This easy guide to Thanksgiving Dinner for 4-6 people gives you full menu of easy Thanksgiving recipes along with tips and tricks for preparing and serving everything.

Thanksgiving table with turkey breast, sweet potatoes, and mashed potatoes

We’ve planned a complete Thanksgiving dinner menu from appetizer to dessert and we’ve broken each recipe down into what items you’ll need to make it, what you can do ahead of time, and suggestions on how to serve it including serving dishes and garnishes.

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Thanksgiving Dinner Menu

First let’s start with the menu. The key to keeping a meal simple is planning a menu that includes a few dishes that can be served cold or at room temperature. That way you don’t have to worry about something getting cold while you wait for your next dish to cook.

This simple menu includes a few recipe that use an Instant Pot and Crock Pot. This allows you cook to multiple dishes at the same. These items come in pretty handy if you’re like me and only have 1 oven!

Serving a few cold, or room temperature dishes also means you can get them done ahead of time so you have less to do on the big day.

Menu:

Appetizer

Fresh Cranberry Salsa

Salad

Winter Salad with Pears

Main Dish

Instant Pot Turkey Breast

Stuffing/Dressing

Southern Cornbread Dressing

Sides

Sweet Potatoes with Marshmallows

Stove Top Creamed Corn

Cranberry Fluff

Dessert

Chocolate Chess Pie

Appetizer

Mission tortilla chip with a scoop of Fresh cranberry salsa
Fresh Cranberry Salsa
Fresh Cranberry Salsa is an easy holiday appetizer that is a little sweet, and a little spicy. Perfect for serving at holiday parties with crisp tortilla chips!
Check out this recipe

How to Make it Ahead of Time

1 – 2 days before: Follow the recipe as written and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Day of the event:  If you have more excess liquid than you would like you can pour the salsa into a fine mesh sieve, or place a thick paper towel (or a couple of layers of paper towels) in the bottom of a strainer, and press on the salsa a bit to squeeze out the excess moisture. You don’t need to get it all out but it should be swimming in juices.

Serve in a bowl with tortilla chips.

Alternative appetizers:

Salad

pecan and pear salad topped with blue cheese
Winter Salad
This light and crisp winter salad is full of seasonal fruits and nuts like pears, cranberries and pecans and topped with a homemade vinaigrette. 
Check out this recipe

How to Make it Ahead of Time

Up to 3 days before: Make your salad dressing and store in the refrigerator. Chop your pecans and store in an airtight container at room temperature. Portion out your cranberries and store at room temperature.

Day of the event: You’ll want to wait to cut your pears until just before you’re ready to serve. That way they won’t get discolored (even if they do they will still taste fine this is just a looks thing). Once the pears are cut toss all of your other ingredients with the salad and then right before you are ready to serve toss the salad in the dressing.

Alternatively you can serve the dressing on the side.

Alternative Salads

Main Course

platter of Instant Pot Turkey Breast garnished with orange slices and fresh cranberries
Instant Pot Turkey Breast
Instant Pot turkey breast with gravy is a quick and easy way to feed a small gathering a complete turkey dinner for the holidays.
Check out this recipe

How to Make it Ahead of Time

Day of the event: This recipe pretty much has to be done on the day of the event BUT you’ll be making it in your Instant Pot so it won’t tie up your oven and you’ll be able to get your mashed potatoes and dressing cooked while your turkey is in the pressure cooker!

How to Serve It

When you’re turkey is done and you’re ready to serve we recommend cutting it into 1 inch slices and laying them on a platter with some orange slices, fresh cranberries, and a little rosemary. It’s a beautiful presentation and you’ll already be using oranges and cranberries in your cranberry salsa so you just need to buy a little extra and some rosemary and you’re good to go.

Stuffing and Dressing

how to make Cornbread Dressing
Southern Cornbread Dressing
This moist, delicious Southern Cornbread Dressing is a traditional stuffing recipe that makes the perfect Thanksgiving side dish!
Check out this recipe

How to Make it Ahead of Time

Up to 3 days before: Bake your cornbread and biscuits. This is actually recommended because it gives them time to cool completely and dry out a little. You don’t even need to put these in an airtight container. Leave both breads out on the counter. They will get stale and dried out and then they will suck up all of that delicious broth when you turn it into cornbread dressing!

You can also cook your onions and celery in the broth and then store it all in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Day of the event: Put your broth in a pot big enough to hold all of your ingredients and heat it over medium low heat. Once heated through follow the instructions from step 3 to make your dressing.

Alternative Stuffing

Sides

I’ve got to admit the sides are my favorite part of Thanksgiving, followed very closely by dessert. Even when we have a smaller Thanksgiving celebration we often have sweet potatoes and mashed potatoes because there can never be enough carbs!

spoonful of Sweet Potato Casserole with Marshmallows
Sweet Potato Casserole with Marshmallows
Sweet potato casserole with marshmallows is a classic southern recipe with lots of flavor! A must have Thanksgiving or Christmas side dish.
Check out this recipe

How to Make it Ahead of Time

Up to 2 days before: You can make the entire recipe, stop short of cooking it, up to 2 days before Thanksgiving. Wrap your casserole dish tightly with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator.

Day of the event: Take your sweet potato casserole out in the morning and let it come to room temperature while you work on other things.

When your dressing comes out of the oven turn the temperature down to 350 degrees F and then put your sweet potato casserole in the oven. Since the oven will already be a little hotter than you need keep an eye on the casserole, it will take a little less cooking time. You’re just warming it through.

Alternative Potatoes

easy Thanksgiving side of Creamed Corn
Stovetop Creamed Corn
Creamed Corn is a delicious blend of corn kernels and milk, simmered on the stovetop to make a creamy, slightly sweet, classic corn side dish.
Check out this recipe

How to Make it Ahead of Time

Day of the event: Guys, this recipe is so super easy that you don’t need to make it ahead of time. You’ll be using the stove top so you don’t have to worry about waiting for the oven.

I suggest starting this when the sweet potato casserole goes into the oven.

Alternative Vegetable Sides

bowl of Creamy Cranberry Salad for Thanksgiving side
Creamy Cranberry Salad
This Creamy Cranberry Salad, otherwise known as Cranberry Fluff, is a delicious combination of fresh cranberries, red grapes, pineapple, marshmallows, and pecans all tossed together in a creamy whipped topping.
Check out this recipe

I know this might look like a dessert but if you are a southerner you know that we serve cranberry fluff as a side dish! LOL

How to Make it Ahead of Time

Up to 2 days before: Make this complete recipe up to 2 days before and store in the refrigerator in a sealed container.

This recipe is amazing because 1) It is totally delicious and 2) you make it ahead time AND serve it cold. No need to heat anything up just put it in a nice bowl and place it on the table.

Alternative Cranberry Recipe

Dessert

whole Chocolate Chess Pie and slice on plate
Chocolate Chess Pie
Chocolate Chess Pie is a classic southern pie recipe made with just a few simple ingredients that bake up into a rich, delicious chocolate dessert that is perfect for the holidays!
Check out this recipe

How to Make it Ahead of Time

Up to 3 days before: The great thing about pies is you can bake them ahead of time. My mom always spends the day or two before Thanksgiving baking pies for our big dinner. Just make sure to let them cool completely and then wrap them in plastic wrap to keep them fresh. I do not store mine in the refrigerator but you can if you prefer.

The only problem with making this pie ahead of time, at least in my house, is that sometimes it doesn’t make it until Thanksgiving….I suggest finding a good hiding spot ;).

Alternative Desserts

Thanksgiving Leftover Ideas

That’s it. Everything you need to know to have a simple, but totally delicious Thanksgiving dinner. And if your celebration is a little smaller than usual this year don’t worry, that just means there will be more leftovers!

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