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15 Thanksgiving Recipes to Freeze Ahead & Save Time

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Thanksgiving Day meals are legendary -- turkey, stuffing, pies, sauce, gravy, pies, casserole, cocktails, pies ... the goodness never seems to end. All that cooking, though, could leave the host tired way before the tryptophan kicks in. This year, tackle Thanksgiving in a whole new way: Make the meal ahead of time and freeze it. On the day of, implement a plan to reheat and serve.

Making the dishes in advance will not only save cooking time on Thanksgiving Day, but also cleanup time after dinner. Another benefit? The meal will be even more delicious. Really.

Think a premade meal won't taste as good as one made on Thanksgiving day? Think again. Dr. Kantha Shelke, a spokesperson for the Institute of Food Technologists, and the founder of Corvus Blue LLC, a Chicago-based food science and research firm, told Forbes.com that premade foods and leftovers actually can wind up tasting better than food right out of the oven.

"Aromatic ingredients tend to undergo a larger number of reactions that produce flavor and aroma compounds which in turn react with the proteins and the starches. In general, as the food cools and is left to sit in the fridge, and then reheated, some of these reactions continue to take place resulting in improved flavor."

Basically, the more time a dish has to sit and cool, the more the different flavor elements and aroma compounds get the chance to settle down and mingle together. The dish develops a more rounded flavor, and for those who are working with multi-ingredient dishes like stuffing and casserole, that is a good thing. Shelke explains that umami is more likely to happen on reheated dishes, too. "Umami compounds stand out more in this scenario since they are not competing with a harsh background of singular flavors and the food will taste more savory or umami-heavy in general."

Ready to rock this Thanksgiving? Here is the make-ahead-and-freeze Thanksgiving Day menu to get the job done.

1Pie Crust

Face it: Thanksgiving is just not Thanksgiving without pie! Homemade pie crust can be made up to a month in advance and frozen easily. Just fill each pie pan with dough, wrap with plastic, stack, and freeze. The day before, just defrost, fill, and bake.

2Cranberry Sauce

Blogger Valerie of From Valerie's Kitchen has a great tip for freezing homemade cranberry sauce: Store it in mason jars. On Thanksgiving Day, remove, open, and reheat just like you would a can of the jelly-like stuff.

4Cranberry Honey Butter

Forget plain store-bought butter, especially when you've got homemade rolls waiting. Kirsten from Fresh Farm Feasts whips up her own flavored butter with cranberry and honey for the perfect balance of tangy and sweet.

5Mac and Cheese

This make-ahead freezer mac and cheese from Savory Spice Rack calls for four types of cheese for a delicious and decadent side dish. Her tip? Use disposable casserole pans to save on cleanup.

7Butternut Squash and Bacon Soup

This simple soup gets its sweetness from roasted butternut squash and a bit of savory crunch from crumbled bacon that is both blended in and added on just when ready to serve. Get the delicious recipe from Damn Delicious.


8Crumb Topped Apple Pie

An Oregon Cottage has the perfect recipe for a crumb-topped apple pie that is easily assembled and frozen. You can even pop this in the oven when dinner starts and 40 minutes later indulge in a delicious dessert.

10Turkey Gravy

There is nothing worse than trying to get all the lumps out of your gravy while dinner is on the table. This recipe from The Kitchn makes gravy-making easy.  

11Green Bean Casserole

Green bean casserole is a turkey day favorite. Get creative by adding additional veggies with a recipe by Lord Byron's Kitchen. To serve, just reheat and add a mound of crispy fried onions.

13Pigs in a Blanket

Bacon-wrapped smokies are a pre-dinner classic. Kathleen from Gonna Want Seconds tops these with a sugar/cayenne pepper glaze for extra flavor.

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