This Basic Thanksgiving Menu Is the Only One You'll Ever Need

Sweet potato casserole in red, oval casserole dish
Photo: Tamara B

Thanksgiving is all about tradition. And while trying new recipes and adding new traditions can be fun, sometimes basic is best. Whether you're cooking Thanksgiving dinner for the first time, or you're simply looking to simplify your menu this year, this no-frills, basic Thanksgiving menu is the only one you'll need. These 12 recipes make the perfect, simple Thanksgiving menu for when you want to get back to the basics.

01 of 12

Appetizer: Sweet, Salty, Spicy Party Nuts

Sweet, Salty, Spicy Party Nuts in a glass dish

While folks catch up and wait for the big feast, make sure they have something to snack on. You can never go wrong with a seasoned nut mix. "I find this technique much easier than the stovetop pan method. You'll get beautiful, perfectly frosted nuts that are roasted evenly, with no bitter burned spots," says Chef John.

  • 10 Best Thanksgiving Appetizers
02 of 12

Main Course: Perfect Turkey

Perfect Turkey on a white dish with faux leaves and cranberries
Cynthia Taylor

I don't have to tell you this, but a roast turkey is the classic Thanksgiving main course — and this recipe has over 1,500 glowing reviews. Recipe creator Shelly White says, "My friend from France taught me to cook turkey like this, but she never measures anything so use your own judgment for vegetable amounts, etc. I usually err on the side of 'more is better'!"

03 of 12

Main Course: Simple Turkey Gravy

Turkey pieces with gravy on orange plate, whole Turkey platter in background
The Gruntled Gourmand

And of course there's no Thanksgiving turkey without gravy. This version is made with the fat from the turkey drippings, but you can also make your gravy without turkey drippings. Reviewer Audrey Cook describes it as, "Simple and so good! The best turkey gravy we've had, and it reheated perfectly days later."

04 of 12

Sides: Spinach Pomegranate Salad

Spinach Pomegranate Salad in clear bowl
Photo by Amanda, originally submitted 10/27/2009. Amanda

There's something about salad that just makes a meal complete. And among all the heavy Thanksgiving side dishes, a bowl of greens is always appreciated. Spinach is tossed with red onion, walnuts, feta cheese, alfalfa sprouts, and pomegranate seeds in a balsamic vinaigrette in this fall-inspired salad.

05 of 12

Sides: Holiday Dressing

Cornbread dressing on white plate with garnish

Whether you call it dressing or stuffing, you better have some on your Thanksgiving table. "This is wonderful," says reviewer WONDERSHEA. "It is super moist and very easy. It does take some prep time but well worth it. I have made this twice this season already, and everyone wants the recipe."

06 of 12

Sides: Yummy Sweet Potato Casserole

Sweet potato casserole in red, oval casserole dish
Tamara B

This fan-favorite sweet potato casserole is a must have for any traditional Thanksgiving menu. "My family begs me to make this creamy baked dish every Thanksgiving and Christmas," says recipe creator TINA B. "What makes it so good is the pecan topping! Try it and I'm sure it will become your new tradition!"

07 of 12

Sides: Sweet Dinner Rolls

Sweet Dinner Rolls in a bread basket

Dinner rolls round out a meal (and keep the picky eaters happy). This top-rated recipe can be made with or without a bread machine (refer to the reviews for more information on how to make it without one).

08 of 12

Sides: Best Green Bean Casserole

Best Green Bean Casserole in a white dish
Cynthia Ross

Green beans are so much better in casserole form topped with French-fried onions and Cheddar cheese, right? "This is the third time I've made it; and we've gotten awesome reviews. The bowl is always cleaned out," says reviewer NATSCOOK1. "I've pre-assembled this the night before and taken out an hour before to sit at room temperature and then cooked as described."

09 of 12

Sides: Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry Sauce

Forget the can — this homemade cranberry sauce requires just three ingredients. It gets high praise from reviewer LEXI, JACK and COOKIE who says, "Okay, after nearly 31 years of cooking, my search for the 'definitive' cranberry sauce recipe is over!"

10 of 12

Sides: Basic Mashed Potatoes

Mashed Potatoes in a turquoise bowl

Mashed potatoes don't need to be complicated, and this four-ingredient recipe proves just that. "Great recipe for 'good old fashioned' mashed potatoes! It's straightforward and just plain delicious," says reviewer Jillian. Just make sure you save some of that turkey gravy to drizzle on top.

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Dessert: Chef John's Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin Pie with whipped cream and cinnamon on paper plate
Laura Kissel

You had to know this was coming. "After many years of experimentation, I've finally perfected what I think is the ideal formula for a rich pumpkin pie that's also much less likely to crack on top," says Chef John. "Serve garnished with whipped cream and freshly grated nutmeg."

12 of 12

Dessert: Pecan Pie

Pecan Pie on wood table

It's always good to have options. This Southern-style pecan pie is the perfect companion to your pumpkin pie. "I don't even LIKE pecan pie but am now a fan after eating this pie," says reviewer UNCgal.

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