If you’re cooking Thanksgiving dinner for the first time, there’s no need to panic. Plan ahead, keep it simple and delegate when necessary. Below are 12 foolproof recipes to guarantee a memorable meal for you and your guests.
View our collections of Recipes for a Small Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving Recipes, Vegan Thanksgiving Recipes, Vegetarian Recipes and Gluten-Free Thanksgiving Recipes.
1. Simple Roast Turkey
Melissa Clark’s recipe for simple roast turkey will not steer you wrong. So many readers say this is the best turkey they’ve ever made. If you want an organic, farm-raised bird, be sure to place your order a few weeks in advance, and invest in oven and meat thermometers. (Accurate oven temperature is one of the keys to success here.)
View our collections of Thanksgiving Turkey Recipes and Thanksgiving Gravy Recipes, and our How to Cook Turkey guide, How to Make Gravy guide and How to Carve a Turkey video.
2. Marinated Feta With Herbs and Peppercorns
Hungry guests are not happy guests. While you put the finishing touches on the meal, set out a platter of something that isn’t too filling and tastes completely different from the rest of the menu, like Alexa Weibel’s bright and spicy marinated feta with herbs and peppercorns (which takes just a few minutes to set up the night before).
View our collection of Thanksgiving Appetizers.
3. Carrot Tart With Ricotta and Feta
This stunner of a tart from Sue Li is a great vegetarian alternative to turkey or side dish. Store-bought puff pastry makes this a cinch to put together, and you can use a number of cooked vegetables in place of the carrots: onions, parsnips, beets, zucchini or pumpkin.
View our collection of Vegetarian Thanksgiving Main Dishes.
4. Bread Stuffing
Is it stuffing or is it dressing? Whatever you call it, it’s arguably the best part of the Thanksgiving table. This simple version from Mark Bittman, who was inspired by a James Beard recipe, has only six ingredients (not counting salt and pepper). If you don’t have a food processor to make the bread crumbs, just roughly cut stale bread or use store-bought unseasoned stuffing cubes. (Pepperidge Farm makes them.)
View our collection of Stuffing and Dressing Recipes for Thanksgiving.
5. Mashed Potatoes
These perfect mashed potatoes have just a handful of ingredients: salt, potatoes, butter and milk. Use more butter and salt than you think necessary, and less milk which, according to its developer, Julia Moskin, will “flatten out the bright, earthy potato taste.”
View our collection of Thanksgiving Potato Recipes.
6. Maple-Candied Sweet Potatoes
You could go to all the trouble of mashing a bunch of sweet potatoes and covering them with a blanket of marshmallows, but it’s not necessary. In this simple Melissa Clark recipe, baked sweet potatoes are peeled and sliced, then drenched in a combination of melted butter, cider and maple syrup that’s been seasoned with cinnamon, cloves and orange zest.
View our collection of Thanksgiving Sweet Potato Recipes.
7. Roasted Brussels Sprouts
This is the only way you ever need to cook brussels sprouts: Toss them with salt, pepper and a little olive oil. (Or use bacon fat. It’s been a weird year; you deserve it.) Roast on a sheet pan until browned and crisp at the edges and tender within. This recipe serves two, but it doubles or triples easily.
View our collection of Thanksgiving Brussels Sprouts Recipes.
8. Green Beans With Ginger and Garlic
In the category of bright and snappy, we have Julia Moskin’s green beans with fresh ginger and garlic. The beans can be blanched a day ahead, then refrigerated, leaving nothing more to do before the meal than to throw everything together over high heat.
View our collection of Thanksgiving Side Dish Recipes.
9. Make-Ahead Gravy
Save yourself the trouble of trying to make gravy under the hungry eyes of your waiting guests. This one from Mark Bittman can be made ahead, so all you have to do is heat it up over low heat and add some drippings from the turkey before transferring it to Grandma’s gravy boat.
View our collection of Thanksgiving Gravy Recipes.
10. Cranberry Sauce
Cranberries, orange juice, orange zest and sugar. Simmer until the berries burst. That’s it. If you’d like, Sam Sifton said you could add an allspice clove or two, a little freshly grated ginger or a handful of chopped nuts.
View our collection of Cranberry Sauce Recipes for Thanksgiving and our How to Make Cranberry Sauce guide.
11. Pumpkin Pie
This is the most adaptable pumpkin pie recipe, and it’s very hard to mess up. Make it with fresh or canned pumpkin purée, homemade or store-bought pie crust, and fresh or ground ginger. Serve it with lots of freshly whipped cream or even that delicious stuff that comes in a can.
View our collections of Thanksgiving Pie Recipes and Showstopping Thanksgiving Pies, and our How to Make a Pie Crust guide.
12. Apple Crumble
Real talk: Samantha Seneviratne’s apple crumble tastes just as good as pie, and it’s so much easier to make. When shopping for apples, select a combination of tart and sweet, like Granny Smith and McIntosh. They’ll cook and soften at slightly different rates, which will make the filling jammy and pleasantly firm all at once.
View our collection of Thanksgiving Dessert Recipes That Are Not Pie.
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