holiday dinners don't have to be so stressful! Incorporating a few time and sanity-saving tips into your Thanksgiving preparation can make a huge difference. Here are some strategies to ensure a smoother, more enjoyable cooking experience!

  1. Plan Ahead: Start by mapping out your menu a week before the big day. This allows you to thoughtfully consider each dish you want to include. Once your menu is set, create a detailed shopping list. Group items by category (produce, dairy, etc.) for a more efficient shopping experience.
  2. Prep Early: Tackle as much prep work as you can in the days leading up to Thanksgiving. This might include chopping onions, celery, and herbs for your stuffing, or peeling potatoes for your mash. Store these prepped ingredients in airtight containers in the fridge. Preparing pie dough in advance and refrigerating it also saves time on the day.
  3. Cook in Stages: Identify dishes that can be fully or partially prepared ahead of time. Casseroles, for example, can often be assembled a day in advance and kept in the fridge. On Thanksgiving Day, all you need to do is bake them. This staggered approach to cooking helps manage your kitchen time more effectively.
  4. Utilize Freezer Space: Freezing is a fantastic way to spread out your cooking efforts. Pies and cookies are great candidates for early preparation and freezing. They maintain their quality well and simply need to be thawed before serving, reducing your workload on the day.
  5. Simplify Your Menu: While homemade dishes are wonderful, don’t feel pressured to make everything from scratch. Opting for a few high-quality store-bought items, like rolls or even a pie, can significantly reduce your cooking load without compromising the overall quality of your holiday meal.
  6. Slow Cooker and Instant Pot: These kitchen gadgets are lifesavers for managing space and time. Use them for side dishes like mashed potatoes, stuffing, or even certain casseroles. They not only free up oven space but also can keep food warm until it's time to serve.
  7. Turkey Tips: If you're hosting a smaller gathering, consider roasting a turkey breast instead of a whole turkey. It's quicker to cook and easier to carve. Plus, it takes up less oven space, leaving room for other dishes.
  8. Set the Table the Night Before: Laying out your tableware and decorations the night before can be a huge stress reliever. It also gives you the chance to enjoy setting a beautiful table without feeling rushed.
  9. Enlist Help: Don’t shy away from asking family members or guests to contribute. Assigning them to bring side dishes, desserts, or even just helping with setup or cleanup can significantly lighten your load.
  10. Relax and Enjoy: Lastly, the most important tip – remember to enjoy the process and the day. Thanksgiving is about gratitude and togetherness, so don't worry if everything isn't perfect. What matters most is the time spent with loved ones.

There you have it, a complete Thanksgiving menu to delight your guests and make your celebration truly special. Remember, Thanksgiving is not just about the food (though it's a big part!), but also about gathering with loved ones, sharing gratitude, and creating memories. Happy cooking, and even happier eating!

Thanksgiving menu planner on a wooden background.

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