Essential Recipes for Your First Thanksgiving

Hosting your first Thanksgiving is a right-of-passage for any cook.  We've hand-selected our favorite classic Thanksgiving recipes that keep things simple, while making sure your first Turkey Day meal "without mom" (or grandma, or aunt Liz) is truly memorable.

  • Basic Roast Turkey
    Photo: Marcus Nilsson

    Basic Roast Turkey

    Believe or not, the turkey is actually one of the easiest parts of the Thanksgiving meal. You can dress up the classic roasted turkey with fancy homemade stuffings, overnight brines, savory spice rubs, and more, but we love this recipe for its simplicity. Roasting the bird with carrots, celery, and onions gives it a little extra flavor, and a garnish of cut-up navel orange wedges make the presentation really "pop".
  • Cherry-Pecan Brie
    Photo: Jim Franco; Styling: Lydia DeGaris Pursell

    Cherry-Pecan Brie

    Smelling your turkey roasting in the oven is sure to get guests' tummies rumbling on Thanksgiving Day. Give them a little taste of what's to come with an easy, seasonal appetizer. For this fancy-looking dish, just top a warmed round of Brie cheese with a mixture of cherry preserves, balsamic vinegar, ground pepper, and salt, then sprinkle with toasted pecans. Serve with your favorite crackers.
  • Cranberry Sauce
    Photo: Luca Trovato; Styling: Lynda Hirst

    Cranberry Sauce

    Let's face it - your first Thanksgiving can sometimes be as much about displaying your cooking and entertaining skills as it is about the food. So why go for the canned cranberry sauce, when this homemade version is SO easy? A package of cranberries (fresh or frozen), sugar, orange zest, orange juice, and water are all you need for this delicious ruby-red sauce.
  • Pan Gravy
    Photo: Michael Paul

    Pan Gravy

    When roasting your own turkey, whipping up a savory batch of your own pan gravy is a must. Like the turkey, gravy is actually a pretty easy dish to prepare, and we think it's worth making some from scratch for the Thanksgiving spread.
  • Country Cornbread Dressing
    Oxmoor House

    Country Cornbread Dressing

    Start with savory cornbread from the deli at your local grocery store for a great time-saver in this classic cornbread dressing recipe. It calls for traditional ingredients like chopped onion, chicken broth, cream of chicken soup, and dried sage.
  • Sweet Potato Casserole with Pecan Topping

    Sweet Potato Casserole with Pecan Topping

    Sweet potato casserole is the #1 most popular recipe on during the holidays. What makes this version extra-special is that it's made in a slow-cooker, which frees up valuable oven space and time for other dishes on the menu.
  • Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream Fantasy
    Photo: Oxmoor House

    Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream Fantasy

    Making the perfect pumpkin pie can be a bit of a bear - so bake a frozen one (such as Mrs. Smith's) and dress it up with vanilla ice cream, caramel topping, and toasted pecan halves for a truly waistband-busting Thanksgiving dessert.
  • Easy Cinnamon Bread
    Photo: Hector Manuel Sanchez

    Easy Cinnamon Bread

    If your Thanksgiving plans include not only cooking the big meal, but also hosting out-of-town friends or family, consider serving them this sweet breakfast bread the next morning. With just four ingredients, it's unbelievably easy, and makes the perfect pre-shopping meal for anyone who loves those Black Friday sales.
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