A Traditional Thanksgiving Dinner Menu (10 Recipes)

I always look forward to spending Thanksgiving with Mom.  She seems to (effortlessly) make the best turkey and mashed potatoes. I should pay more attention to her gravy-making-method because that’s pretty much perfect too. Mom’s stuffing is flawless, with just the right amount of moisture, and she always adds in mushrooms and chopped up turkey giblets. My favorite Thanksgiving dish of all time is Mom’s Orange Delight Jello Salad. I’ve made it before, but I can never seem to get it to come out as nice as Mom does. She’s never made her own cranberry sauce, which (used to be) fine by me since I kinda liked the stuff that slithered out of the can.  Munching black olives placed on every finger, I always stuffed myself silly on Thanksgiving Day at Mom’s house.

I rarely see Mom on Thanksgiving now- saving our visit for Christmas instead.  And I don’t usually do the black-olive-on-the finger thing unless no one is around.   So now I’m the one who usually hosts Thanksgiving, and my husband’s side of the family joins us. Here’s the menu I’ve developed for Thanksgiving this year- with (mostly) traditional sorts of recipes.

I saw this idea on Martha Stewart’s site using pears, and I thought it would be cute to use pumpkins for Thanksgiving to make a name plate for each of my Thanksgiving guests.

I roasted a turkey last weekend to practice, and I used the wonderful tips and tricks that I found on SimpleBites. If you want your turkey to turn out perfect in every way, follow the SimpleBites turkey tutorial!

There really are only a handful of ways to make a classic gravy. Fine Cooking has a great little video showing you how to make gravy from your turkey drippings. Comes out perfect every time.

This is my very favorite stuffing recipe (besides Mom’s): Shiitake Mushroom Stuffing. I bake it on the side, but you can stuff your turkey with it if you’d like.

And I always, always do these Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes that you can keep warm in the crockpot. I’m frantic enough on Thanksgiving Day without having to worry about making mashed potatoes at the last minute. This recipe just makes things a lot easier.

Mom never ever served up butternut squash, sweet potatoes or even yams at Thanksgiving, but I’m particularly fond of all three. This makes a fantastic side dish- full of flavor and it makes a lot: Butternut Squash- Cheddar Gratin with Rosemary Breadcrumbs.

I grew up eating that green bean casserole that everyone else grew up with, but to tell you the truth… as much as I loved it, it’s just too fattening to add to the other heavy things being served at Thanksgiving. I’ll be sharing a “fresh” version of the Thanksgiving Green Bean Casserole with you on Monday, but I do like to serve a lighter version of green beans if the rest of the meal feels too calorie-laden. Here’s my “other” favorite green beans recipe: Green Beans with Caramelized Shallots.

To save time and energy, you can certainly buy frozen rolls like Rhodes or Bridgford brand. That’s what Mom used to do, and they were perfectly delicious. You can jazz those up a bit by brushing on some butter and orange zest too. I like to use a very simple yeast rolls recipe. It makes exactly 24 small rolls, which is perfect for our family’s Thanksgiving. It’s kind of a no-fuss recipe (no kneading necessary)- just mix the ingredients and stick the dough in the fridge for a couple hours, then take it out and spoon out little balls of dough to roll up and stick in a 13×9-inch pan. Set them aside to rise until you’re ready to bake them, and they turn out just fine. I bake these early in the day and then just warm them up a little before the big dinner.  The recipe is simply called:  Easy Dinner Rolls.

I mentioned earlier in this post that I actually enjoyed the gelatinous stuff that slithered out of the can when I was little. Explanation: I didn’t know any better! It’s so very easy to make cranberry sauce that no one should be buying the canned stuff anymore unless it’s really what you prefer. This is my new favorite (with just a hint of spice): Cinnamon- Kissed Cranberry Sauce.

I firmly believe that at Thanksgiving you should offer (and eat) more than one dessert. I like to bake my favorite pie with an alternative crust: Apple-Cranberry Pie with Oatmeal Cookie Crust. And since there is always someone who prefers something much lighter, this Maple-Pumpkin Pie adapted from Cooking Light is a simple, nice choice that I tried recently.  It’s a good one to include if you’ve got anyone watching their weight at your Thanksgiving dinner.

With olives on my fingers (and my husband and his conservative family eyeing me warily), I’ll be preparing this menu for a small crowd this year. Mom won’t be with us for Thanksgiving this year, but I’ll be thinking of her as I try (again) to perfect the Orange Delight Jello Salad :)

All recipes for my Thanksgiving menu can be found by clicking on the recipe titles mentioned above.

Leave a Comment

43 Responses to “A Traditional Thanksgiving Dinner Menu (10 Recipes)”

  1. 1

    maria — November 11, 2010 @ 6:21 AM

    What a feast! Everything looks tasty!

  2. 2

    Jessica @ How Sweet — November 11, 2010 @ 6:30 AM

    You have me SO excited for Thanksgiving now!

  3. 3

    Jenny Flake — November 11, 2010 @ 6:31 AM

    Oh my gosh Lori! Loving all of these delicious recipes! I am right behind you, my turkey will hopefully go in tomorrow if all goes well! Lol! Love your post!

  4. 4

    marla — November 11, 2010 @ 6:32 AM

    Your traditional Thanksgiving dinner is just gorgeous. Thanks for preparing us ahead of time with these great recipes!

  5. 5

    Lauren at KeepItSwee — November 11, 2010 @ 6:34 AM

    great menu! what was the most helpful tip you used for cooking your turkey?

  6. 6

    Vera @ Lady&TheBlog — November 11, 2010 @ 6:42 AM

    I stumbled this – what a great post!!!

  7. 7

    Chris @nestlefoodie — November 11, 2010 @ 7:18 AM

    Lori, Nice post! I feel so prepared now! Since the weather has cooled down in SoCal, it’s finally feeling like Thanksgiving! :)

  8. 8

    Dragon — November 11, 2010 @ 8:09 AM

    You’ve create a fantastic feast, Lori! Wish I was sitting at your table. :)

  9. 9

    Fran McClain — November 11, 2010 @ 8:14 AM

    Gonna try your Cinnamon Cranberry, along with the one I do every year—Martha Stewart’s Grape/Cranberry.
    Love your pictures, thanks for sharing!!!

  10. 10

    Ethan — November 11, 2010 @ 8:32 AM

    umm, if there isn’t room at your table, can I just wait in the kitchen for leftovers?

  11. 11

    Megan — November 11, 2010 @ 8:34 AM

    So…Can I come to your house for Thanksgiving? Great, thanks :)

  12. 12

    Janet — November 11, 2010 @ 9:07 AM

    Everything looks spectacular Lori! Your photos are fabulous, and I can feel that warm and cozy Norman Rockwell vibe coming on! Bravo!

  13. 13

    Kristen — November 11, 2010 @ 9:21 AM

    Need an extra family for Thanksgiving? Your menu plan sounds amazing!

  14. 14

    Carrie Minns — November 11, 2010 @ 9:45 AM

    Okay, Lori, you’re killin’ me with all of your delicious recipes. I’m especially intrigued by the “Make-ahead” mashed potatoes since peeling those potatoes on Thanksgiving Day is always a thorn in my side. You are inspiring me to get organized…..

  15. 15

    thecrabbycook — November 11, 2010 @ 12:16 PM

    Oh man, just scrolling the pictures is making me drool…is there anything better than Thanksgiving food? (Especially when my sister in law does the cooking and all I make is the cranberry sauce!)

  16. 16

    Lori Lange — November 11, 2010 @ 12:34 PM

    @thecrabbycook, At least you picked something super easy to make :)

  17. 17

    Kelly (Two Kids Cook — November 11, 2010 @ 7:40 PM

    drooling! I’ve gotta check out that gravy video, I’m always hit-or-miss on my gravy.

  18. 18

    Stay-At-Home-Chef — November 11, 2010 @ 9:30 PM

    Mmmm…now this looks like a Thanksgiving table to which I’d like to pull up a chair (and plate and fork…)

  19. 19

    Denise Michaels — November 12, 2010 @ 2:44 AM

    You just gave all your readers the most wonderful menu for the Thanksgiving holiday all in one post. How great is that. Thanks for the inspiration and the tips. I’m going to take another look at the sweet potato recipe. Looks really good. I’m salivating. *smile*

  20. 20

    Larry — November 12, 2010 @ 5:58 AM

    WOW!!!! I’m sitting here speechless. Great pictures! The food looks absolutely delicious. This is the perfect Thanksgiving meal all wrapped up in one post. I hope you and your family have a very Happy Thanksgiving!! :-)

  21. 21

    Lori Lange — November 12, 2010 @ 6:46 AM

    @Larry, Thanks! Happy Thanksgiving to you too!

  22. 22

    Blair Stover — November 12, 2010 @ 8:45 AM

    All these recipes are getting me even more excited about Thanksgiving. I am making a turkey for the first time this year so I know those make a head mashed potatoes are going to come in handy.

  23. 23

    Cathy - wheresmydamnanswer — November 12, 2010 @ 10:08 AM

    Amazing menu – what time should we be there! hehehe! Happy Thanksgiving!

  24. 24

    tcmaryf — November 12, 2010 @ 10:20 AM

    A really wonderful spread. Love the do ahead mashies and those easy rolls, wow, thnx for all of it

  25. 25

    Barbara — November 12, 2010 @ 11:35 AM

    I typically host Thanksgiving at my home and would not have it any other way but this year I’m giving into the fact that although my leg injury is slowly but constantly improving, the idea of hopping around on one leg for a full day might be a bit much, so I’m going to a friends house this year. Or I could come to yours; looks fabulous!

  26. 26

    Renee (Kudos Kitchen — November 13, 2010 @ 6:46 AM

    Lovely post Lori! I feel full just looking at it (wishful thinking). I especially like the sound of your butternut squash/cheddar gratin. I’m in heaven over that one! Thanks for sharing the recipe.

  27. 27

    Katrina — November 13, 2010 @ 8:22 AM

    Great post, Lori. Mom definitely knows (and cooks) best.

  28. 28

    Andrea — November 13, 2010 @ 10:48 AM

    Everything looks so great and your photos are beautiful! I printed out your recipe for Apple- Cranberry Pie with Oatmeal Cookie Crust. I will convert it to gluten free and nobody will know the difference!

  29. 29

    Deanna — November 15, 2010 @ 2:43 AM

    I used to put an olive on every finger when I was little too – I could eat a whole can of those in one sitting! I’m trying the green beans with shallots recipe this year. Thanks!

  30. 30

    Heather — November 16, 2010 @ 8:07 PM

    What an amazing menu Lori and beautiful photo’s. Great post! Now I can’t wait for next Thursday to get here. :)

  31. 31

    Chelsea — November 17, 2011 @ 7:48 PM

    Hey Lori, is that first pumpkin nametag photo your own original? Saw it on another site too and I knew it looked familiar!

  32. 32

    Lori Lange — November 17, 2011 @ 8:28 PM

    Yeah, that’s my photo. I’m sure I saw the idea somewhere… Martha Stewart, maybe… but my photo.

  33. 33

    Chelsea — November 18, 2011 @ 7:00 AM

    That’s what I thought. Spotted it on Bethenny’s website in ‘Thanksgiving Table Settings’ post..smh

  34. 34

    Lori Lange — November 18, 2011 @ 7:17 AM

    Just took a peek at the pumpkin name tag again above and see that I actually noted the source. Looks like I saw the idea on Martha’s site last year using a pear, so I used a pumpkin instead :)

  35. 35

    Dan Kankiewicz — November 25, 2011 @ 2:09 AM

    Thanks for these great recipes! I stepped my game up this year and made everything from scratch, and with the help of these recipes, I received nothing but praise from the 20+ people I had over for Thanksgiving!

  36. 36

    Lori Lange — November 25, 2011 @ 7:56 AM


  37. 37

    Cassandra — January 19, 2012 @ 8:29 PM

    Thank you for the recipes and schedule. I did Thanksgiving all by myself this year and because of this post it was a smashing success. My turkey was even 23 pounds and every inch delicious. THANK YOU!

  38. 38

    Brittany M — June 13, 2012 @ 10:11 PM

    Last year I made the gratin, both pies, and the cranberry sauce – OH EM GEE! Everything was delicious! Thanks you for these new holiday traditions!

  39. 39

    Kris Kristensen — November 13, 2012 @ 5:54 AM

    Have just agreed to do a Thanksgiving dinner. I’m Australian and we don’t have that tradition, so thanks a lot for your menu. Looks great and I’m sure I’ll use almost all of it. You’ve made my task so much easier!

  40. 40

    Dixya @ Food, Pleasure and Health — November 13, 2012 @ 6:19 AM

    the name plate is such an adorable idea. I do not celebrate thanksgiving but i love the idea of being together with family and have a large feast with everyone. your dinner idea is great. I am sure your husbands side of family is going to love it :)

  41. 41

    Gabriela Brown — November 18, 2012 @ 12:51 PM

    I love the menu, I will incorporate some of your menu with mine and hopefully, it will be a success.

  42. 42

    Susan L. @ Full Happy Muffin and Mama — April 26, 2014 @ 2:05 PM

    Oh, wow! I thought I was the only one who did the olives-on-each-finger thing. I found your site after your new cookbook was mentioned on The Slow Roasted Italian (I won the giveaway copy on her website!).

  43. 43

    Lori Lange — April 28, 2014 @ 8:20 PM

    lol, on the olives! I will have your book in the mail to you soon- next trip to the post office!