Make-Ahead Thanksgiving Sides


Delicious twists on traditional Thanksgiving side dishes you can make in advance, leaving you more time to count your blessings with friends and family, and reflect on all you have to be thankful for. I don’t know about you, but I can fill my plate up with so many yummy side dishes that I don’t have any room left for the turkey! Stuffing has always been one of my very favorite foods. I find ways to incorporate it into meals throughout the year. I make several different versions, including the one I’m sharing here, which always gets rave reviews. (Shhhhh….Don’t tell, but it’s not really stuffing. It’s bread pudding. No one will know if you don’t tell. I’ll keep it a secret if you will!)

You’ll also love my make-ahead loaded mashed potatoes covered in gooey cheese. And, for balance (ahem… not as rich and not loaded in cream, butter and cheese), delicious and super-simple cranberry relish. I love the beautiful color!

Savory Bread Pudding

The main differences between a savory bread pudding and stuffing is the addition of eggs and cream. The final result, though, is a flavorful and moist stuffing that works great as a side dish any time of the year.

(Serves 8)

5 cups 1-inch bread cubes from a rustic loaf of bread 3 tablespoons butter 3 leeks, white part only, cut in half lengthwise and sliced 2 cups sliced mushrooms (any variety or mixed) 4 cloves garlic, minced ¼ cup chopped flat leaf parsley 1 box frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry ½ teaspoon salt ½ teaspoon pepper 1 cup browned and drained Italian sausage (or 2 ounces cooked diced pancetta or 1 cup cooked bacon) ½ cup chicken stock 5 eggs 2 cups heavy cream 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce 1 ½ cups grated Parmesan cheese, divided Sage or parsley leaves for garnish (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter or spray a 2-quart baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.

Place the bread on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside.

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the leeks, mushrooms and garlic, and sauté for five minutes. Add the parsley, spinach, salt and pepper, and stir to combine. Add the cooked sausage and chicken stock. Set the pan aside to cool.

In a medium bowl, combine eggs, cream, Worcestershire sauce and ½ cup of the Parmesan cheese.

Place the toasted bread and the cooled mushroom mixture in a large bowl. Pour the egg mixture into the bowl and stir to combine. Set aside for 10 minutes to allow the bread cubes to soak.

Pour the mixture into the baking dish.

(Note: To make ahead, stop here. Cover and refrigerate up to 24 hours. Remove from refrigerator and uncover one hour before continuing with the recipe.) Top with the remaining one cup of cheese. Bake for one hour. Remove from the oven and let set for 15 minutes before serving. Garnish with fresh sage or parsley, if desired.

(Note: For a super gorgeous presentation, roast the stuffing in a hollowed-out pumpkin instead of a baking dish. It will look lovely on your dinner table!)

Twice-Baked Potato Casserole

Buttery, creamy, cheesy mashed potatoes … with bacon! I’m giving you a heads up. Be prepared for someone to lick the serving dish! I’m not kidding! It happens. They are that good!

(Serves 8)

8 russet or Yukon Gold potatoes 3 teaspoons salt, divided ¼ cup (½ stick) butter, room temperature ½ cup heavy cream 1 cup sour cream 4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature 3 green onions, chopped ½ teaspoon black pepper 3 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided 6 strips cooked bacon

Peel the potatoes and cut into quarters. Place in a large pot and cover with water. Add two teaspoons salt. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-high, and simmer for 20–30 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Drain and return to the pot.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a two-quart casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray.

While the oven is preheating, add the butter, cream, sour cream, cream cheese, green onions, remaining teaspoon of salt, pepper and one cup of the cheese to the drained potatoes. Mash until smooth. Transfer to the baking dish.

(Note: To make ahead, stop here. Cover and refrigerate up to 24 hours. Remove from refrigerator one hour before continuing with the recipe. Uncover. Add 15 minutes to the cooking time.)

Top with the remaining two cups of cheese. Crumble the bacon and sprinkle over the top. Bake for 30 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the potatoes are bubbly.

Cranberry Relish

Don’t panic about the unpeeled orange and the tart fresh cranberries. The relish mellows as it sits in the sugar.

(Serves 10)

12-ounce package fresh cranberries, rinsed and drained (with any stems removed) 1 unpeeled orange, cut into eighths and seeded ¾ cup sugar (add more if needed) Tiny dash of cinnamon


Place half the cranberries and half the orange slices in food processor container. Process until mixture is evenly chopped. Transfer mixture to a storage container. Repeat with remaining cranberries and orange slices. Stir in the sugar and a tiny dash of cinnamon. Taste and add more sugar, if needed. Cover and store in refrigerator for 24–48 hours to let the orange rind soften and sweeten before serving.

(Note: If you have leftover relish, stir it into softened cream cheese. It makes an excellent spread for crackers or leftover turkey sandwiches. Yum!)

LeAnn Rice is a food blogger and cookbook author. You can stalk her at where you can find her social media links as well as a link to purchase her book, The Loving Kitchen.

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