If you're hosting Thanksgiving this year, whether for the first or 50th time, you've likely been focusing almost, if not entirely, on the big feast. It's pretty obvious that the Thanksgiving meal gets all the attention--and for good reason. The Thanksgiving spread is one of, if not the most sacred and traditional of all American holiday meals, and it follows a pretty strict rigmarole. The whole ordeal demands many hours of planning, shopping, prepping, and cooking. To be honest, it can all be quite stressful if you're not adequately prepared, so we've been offering up our best tips, suggestions, and time-saving strategies over the past couple of weeks to make sure you're completely confident to conquer the day without any (or too many) hiccups.
With all the focus on the big spread, the breakfast menu is often (and understandably) overlooked, but let's face it: If you have guests in town, you have mouths to feed for all of the meals that day. And while you probably shouldn't just set out a box of Cap'n Crunch and call it done, you definitely don't want to prepare an over-the-top, elegant morning feast either. Don't overthink it: Breakfast on Thanksgiving should be light, easy, simple, and a little-bit special. Since the main meal is usually served mid-afternoon, heavy casseroles and/or sugar-loaded breakfast pastries are a big no-no. You want to make sure it's light enough that guests save room for the main event, but stays with them long enough so no one is starving and adding extra pressure for you to get the appetizers rolling out earlier than you're prepared to. Time-intensive foods--like personalized omelets, stacks of pancakes, or really anything cooked to order--are also too much, because prepping this sort of breakfast will inevitably take you out of your Thanksgiving cooking rhythm for at least an hour or two, which is valuable time no home cook can afford on turkey day. So what kind breakfast fare is right for the morning of the big feast? Here are the best tips for serving a fuss-free, simple, and special breakfast on November 24:
Tip #1: Start with coffee.
If you have a coffee maker with a timer, set it the night before for about 30 minutes before you plan to serve breakfast. If you set it too early, guests may wake up to the aroma of fresh coffee and venture into the kitchen ready to eat before you have everything set up. It's perfectly fine to let them lazily sip on a cup of java for a few minutes while you finish preparing breakfast, but no one wants the whole family crowded around the kitchen island like carnivores waiting to devour their prey at 7 AM.
Tip #2: Fresh fruit is a must.
Stock your kitchen with apples, berries, pears, pineapple, bananas, pomegranate seeds, and more for a fresh, sweet, and light breakfast option on Thanksgiving morning. Before you go to sleep the night before, get night-owl guests to help you dice up fresh fruit for a fruit salad. Adding a little bit of lemon or lime juice to the bowl will keep it fresh when it's tightly wrapped in plastic wrap and placed in the fridge overnight. If you want to wing it, go for it, but here are some of our favorite holiday fruit salad recipes.
Tip #3: No one will turn down muffins.
For an entirely prep-ahead breakfast menu, whip up a batch of muffins the day before Thanksgiving, and serve with fresh fruit as mentioned above. If you do have a little time the morning of Thanksgiving and want to serve piping-hot, fresh muffins (definitely my preference), you can make the batter the day before and wait to bake them until the next morning. Pro tip: Don't forget the mix-ins. It's fun to play with customizing this simple treat--so adding nuts, chocolate chips, or adding a simple cinnamon-streusel topping is an easy way to amp up any of your favorite standard muffins. Here are 26 breakfast muffin recipes for you to try--my current favorites are these Blueberry-Sour Cream Muffins.
Tip #3: Set out a customizable parfait bar.
For another make-ahead option that's simple but still feels special, you can make a batch of homemade granola up to a week in advance, and set it out with purchased yogurt and fresh fruit for a completely customizable, hands-off breakfast option. Keep in mind: Not everyone likes plain Greek yogurt, so you may want to purchase a regular vanilla yogurt for children or pickier adults. Don't forget to set out fun and fancy parfait glasses!
Tip #4: Everyone loves a breakfast casserole.
If breakfast isn't breakfast in your mind without eggs, I get it. I certainly understand the appeal of prep-ahead breakfast casseroles for serving (and satisfying) a hungry crowd quickly, but just be careful that it's not too heavy and can be paired with a lighter option like fresh juice and fruit. This 5-star Sausage-Hash Brown Breakfast Casserole is the most popular breakfast casserole on our site, and I know your guests will love it--in fact, it's what I served for Thanksgiving breakfast last year. Of course, my entire family had just finished running a half marathon, so we definitely wanted, and deserved, a heartier morning meal.
Tip #5: A bagel or toast bar ain't nothing to complain about.
While plain 'ol bread isn't anything special, bagels and toast have definitely returned to popularity thanks to the innumerable, mouthwateringly-delicious options out there to top them. Seriously--don't overlook it. Again, you don't want to go overboard on this idea, because picking out a ton of topping options can turn into a much larger project than you originally thought. Keep it simple with 4 to 5 options for guests to enjoy the dish sweet or savory, and let them build breakfast however they prefer--which will keep you from getting bogged down in hands-on work so you can focus on the Thanksgiving spread. For sweet options, I'd suggest providing 1 or 2 jams, some fresh fruit, and a chocolate-hazelnut spread. For savory: various types of cheeses, avocado, onion slices, spinach, tomatoes, and simple eggs (fried or boiled) should cover the basics. I definitely recommend going with fresh bread and bagels from a local bakery to make it an extra-special occasion, but don't feel any shame in picking some up from the grocery store if you'd rather put that money and time completely toward the Thanksgiving feast. For more ideas, here are 50 genius ways to top toast and 8 delicious ways to top bagels that go beyond cream cheese.