The Thanksgiving Playbook

However you gather this year, you can make the holiday personal, special, and delicious. Try some new moves, pull out old favorites that always bring the magic, or mix and match! It's Thanksgiving your way, and it's ALL good.

overhead view of friends gathered around a table set with a Thanksgiving dinner
Photo: Brie Passano

Turkey and Friends

What roasts will steal the show at your table? Herbed turkey in a hurry or a spicy-sweet bird on the grill? A smoky cauliflower roast or a bourbon-spiked ham? Itty-bitty beef Wellingtons or all of the above? There are no wrong moves here — only delicious choices.

01 of 20

The Greatest Grilled Turkey

overhead view of The Greatest Grilled Turkey recipe garnished with grilled citrus fruits and fresh cilantro
Brie Passano

If you want to make a second turkey, host an outdoor Thanksgiving, or just love the smoky flavor of a bird cooked over coals, grilling is the way to go!

"I had never done a turkey on the grill before. But with a huge family gathering this Thanksgiving, room in the oven was pretty scarce! It was moist and beautiful." — QUEEN LLEMON

02 of 20

Make-Ahead Turkey Gravy

overhead view of Make-Ahead Turkey Gravy recipe in a gravy boat garnished with cracked pepper and fresh thyme leaves
Brie Passano

"This gravy rocks! I am a big-time cook, and I love to make Thanksgiving dinner. I also want to have fun and relax with my guests. Making this ahead of time is key for me to have both good gravy and good fun. It's so easy and rewarding." — SCUBAGIRL

03 of 20

Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Smoked Paprika

overhead view of Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Smoked Paprika recipe served on a platter with roasted beets and carrots
Brie Passano

Vegans and omnivores alike will love this special veggie centerpiece. Roasting the red and golden beets and the carrots separately helps keep the colors vibrant and distinct.

"It has a unique blend of spices, a great taste, and a nice presentation!" — SWUNNER

04 of 20

Bourbon-Glazed Ham

overhead view of Bourbon-Glazed Ham recipe on a platter
Pictured: Bourbon Glazed Ham. Brie Passano

Scoring and marinating lets bourbon's earthy notes seep into the ham. The honey, brown sugar, and pineapple create a savory-sweet glaze as it bakes.

"This is a delicious combo of about five recipes I found while researching for my first Thanksgiving ham. The empty baking pan afterwards was my best compliment!" — JENNIFER

05 of 20

Individual Beef Wellingtons

overhead view of Individual Beef Wellingtons recipe garnished with minced herbs on a platter
Brie Passano

Not big on carving at the table, but still want something special? Wrap seared filets mignons and sautéed mushrooms in puff pastry for mini Wellingtons. No slicing required! Just take care to cool the meat and mushroom mixture before folding it up in the dough.

"Wow, what a delightful dish. I often serve filet for special meals, and this added that special touch to make it fun and different." — THEBUSYLITTLEBAKER

06 of 20

Roast Spatchcock Turkey

overhead view of Roast Spatchcock Turkey recipe carved and presented on a serving platter and garnished with fresh herbs
Brie Passano

Spatchcocking — removing the backbone and flattening — yields a bird that cooks evenly and in half the time. An overnight herb, salt, and pepper dry brine makes for well-seasoned, moist, and tender meat with the crispiest skin. The splayed turkey may look odd coming out of the oven. But once carved, it's sure to generate all the Thanksgiving oohs and aahs.

"Several years back, I tried spatchcocking my Thanksgiving turkey the way I'd already been doing roast chickens. I was nervous about springing this on my family and guests, but I went ahead and did it. My turkey, my rules! Everyone love it." — ALLRECIPES.COM SENIOR EDITOR VANESSA GREAVES

So Many Sides

For all the fuss about the bird, it's the sides that make Thanksgiving a feast. Our Allrecipes community shared favorites that make the meal unforgettable. There's creamy onion gravy, green bean casserole with Italian flair, streusel-topped sweet potatoes, and more. Trust: You're going to need a bigger plate.

07 of 20

Green Bean Artichoke CasseroleGreen Bean Artichoke Casserole

overhead view of Green Bean Artichoke Casserole recipe in a casserole dish
Brie Passano

"My family always has an Italian version of a green bean casserole — with artichoke hearts and lots of olive oil and bread crumbs. With the flavor profile of a stuffed artichoke, it's a must-have at Thanksgiving." — ALLRECIPES.COM CULINARY PRODUCER NICOLE McLAUGHLIN

08 of 20

Roasted Beets with Goat Cheese and Walnuts

side view of Roasted Beets with Goat Cheese and Walnuts recipe garnished with fresh herbs on a serving platter
Brie Passano

"This dish shakes things up from the usual while still being everything we want in a holiday dish: rich, earthy, slightly sweet, and deeply satisfying." — ALLRECIPES.COM HOW-TO VIDEO PRODUCER CHEF JOHN MITZEWICH

09 of 20

Better-Than-Gravy Creamed Pearl Onions

overhead view of Better-Than-Gravy Creamed Pearl Onions recipe in a casserole dish
Brie Passano

"A culinary student in Omaha, Nebraska, shared a version of this with me ages ago. It's truly terrific and goes with everything on the Thanksgiving table. I really do like it better than gravy on mashed potatoes." — ALLRECIPES EDITOR IN CHIEF NICHOLE AKSAMIT

You can leave the onions whole or slice them in a food processor to save some time — but slicing them by hand makes the sweetest little rings.

10 of 20

Cranberry Sauce Extraordinaire

overhead view of Cranberry Sauce Extraordinaire recipe garnished with orange zest in a serving bowl
Brie Passano

A blend of fresh, frozen, and dried fruits and just the right amount of sugar and spice make this sauce a keeper.

11 of 20

Sweet Potato Streusel Casserole with Coconut

overhead view of Sweet Potato Streusel Casserole with Coconut recipe in individual ramekins
Brie Passano

"This is the ultimate favorite holiday recipe in our family," says recipe contributor LvsCoffee7. You can bake it in individual ramekins as shown or in a 2-quart baking dish.

12 of 20

Nanny Rosalind's Cornbread Dressing

overhead view of Nanny Rosalind's Cornbread Dressing recipe garnished with fresh herbs in a casserole dish
Brie Passano

"This is my aunt's recipe for my grandmother's fabulous dressing. It has a spicy Lousiana kick." — ALLRECIPES.COM ASSISTANT EDITOR MARY CLAIRE LAGROUE

Homemade and store-bought cornbread both work well for this dressing. If yours is super-fresh, crumble it onto a baking sheet, then leave it out, loosely covered, overnight to dry a bit. Or bake 5 to 7 minutes in a 375 degrees F oven.

13 of 20

Warm Brussels Sprout Salad with Hazelnuts and Cranberries

overhead view of Warm Brussels Sprout Salad with Hazelnuts and Cranberries recipe garnished with lemon wedges on a serving platter
Brie Passano

I made this for Thanksgiving to take to my aunt's house. It was so good! It's definitely a keeper." — SCRAPPYTOOTSI

14 of 20

Slow Cooker Mashed Potatoes

overhead view of Slow Cooker Mashed Potatoes recipe garnished with minced chives in a serving bowl
Brie Passano

"This recipe is always on my menu. The grandchildren would revolt if I didn't make it. I love that I can make it in advance and that it doesn't take up valuable space." — ALLRECIPES ALLSTAR PAULA ROTEN

Easy, Breezy Brie

Need a quick appetizer? A wheel of decadent Brie is always welcome and ready in a snap. Adorn the rich, creamy cheese — fresh from the fridge or baked to oozy perfection — with these simple toppers.

overhead view of baked brie with a variety of toppings, crackers, and breads
Brie Passano

Baked Brie

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Put Brie on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake until Brie is warmed through, 30 to 35 minutes. Top with desired topping ideas below:


  • Sweet Orange and Cranberry: orange marmalade + dried cranberries (rehydrate in water or soak in Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur) + chopped toasted walnuts
  • Caramelized Onion & Bacon: caramelized onion + cooked bacon crumbles + fresh sage
  • Honeyed Pear & Thyme: pear slices (if you'd like, soak them in brandy) + honey + fresh thyme leaves
  • Sumac-Spiced Apricots & Olives: dried apricots + green pitted olives + olive oil + ground sumac
  • Maple, Apple & Pecans: maple syrup + chopped toasted pecans + snipped fresh rosemary

Desserts for Days

Settle into the sweetest spot — the dessert table — where it's almost impossible to pick a favorite. Happily, you don't have to. Thanksgiving means there's enough time to try them all — eventually. Treat yourself!

15 of 20

Cheesecake with Cranberry Glaze and Sugared Cranberries

overhead view of a slice of Cheesecake with Cranberry Glaze and Sugared Cranberries recipe topped with sugared cranberries
Carson Downing

The double dose of cranberries adds a sweet-tart punch to this creamy cheesecake, which you can prepare up to three days ahead.

16 of 20

Sweet Potato Cupcakes with Toasted Marshmallow Frosting

three Sweet Potato Cupcakes with Toasted Marshmallow Frosting recipe
Carson Downing

If you're a fan of sweet potato casserole, you'll love these cupcakes (the dessert version!). If you like, you can use pumpkin purée instead of sweet potatoes.

"These are so festive and delicious! I will definitely make these again for the holidays!" — LISAWAS

17 of 20

Chocolate Silk Pie

side view of a slice of Chocolate Silk Pie recipe garnished with chocolate curls
Carson Downing

"This is adapted from the secret recipe that for decades was known only to chefs at Miller & Rhoads, a department store in Richmond, Virginia, that closed back in 1990. My wife's dad got special dispensation to get the recipe when he retired in the 1970s. It has since been a family must-have for Thanksgiving and Christmas." — ALLRECIPES MANAGING EDITOR DOUG CRICHTON

18 of 20

Pecan Pie Bars I

overhead view of Pecan Pie Bars I recipe sliced into triangles and topped with whipped cream
Carson Downing

"These bars are a favorite recipe for Thanksgiving and Christmas. I have been told that if I don't bring them, they won't let me in!" — JODI WILLIE

19 of 20

Grandma's Banana Pudding

side view of Grandma's Banana Pudding recipe layered in a glass bowl topped with toasted meringue
Carson Downing

"My grandma ran a country club and a restaurant in her day. She can make amazing food, but sometimes it's hard to get a recipe from her because she doesn't measure anything and makes everything from memory. While letting her talk it out, I was able to get this banana pudding and a few other recipes written down. Enjoy!" — TIGRBTRFLY

This vintage dessert is best made and served on the same day.

20 of 20

Chai Apple Pie

overhead view of Chai Apple Pie recipe topped with scoops of vanilla ice cream
Carson Downing

"This recipe inspired me to bake a pie for the first time in my life, and what a success! The spiciness is to die for! I made this for Thanksgiving, and I'll be making it again because everybody absolutely loved it!" — MELISSA BEZNER

This article originally appeared in the October/November 2021 issue of Allrecipes Magazine.


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