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A Crowd-Pleasing Thanksgiving Menu

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Here’s the perfect holiday meal to please everyone: it’s make-ahead for the host, mostly meatless for vegetarians (though there is still a turkey), and incredibly delicious.

This menu will easily serve 10 to 12 people. And because there are so many make-ahead options, you can assign a dish to anyone who offers to bring something.

It’s the same story everywhere you go. Say the words “Thanksgiving dinner” and people begin to recite their personal list of who in their family eats—or doesn’t eat—what. 

Some cooks adapt to these idiosyncrasies by omitting or substituting ingredients, not always with happy results. Others throw their hands in the air and give up. This menu offers a better way to please everyone, including, you, the cook. It begins by offering two main courses: a gorgeous, buttery roasted turkey for the meat-eaters, and a savory polenta torta with roasted squash, slow-cooked onions, and cheese for the non-meat-eaters. An array of fall vegetable dishes and a hearty bread stuffing round things out for everyone. And because you can assemble the torta days ahead of serving it, this menu is very manageable.

For more menus and everything you need to pull off Thanksgiving, visit our Thanksgiving Dinner Guide.

Menu Timeline

Up to 3 days ahead

  • Make the sweet potato soup.

Up to 2 days ahead

  • Assemble and chill the torta.
  • Make the turkey broth for the Madeira jus.
  • Make the stuffing—minus the broth and eggs—and refrigerate it in an airtight container.

1 day ahead

  • Make the cakes for dessert.
  • Boil the kale and refrigerate it in an airtight container.
  • Make the charmoula for the green beans; refrigerate it in an airtight container.

4 hours before dinner

  • Prep the turkey for roasting.
  • Heat the oven to 325⁰F.

3-1/2 hours before dinner

  • Put turkey in oven.

2-1/2 hours before dinner

  • Baste and flip turkey and spread remaining butter over breast and legs.

2 hours before dinner

  • Make the smashed potatoes; cover with foil and keep in a warm spot until ready to serve.
  • Take the torta out of the refigertator.

1-1/2 hours before dinner

  • Baste the turkey.
  • Finish the stuffing and bake it.

1 hour before dinner

  • Bake the torta.
  • Take the charmoula out of the refrigerator.

30 minutes before dinner

  • Take the turkey out of the oven and let it rest
  • Reheat the turkey broth and make the jus.
  • Reheat the soup, if necessary.
  • Finish cooking the kale.
  • Cook and sauce the green beans and carrots.

Just before dinner

  • Drizzle olive oil over each serving of soup.
  • Slice the torta.
  • Carve the turkey.

Just before dessert

  • Make the syrup and whip the cream for the cakes.
  • Brush the cakes with the syrup and serve slices with whipped cream.

Shopping List

Fresh Produce

  • 4 lb. Tuscan kale or 2 lb. regular kale
    1 2- to 3-lb. kabocha squash
    3 lb. Yukon Gold potatoes
    2 lb. sweet potatoes
    10 medium carrots (1-1/4 pounds)
    1 lb. celery root
    1 head celery
    2-1/4 lb. red onions
    2 lb. yellow onions
    3 heads garlic
    1 medium leek
    1 lb. large shallots
    2 lb. slender green beans
    3/4 lb. purple-top white turnips
    8 oz. cremini mushrooms
    2 large bunches fresh flat-leaf parsley
    2 small bunches fresh sage
    1 bunch fresh cilantro
    1 small bunch fresh rosemary
    1 small bunch fresh marjoram
    1 bunch fresh thyme
    2-1/2 to 3 lb. Bosc pears (5 to 6 pears)
    1 lb. tart apples (such as Granny Smith, Pink Lady, or Fuji; 3 to 4 apples)
    2 lemons

Meat, Eggs & Dairy

  • 1 13- to 14-lb. turkey (preferably fresh; not kosher or self-basting) with giblets
    1-1/4 lb. unsalted butter
    6 large eggs
    2 cups buttermilk
    1-1/2 cups cold heavy cream
    8 oz. grated Manchego cheese or sharp white Cheddar

Other Groceries

  • 8 cups vegetable broth (homemade or lower-salt store-bought)
    2 to 3 cups chicken broth (homemade or lower-salt store-bought)
    5 cups vegetable or chicken broth (depending on whether soup will be vegetarian; water may be used instead of broth) 
    2-1/2 cups coarse cornmeal polenta, such as Bob’s Red Mill
    1-1/2 lb. country-style (dense) whole-grain bread
    5-1/2 oz. shelled walnuts
    4 oz. dried tart cherries
    4 oz. pitted prunes
    1 3-inch fresh vanilla bean
    1/2 tsp. almond extract
    3 green cardamom pods
    1/2 tsp. smoked hot Spanish paprika
    1/2 tsp. whole cumin seeds
    1-1/2 cups dry white wine
    1 cup Madeira
    1/4 cup sweet sherry or Marsala
    3-1/2 Tbs. cognac

Pantry Staples

  • 1-3/4 cups extra-virgin olive oil
    1 lb. 1 oz. (3-3/4 cups) all-purpose flour
    4 cups granulated sugar
    2 tsp. baking powder
    1/4 tsp. baking soda
    1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
    1/2 tsp. sweet or hot paprika
    1/8 tsp. cayenne; more as needed
    1/8 tsp. ground allspice
    1 dried bay leaf
    Sea salt
    Kosher salt
    Table salt
    Black peppercorns

The Menu

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