Our favorite TV shows have led us to believe that Thanksgiving is chaotic and overflowing with family and friends. Sometimes, that’s simply not the case! We often make a Thanksgiving meal just for our own families. Here’s how to make a simple Thanksgiving dinner that can still be lovely and meaningful. Updated for 2022.
How do you make an easy Thanksgiving?
The idea of preparing a Thanksgiving meal can seem daunting. I think many of us believe a Thanksgiving meal should be homemade or made from scratch based on Pinterest perfect ideas. I’m here to tell you don’t put that unnecessary stress on yourself.
Make It Super Easy with a Prepared Meal
You can buy an entire prepared Thanksgiving dinner from your local grocery store, speciality retailer, or favorite restaurant. Especially in recent years. For Easter 2020, we ordered steak and lobster from a local high-end restaurant because we wanted the day to feel special since we weren’t participating in our traditional Easter festivities.
This post from Hip2Save has a great list of restaurants and details of what comes with each order. Or, Google your favorite local restaurants to see if they are offering fully cooked Thanksgiving dinners.
Simple Thanksgiving Menu
If you are planning to cook a simple Thanksgiving meal, here’s what I would make. I am from the school of Sandra Lee and her method of semi-homemade. I often fake my way through cooking a small Thanksgiving dinner with help from pre-made side dishes like mashed potatoes, gravy, and desserts.
Let’s Start with the Thanksgiving Sides First
- Stuffing – My go-to easy stuffing recipe is Rachel Ray’s Apple and Onion Stuffin’. It’s a 5-star rated recipe with ingredients you can purchase anywhere and best of all, you can make it the day before. Rachel Ray’s “muffin” method is really cute but totally not necessary. I’ve made it both ways.
- Cornbread Dressing – I was turned onto this Southern Cornbread Dressing recipe a few years ago and it’s a crowd pleaser. You can make it with cornbread, white bread or biscuits. Again, 5-star rated and can be made a day or two before Thanksgiving.
- Mashed Potatoes – One year, I peeled so many potatoes that I clogged our garbage disposal. Rookie move. Put your potato peels in the trash, not the disposal. This mashed potato recipe from Favorite Family Recipes that is identical to how I make mine. I like to keep mine warm in the crockpot until we sit down to eat.
I have also made life a lot easier and purchased pre-made mashed potatoes. They are just as good. You can find them pre-packaged in the deli department or freshly made behind the deli counter. I just put them in the crockpot or slow-cooker and let them warm while I’m preparing other dishes.
More Traditional Dishes for Your Table
- Gravy – I’ve always used the Turkey Dripping Gravy recipe from Sandra Lee. The herb butter and roasted veggies make a flavorful broth and Wondra is the secret ingredient to making it the gravy the perfect consistency. I use this OXO Separator Cup to skim the fat from the drippings.
- Ambrosia Salad – My grandma served ambrosia salad and I like adding that vintage vibe to my dinner table. This is a long read about the history of Ambrosia Salad but it’s fun, definitely if you’re from the south.
- Canned Cranberry Sauce – Sliced Ocean Spray Jellied Cranberry Sauce is where it’s at for me.
- Dinner Rolls – I’ve never had a roll I didn’t like. We usually buy King’s Hawaiian Sweet Rolls because they are delicious and make a great sandwich the next day.
- Pumpkin Pie – Pie is the least exciting part of the meal, in my opinion. I’d rather have seconds of ambrosia salad than a piece of pumpkin pie. Unless it’s lemon meringue, then I’d choose pie. However, my husband loves the Pumpkin Harvest Pie from a local bakery and I’ll admit, it’s pretty damn good. It’s a layer of pumpkin pie topped with silky pumpkin chiffon and whipped cream.
Related: Free Give Thanks Printable
Ditch the Turkey Tradition
I just read this article that turkeys prices are expected to be higher than typical. So maybe ditch the tradition to serve turkey on Thanksgiving day and make something else? Enchiladas, anyone?
Last year I made a prime rib with all the yummy sides you’d expect on Thanksgiving day. Mostly because turkey doesn’t excite my family. It was’t missed.
Still Want that Turkey? Here’s Our Tips
Don’t let cooking a turkey scare you. It’s really not hard. I’ve wet brined a turkey in the past (it was probably the best turkey I’ve ever made, but it came with a lot of prep plus you need a lot of refrigerator space).
My mom used to cook her turkey inside a paper bag. This method apparently peaked in the 50s and 60s and today is considered one of the worst ways to roast a turkey. Go figure.
I really like Sandra Lee’s Roasted Butter Herb Turkey recipe. The herb butter is the STAR of this recipe. You really have to get the butter tucked under the skin of the turkey which can be tricky but butter makes everything better and this recipe is a knock out.
Pro tip: Order the recommended Knorr Garlic & Herb Sauce mix from Amazon. It’s the one thing I usually have to go to multiple stores to find. If you’re local to Orange County, it seems Stater Bros. is the only grocery store that carries it in-store.
Put Us In Your Ear While You Prep
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