The Ultimate Thanksgiving Meal Planner

November 15, 2018
by Nicole Gulotta for Thrive Market
The Ultimate Thanksgiving Meal Planner

The key to a stress-free holiday? Planning ahead—and this guide is the perfect place to start. From the best Thanksgiving recipes (everything from vegan to Paleo) to a weekly planning guide, Thrive Market is your one-stop-shop for all things Turkey Day.


How to Prep for Thanksgiving

The first thing you need is a timeline. The key to pulling off a successful meal is prepping as much as you can before the main event, so bust out your notebook and let’s make a plan.

Recipes for a Modern Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Prep Timeline

To give you a head start, here are some of the key tasks you’ll want to take care of in advance. And here’s why: the more you do before Thanksgiving, the more time you’ll have to actually enjoy the holiday with friends and family.

2 weeks ahead

Get started by planning your menu. Take into account any friends or family with dietary restrictions so you can offer something for everyone (and we have lots of tasty ideas below to get you started). Next, if guests have offered to help, pass out assignments! From pecan pie to clean wine, let everyone know what they’re responsible for well ahead of time.

1 week ahead

Now that you know who’s cooking what, get ready to shop. Print out all the recipes you’re tackling, and make a grocery list with one column for fresh ingredients and another column for staples. Having the recipes in front of you will help avoid any duplicate purchases, too! Fill your cart with our Thrive Market Thanksgiving picks and your pantry will be good to go. If you’re feeling extra energized, make the cranberry sauce and freeze it, too. (Otherwise just do it two days ahead).

3 days ahead

It’s time to head to the farmers’ market for all the fresh ingredients like Brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes, plus aromatics like onions, celery, and garlic. Once you get home, make a few pie crusts to freeze, too. Before you get cooking, set the table, arrange the bar, and prepare any DIY decorations.

2 days ahead

The big day is almost here! Start prepping by chopping ingredients and storing them in glass containers in the fridge. (On Thanksgiving, you’ll be grateful you took the time now). And don’t forget to start thawing the turkey, and anything else you’ve reserved in the freezer.

1 day ahead

This is another cooking day, but it’s nice to spread out the work. Finish up anything you didn’t get to yesterday, like shredding Brussels sprouts for slaw or cooking potatoes for tomorrow’s mash. If you’re making stuffing, tear the bread and let the pieces sit out overnight to dry out a bit.

Thanksgiving Day

Start your morning by getting the turkey into the oven, then plan your day from there. Make the pies so they’re room temp by dessert time, then go down your list and get everything else ready for the oven (like stuffing and sweet potato casserole). When family arrives, put someone in charge of mixing drinks or pouring wine, and set out some munchies to keep everyone nibbling until dinner.

25 Thanksgiving Recipes

Now that you have a game plan, let’s talk turkey—literally. We’ve got recipes for the big bird, plus everything you need to serve alongside, like roasted veggies, creamy potatoes, and desserts ready for sharing.

Thanksgiving Turkey Recipes

From coconut oil to ghee, there’s more than one way to baste a turkey. Try these two recipes for a guaranteed main dish.

Coconut Oil-Basted Turkey With Cashew Cream Gravy

Oh, the things coconut oil can do! This recipe slathers rich fat over the skin to help the bird get extra crisp. Aromatics like rosemary, sage, and thyme will make the kitchen smell divine, too.

Garlic and Lemon Roasted Turkey

Basting a turkey with golden ghee? Yes, please! This turkey is extra juicy with a golden skin that’s infused with citrus, garlic, and rosemary.

Thanksgiving Side Dishes

Sides can be standouts when you use the right ingredients. We’ve got ideas for kicked up roasted veggies, mashes, and of course, cranberry sauce (with a superfood twist!).

Superberry Ginger Cranberry Sauce

This classic cranberry sauce gets bonus points for unique ingredients like spicy ginger and tart goji berries.

Pan-Roasted Broccolini With Anchovy Sauce

Roasting really brings out the flavor of broccolini, and it’s ready in only 15 minutes! Don’t skimp on the anchovies and garlic—they lend a tantalizing umami quality without a any fishiness.

Parsnip-Apple Purée

Save the spuds for later and try an autumnal mash-up of parsnip and apple. Creamy coconut milk and rich ghee add decadent depth of flavor, and you can make it in advance! Just keep it warm over a pot of simmering water until you’re ready to serve.

Olive Oil Mashed Potatoes

Upgrade the humble potato, sans dairy. We punch up the flavor with plenty of garlic and a generous drizzle of olive oil instead of heavy cream.

Roasted Red and Golden Beets With Goat Cheese

Add a little color to your holiday table with roasted beets. Goat cheese keeps things creamy, and star anise and tart red wine vinegar add memorable flavor.

Paleo Thanksgiving Recipes

Stick to your Paleo roots, even during the holidays. These dishes are caveman-approved (and we’re pretty sure everyone around the table will love them, too.)

Caramelized Leek, Onion, and Mushroom Stuffing with Hazelnuts

No bread here! And you won’t even miss the grains in this Paleo-friendly stuffing made of caramelized onions, leeks, and meaty mushrooms.

Kabocha Squash Soup With Pancetta

This soup gives us all the fall vibes. Roasted kabocha squash makes it extra creamy, and the salty bite of crisp pancetta is the perfect pairing. It’s also ready to freeze—make a batch ahead of time and you’ll have dinner prepped for later in the weekend (when cooking will be the last thing on your mind.)

Rosemary Biscuits

Almond flour keeps these biscuits Paleo-approved, and the fresh rosemary gets these nibbles into the holiday spirit. No one will believe they’re gluten-free!

Vegan Thanksgiving Recipes

Skip the turkey and savor flavorful plant-based recipes around your holiday table!

Pumpkin-Swirled Mashed Potatoes With Vegan Rosemary Gravy

Need a recipe everyone can enjoy? These potatoes are vegetarian, vegan, and dairy-free, and swirled with pumpkin. There’s also a creamy (sans cream!) gravy scented with rosemary. Just pass the spoon!

Gluten-Free Mushroom Stuffing

Get ready to gobble up this gluten-free side with meaty mushrooms, fennel, and celery. Dried herbs (rosemary, thyme, and sage) will put your spice rack to work.

Whole Roasted Cauliflower With Green Herb Sauce

Whether it’s a vegan showstopper or a regular ol’ side, this whole-roasted cauliflower with honey and mustard is an impressive addition to any table. The dipping sauce—bright green and made from fresh herbs—is the perfect finishing touch.

Stuffed Sweet Potatoes With Avocado, Tahini, and Turmeric Dressing

Swap steamed veggies for roasted sweet potatoes. But don’t stop there—stuff them with sautéed greens, avocado, and a drizzle of tahini-turmeric sauce.

Vegan Meatloaf

Here’s a vegan loaf that’s a satisfying mix of onions, carrots, celery, tomatoes, and walnuts. And without any breadcrumbs or other fillers, it’s a Paleo-friendly option everyone will enjoy.

Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad

Lighten up the main meal with a refreshing salad that tosses salty cheese, bright lemon zest, and mint with shaved sprouts. It’s the perfect side to cut through other heavier dishes.

Pumpkin Hummus

This app works for Thanksgiving, but it’s a great seasonal dip you can use anytime—add it to a grain bowl or spread it on a sandwich.

Easy Thanksgiving Desserts

Save room for dessert! Crumble, pie, or even puddin, take your pick from these recipes that are slightly more wholesome than your standard treats.

Cranberry-Pecan Apple Crumble

Celebrate apple season with a warm crumble. The topping gets a head start from gluten-free granola studded with cranberries and pecans. While you wait for it cool, stick your ice cream on the counter to serve each helping à la mode.

Maple-Pecan Pie

Find classic fall flavors here—like pumpkin, cinnamon, maple, and ginger—plus coconut whipped cream to finish every slice. It’s a Paleo-friendly treat that might become an annual tradition.

Pecan Pie With Chocolate Crust

If pecan pie is on the menu, give this recipe a try. Instead of thickening the filling with corn syrup, we opt for maple syrup and a gluten-free chocolate crust.

Pumpkin Spiced Chia Seed Pudding

All pied out? There’s more than one way to end a meal. Try this chia seed pudding stirred with almond milk and fragrant spices for a lighter take on dessert.

Recipes for Thanksgiving Leftovers

Once the holiday has come and gone, you need easy Thanksgiving leftover recipes to get you through the long weekend. Bookmark these favorite recipes that make good use of what you already have on hand.

Paleo Thanksgiving Sandwich

This no-cooking-required situation is just what we need after a busy day of hosting and roasting. For a quick assembly, just pull out all the fixings, and slather on a dollop of garlic aioli for the finishing touch.

Turkey Grilled Cheese

Meet the ultimate post-Thanksgiving lunch. Holiday flavors are mixed into every bite, so you’ll be chomping on stuffing, cranberry sauce, and sliced turkey, all smashed between melted brie.

Sweet Potato Hand Pies

These portable pies start with gluten-free pie dough, then just mix the filling using leftover sweet potato casserole, fresh thyme, Parmesan, and an egg to bind everything together. Mini marshmallows are optional, but highly recommended.

Baked Brie With Cranberry Sauce

Be sure to add a wheel of brie to your shopping cart, and you’ll be set for this no-fuss snack that’s ready in just 10 minutes. It’s topped with leftover cranberry sauce, thyme, pecans, and cinnamon.

Cranberry Bellini

Cheers to the long weekend with a champagne-inspired cocktail that makes good use of any leftover cranberry sauce. Add ingredients to a blender and that’s it!

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This article is related to: Dessert Recipes, Holiday Recipes, Paleo Recipes, Side Dishes, Thanksgiving Recipes, Vegetarian Recipes, Vegan Recipes, Menu Ideas

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