Published on August 19, 2019

Planning a Thanksgiving menu may seem straightforward—after all, you know what the main course will be—but when you’re aiming for a less predictable spread, it’s a whole process. It’s not as simple as sticking a turkey next to a mountain of mashed potatoes and calling it a day. Each side dish, decadent dessert, and cocktail needs to be carefully considered. For example: Should those potatoes have brown butter swirled in? (Yes.) All that to say, it’s a lot. But we’ve got you covered. The key is just planning ahead. 

From make-ahead appetizers to knockout sweets that go beyond pumpkin pie, here are the Thanksgiving recipes worthy of your table: 

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Photo by Jessi’s Kitchen

Ginger, Cardamom, and Rosemary Gin Cocktail

Impress your guests with something snazzier than wine. With the easiest garnish (that looks impressive), this zesty, aromatic beverage from Jessi’s Kitchen is a great way to elevate your premeal (or post-meal!) cocktail hour.

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Photo by Cody Guilfoyle

Roasted Butternut Squash Tartines

These prepare-ahead tartines feature a delightful mix of sweet and savory thanks to the squash and tomatoes. Make them for a festive starter or whip them up in the morning for a tasty Thanksgiving brunch.

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Photo by Brittany Ambridge

Beet-Dyed Deviled Eggs

Not your typical garden party staple. Pink beet “dye” adds some extra pizzazz to this crowd-favorite app.

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Photo by Cody Guilfoyle

Roasted Butternut Squash and Purple Plum Salad

Salads are usually an afterthought on Thanksgiving, but it’s time to change that. Hearty kale, juicy plums, and sweet squash mingle with umami-rich Parmesan and a splash of lime to make this recipe a definite winner.

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Photo by Half Baked Harvest

Roasted Squash, Caramelized Fig, and Feta Salad

The autumnal salad to end all autumnal salads, Half Baked Harvest’s squash and fig concoction is just as delish as it is photogenic. Serve it up with the turkey or as an appetizer to get those greens in between bites of stuffing.

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Photo by Kristen Strecker for Food & Wine

Butternut Squash Soup With Coconut and Ginger

For a slightly more unorthodox (but nonetheless delicious) first course, try Jeanette Peabody’s fall soup. Silky and sweet, it’s the ideal kick-start to an evening of indulging. 

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Photo by Sunday Suppers

Burnt Carrots

Pay no attention to the title; there’s nothing negative about this tricolor veggie dish, courtesy of Sunday Suppers. Sweet on the inside, crispy on the outside, this simple side will quickly become a mainstay in your repertoire beyond Turkey Day. 

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Photo by Michael Wiltbank

Sage Brown Butter Mashed Potatoes

A Thanksgiving staple gets a fancy twist with crispy sage and decadent brown butter. It’s the ultimate comfort food and, since it’s a holiday, you have free reign to indulge in as many servings as you want. 

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Photo Courtesy of Athena Calderone

Shaved Brussels Sprouts, Pine Nuts, and Green Olives

This fresh take on the trendiest fall veggie, courtesy of Athena Calderone, is a salad for people who hate salads. A light lemony dressing ensures you won’t fill up before getting to the good stuff—aka the pie. 

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Photo by Brittany Ambridge

Cauliflower Gratin

This outrageously flavorful dish makes a great Thanksgiving side—and it’s slightly healthier than classic potatoes. If you’re entertaining for a health-conscious crowd, it will be a lifesaver. Seconds, anyone?

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Photo by Oh Sweet Basil

Apple Hand Pies

If your aunt is bringing the full-blown pie, try a mini version for your contribution. Oh Sweet Basil’s recipe for the tiny treats is more buffet-table friendly than traditional deep dish—but there may still be fighting over the last one. 

See more recipes:
Thanksgiving Apps You Can Make Ahead
12 Vegetarian Thanksgiving Dishes That Will Satisfy Your Holiday Hunger
25 Holiday Recipes for Your Slow Cooker