#TheEverygirlCooks: Essential Tips and Recipes for a Foolproof Thanksgiving Dinner

In my opinion, Thanksgiving is the absolute best holiday. When you’re surrounded by food, your closest family and friends, and a warm sense of gathering, it’s easy to feel right at home (regardless of who is hosting!). Thanksgiving is also the perfect time to showcase your family’s traditional recipes, whether it be a prize-winning pumpkin pie or a green bean casserole that’s been passed down from generation to generation.

I’m always curious about the stories behind Thanksgiving family traditions, as well as tips and tricks for throwing the perfect party, and discovering new recipes, so I reached out to a few of our readers to hear their thoughts on this heart-warming holiday.

Herb and Butter Roasted Turkey with White Wine Pan Gravy via Half Baked Harvest

Main Dish

“The best way to execute a successful Thanksgiving meal is to plan ahead and decide what you want to serve. My sister and I sit down together and come up with a menu about two weeks ahead of time. From the menu, we write a list of ingredients needed for each dish. We always end up going to multiple stores (specialty stores and different farmer’s markets) to get everything. It’s always a fun adventure, almost like a scavenger hunt. As far as prepping my turkey, I liked to brine my turkey 24-hours ahead of dinner in a salt water mixture filled with aromatics: carrots, celery, onions, black peppercorns, and allspice seeds. From there, you can bake, fry, grill, or smoke the turkey.” Briana Riddock, Seasoning Bottle

“If this is your first time cooking Thanksgiving dinner for family or friends, do everyone a favor and give yourself a trial run. Cook the entire thing a week or two out for practice.” Alaina and Danielle, The Everygirl co-founders (See more here: Thanksgiving cooking experiences)

“The secret is brown butter is better than normal butter. Browning butter takes just a couple of minutes and it results in a richer more flavorful butter. Brown butter before you add it to your mashed potatoes, by heating it in a skillet over medium-low heat. Slowly let the butter come to a steady bubble, and it will slowly brown. Butter goes from browned to burnt quickly, so reduce the heat to low as soon as it starts to brown.” Kit Graham, The Kittchen

Recipes to try:
Easy Turkey with Stuffing and Cranberry Sauce via Bite Me More
Slow Cooker Honey Glazed Ham via Back to her Roots
Pork Chops with Spiced Apples via Sew You Think You Can Cook
Slow Cooker Turkey Breast via Living Lou
Whole Roasted Chicken with Herbs via Coley Cooks
See also: 10-Minute Turkey Salad Sandwiches

Green Beans, Southern Style via Amy in the Kitchen

Side Dishes

“My go-to side dish is creamy pearl onions and baby mushrooms. My grandma never served a Thanksgiving without it and to this day, the meal always feels incomplete without them. I suggest making a plan (grocery list, menu, what can be made ahead, etc.) and keeping things simple—traditional dishes are easy to make and never disappoint. Also, your best cooking partner (read: stress-free) is a glass of wine!” Alyssa Ponticello, Runway Chef

“I test out my sides here and there a few weeks prior to make sure I can tweak anything before the big day. I’ll make one planned side with my regular dinner each week so it’s minimal effort but I don’t have to worry about trying a new recipe [the day of Thanksgiving!]” Lauren BrennerHibisKiss Clothing

“I think the best way to prepare a side dish that everyone will love on Thanksgiving is to keep it simple. Sometimes we can go crazy trying out new flavors and testing out the next best thing. But on a holiday like Thanksgiving, it’s best to stick with classic flavors to keeps everyone happy.” Giselle, Diary of an ExSloth

“My biggest tip is to serve a dish that you really love! Turkey and mashed potatoes are a classic Thanksgiving tradition, but why not make a family favorite? We’re Italian and have recently started making homemade pasta every year. Sometimes turkey or ham—but always pasta.” Christina, Bit of Delish

Recipes to try:
Green Bean Casserole via Show Me the Yummy
Slow Cooker Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes via Little Spice Jar
Chipotle White Ale Cranberry Sauce via The Beeroness
Mexican Candied Sweet Potatoes via Thyme and Love
Simply Best Stuffing via The Tasty Bite Blog


Orange Red Wine Spritzer via Honey and Birch


“When I’m hosting a party, I usually make one signature pitcher or punch drink that’s a little fancy and a few different flavored simple syrups. Guests can play mixologist by adding funky simple syrups to their traditional drinks (gin and tonics, martinis, etc.). I can create an awesome cocktail without having to be bartender all night and everyone can have a great time.” Jenny Bullistron, Honey and Birch

“I love a good cocktail, and want it to be cohesive with the meal, so I spend time researching and developing a cocktail (or two) that use and compliment the flavors of the day. Flavors like bacon, maple syrup, cranberry, and apple pair fantastically with traditional Thanksgiving dishes.” Kaitlyn Kessler, The Crown Fox

Recipes to try:
Spiced Apple Margaritas via Cookie and Kate
Grapefruit Rosemary Fizz via The Merry Thought
Cranberry Ginger Ale Rosemary Cocktail via The Girls On Bloor
Winter Sangria via Bakeaholic Mama
Ginger Whiskey Sour via Lynsey Loves Food

Fresh Apple Pie Recipe via Eatwell 101


“Don’t stress yourself out by creating a complex recipe you’ve never tried before. Bake something you are confident in and enhance it through your presentation or garnishes. It’s amazing what a layer of pie crust leaves around the edge of your family’s famous pumpkin pie can do!” Ashley Minck, Minck.co

“If people offer to help, take it! Even if it’s washing dishes as you go or setting the table or keeping little ones occupied. Accept little ways [of help] to make the day easier and more enjoyable for all, including yourself. And there’s no shame in a store bought pie! Know thy strengths!” Shannon Sorenson, Dancing Lily Studio

“A foolproof way to make sure your dessert gets eaten (even on a full dessert table) is to make something that is easy to serve! Cookies and cupcakes are great, but if you’re doing a cake or brownies make sure to cut it in advance. You don’t want people passing it over because they didn’t want to be the first to cut into it. I also like to add a twist to boxed mixes like adding salted caramel and pretzels to fudge brownies. Delicious and super easy!” Megan Ronecker, Ruby and Sass

“Keep it simple and whimsical. In my book, a truly great dessert can be made ahead of time, requires no more than five ingredients and includes a twist for the taste buds. Oh, and you can never go wrong with dark chocolate or a toppings bar.” Kelsey Harp, Koharp

Recipes to try:
Pumpkin Pie Cream Puffs via A Farmgirl’s Dabbles
Pumpkin Pie Rice Krispies Treats via Just a Taste
Pumpkin Cheesecake via Analog Eats
Sweet Potato Cupcakes via Yummy Crumble
Pecan Pie via If You Give a Blonde a Kitchen
See also: 4 Desserts for Everyone at Thanksgiving

Vegan Thanksgiving Stuffing via Well and Full

Dietary Needs or Restrictions

“Know allergies and restrictions before you plan the menu and organize to reduce the stress! Keep a list handy in your kitchen so you don’t forget what ingredients you should steer clear.” Alison Marras, Food by Mars

“If I can’t accommodate every request or allergy in every dish, the second best option is to include multiple versions of similar sides, like vegan root vegetable medley with sweet potatoes and traditional sweet potato casserole. That way there are a wide enough variety of sides for everyone to feel like they had plenty to eat even if they didn’t get to try everything on the table.” Katie Shields, Honestly Nourished

“Instead of thinking about what you can’t make, have a couple recipes on hand in case anyone is gluten or dairy free or even free of animal products. Great options include roasted root vegetables with olive oil, salt and pepper, and rosemary, a mixed green salad with butternut squash, dried cherries and pecans (and of course feta or goat cheese on the side!). Even the meat lovers will add these to their plates, plus the color packs a great punch for your Thanksgiving table!” Lauren Carnes, Lauren Carnes Photography

Recipes to try:
Quinoa, Pumpkin, and Kale Salad via Green Évi
Roasted Rainbow Carrots via Dish by Dish
Kale Salad with Fried Tofu and Miso Ginger Dressing via Healthy Nibbles and Bits
Pumpkin Soup with Coconut Milk and Ginger via The Little Pine
Pumpkin Macaroni and Cheese via Making Thyme for Health

Let’s remember what we’re also thankful for even among all the delicious food, laughter, and gatherings. Tell us, how do you celebrate Thanksgiving?