Hooray for the holidays! Leaves are falling, the weather is cooling and we are ready to start the celebrations. Once we recover from the Halloween candy coma, it'll already be time to start planning for Thanksgiving!
This collection of festive starters, mains, sides, desserts and drinks lets you mix-and-match your way to the ultimate Thanksgiving meal. These recipes come from a star-studded selection of culinary heavy hitters like Lidia Bastianich, Ina Garten, Siri Daly, Curtis Stone, Marcus Samuelsson and also includes family favorites from our own Al Roker, Anthony Contrino, Carson Daly and Dylan Dreyer. There's something here from everyone and for everyone.
A starter can set the tone for the whole meal to come. You want something that will wake up the palate but not weigh your guests down. It's got to take the edge off their hunger and leave them wanting more. It is a great opportunity to add exciting and bold flavors to pique the appetite without overwhelming on portion size. Think small bites, soups, salads or anything snacky.
Now let's talk turkey … or beef, or pork, or even meatless mains! A big, beautifully cooked, golden bird is the traditional protein to serve for Thanksgiving (hence why we fondly refer to it as Turkey Day). But there's no rule that says you're required to serve one. Maybe you're having a small gathering and a whole turkey is too much. Perhaps your group doesn't have many meat-eaters. Or maybe you just don't like it. Whatever the case, there are other options that will feel just as special at the center of your holiday table. But, if do want to stick with tradition, we've got you covered.
While turkey is technically the star of the show, it's the sides that are the real scene stealers. Stuffing, green beans, candied yams, mac and cheese, mashed potatoes and more take up most of the real estate on Thanksgiving plates. They boast a variety of colors, flavors and textures, and can be so comforting and nostalgic. It's important to select sides that complement the main dish, but also work well with each other. Whether you serve classic dishes or try new recipes, the sides are always a hit.
Hopefully at this point in the meal, your guests aren't completely stuffed because they will need room for dessert. It's impossible to resist a slice of apple, sweet potato, pecan or pumpkin pie, even if it's just a couple of bites. And, at any time throughout the feast be sure to offer up creative cocktails, bubbly sips and seasonal drinks to up the festive atmosphere.
With these incredible recipes gracing your holiday table, guests will have plenty to be thankful for!
What's better than a warm, bread salad on a crisp autumn night? One that features fall ingredients, such as squash, sprouts, sage and maple syrup. This is a family favorite to serve in the Daly house, especially during the cool months before winter.
These super sprouts are so cute, they're nearly irresistible. "I've served them to super finicky eaters, and even they wind up popping more than a few in their mouths. This can be a side dish or an appetizer, and it's a cinch to make — only three ingredients (and one of them is turkey bacon!). You can't beat that," says Joy Bauer.
Big green Castelvetrano olives are delicious prepared this way. They are meaty and robust enough to stand up to the heat of roasting while still maintaining their moisture and texture. The fragrance of the fruity olives cooking along with the piney herbs and zesty citrus is sure to pique everyone's palate.
Nothing says fall like butternut squash! The classic fall soup gets elegant flair and a fragrant twist with crispy sage leaves. It has all the expected warm flavors and creamy texture you'd expect in an autumn soup, but it brings in a surprising depth of flavor with sweet and tart Granny Smith apples and smoky heat with ancho chile powder.
People always think of butternut squash soup, but what about our good friend the sweet potato? This recipe is so full of flavor, it will be your go-to. Fresh garlic, onions and ginger build the foundation of this soup. The coconut milk brings richness, and the miso paste provides a well-rounded depth of flavor that can't be beat. Top this soup with toasted coconut flakes, creamy labneh, toasted sesame seeds and tangy sumac, and you're in for a seriously delicious starter.
This salad is one of those sneakily healthy side dishes that is comforting and unique. The crispy quinoa topping acts like mini croutons that coat each vegetable and seeds from the squash add extra crunch. You can really make this recipe your own. Use whatever winter squash is in stock or whatever squash and root vegetables that you like.
Sunny Anderson's Brussels sprout salad has the big flavors of the holidays while still being fresh and light. "It's a refreshing reprieve from all the heavy eating of the rest of the meal," says Anderson. "I can't resist the fall flavors the cranberries, pecans, rosemary and nutmeg bring to this easy and impressive salad."
Caesar salad is great as it is. Full stop. However, this version offers some unique alternatives with the full-bodied, hearty texture of kale along with salty pancetta and nutty pecorino to the traditional flavors of the iconic salad. It still has the bright and briny flavors of Caesar but with some amped up textures and tastes.
One of Ina's go-to tricks is to keep some dough for slice-and-bake crackers in the freezer to throw in the oven when company comes over. "The sharp Vermont cheddar and spicy chipotle chili powder with crunchy sea salt really wake up everyone's taste buds," she says. "My friends can't stop eating these!"
You will never be satisfied with store-bought nuts again! Preparing them yourself allows you to control the levels of sugar and spice, choose the nuts that you like, and leave out the ones that you hate. Also, there's nothing like eating glazed nuts still warm from the oven, toasty and flavorful through and through. They're perfect served with a cocktail for an easy appetizer and will elevate any cheese-and-fruit plate to new heights. If you miraculously find yourself with leftovers, try chopping them and sprinkling them over yogurt or oatmeal for breakfast.
These crostini are the perfect thing to whip up when guests stop by. The poached pears are especially comforting as the weather gets cooler. They're easy to make and always delight a crowd.
Ina has an endless supply of entertaining tricks up her sleeves. Here, she executes two clever kitchen hacks to deliver a delicious bite and easy the stress of the holidays. "Whenever I have leftover baguette, I slice it diagonally and keep it in the freezer so I can make these cheesy toasts in minutes," she says. "Toast the bread slices, then add the garlic and goat cheese. They're perfect to serve with drinks or as a crouton to float on top of a bowl of soup."
This is the perfect Thanksgiving turkey. Herbed butter keeps the meat flavorful and moist and helps create a beautiful brown finish on deliciously crispy skin. It's a simple and straightforward recipe, but the result is nothing short of spectacular.
Say bye-bye to bland birds! This Latin-inspired marinade made with garlic, fresh herbs, tart orange juice and smoked paprika infuses every bite of this turkey with explosive flavor and helps keep the bird moist and juicy even through the long cook time. The herb butter is great with chicken, too.
This recipe is fantastic to make and serve for a smaller crowd. It's also not as intimidating as cooking a whole turkey if you're new to the kitchen. The compound butter with the citrus and smoked paprika is absolutely incredible. You can use the same method on a whole turkey or smaller roasters, just adjust the cooking time accordingly.
This recipe is a fabulous vegetarian alternative to a fancy holiday entrée: the beef Wellington. Sweet potatoes are used instead of beef tenderloin and Swiss chard replaces prosciutto for a recipe that can still give the wow-factor a traditional meat-focused entrée would. All your meat-eating family members will want to get in on this Wellington, too. Serve it on its own or with a little crème fraîche for even more elegance.
Pro tip: The chilling portion of the log is essential to make sure everything stays together. Allot at least 30 minutes before wrapping in pastry.
Cooking pork tenderloins for the first time was a revelation to Ina because she didn't grow up eating pork. "I prep them — seasoning them with rosemary and thyme and wrapping them with prosciutto — and then roast them just before dinner," she says. "I love to serve these with homemade apple chutney. Of course, you can save time with store-bought chutney but homemade apple chutney with fresh ginger and raisins is easy to make and delicious!"
This is not your typical Thanksgiving turkey entrée. It is something so different, unexpected and exciting, your holiday guests will be talking about it for years to come. The traditional turkey is still there, but it comes in the form of a meatloaf, seasoned with classic barbecue flavors and filled with a surprise center of cornbread stuffing. To keep it classic, the glaze features fresh cranberries and helps tie all the tastes of the holiday together into one terrific dish.
Tired of typical turkey? Opt for a different but equally impressive protein like show-stopping prime rib. Cooking a large rib roast can be intimidating, especially when you're making one for a lot of guests at a holiday dinner, but his prime rib recipe will impress without the stress! Just make this easy recipe for prime rib for the holidays that will have guests coming back for seconds, thirds and even next-day leftovers. While prime rib can be sold bone-in or boneless, a bone-in roast is the best bet for guaranteed juicy succulence.
Mashed potatoes are a cornerstone of so many Thanksgiving meals, but just what kind to make? Smooth or lumpy, classic or with a twist … the variations are almost endless. Here, Ina shares a unique take on the classic dish. As expected, she adds plenty of butter and cream to the mash, but also leaves on the potato skins for a distinctive texture and adds Parmesan cheese for an extra punch of flavor.
While Thanksgiving is an admittedly carb and protein-rich meal, most people would agree that the menu isn't truly complete for this holiday without something green included. But don't worry — this isn't your grandma's Brussels sprout recipe, we promise! The always innovative Marcus Samuelsson revamps the seasonal veggie with sweet, nutty, spicy and herbaceous ingredients.
Thanksgiving is Dylan Dreyer's absolute favorite holiday. "I love to cook and there's no stressing over gift-giving. It's all about gathering the family together to enjoy way too much food. And I love seeing green on the table and it reminds me of the season," she says. "It's just an added bonus when people say to me, 'Everything you made was delicious!' These crispy Brussels are sure to satisfy. They're loaded with flavor, texture and super quick to put together. The best part is that you only need one mixing bowl!"
This recipe is a Roker family holiday tradition! "I don't know where my mom came up with this recipe. I've heard of many versions of it from the South, but my mom wasn't from the South!" he says. "Somehow, though, it became a Thanksgiving staple for our family. It provided us with hours of entertainment, as my mom always got distracted as soon as it went under the broiler, which caused the smoke alarm to go off and resulted in endless laughter. And that's why, to this day, I always buy two bags of marshmallows — just in case."
This roasted carrot dish gets a heavy dose of flavor from salmoriglio. The classic Italian sauce is made with just a few ingredients but packs a big punch. Zesty lemon, fresh garlic, herbs and red pepper flakes complement the earthy sweetness of the carrots beautifully. The added crunch of pistachios and smoky cumin (not traditionally Italian, but so delicious!) round out the tastes and textures of this outstanding side.
Imagine Thanksgiving stuffing, but with the red-sauce flavors of cheese pizza. Tomato paste and dried oregano, bloomed in buttery onions, do the heavy lifting in this comforting dish, as does an ivory shower of shredded mozzarella, which melts and gets gooey in spots. Serve this warm, while the cheese is still molten.
Pro tip: Stale bread works best, so dry out the bread the night before you plan to make this or bake the torn pieces until they're brittle. You can also assemble the stuffing the night before Thanksgiving; just keep it covered in the refrigerator and bake it the next day while the turkey is resting.
These may just be the potatoes that rescue the holidays! No more hours of peeling, slicing or mashing. These spuds can be made in bulk because all they need is a quick boil and bake. Cleanup is quick and easy, and the recipe is easily adaptable. They are a cross between a baked potato and a french fry with a ton of flavor and an incredible crunch.
Pro tip: Salting your potato water will add a deeper depth of flavor to your finished result, as well as help them crisp up more.
Southern-style mac and cheese is cheesy — of course — but also hearty and sturdy. It's basically a custard-style bake with eggs, heavy cream and sharp cheddar cheese. The unexpected ingredient that sets this mac and cheese apart from the rest is sour cream. It ups the richness factor and adds the most subtle hint of tang that lightens and brightens the dish, resulting in something irresistable.
Siri Daly can't help but fondly reminisce about these dreamy potatoes. "Carson's mom made these for us every Thanksgiving!" she says. "It's still up for debate whether the booze was intentional or not, but the fact is: These are buttery, creamy potatoes with an extra special twist."
Pro tip: Definitely mash by hand with a potato masher or use a ricer — never use a food processor or blender — you'll end up with a gluey mess! You can peel the potatoes before boiling or you can let the skin easily fall off after. Use Yukon Gold or another starchy potato for the creamiest mashed potatoes.
Mofongo — a Puerto Rican recipe of fried green plantains mashed with garlic, pork and seasonings — could easily claim the title of the island's national dish. Mofongo is enjoyed throughout the year as a side for everything from sautéed shrimp to grilled steak, but for Thanksgiving, we add broth and a few other ingredients to turn it into a moist and savory stuffing that's right at home next to the turkey. For Puerto Ricans both on and off the island, Thanksgiving has always brought together the best of both worlds by combining traditional mainland dishes like turkey and stuffing with local island flavors and ingredients, and this savory plantain stuffing is one of the tastiest examples of this cultural mix.
The inspiration for this recipe came from a classic Korean-style chicken soup dish, samgyetang. This stuffing features the traditional ingredients found in the soup like rice, ginseng, jujube and garlic. But you can add whatever you like to this unique stuffing. It's delicious with chestnuts, ginseng, gingko, apples, dried cranberries or other seasonal ingredients. Even herbs would be great, like sage, parsley or thyme.
Here's a simple way prepare a favorite Thanksgiving side. Just bake the potatoes, peel and slice, then drench them in a butter-cider-maple syrup mixture that's been seasoned with cinnamon, cloves and orange zest. Bake until bubbly and the edges brown. If you want to top these with marshmallows, you can add some mini ones to the top, then broil until they brown.
Pro tip: Choose sweet potatoes that are about the same size, so they cook evenly and look uniform in the baking dish.
Somehow this recipe brings the comforting goodness of a casserole, the flavors of creamed spinach and crispy edges — that we all know are the best part of the lasagna — all together in one dish. And it accomplishes all this while only using six ingredients. It's perfect to serve year-round, but especially around the holidays. It's so quick to make and it's light and versatile enough to serve alongside any main meal.
This recipe is inspired by Stouffer's macaroni and cheese and delivers the best of all worlds: creamy, saucy, comfort, with a consistency that's slightly more set than a stovetop version, thanks to a final bake in the oven. It stays voluptuous and molten as a result of a higher ratio of sauce to noodles, which are cooked completely so they don't soak up as much liquid. What makes this mac and cheese special from a regular stovetop or baked mac and cheese is that it exists somewhere between the two. It's creamy, but it's also a little set with those baked edges, which you can take as far as you like. It's an ideal combination.
Martha Stewart answers an age-old holiday question once and for all. "The terms 'stuffing' and 'dressing' are often used interchangeably, but they do have different meanings: Stuffing is cooked inside the bird, dressing on its own," she says. "The best use for stale bread is to make stuffing or dressing. If bread has not dried out overnight, place in a low-heat oven to dry out for a few hours. You can then use this this recipe to stuff the inside of a turkey or bake in casserole dishes instead."
Katie Lee's green bean casserole recipe is a classic version of the Thanksgiving fave. Her dish is made with fresh ingredients in place of canned soup. The result is more brightly flavored but keeps all the familiar tastes and textures of the original.
Give your side dish of green beans an Arab-style makeover. This dish is deep and flavorful and can be served over rice or with bread. Beans are the star of the show; tomato sauce, caramelized in its own natural sugars, makes the beans pop. A hit of lemon and douse of olive oil at the end ties this beautiful dish together.
Patti LaBelle learned this famous pie recipe from her best friend and hairstylist Norma Gordon Harris. This sweet potato pie has a thin layer of brown sugar on the bottom crust. This "black bottom" doesn't just add flavor, it also helps keep the filling from making the crust soggy. The recipe makes a good amount of the delicious filling — this isn't one of those skimpy sweet potato pies. It tastes like sweet potatoes, not pineapple or raisins or other fillers that some people stick in their pies. Serve it with whipped cream, if you wish.
Pro tip: If you want a tender, flaky pie crust, you have to use shortening. Some cooks make their dough with butter because they like the flavor, but it bakes into a crumbly crust — and with most pie lovers, flaky is the name of the game. Like biscuits, pie crust shouldn't be overworked. Handle with care. The chilled shortening and ice water will also help pie crust stay nice and flaky.
These mini tarts are classically delicious with juicy apples and hints of warm cinnamon and nutmeg. They are not overly sweet, so the salted caramel sauce provides the perfect touch and gives them a modern twist. They are mini and individual, which makes them the perfect dessert to serve at a big family Thanksgiving.
This recipe tastes like having the most delicious cloud of pumpkin pie. It's light and fluffy yet with all the deep flavors of the heavier classic version — exactly what you want after eating an indulgent meal.
Pro tip: You can always use a canned pie filling instead of the roasted squash, but where's the fun in that?
This is a fun recipe that will please everyone, even the pickiest people, on holidays. You can have three different flavors of pie all in one, so everyone is satisfied. It also saves space in the oven and cuts down on prep and cook time. A must for busy days in the kitchen.
There isn't a soul that doesn't love a good slice of classic apple pie. Making an apple pie very well is the difference between a good baker and a great baker; this pie will help you remain great.
Pro tip: Bake the pie on a baking sheet to catch any juices that may bubble over so that it doesn't fall on the bottom of your oven.
Hoda Kotb's mom, Sami, always made flaky, nutty, syrupy baklava for special occasions. "Sure, spending time with family and friends is great, but we all know that one of the best parts of the holidays is eating sweet, butter-laden treats," Hoda says. "This remains one of my all-time favorite indulgences."
Complete your Thanksgiving meal with this creamy, rich dessert from Curtis Stone. It's a classic through and through. A creamy filling scented with warm autumn spices sits inside a perfectly flaky crust. Top it off with sweet whipped cream and you've got yourself a slice of heaven.
Individual apple pies topped with golden, flaky crust are the perfect finale for a cozy fall dinner. Store-bought puff pastry (all butter, please!) makes them easy; a boozy apple filling (we used bourbon, but another whiskey or even rum works, too) makes them totally decadent. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.
Impress your guests on Thanksgiving Day with Marcela Valladolid's stunning pumpkin cheesecake topped with shards of pumpkin-brown sugar brittle. Velvety, rich cheesecake takes a trip to the pumpkin patch with this delicious dessert. The crunch of the pepitas adds an extra element that takes this cake to another level.
For all you diehard pecan pie purists, this one may not be for you. But for everyone else, this chocolate pecan pie rocks both worlds, and a little adventure is a good thing! It's like a pecan pie-brownie hybrid, and if that doesn't make you swoon, we don't know what will. Extra-bittersweet chocolate cuts through the inevitable sweetness. Serve it with crème fraîche for added richness.
Creamy, light and no-fuss, flan is the perfect way to end a Thanksgiving feast. Natalie Morales keeps it straight to the point vanilla and condensed milk but gives it some added fall flair with pumpkin pie flavors like cinnamon and nutmeg. Each bite feels cool going down with a warm touch.
Sweet potato pie gets a tropical twist from ripe plantains. The result is a dessert with notes of deep caramelization, warm spice and a wonderful earthy sweetness. It's a modern take on a classic dessert, but keeps it close to its roots.
Thanksgiving is the perfect gathering to put together a big batch drink. Seasonal sangria can be made with fall fruits like apples and pears and even clementines like we added here. A mix of fruits creates a pitcher perfect for a centerpiece and makes a warm welcome for your thirsty guests. The key parts to sangria are the fruit, a spirit, a sweet element, and the wine. However, there is lots of room to play and create one that perfectly suits your taste and your menu.
For as long as Carson can remember, his mom was blending away during the holidays. "She was always creating her famous Brandy Alexander cocktails," he says. "It's such a tradition that we even named our family dog after the drink, calling her 'Lexi' for short. She was an off-white fluffy thing (resembling the concoction of cream and cocoa) and had a sprinkle of brown on her face that matched the tap of nutmeg that tops the blended beauty. Before long, our Brandy Alexanders reached far past the holidays and were served at any special occasion. And, as I recall, there were many!"
There's nothing better on a crisp, fall day — particularly Thanksgiving — than a warm, cozy drink. Most people turn to ciders or hot toddies, but this is a fun and festive change from the norm that might just become a new holiday favorite!
Pro tip: Letting the glogg sit for 30 minutes (or an hour) will really help the flavors develop.
This ginger spice apple cider cocktail recipe is ideal for entertaining as it can be made in single servings or scaled to make punch. Just be sure to use one part bourbon to five parts apple cider (not apple juice). It's easy, refreshing and pairs so well with any holiday meal.
Pitcher drinks are perfect when entertaining. They alleviate the stress of getting multiple drinks prepared and served as visitors descend upon the party. Frozen cranberries makes this cocktail seasonal, festive and super easy to make. Feel free to serve this in wine goblets or Champagne flutes and keep a bar spoon or long wooden spoon nearby to be sure each glass gets a few frozen cranberries for the perfect toast. This sparkler is also easy to turn into a non-alcoholic pitcher too for teetotaling guests. Gather, be grateful and enjoy the ease of entertaining with this pretty pitcher drink.
Bubbles aren't just for Champagne and seltzer. This drink is inspired by the beautiful wreaths decorating the shopfronts of New York City during the holidays. It will wake up your palate with the fiery kick of ginger!
Turn leftover cranberry sauce into a flavorful fall cocktail. The fragrant gin and fresh mint play perfectly with the sweetness of the cranberry and orange. Any type of cranberry sauce will work, but something with added spices will make this drink even more flavorful and nuanced.
Meet your new favorite holiday cocktail. "Now, I almost never drink, but sometimes I create a cocktail that is so good that I even drink it!" says Anthony Contrino. "I created this for a dinner party, and I couldn't make them fast enough."
Now you can have your pie and drink it, too! Enjoy all the sweet and spiced goodness of pumpkin pie in one tasty sip. These shots are perfect for any fall celebration.
Anyone (of legal drinking age) who loves Italian cuisine or culture has to try this classic cocktail. A Negroni is best known for its delicate balance of bitter, citrusy and sweet flavors. Paired with some olives, it's the perfect pre-dinner drink.
Pro tip: Peel the orange over the cocktail mixing glass to catch the fragrant oils.
Ina saves time during the holidays by prepping cocktails ahead. "Infuse the vodka with the orange zest and cranberries at least two days ahead. I like to use a vegetable peeler to make strips of orange zest — it's so easy," she says. "Best of all, you can prepare the entire cocktail mixture and refrigerate it for up to three days. Just shake with ice before serving."
This drink looks and feels super festive for the holidays with very little effort. Start with a bottle of bubbles (preferably a dry prosecco or Champagne), add cranberry juice and pomegranate juice, give it a stir and top with a sprig of rosemary and fresh cranberries. It's both beautiful to look at and delicious to drink.
Pro tip: Clap the rosemary between your hands to release the natural oils in the rosemary so your drink has a woodsy scent when sipped.
This is the easiest slow-cooker mulled wine ever. 'Tis the season for mulled wine, and the best part about it — besides that it's delicious — is that it's so simple to make. All you need equipment-wise is a slow cooker or a pot and a ladle. Like any other cocktail, you can put your personal spin on this recipe with additions of sweeter ingredients like apple cider or pear nectar or spice it up with fresh sliced ginger or cloves.
Cozy and warming, spiced apple cider is the ultimate cold weather beverage to warm up the whole family. To make prep easier, skip straining the cider, just use a slotted spoon to remove the peppercorns, orange zest and cloves. For a grown-up version, add a splash of rum or bourbon.
Mojitos get a winter makeover with apple cider, warm winter spices like cinnamon and clove, fresh mint and limes. It's a seasonal twist on the drink that so often fills glasses throughout the sweltering summer months. It's a lovely way to help the frigid months go by!
Pro tip: Muddling helps release the juices and flavorful natural oils from the lime and mint leaves. If you don't have a muddler, use the handle of a wooden spoon or spatula for the same effect.