Our 2021 Thanksgiving Menu and Guide – the make ahead menu!
Excited to share our 2021 Thanksgiving menu and guide with you guys! This year I’m focusing in on make-ahead recipes, with tried and true classics…and a few new fun ones too. These are the recipes we all want to see most on our Thanksgiving table, but with a few surprises. We’ve got everything from cocktails to desserts, from buttery mashed potatoes to extra crispy sweet potatoes. We’ve included recipes like homemade parker house rolls, my favorite harvest salad, pudding pie, cranberry-thyme smash, and so much more.
The official countdown to Thanksgiving is on. We have 22 days until Thanksgiving and all the planning starts today. I kicked things off on Monday with our 25 days of Thanksgiving Tips series on Instagram. I love that series so much. Because not only do I get to share my favorite tips and tricks, but I learn all your secrets too!
So now that we’re in full Thanksgiving planning mode my 2021 menu is here! I was super late sharing our full menu last year, so this year I really tried to be more timely! I photographed everything this weekend and I’m excited to finally share the details!
As I mentioned, this year I focused on the make-ahead, prep in advance menu. Year after year I’m reminded how much simpler and stress-free Thanksgiving (and entertaining in general) can be when you have a menu that can be mostly made in advance…but is, of course, still delicious! So this year, I said to myself, no need to reinvent the wheel here. It’s Thanksgiving – classics and tried and true favorites are what will be most enjoyed. I stuck with that thinking and pulled out my favorite Thanksgiving recipes. Naturally, I also added in some fun new recipes that I’ll be sharing soon.
We’ve got old tips and new tips, plus ideas on how to help you set the table too!
Hope you all love this year’s menu as much as I do. And please remember that these are just my suggestions. You don’t NEED to make every item on my menu. For example, I have two salads and two potato dishes listed, pick your personal favorite. I just want to provide you all with a couple of options since we all have different wants/needs. I have a lot of Thanksgiving recipes…here on HBH and yet to come this month!
Let me know if you have any questions in the comments. Always happy to help!!
Half Baked Harvest 2021 Thanksgiving Menu
Tip: every good holiday meal starts with breakfast, so don’t skip it.
Yes! Serve up breakfast on Thanksgiving. It’s always nice to have a little something before a full day in the kitchen. It takes the pressure off to get dinner on the table by 3 pm and makes everyone happier.
second option: Apple Cinnamon Rolls with Brown Butter Maple Icing
Tip: make these a day or two ahead of time…easy.
For after dinner: Vanilla Espresso Martini
Tip: have appetizers out when guests arrive, there’s nothing more welcoming than an appetizer table
Tip: include at least one vegetarian main course. It’s nice to have a main course that’s just as hearty and exciting as the turkey for any vegetarian eaters.
Herb and Butter Roasted Turkey
(I make this every year…it never fails me, so I’m not switching it up)
Tip: make these all ahead of time and don’t stress about a thing
Harvest Honeycrisp Apple and Feta Salad
(use kale and omit the prosciutto)
(use your favorite recipe, I simply simmer cranberries with maple, orange juice, rosemary or sage and a pinch of salt until thickened)
Tip: make an extra pie or an additional cookie recipe. You can never have too many desserts, plus it’s always nice to give guests something to snack on throughout the night. Make all of these, or 1 pie and 1 cupcake/cookie
Molten Chocolate Crackle Pie (my favorite)
grab our downloadable Thanksgiving PDF
Thanksgiving week prep
– organize, make your list, get prepared
– set the table
– put together the seasoned cheese and pretzel snack mix
– make the pudding pie
– prep the make ahead mashed potatoes
– grocery shop
– buy wine and alcohol
– prepare the stuffing, chill until ready to bake
– make white wine pan gravy
– prepare the scalloped potatoes
– prep the parker house rolls, chill until ready to bake
– prepare the cinnamon whiskey cocktail
– prepare the cranberry thyme smash
– bake the chai pumpkin latte cupcakes
– prepare the cranberry sauce
– prep the french toast for the morning
– make the stuffed shells, chill until ready to bake
– prep the brie
– prep the goat cheese
– final grocery trip for last-minute items
In the Morning…
– remove the turkey from the fridge and start prepping
– bake the french toast
– begin roasting the turkey
– make the goat cheese stuffed bacon wrapped dates
In the Afternoon…
– begin baking off the sweet potato casserole, stuffed shells, scalloped potatoes, and stuffing
– start warming the mashed potatoes (in the oven or slow cooker). Cook the spaghetti squash in the instant pot or on the stove
– toss the harvest salad together, this can sit in the fridge for up to 6 hours, but add the avocado before serving or omit
Before Guests Arrive…
– bake off the brie
– bake off the goat cheese
– set out snack mix
– set out the cocktails
– remove the turkey and let it rest, then carve
– warm the gravy
– bake off the rolls
– set out the sides
– serve up the turkey, gravy, and all the sides!
Of course, enjoy the night with family and friends. You deserve it!!
Question: what recipes are you looking forward to serving up most this Thanksgiving? Can’t wait to see what you all make!
My favorite tips
Tip 1: Think About Your Menu
A few things to be thinking about when creating your 2021 Thanksgiving Menu. How much oven space do you have, how many people are you serving, and does anyone have any dietary restrictions.
Depending on how many leftovers you’d like, plan on anywhere from a pound to a pound and a half per person. If everyone is heading out the door at the end of the day, I would go closer to a pound per person. If your guests are staying through the weekend, go for a pound and a half. Bone-in breasts are a nice option if you don’t want to cook more than one turkey. And lastly, keep in mind, if you’ve got a lot of sides, guests will probably eat less turkey.
Tip 2: Make an Oven/Food Schedule
This is certainly my number one tip to easily getting dinner on the table…and at a reasonable hour. An oven schedule is essential for staying on track on Thanksgiving Day, especially if you’re working with limited oven space.
Tip 3: Test Your Recipes
If you’re trying new recipes, make sure you test them out before Thanksgiving Day. Certainly, no one wants to be disappointed on Thanksgiving with a bad batch of mashed potatoes. Test your recipes out now so they’re perfect for Thanksgiving.
If you’re working with limited oven space, I highly recommend using your slow cooker and instant pot. They can cook mashed potatoes from start to finish, or keep your dishes warm without taking up any oven space.
Tip 5: Make a To-Do List TODAY
About a week or so before Thanksgiving, I sit down and make a checklist of everything that needs to be done before we sit down to eat. I make my list by the days leading up to Thanksgiving.
Tip 6: Use A Meat Thermometer
This might be a no-brainer, but don’t try cooking your turkey based solely on time…no one wants to cut into a beautiful looking turkey only to find that it’s still raw inside. Using a thermometer is the best way to know when your turkey is cooked to perfection. This one is my favorite.
Tip 7: Roast Your Turkey in a Butter Soaked Cheesecloth.
My number 1 tip for the best turkey. Grab my favorite herb butter roasted turkey recipe here.
Tip 8: Don’t Cook the Stuffing Inside The Turkey
If you cook the stuffing inside the turkey, you’ll have to overcook the turkey in order to actually cook the stuffing to a temperature that’s safe to eat. And even then, you end up with soggy stuffing…and dry turkey. Not good. Instead, bake the stuffing separately. You’ll get soft on the inside and crisp on top stuffing that actually tastes good.
Tip 9: Set the Table Way Ahead of Time
This is something my Nonnie taught me, and it’s probably my favorite entertaining trick. I like to set my dinner table ideally a week ahead. If that’s not possible, at least the night before. It’s one more thing you can cross off your checklist early. Plus you’ll be guaranteed to have the table set and looking pretty when guests arrive.
Tip 10: Create a Seasonal Tablescape
When setting your table, don’t stress too much about making it perfect. I love the imperfect-perfect look. My best budget tip for creating an elegant tablescape is to incorporate the food onto the table. My favorite thing to do is to use fresh produce around my table to add pops of color. I certainly love a bouquet of flowers, but food can be equally beautiful, if not prettier. In addition, I like to surround the table with candles, use fresh herbs for greenery, and seasonal fruit for color.
Above all, make the table cozy and inviting…everyone will have the best night.
*The plates and wine glasses from my 2021 Thanksgiving Menu and Guide are from Anthropologie in years past.
But…shop similar items below!
Lastly, if you make a dish from our 2021 Thanksgiving Menu and Guide be sure to leave a comment and/or give this recipe a rating! Above all, I love to hear from you guys and always do my best to respond to each and every comment. And of course, if you do make this recipe, don’t forget to tag me on Instagram! Looking through the photos of recipes you all have made is my favorite!