Find the best kid-friendly Thanksgiving recipes (that are also easy!) to share with your family—or to add to your table this year. Plus a game plan to make cooking the holiday meal as stress-free as possible so you can actually enjoy the day without having to hunker down in the kitchen for hours!


Kid-Friendly Thanksgiving Recipes

I know firsthand how challenging it can be to cook a big holiday meal with kids running underfoot. But I always still want to enjoy the holiday food—and over the years, I’ve found some ways to pull it off even with the realities of life.

And so, this post is meant to give you tips on how to plan out when you cook which dishes, take advantage of make-ahead strategies, and then have things ready to go on the actual holiday.

I am not always a fan of meal prepping or doing work ahead, but in this case, it really pays off—and tastes just as delicious!

Easy Game Plan

The goal of this plan is for you to make a recipe or two on the days leading up to Thanksgiving so you then just need to do the turkey and the gravy on the holiday.

The food you made ahead can simply be warmed up and served, which gives you less time in the kitchen and more time to enjoy the day with your family.

TIP: This is how I’ve approached holiday meals since I’ve had kids and it’s low stress and totally doable…or at least more doable in my experience anyhow.

cranberry sauce in mason jars

Recipes to Make the Weekend Before Thanksgiving

Here’s what you can get done on Saturday or Sunday before the holiday week. Obviously ignore recipes you don’t need or plan to make—there’s a range here!

Easy Cranberry Sauce with Fresh Orange
Yes, this is delicious on turkey, but it also makes a delicious jam or addition to a bowl of plain yogurt with honey!
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cranberry sauce in mason jars
Healthy Mashed Sweet Potatoes
You can make these mashed sweet potatoes up to 2 days ahead and reheat, and stir right before serving.
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healthy mashed sweet potatoes
How to Roast Pumpkin (to Make Puree)
Look for a pumpkin labeled “pie” or “sugar” for the best flavor. I used a Winter Density Squash, which is an heirloom variety. The amount of puree you’ll wind up with will depend on the size of your pumpkin.
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Best Pumpkin Baby Food (with Easy Flavor Combos!)
The amount of puree you wind up with will vary according to the size of the pumpkin you start with.
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mini cranberry orange muffins on plate

Recipes to Make the Tuesday before Thanksgiving (optional)

Muffins or quick breads are great options to make ahead. (You could make these further out if you want to freeze them and then thaw in time for the holiday). You can pick one of these or ignore this all together!

These are all great holiday sides or easy foods to have on hand for Thanksgiving breakfast.

Healthy Pumpkin Bars Recipe
These bars are tender when warm out of the oven, so do be sure to let them cool completely before slicing.
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sliced pumpkin bars on cutting board
Mini Cranberry Orange Muffins
These mini muffins work best with fresh cranberries.
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mini cranberry orange muffins on plate
Healthy Pumpkin Mini Muffins
Use a gluten-free flour blend or whole wheat depending on what works best for your family. This recipe has very little flour—that is not a mistake. They bake up wonderfully, so have faith! Adapted from Against All Grain.  
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healthy pumpkin muffins on bear plate
Easy Cornbread Muffins
Moist and nutritious, these healthy cornmeal muffins are an easy side, breakfast, or yummy snack.
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maple corn muffins
Butternut Squash Muffins
These moist muffins are great on their own or topped with butter, honey, or apple butter. Try them for breakfast, snack, or as a side for dinner.
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Recipes to Make the Wednesday before Thanksgiving

Let the potatoes and stuffing cool and store them covered in airtight, heat-safe containers in the fridge so they’re ready to go right into the microwave.

Pull the pie out of the fridge on Thanksgiving morning so it can come to room temperature (you can also warm it to serve it warm) and you can serve the cupcakes right out of the fridge or at room temperature.

Easy Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes
I prefer to use Yukon Gold potatoes in this recipe. They are usually very widely available at grocery stores.
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Easy Whole Wheat Pie Crust
I like to use this crust anywhere you’d need a double crust pie dough, such as in an apple or Cranberry Apple Pie.
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whole wheat pie crust on pie
Favorite Cranberry Apple Pie
With sweet-tart flavors and an easy method, this pie is perfect for the winter holidays! Use fresh or frozen cranberries in this recipe for the best results. Discard any that are blemished or shriveled.
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baked cranberry apple pie
Butternut Squash Pie with Graham Cracker Crust
This pie is similar to classic pumpkin, but has so much flavor from the squash.
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butternut-squash-pie slice on plate
Mini Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
I like to frost these soon before serving. You can make the frosting ahead, transfer it to a zip top bag, and store in the fridge until ready to add to the cupcakes.
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Sweet Potato Baby Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Plan to make the sweet potato at least two hours (and up to 3 days) before you want to make the cake so it has time to cool before you make the cake.
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TIP: You can also do your casseroles the day before the holiday too, or in the morning of the holiday.


Easy Thanksgiving Recipes to Make on the Holiday

I always make a Split Roast Turkey, where you cut down the backbone and lay the turkey flat, since it cooks much faster and more evenly that way in about 3 hours.

Lemon-Thyme Split-Roasted Turkey
This citrusy, herby turkey recipe cooks faster than traditional recipes and is flavorful and moist.
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Lemon-Thyme Split-Roasted Turkey
Turkey Gravy Without Drippings
This is an easy way to get a head start on the meal—you can even make it ahead of time.
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Turkey Gravy Without Drippings
Best Boiled Green Beans
You can break or cut these into any size you prefer. I usually just break them in half.
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Shredded Brussel Sprouts with Parmesan and Lemon
Lemon and honey frees these sprouts from bitterness, making them more palatable for both kids and adults. Start with a small serving to see what the kids think!
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shaved brussels sprouts

Simple Store-Bought Sides to Add

You can of course buy any of the other traditional elements of the meal that you want. Take shortcuts where you need them my friends!

  • Rolls or Cornbread
  • Whipped cream
  • Salad

sliced pumpkin bars on cutting board

Thanksgiving Breakfast Ideas

These are in contention for an easy, yet festive Thanksgiving breakfast. You can also make these ahead of time!

Healthy Pumpkin Bars Recipe
These bars are tender when warm out of the oven, so do be sure to let them cool completely before slicing.
Get the recipe
sliced pumpkin bars on cutting board
Pumpkin Oatmeal Muffins
These store well in the fridge so you can make them a day or two ahead if you prefer—or bake and serve warm from the oven. These taste like a cross between baked oatmeal and a traditional pumpkin muffin (they don’t have any flour, so they’re a little denser than a traditional muffin, but still super moist!).

Get the recipe
healthy pumpkin chocolate chip muffins on rack
Chocolate Pumpkin Smoothie
This smoothie makes two toddler-size servings, or a smoothie to share for a parent and toddler. You can freeze any leftovers into a freezer pop!
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vegan pumpkin smoothie with cocoa
Easy Pumpkin Oatmeal (with Any Kind of Oats)
You can make this in about 15 minutes on any morning, or make the whole recipe ahead and simply warm right before serving. See the Notes for variations to make it with other types of oats.
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Healthy Pumpkin Bread (Lower Sugar, SO Good!)
This bread has the classic flavor and moist crumb of a traditional Pumpkin Bread, but with half the sugar. It stores well too! (Heads up: There's a full can of pumpkin puree In this, so it takes a little longer to bake.)
Get the recipe

TIP: To help keep the kids busy, these free printables are here to help! My kids have been loving these coloring pages for the past week and I can’t wait to use the Turkey Taste Test on the holiday to see what they like.


Tips to Keep in Mind

  • It’s okay if things aren’t perfect!
  • It’s okay if the kids don’t eat all of the food! They are new to the world and they’ve only experienced this holiday a handful of times in their lives (if that), so have empathy that they haven’t seen most of these foods many times before.
  • Try to remember that the day is about being grateful, not about a perfect meal or whether the kids eat all of the things. Enjoy your family!

If you have other tips to share about having a great Thanksgiving with less stress, please share it below!

This post was first published October 2020.

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  1. “Try to remember that the day is about being grateful, not about a perfect meal. Enjoy your family!”

    Perfect reminder specially for current situation. Will definitely share this timely reminder with others. Thanks for your sharing

  2. My jaw just dropped and I almost cried. I get so overwhelmed with baking and cooking for Thanksgiving. I’m not a strong cook and planning it always seems impossible. THANK YOU.