Our Classic Thanksgiving Menu – Brown Eyed Baker

This comprehensive list of everything we love to serve for Thanksgiving dinner covers the gamut, from cocktails and appetizers to how we prepare and cook the turkey, vegetables, side dishes, and, of course, dessert! If you’re still struggling with your Thanksgiving menu, I hope you’ll find some inspiration below.

Background photo of floral arrangement with pies and text overlay "classic Thanksgiving menu" with the words cocktails, appetizers, vegetables, turkey, sides dishes, and dessert.

I have always absolutely adored the Thanksgiving holiday and am elated when it rolls around every year.

While planning a big meal can be daunting, I keep a spreadsheet with tabs for different years to keep track of how many people we host, what we eat, how much, if people liked it, how much was leftover, and notes for what to change for the following year. It is a LIFESAVER when it comes to planning the meal!

Before you start cooking, be sure to read over my Thanksgiving kitchen essentials to ensure you have all of the tools you need for the meal to go as smoothly as possible!

After hosting for ten years now, we’ve gotten into a groove with our menu; below is how it shakes out:

Cocktails

  • We always have an assortment of water, soft drinks, beer, and wine on hand.
  • A number of years ago, I made this cranberry cider punch and everyone LOVED it. It’s a non-alcoholic drink, but some guests chose to spike it with their liquor of choice 😉
  • If you’d like something warm for after dinner, give hot apple cider rum punch a try.

Appetizers

I like to keep pre-meal apps and snacks pretty light since Thanksgiving is such a huge and heavy meal. I usually do an assortment of three different appetizers:

The Turkey!

I have brined a turkey for the last decade; up until a number of years ago, I had done traditional saltwater brines with sugar and aromatics, but then, after seeing a recipe in the Wall Street Journal, I tried dry brining. It was easier and produced an incredibly juicy turkey, so it’s become my go-to method ever since. [Please note that the recipe link above appears to be behind a paywall, but if you Google “dry brine turkey recipe” you’ll find tons of similar recipes!]

We first deep-fried a turkey at least 10 years ago, and I don’t think we’ll ever look back. Everyone agreed that it was the best turkey, ever. We have the Butterball XL Indoor Turkey Fryer, which holds up to a 20-pound turkey (although we fried a 22-pound turkey a couple of times without any issues). The indoor fryer is safe, easy to use, and the turkey cooks extremely quickly. We love it!

(You can read how we do it here –> How to Deep-Fry a Turkey)

Alongside the turkey come its duo of accompaniments:

  • Fresh Cranberry Sauce – I love this chutney/relish-style cranberry sauce and have been making it for years. I also add in a can of jellied cranberry sauce for those who prefer the nostalgia 😉
  • Make-Ahead Gravy – This is my go-to gravy; since we deep fry the turkey, there are no pan drippings to make traditional gravy.

Side Dishes

I like to have a variety of side dishes, encompassing all of the necessary categories that people expect to see – stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, vegetables, corn, etc. The amount you choose to serve totally depends on the number of people you are having!

  • Stuffing: My husband’s favorite is my sausage and apple stuffing, but we always have traditional stuffing, too!
  • Mashed Potatoes – I usually make a triple or quadruple batch of my creamy mashed potatoes so there is enough for dinner plus extra to send home with the leftover turkey.
  • Sweet Potatoes – My all-time favorite sweet potato side dish is my sweet potato gratin, and I also love the pineapple-bourbon sweet potato casserole for something unexpected and different!
  • Salad – I first made shaved Brussels sprouts salad with bacon and pecans a few years ago and it was a big hit; I’ve also done a roasted butternut squash salad with warm cider vinaigrette in the past.
  • Corn Casserole – The cheesy creamed corn casserole is quite possibly everyone’s favorite Thanksgiving side dish!
  • Veggie Side Dish – So many options! In the past, we’ve enjoyed corn and mixed vegetable casserole, broccoli casserole, Brussels sprouts and bacon gratin, Brussels sprouts with pancetta, cranberries & pine nuts, and green bean casserole from scratch. In addition, hashbrown casserole and crock pot mac and cheese have been two of the most popular Thanksgiving recipes over the years!
  • Dinner Rolls – Some years I make them homemade from my white bread recipe, and some years we get them from the bakery. I haven’t decided which route I’m taking yet this year 🙂

(For more side dish ideas, check out 27 Thanksgiving Side Dishes That Are Better Than the Turkey)

Dessert

(For more dessert ideas, check out 29 Thanksgiving Desserts Worth Saving Room For)

I’d love to hear what you’re planning to make for Thanksgiving this year!

Are you hosting? Are you bringing a dish somewhere? Give me all of the yummy details!

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