Traditional Thanksgiving Menu

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A traditional Thanksgiving menu is served for family and friends across American each November. Thanksgiving menus include appetizers, Turkey, side dishes and of course desserts!

Here is a sample Thanksgiving dinner menu, used at our house, along with some Thanksgiving dinner recipes. While some of the side dishes may change from household to household (especially the Thanksgiving side dishes), the basic elements are the same across the country.

A Traditional Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving Appetizers:

  • Pimento Cheese on Celery Sticks
  • Bowl of Almonds or Mixed Nuts
  • Relish tray of sliced carrots, celery, pickles, black and/or green olives
  • Deviled Eggs
  • Something sweet? Try a Pumpkin Dip

    Thanksgiving Dinner Meal: (see recipes below)
  • Turkey, Gravy and Dressing
  • Mashed Potatoes
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Butter Beans
  • Green Bean Casserole
  • Cranberry Jello Salad
  • Rolls and Butter
  • Finicky kids? Include a batch of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. They’ll be happy!
  • Have a vegetarian in the group? See below for ideas

    Thanksgiving Desserts:(see below for some recipes)
  • Apple Pie or Apple Crisp
  • Pumpkin Pie
  • Mincemeat Pie
  • A little vanilla ice cream to go with the pie...
  • Chocolate Brownies (This can be a welcomed traditional Thanksgiving menu item for those chocolate lovers out there! (or even better…try our chocolate turtle cake for true decadence) 

  • Traditional Thanksgiving Menu Guide
    Tips and Tricks

    If you are hosting the Thanksgiving dinner, my best advice is to plan early. Here is a Thanksgiving guide to help you plan:

  • Plan a traditional Thanksgiving Menu and make lists of what you will need (you can use our Thanksgiving recipies, family recipes, or your favorite cookbook or cooking website)

  • Do your Thanksgiving shopping early

  • Shopping early will also help you hold down some costs to help make the day a cheap Thanksgiving for your pocketbook!

  • Get out cooking dishes, serving dishes, plates, linens, etc. a few days in advance to make sure you have everything you need. Make sure that your traditional Thanksgiving menu that you have worked so hard to prepare is set off by a pretty table

  • Go ahead and set the table, if you can a day or two before. That way it will be ready to go when you have more important things to do (cooking!)

  • Allow guests who are coming for the day to bring a side dish. You can selection one of the items for them to make from your family's traditional Thanksgiving menu, or ask them to bring their own favorite dish. This will help save you time on your Thanksgiving cooking

  • Make sure you have plenty of ice on hand for beverages

  • Plan some Thanksgiving games and activities for your guests

  • Little ones attending? They’ll love Thanksgiving coloring pages

  • Don’t forget Thanksgiving safety, if you will have small children in your home for the holiday, in advance make sure that all choking hazards and unsafe items are out of reach.

  • Allow plenty of time for cooking Thanksgiving turkey along with the side dishes, desserts and appetizers. It takes more time than you might think to get all the Thanksgiving cooking done!

  • Save a copy of your list and Thanksgiving dinner ideas to save for next year. It can be helpful to jot any notes about what you’d like to do differently next time as well as any future Thanksgiving menu items you’d like to try. That will help make it easier next year!

  • Thanksgiving Recipes

    Thanksgiving appetizer recipes

    Deviled Eggs

  • 6 hard boiled eggs
  • 1/4 cup Mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon Mustard
  • 3/4 teaspoon white vinegar
  • Paprika

    Peel eggs and cut lengthwise. Remove egg yolks and mash. Add mayo, mustard, vinegar, and mix thoroughly. May mix in salt and pepper if you wish. Fill eggs the mixture and sprinkle with paprika.

    Thanksgiving turkey recipes, Thanksgiving Dressing Recipes and Thanksgiving Stuffing Recipes
  • My mom has always sworn by Butterball Turkeys. Butterball has a great website that includes a calculator to help you figure out how big your turkey should be, along with cooking Thanksgiving turkey tips, turkey recipes, and even dressing and stuffing recipes. They have lots of ideas of what to do with your traditional Thanksgiving menu item leftovers as well!!

    Thanksgiving Side Dishes Recipes
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 3 tbsp. sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick)
  • 2 cans sweet potatoes, drained and mashed, or fresh sweet potatoes, cookes, drained and mashed
  • 1 tbsp. orange juice
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • Marshmallows

    Scald milk and add vanilla, sugar and butter. Meanwhile, add cinnamon and orange juice to sweet potatoes (can add a dash of nutmeg too) and mix well. Mix in milk mixture until fluffy. Pour ½ of the potato mixture into a greased casserole dish. Add a layer of marshmallows. Top with remaining potatoes. Bake 20 minutes at 350 degrees or until hot. Add another layer of marshmallows on top and return to over until brown.

    Green Bean Casserole:
  • 2 cans Cut Green Beans, drained
  • 1 can Cream of Mushroom Soup
  • ½ cup milk
  • Dash soy sauce
  • Dash black pepper
  • 1 ½ cups French’s Fried Onions (approximate – you can’t have too many!)

    Except for onions, mix all ingredients in a casserole dish. Add 1 cup of onions. Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes. Add remaining onions and bake 5 minutes more (until onions are browned). Easy and delicious! (I use Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup, Del Monte Cut Kentucky Blue Lake Green Beans and French’s Fried Onions.) This one is a standard on many family tradiational Thanksgiving menu lists!

    Cranberry Jello Salad
  • 2 large packaged Strawberry Jello
  • 6 cups water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • ½ cup boiling water
  • 1 can crushed pineapple, drained, with syrup reserved
  • 1 package fresh cranberries, chopped
  • 1/2 pound pecans or walnuts, chopped
  • 2 Red Apples, chopped

    Make Jello according to package directions EXCEPT in place of cold water, use pineapple syrup, plus whatever water amount of cold water that is needed to bring it to the correct cold water measurement. Stir in remaining ingredients. Pour into a pretty dish and chill until Jello sets. Great to make the day before!

    Thanksgiving Pie Recipes

    Now I’ll confess, I often buy Sara Lee or Edwards pies to serve at big family meals and as part of my own traditional Thanksgiving menu planning. They are delicious, and saves me time to concentrate on making other things. But if you want to do it yourself, here are some pie recipes for you to try.

    Apple Crisp
  • Thinly sliced, pared apples to fill 2 or 3 qt. long baking dish
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 1/3 cup melted butter

    Arranged apples on bottom of greased baking dish. Mix flour, sugar and baking powder. Mix in egg until crumbly. Place mix over apples. Pour melted butter evenly and dust on cinnamon. Bake at 350 degrees until apples are done (45 minutes to 1 hour).

    Pumpkin Pie
  • 1 unbaked pie shell
  • 2 cups canned pumpkin
  • 15 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. ginger
  • 3/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • Whipped Cream

    Blend all ingredients. Pour into pie shell. Bake at 375 degrees for 50 to 55 minutes. Cool. Refrigerate 1 hour or more. Serve with Whipped Cream

    Thanksgiving Dessert Recipes
  • Chocolate Turtle Cake
  • 1 package German chocolate cake mix
  • ¾ cup margarine
  • ¾ cup evaporate milk
  • 14 oz. package of caramels
  • 1/3 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 cup chopped nuts
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 can chocolate icing

    Mix cake mix, margarine and ¾ cup of milk. Pour ½ of the mix into 9x12x2 inch pan. Bake 15 minutes at 350 degrees. While baking, melt caramels in 1/3 cup milk. Pour over baked cake. Sprinkle with nuts and chocolate chips. Pour remaining batter over this and return to the oven and bake 15 to 20 minutes longer, or util top springs back when lightly touched. Cool in pan. Top with Chocolate icing. 

  • Special Considerations: Healthy Thanksgiving and Vegetarian Thanksgiving Recipes

    Thanksgiving Day recipes are yummy and notorious for putting on pounds. Part of it isn’t the food itself, but rather the overeating involved. But if you are searching for a healthy Thanksgiving recipe, consider serving the turkey along with fresh, steamed vegetables as Thanksgiving side dishes. For example, instead of green bean casserole, you could serve green beans with potatoes. A vegetable soup or stew would be good too. Think of your favorite vegetables and serve them.

    Now, I’ll tell you that I’m a vegetarian myself. If you are planning a vegetarian Thanksgiving, or if one of your guests is a vegetarian, you can still have a traditional thanksgiving menu!

    At our house (I am a vegetarian who eats fish) we serve Salmon Croquettes on the table as well as the turkey as part of our traditional Thanksgiving menu. Beans are cooked with just water and salt (no bacon for seasoning but it is still delicious). Other than the turkey and dressing, I can eat everything on the table!

    If a vegetarian will be sharing your Thanksgiving meal, plan to adapt your traditional Thanksgiving menu and Thanksgiving Recipes this way:

  • Use salt instead of bacon or other meat product to season beans
  • Use vegetable broth to season dishes rather than chicken broth
  • Use cream of mushroom instead of cream of chicken soups in your recipes
  • Include a protein source on the table – your vegetarian friend can give you a suggestion, or perhaps could contribute this item to the feast Enjoy your Thanksgiving Dinner!
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