18 Fool-Proof Thanksgiving Recipes for Beginner Cooks
If this your first Thanksgiving, or your first Thanksgiving solo, you'll appreciate these fool-proof Thanksgiving recipes — from appetizers to main dishes, side dishes, and desserts. These recipes share a common theme: They are easy to make, have everyday ingredients, and are absolutely delicious. Plus, we've added a few tips and tricks in the notes as a helping hand. Pick a few to try or pick them all, and get ready your easiest Thanksgiving feast!
Date Goat Cheese Basil Bites
With a mixture of sweet and savory, these perfect bite-size appetizers can be prepared ahead of time, then baked right before serving. Tips: Make sure to buy pitted dates, otherwise pitting your own can be a lot of work and big mess. If you're not a fan of goat cheese, try a bit of cream cheese or even mascarpone. This recipe makes enough to feed a crowd; use the built-in scaling tool to change the number of servings to suit the size of your group.
Best Spinach Dip Ever
Here's a great choice for a make-ahead appetizer. You want to make sure to chill this dip at least six hours before serving. If you don't have a bread bowl, don't worry. You can easily serve the dip in a pretty bowl or even a hollowed-out pumpkin. Tip: For a milder dip, grab a pack of leek soup mix instead of the onion soup mix. And, for the perfect flavor and texture, double check that you are using actual mayonnaise, not a whipped dressing.
Slow Cooker Turkey Breast
There's no hard and fast rule that says you have to roast a whole bird for Thanksgiving, especially if it's your first-time cooking or you're cooking for a small group. Instead of biting off more than you can chew (figuratively and literally), cook a turkey breast. All you need for this recipe are three simple items: a turkey breast, a packet of seasonings, and a slow cooker. Then the meal practically cooks itself!
Homestyle Turkey, the Michigander Way
If you're ready to roast the whole bird, look no further than this recipe with just a few simple ingredients that add a ton of flavor. The key to a perfect cook is to have an instant-read thermometer on hand. This ensures the bird is roasted to the correct temperature, keeping it juicy instead of dry. Tip: For extra golden color, rub a little butter on top of the bird as well as under the skin.
Chef John's Perfect Mashed Potatoes
Rich, fluffy, and lump free, this classic mashed potato recipe is a crowd-pleaser (and goes great with gravy – see below). Tip: To get the best flavor, it is essential to salt the cooking water. Add enough so it tastes like the sea (don't worry, the end result will not be overly salty!). Bring the water to a boil, but then reduce it to a simmer, so the potatoes cook evenly without falling apart.
Suzy's Mashed Red Potatoes
Save yourself some time and work and forget about peeling potatoes. When using red potatoes, the skins add both color and flavor to the final dish. For an extra pop of savory flavor, stir in a little crushed garlic. Tip: You can easily make these ahead of time and keep them warm in a crockpot.
For many traditionalists, no Thanksgiving dinner is complete without a dish of candied yams or sweet potatoes with little marshmallows dotted on top. Using canned spuds saves a ton of time and work, but won't short you on the flavor. Tip: Make sure to drain the yams before adding them to the baking dish, otherwise they'll be too juicy. Adding a dusting of cinnamon over the top adds a nice depth of flavor.
Easiest Sausage Stuffing
Take regular boxed stuffing mix and turn it up a notch by adding veggies and sausage. The celery and onion give the pre-made mix a bit of texture, so that it tastes more homemade. You can serve it right off the stovetop, or stuff it into your turkey before roasting.
Special Turkey Gravy
Whether you like to top your turkey or your potatoes (or both), you'll need a silky and flavorful gravy. Make sure to strain the turkey drippings of any meat or veggies, so your gravy is perfectly smooth. Tip: If you don't have turkey drippings on hand, you can substitute two cups of canned or boxed turkey or chicken stock.
Rich Turkey Gravy
Four ingredients are all you'll need to make this easy turkey gravy. "This recipe was super easy and tastes great! It was my first time making gravy and I aced it," says Janine H.
Fresh Cranberry Sauce
It only takes three ingredients to make fresh cranberry sauce. Use it to top your turkey, mashed potatoes, dressing, or schmear it on bagels, cornbread, or cheesecake. Tip: If you want to add something a little "extra" swap out the water with orange, sprinkle in some allspice, or even a add splash of brandy while cooking.
Bourbon Glazed Carrots
An easy side dish that offers bright colors and flavors, Bourbon Glazed Carrots only requires a few simple ingredients. If you like a little additional sweetness, you can mix in a tablespoon of honey or maple syrup while cooking. Tip: Remember to cook the glaze over low heat, otherwise you might end up with candy instead of sauce!
Cream Corn Like No Other
Creamed corn is the perfect comfort food. While this recipe may seem like it has a long list of ingredients, they are mostly pantry staples. This side dish is cooked in a single skillet, saving space, and is ready in about 10 minutes, saving time. Tip: If you don't have heavy cream on hand, swap it out with half-and-half or whole milk.
Buttery Garlic Green Beans
Green beans are a classic side dish at the Thanksgiving table, whether they are covered in sauce, sprinkled with crispy onions, or left simple to shine – like this recipe. Tip: For the best flavor, use real fresh garlic, not the powdered stuff, in this quick and easy dish.
Easy Freezy Pumpkin Pie
Turn pumpkin pie on its head with this version that uses vanilla ice cream and prepared crusts. Making a frozen dessert helps save valuable oven space on the big day, and you can prepare it a few days ahead of time to save on cooking-day stress. It's easy, it's quick, and most importantly…it's delicious!
Two Ingredient Pumpkin Cake
A dessert that tastes best when made ahead, this pumpkin cake only has two ingredients. Many home chefs like to add two beaten eggs to the batter or a handful of chocolate chips (or both). Once completely cooled, you can literally put the icing on the cake by topping it with store-bought or homemade cream cheese frosting.
Nanny's Grape Salad
If you're looking for something a bit lighter and healthier for dessert than the traditional sweet pie or cake, give this a try. You can serve this dish as soon as it's mixed together, but it tastes even better after being chilled in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight. Tip: If you don't like things too sweet, add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice to the dressing.