As the weather cools for autumn, there’s a lingering anticipation in the air for the holidays. With the busyness of the season, we try to slow down and enjoy every moment as we prepare to host Thanksgiving. But what’s Thanksgiving without a delicious Thanksgiving menu?
Whether you’re hosting a casual meal or a sophisticated formal dinner for your family, creating a menu full of delicious Thanksgiving foods, both modern and traditional, is the glue that holds the evening together. But where to start? Find inspiration with our flavorful dishes, discover our festive Thanksgiving dinnerware, and prepare to create your own menu with this sneak peek into our 2023 Thanksgiving Menu.
Why We Enjoy Creating a Thanksgiving Menu
Nothing means more to us than creating memorable gatherings for our loved ones — and Thanksgiving is a pinnacle event of the holiday season! Inviting our loved ones into our home is one of the year's greatest blessings, so we take pride in curating every course of our Thanksgiving menu, from the small bites to the last course. Planning out a Thanksgiving menu full of traditional dishes and family favorites as it gives us a reason to be grateful for every moment we spend together.
While we still stock our cabinets with the everyday items we know and love, every meal during the holiday season becomes an excuse to incorporate festive Thanksgiving dishes, from turkey-shaped platters to autumnal napkins. When the holiday approaches, we have the chance to create an unforgettable tablescape for our Thanksgiving meal.
Some of our most cherished traditions, including the menu itself, come from our effort to create an unforgettable menu year after year. Chop Night, for example, is an event held the night before Thanksgiving that invites all our chefs to come together, enjoy a glass of wine, catch up, and, most importantly, prepare ingredients ahead of time to make the day of easier. Creating our menu, from the first brainstorm to setting a Thanksgiving table gives us an excuse to set aside intentional time with our loved ones.
How to Choose a Serving Style for Thanksgiving Dinner?
Both the gathering size and number of dishes on the Thanksgiving menu should be taken into consideration when choosing a serving style. For a smaller guest list, such as a family of two to four, family style could be the best option. For us, there’s so much Thanksgiving food that it would be impossible to serve family-style or sit-down, so we create our menu knowing that we intend to serve the Thanksgiving food buffet-style.
How We Create Our Thanksgiving Menu
Every year, as soon as early-fall rolls around, we must decide which recipes make the cut for our Thanksgiving menu. While we enjoy designing the beautiful tablescape, we know that the menu is the real star of the show. That’s why we take pride in creating the perfect blend of traditional dishes, family favorites, and modern recipes to please everybody.
We have a set list of traditional Thanksgiving food that is automatically on the menu, like turkey and gravy. With that starting point, we add the family recipes that would cause a riot should they be removed from the menu. Both recipes from our Thanksgiving Stuffing Rivalry are necessary no matter who hosts the holiday, as well as our savory Spinach Madeleine. From there, we fill in missing spots with new dishes to have a Thanksgiving menu to please every guest in attendance.
Certain dishes will be delegated to family members to accomplish a potluck-style Give Thanks Gathering, relieving the host of the duty of having to prep and cook every single item on the menu. Usually, each person tends to make the same go-to dish year after year, so everyone knows the drill. If we're feeling frisky, we’ll sprinkle in a few new dishes. The one rule is they can’t replace the family favorites…or else!
Consider These 5 Qualities When Designing a Thanksgiving Menu
To create your menu, make sure each of your Thanksgiving foods has these qualities to make a balanced and tasty plate:
- Portions: Thanksgiving food should be able to be doubled, tripled, or even quadrupled to accommodate any size of the guest list (and don’t forget the leftovers!)
- Flavors: You should have a good mix of sweet and savory flavors within your menu, as well as the other main flavor elements: salt, fat, acid, and heat!
- Ingredients: Try recipes that feature seasonal flavors and ingredients to enjoy them at the peak of their freshness!
- Balance: balance is key for your Thanksgiving dishes, from a blend of traditional and modern recipes to heavy or lighter food to break up the feel of your plate.
- Serveware: as you plan your menu, it’s important to choose serveware to ensure you have the right amount before the day you cook.
Our Go-To Thanksgiving Menu
While there’s always room to switch certain dishes up, we have favorite Thanksgiving recipes we use every year. If we have a large enough crowd, we’ll try to add in a few new ideas to try, but this is a list of must-haves for each of the five courses:1. Tasty Thanksgiving Appetizers
The appetizer round is a course of the Thanksgiving menu where we’re open to change. Depending on who signs up, they can go with a fresh crudité platter or our family's Raw Oysters recipe or have more freedom to experiment with bringing new recipes they’ve found throughout the year. We’ve recently added Roasted Green Beans with Dill Sauce to the rotation of Thanksgiving food that may be on our menu this year.
Thanksgiving Serveware for Appetizers
Serve oysters in our coastal Oyster Collection with an artfully designed half-dozen platter. Complete the recipe by serving sauces side by side, with a zesty Mignonette sauce in small white bowls or cocktail sauce in rustic wood bowls.
Set out your crudité platter using your favorite combination of serving bowls and platters to house all the veggies and complementary dressings, such as a lemon Greek dressing, using your favorite everyday platters and boards before the big meal. To complete your festive tablescape, feature autumnal colors and set out your veggies on a Thanksgiving round board and matching trivet.
We always use a platter to serve our Roasted Green Beans and a matching side bowl for the sauce, whether it’s the classic Signature White Ruffle Skinny Tray and small matching bowls or an elegant blue with the Iris Blue oval platter and appetizer bowl. On years we want to lean into the festive themes with all our Thanksgiving dishes, we serve this in a Thanksgiving platter and matching fall-inspired dipping bowls.
2. Sides for Your Thanksgiving Feast
Some say that the sides at Thanksgiving are equally (if not more) important than the main course. That’s why we make sure to have an abundance of different flavors and a mix of modern and traditional side dishes at our table every year. Certain items, like the cranberry sauce or the bread, can be bought ready-made from the store or homemade -- it just depends on who's bringing it. But as long as we have these sides every year, we’re happy!
Our Essential Thanksgiving Sides:
- Mashed potatoes—always served up in a timeless turkey bowl
- Sweet potato casserole
- Spinach Madeline—a spicy, creamy spinach dish we love year after year
- Large Green Salad—a light dish featuring a nutty flavor
- Johnson Family Stuffing
- Blank Family Stuffing (can’t have one family stuffing without the other!)
- Cranberry sauce
- Bread or yeast rolls – perfect for sopping up sauces
Thanksgiving Serveware for Sides
Many of our go-to sides, like our sweet potato casserole, Spinach Madeleine, and Blank Family Stuffing, can be baked and served in our elegant Signature White Ruffle Casserole dish, so we make sure to have a couple of those handy when the holiday rolls around. Others, like the Johnson Family Stuffing, can be made in a matching ruffle loaf pan. These dishes bring a cohesive shape and style to the buffet table every year, allowing us to spruce it up with colorful Thanksgiving serveware for other recipes.
Other sides require bowls. The green salad is typically served in either a Fundamental wood bowl or a large Signature White bowl, depending on the year's tablescape design. Smaller bowls are best for serving our coleslaw, like the white trifle bowl or elegant Deco Gold covered bowl. The cranberry sauce is served on an oval tray or bowl, depending on the year and recipe.
And you can’t have Thanksgiving food without gravy and rolls! We present our gravy in a ruffle gravy boat at the buffet table for easy pouring. For bread, we lean into the rustic look with a basket lined with a Thanksgiving hand towel to keep each roll warm.
Fun Additions to the Thanksgiving Sides
When we have a slightly larger guest list or are looking for ways to spruce up the typical menu, we add these recipes:
- Green bean bundles—served on a platter or tray
- Corn souffle—in your favorite casserole dish
- Mac and cheese—served in a loaf pan or casserole dish
3. The Main Course
It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving in our household without a classic Thanksgiving turkey! Everyone has their preferences between white and dark meat, but as long as it’s well-cooked and flavorful, it’s a crowd-pleaser every holiday. When hosting a particularly large guest list, we’ll also serve an additional meat main dish, like ham, beef tenderloin, or prime rib, to keep everyone fed and plates full.
Thanksgiving Serving Platters for the Main Course
4. Desserts to be Thankful For
The dessert on our Thanksgiving menu is another course that’s a little more flexible with experimenting with new recipes… as long as we have the standard pumpkin pie and pecan pie covered, that is! Another favorite autumn recipe for a perfect Thanksgiving dessert is our Apple Cake with Caramel Sauce. When the family favorites are assigned, whoever else brings dessert has room to choose something festive and new.
Thanksgiving Cookware for Desserts
It wouldn’t be right to eat Thanksgiving food without a classic pie to enjoy after. Bake your favorite pie in an elegant ruffle pie dish. Elevate your tablescape and present all your desserts on large and small cake stands with a protective glass dome—to keep hands off until the dessert round!
5. Our Favorite Drinks for a Thanksgiving Meal
It’s important to have drinks for guests of all ages, so we make it a point to have a robust assortment of everyone’s favorite wine and beer and child-friendly classics like water, tea, and lemonade. Some years, we’ll also feature a signature cocktail in our favorite pitcher to elevate the celebration even further! We’ll keep a stack of our Thanksgiving cocktail napkins out next to the drink station for guests to use throughout the event.
Keep your guests lingering around the table and extend the festivities by serving an after-dinner coffee or tea. Have a collection of your go-to mugs and a cream and sugar set ready to set out once the dishes are cleared, and enjoy more conversation with your loved ones.
Must-Have Table Accessories for Thanksgiving
Pay attention to what details your Thanksgiving menu calls for and add them throughout your dining and buffet tables. Whether you need specific serving utensils or a unique turkey-shaped toothpick holder for appetizers, Thanksgiving table accessories are essential. If you plan to have a kids’ table for the youngest members of the family, carry the theme throughout with whimsical turkey melamine plates.
When it comes to setting the table, no Thanksgiving spread is complete without elegant salt and pepper shakers! Our Signature White butter dish pairs perfectly with any of our white, blue, or gold shaker sets! Remember to set a spoon rest next to the Thanksgiving platter to make loading a plate easy for each guest. Match the pattern to your shakers in a classic white or iris blue, or add a bold turkey stripe pattern to match the festivities!
Pro tip: Elevate your table further with a creative and autumn-inspired centerpiece! Feature seasonal foliage, gourds and pumpkins, or timeless turkey figurines to complete the look.
When Should Your Thanksgiving Menu Be Finalized?
We recommend finalizing your Thanksgiving Menu around three weeks before the big day to ensure you have plenty of time to prepare recipes and assign specific dishes to family members. With so much to consider in your party prep timeline leading up to Thanksgiving, solidifying every recipe on your menu will give everyone involved adequate time to pull off your unforgettable menu.
Pro tip: Remember that grocery stores get packed the week of Thanksgiving, so everyone should gather non-perishable items beforehand, saving a quick trip to the store for the fresh produce and last-minute essentials for the week.
Planning out your Thanksgiving menu may seem difficult. Still, when you break it down into different courses, learn to delegate recipes to your guests, assign serving platters to dishes, and gather inspiration from menus like ours, you’ll realize anyone can do it! Get ready to host your holidays this year and add some of our family favorites to your menu. Happy Thanksgiving!