Your Ultimate Traditional Thanksgiving Menu (With Easy Recipes)

12 recipes sure to impress even your picky in-laws!

thanksgiving dinner

It's your first Thanksgiving acting as the hosting couple and you couldn't be more excited! Your home is dressed top to bottom, festooned with garlands and gourds. So you're ready to greet your friends and family at the door, right?

Well, almost. There's the whole "cooking" part of Thanksgiving you've yet to take care of and with the holiday less than two weeks away, you don't have time to spare in the kitchen!


Cooking your first Thanksgiving meal together can be intimidating to say the least. That's why we've done the work for you by preparing the ultimate menu, including tasty hors d'Oeuvres, a decadent dessert and, of course, the hallmark of the holiday: the turkey.

RELATED: 110 Thanksgiving Quotes,Toasts And Blessings To Share

From roasting the bird to mashing the spuds, let us be the extra set of hands in the kitchen. These recipes are sure to impress even your picky in-laws!

Traditional Thanksgiving Dinner Menu With Recipes

Thanksgiving Cocktail

Simply Spiked Cider with Oven Baked Apple Crisps

By Gina Matsoukas of RunningToTheKitchen


Simply Spiked Cider with Oven Baked Apple Crisps



3 cups apple cider

½ teaspoon whole cloves

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon orange extract

⅓ cup dark rum

Cinnamon & turbinado sugar for rim garnish

Apple Chips

Whole apple, thinly sliced





1. Combine apple cider, cloves, cinnamon and extract in a small sauce pan over medium heat. Bring to a gentle simmer for 10-15 minutes.


2. Strain out cloves, mix in rum and set aside.

3. In a small plate combine sugar and cinnamon.

4. Wet the rim of the serving glasses with some extra rum and dip into sugar mixture to coat the entire rim.

5. Pour cider into glasses and serve warm.

Apple Chips

1. Preheat oven to 225 degrees.

2. Place apple slices on a parchment lined baking sheet (slice the apple whole, do not core).

3. Sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmeg and bake for about 2 hours, flipping slices half way through. Watch carefully after 1 hour 30 minutes to make sure they don't burn. You want to remove them when crispy, not burnt.

4. Use as garnish with cider or eat as a snack!

Thanksgiving Appetizers

Sparkling Cranberry Brie Bites

By Marina Delio of YummyMummyKitchen


Sparkling Cranberry Brie Bites


2 cups fresh cranberries

1 cup good maple syrup

1 cup granulated sugar

16 crackers

8 oz Brie cheese

Cranberry chutney or cranberry relish

Fresh mint for garnish


1. Rinse cranberries and place in a medium bowl. Heat syrup in a small sauce pan just until warm. Pour over cranberries when syrup is warm, not hot, or cranberries may pop. Cool, cover, and let steep overnight.


2. Drain cranberries in a colander. Place sugar in a large bowl or baking dish. Add cranberries in 2 batches and roll around until lightly coated in sugar. Place on a baking sheet until dry, about 1 hour.

3. Assemble crackers with one slice of brie, a light layer of cranberry chutney, and 4 or 5 sugared cranberries. Garnish with fresh mint sprigs.

Smoky Corn Chowder

By Mel of MelsKitchenCafe

Smoky Corn Chowder



4-5 slices bacon, chopped

1/2 cup diced onion or leeks

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

2 (10-ounce) packages frozen corn

3 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth

1 cup milk

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

4 green onions, white parts cut off and discarded and green parts thinly sliced


1. In a 4 or 5-quart saucepan, cook the chopped bacon over medium heat until golden and crisp. Scoop onto a paper-lined plate and discard all of the bacon grease except a very thin coating (about 1-2 teaspoons).

2. Add the onion and cook for 5-7 minutes until translucent. Stir in the garlic, paprika and red pepper and cook, stirring, for 1-2 minutes.


3. Stir in the corn, broth and milk. Bring the soup to a boil and then reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

4. Transfer half of the soup to a blender (very carefully - don't overfill the blender since hot liquids will expand while blending!) and puree until mostly smooth.

5. Return the blended soup to the pot and add 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Taste and add more if needed.

6. Serve warm topped with green onions and bacon.

Thanksgiving Bread

Mini Cheddar Biscuit Muffins with Vanilla Honey Butter

By Lisa Huff of SnappyGourmet

Mini Cheddar Biscuit Muffins with Vanilla Honey Butter



1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cups powdered sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup milk

1 egg, beaten

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted & cooled

1/4 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Vanilla honey butter (below)

Vanilla Honey Butter (makes 1/2 cup)

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

2 tablespoons honey

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Beat together butter, honey, and vanilla in small mixing bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until well combined. Serve butter soft in bowl, or spoon butter onto parchment or wax paper and roll up to form log. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or longer until cold.



1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly spray a 24-cup mini muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray.

2. In a large mixing bowl, mix together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt until well combined. In a separate small mixing bowl mix together milk, egg, butter, and vanilla until well combined. Mix wet ingredients into dry ingredients until just combined. Stir in cheese. Spoon dough into prepared mini muffin pan.

3. Bake at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes or until lightly browned around edges. Serve warm or at room temperature. Serve with Vanilla Honey Butter.

Thanksgiving Side Dishes

Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Fennel Apple and Pecans

By Colombe Jacobsen-Derstine of ColombeduJour


Sweet Potatoes with Fennel Apple and Pecans


1 ½ lbs sweet potatoes (about 3 medium-3 cups), sliced into ½ inch thick pieces

1 large fennel bulb, cored and sliced into ½ inch thick pieces (reserve green fronds for garnish)

3 green apples, peeled, cored and cut into ¾ inch rounds

3 tablespoons maple syrup

2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive oil


1/3 cup pecans, rough chopped

½ teaspoon salt


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Using a baking sheet or large ovenproof dish, toss the ingredients in the olive oil and maple syrup. Sprinkle with ½ teaspoon salt and spread in one layer.

3. Roast until sweet potatoes are soft on the inside, rotating occasionally. (About 40 minutes.) Remove from oven and sprinkle with Pecans, return oven for another 5 minutes. Adjust seasoning and serve warm garnished with fennel fronds.

Spicy Roasted Acorn Squash

By Pamela Braun of MyMansBelly

Spicy Roasted Acorn Squash



1 acorn squash (seeds removed and cut into quarters)

Olive oil

1 1/2 tablespoons melted butter

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon orange zest

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

Pinch of chipotle powder

Pinch of kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Grated parmesan cheese

Toasted walnuts (crushed)


1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

2. Brush the fleshy side of the squash quarters with olive oil and lay on baking sheet flesh side down (place quarters together to re-form halves of squash – this helps trap steam in the squash and keeps them from drying out while roasting).

3. Roast for 45 minutes.

4. While squash is roasting, mix the sugar, orange zest, cinnamon, nutmeg, chipotle, salt and pepper together in a small bowl.


5. Remove squash from oven and turn over so that the skin side is down on the pan.

6. Lightly brush quarters with melted butter.

7. Liberally sprinkle seasoning mixture over all of the quarters.

8. Shave Parmesan cheese over top of the quarters.

9. Slide back into the oven for 15 minutes and cook until sugar has melted and cheese has browned slightly.

10. Remove from oven and sprinkle walnuts over each piece of squash. Serve!

Whiskey-Glazed Carrots

Ree Drummond of ThePioneerWoman

Whiskey-Glazed Carrots



1 stick butter, divided

2 pounds (to 3 Pounds) carrots, peeled and cut into thick circles

1/2 cup Jack Daniels or other whiskey

3/4 cups (to 1 cup) brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon (to 1 teaspoon) salt

Freshly ground pepper, to taste


1. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet over high heat. Add carrots in two batches, cooking for 60-90 seconds each batch. Remove from skillet.

2. Pour in whiskey and allow to evaporate 30 seconds. Reduce heat to medium, and add remaining butter. When butter melts, sprinkle brown sugar over the top. Stir together, then add carrots to skillet. Cover, and continue cooking for 5 minutes.

3. Remove lid and add salt and pepper. Continue cooking until carrots are done and glaze is thick, about 5 more minutes.


4. Pour onto a platter and serve immediately. Sprinkle with chopped chives if desired.

5. Stick a serving spoon in the mix, and it's time to serve 'em up.

Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes

By Robyn Stone of AddAPinch

Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes


5 pounds Russet or Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks

1 stick butter, melted + 2 tablespoons cut into pieces


¾ cup half and half

Cloves from about 2 bulbs of roasted garlic

1 teaspoon coarse salt

1½ teaspoons freshly ground pepper


1. Place potatoes into large saucepan and add enough water to cover, plus about 1 inch. Cook over medium-low heat until fork tender, about 15-20 minutes.

2. In a medium saucepan, melt butter, add half and half and roasted garlic. Heat until simmering.

3. Drain potatoes and pour potatoes back into saucepan used to cook them. Mash potatoes over low heat until smooth. Add the melted butter and half and half mixture to potatoes. Continue to mash the potatoes until creamy. Then, mix well with a wooden spoon until light, fluffy and smooth. Stir in salt and pepper.


4. Pour potatoes into a serving bowl for serving.

5. Make-Ahead Tip: Prepare mashed potatoes and pour into a casserole dish. Cover tightly with aluminum foil or a lid and refrigerate until about 20 minutes before ready to serve. Then, place in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

6. When you remove from the oven, top with remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and a sprinkle of salt and pepper, if desired.

7. Serve warm.

Chestnut Stuffing with Leeks & Apples

By Katie Vitucci of TheParsleyThief

Chestnut Stuffing with Leeks & Apples



3 cups cubed white sandwich bread, crusts removed

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 cups sliced leeks {white & light green parts}

1 rib celery, chopped

1 teaspoon chopped thyme leaves

1 Granny Smith apple, peeled & diced

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper {to taste}

7-8 ounces bottled roasted chestnuts, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup minced fresh parsley


1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lay the cubed bread out on a baking sheet & bake for about 8-10 minutes, or until mostly dried. As an alternative, you can also leave the bread out at room temperature for 24 hours to let it dry. Transfer to a mixing bowl & set aside.


2. Raise the oven temperature to 425 degrees. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the leeks & celery. Cover & cook, stirring occasionally for about 8 minutes, or until the leeks are tender. Add in the thyme leaves, apple, salt & pepper. Cook, covered, for an additional 5 minutes.

3. Add the leek mixture to the mixing bowl with the bread. Stir in the chestnuts, cream & parsley. Check for seasoning & add a bit more salt & pepper, as desired.

4. Transfer the stuffing to a buttered casserole dish & bake for 20 minutes, or until heated through and the top is golden brown. For a larger batch, increase the cooking time to 30 minutes.

Simple and Amazing Cranberry Sauce

Alice Currah of SavorySweetLife


Simple and Amazing Cranberry Sauce


12 oz bag fresh cranberries

¾ cup orange juice

⅔ cup brown sugar

⅓ cup white sugar

Optional: 2 oz gold rum


1. Place all the ingredients in a sauce pan and cook on medium-high for 15-20 minutes or until most of the liquid has reduced — stirring occasionally. You'll hear the cranberries popping — don't worry, that’s what you want them to do.


2. Remove from heat and serve. Cranberry sauce can be made days ahead and brought to room temperature or slightly heated before serving.

Thanksgiving Main Dishes

Applewood Smoked Turkey with Cider Bourbon Gravy

By Jessica Merchant of HowSweetEats

Applewood Smoked Turkey with Cider Bourbon Gravy




1 cup kosher salt

1 cup maple syrup

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup whole black peppercorns

4 cups cold bourbon

1 1/2 gallons cold water

1 (7-pound) turkey breast


3 tablespoons brown sugar

1 1/2 tablespoons smoked paprika (I used bourbon smoked paprika - so good)

1 1/2 teaspoons chipotle chili powder

1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper

1 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Soaked applewood chips for smoking (our smoker calls for about 2 cups)

1/2 cup bourbon

1 cup water

Cider Bourbon Gravy

The reserved turkey neck

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 shallots, diced

1 small apple, diced


1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/3 cup bourbon

2/3 cup apple cider

2 cups COLD low-sodium chicken stock

3 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour


1. Before beginning, make sure your bourbon, water and chicken stock are COLD.

2. To make the brine, combine the the salt syrup, sugar, peppercorns, bourbon and water in a large bucket. Remove any pieces from the turkey, like giblets or the neck, reserving to the neck for the gravy. Make sure to refrigerate it a resealable bag. Once the turkey is cleaned up, it in the liquid and refrigerate it for 8 to 12 hours.

3. Remove the turkey from the brine and pat it completely dry with paper towels. Place it on a baking sheet and refrigerate it for an hour or two so it dries thoroughly.


4. Preheat your smoker to 300-325 degrees, adding your wood chips to the burner.

5. In a bowl, combine the sugar, paprika, chili powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper, onion powder and cumin, mixing well to combine. Gently lift the skin of the turkey and rub the melted butter all over the meat. Use it all up! I use both my hands and a spoon to drizzle it down in spaces that I can't reach. Take the spice rub and rub it all over the meat as well, underneath the skin. Rub the rest of it all over the outside of the skin, covering the turkey.

6. Combine the water and bourbon in a glass and pour it into the water pan of the smoker. Place the turkey in the smoker (I like to do it breast side down so the juices run down into it) and shut the door. Our smoker recommends smoking poultry for 20 to 30 minutes per pound, so I smoked this turkey for about 3 1/2 hours. Read the suggestions on your smoker and according to your turkey size, adjust the cook time. If desired, you can baste your turkey with melted butter while smoking, but I find that opening up the door to my smoked releases a good amount of heat, thus lowering the temperature. Once the turkey is finished, be sure to let it rest for about 20 minutes before slicing.

7. About 30 minutes before the turkey is finished, begin the gravy. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallots and the apple with the salt and pepper, stirring to coat. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until the shallots and apple are soft. Add in the garlic and the turkey neck and brown it on all sides, cooking for about 5 minutes per side. Increase the heat to medium-high and pour in the bourbon. Stir continuously, scraping any brown bits from the pan and cook until almost all of the bourbon evaporates — you just want a thin layer of it left in the pan. Add in the cider and bring it to a simmer.


8. Pour the cold broth into a shaker bottle or jar. Add the flour on top, place the lid on the shaker and shake continuously for at least 30 seconds until the flour is incorporated. Remove the neck from the pan and begin to whisk the cider continuously. Slowly pour in the stock and flour while whisking and continue to stir for at least 10 to 15 minutes while the gravy thickens. Don't stop stirring!

9. Carve your turkey as desired and serve it with the gravy. I find that this gravy reheats well also — simply add it to a saucepan over low heat with a drop of water or stock and heat it, stirring occasionally, until it liquifies again.

Thanksgiving Dessert

Pumpkin Pie

The ABC of Desserts (Peter Pauper Press Vintage Editions)

Pumpkin Pie



1-1/4 cups pumpkin, cooked and strained

2/3 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ginger

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

3 eggs, separated

1-1/4 cups scalded milk

1 six-ounce can (3/4 cup) evaporated milk

9-inch pastry-lined pie pan


1. Thoroughly combine pumpkin, sugar, salt, and spices.

2. Add egg yolks and milk and blend.

3. Fold in beaten egg whites.

4. Pour into pie pan.

5. Bake in hot oven, 450 degrees, 10 minutes, then in moderate oven, 325 degrees, about 45 minutes, or until mixture does not stick to knife.

Alexandra Churchill is a digital editor based in New York City whose work has been featured on numerous sites, including The Huffington Post, Her Campus, USA TODAY College, and Northshore and Ocean Home magazines.