Firmly pressed linens. Sparkling crystal glasses. Giant helpings of casserole, stuffing and pie. And, of course, a golden turkey at the heart of it all. There’s just no beating a classic Thanksgiving dinner.
At my house, a traditional Thanksgiving dinner brings together family from all corners of the country. And you better believe we break out the same traditions year after year: Dad will carve the turkey, Mom will make her special cranberry sauce (mmm…to hear those fresh cranberries popping on the stovetop!) and no matter the age, us “kids” will snack away on French’s crispy fried onions before they make it to their place on the green bean dish. Though we go through the same motions each year, these traditions never feel tired.
Whether you’ve been hosting Thanksgiving for decades or are just starting this year, we’ve wrangled up the best ideas for your traditional Thanksgiving dinner.
Traditional Thanksgiving Menu Ideas
For a truly traditional Thanksgiving dinner menu, you’ve got to have the classics:
- Mashed potatoes
- Green bean casserole
- Sweet potato casserole (a marshmallow topping is negotiable)
- Cranberry sauce
- Bread rolls
- Lots and lots of pie
Traditional Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe
Let’s face it, no matter how good Aunt Lydia’s cornbread is, the star of the show will always be the turkey. Every cook has their favorite way to prepare it: deep-fried, on the grill, or in the oven. However, for our traditional Thanksgiving feast, we found a turkey recipe is an absolute classic. Kim Forni shared her family’s best turkey recipe that roasts up crispy and golden on the outside and juicy on the inside. The secret? Brine the turkey in maple and sage the night before and cook the bird in a bag. Yes, a bag. (Follow our Test Kitchen’s guide to roasting turkey in an oven bag.)
From our family to yours, we’ve compiled some of our most treasured traditional Thanksgiving menu items that have been passed down from one generation to the next. Get all of our best traditional Thanksgiving menu recipes right here.
Traditional Thanksgiving Decoration Ideas
Such a special occasion deserves special decor. And yes, you can be traditional without being stuffy. First, find a tablecloth you love, then work your color scheme from there. For our traditional Thanksgiving table, we went with a deep plum cloth. Though it’s probably not the color Grandma would have chosen, we feel plum is an underused seasonal color that deserves its place in the spotlight. Dark and bold colors like this can really make white plates and all those rich, golden dishes (like our favorite corn pudding casserole) shine. Get the look with all of our favorite table settings.
To fill in the table, go ahead and use the holiday as an excuse to break out that crystal stemware that’s been sitting in the cabinet. Or wipe the dust off a family heirloom to serve as the centerpiece. To get our look, add in a few glass and metallic items. (We chose pewter napkin rings and repurposed these beautiful Crate & Barrel glasses as candle holders) Then, balance out these hard textures with softer items like flower bunches and tall taper candles.
Psst! Don’t risk getting wax on the table. Add a soft glow to the Thanksgiving table with these flickering flameless candles.
How to Give Thanks: Gratitude Garland
With all the meal prep, decorating and family running around the house, it’s easy to forget what the holiday is all about. Try this feel-good Thanksgiving activity at your table this year to reflect on the things that you and your family are grateful for:
- Before friends and family arrive, string a length of twine or ribbon in an obvious spot, such as on a mantel or at the top of a doorway.
- Set out paper leaves, permanent markers, and clothespins.
- Throughout the day, invite each person to write down what they’re thankful for on a leaf and string it to the twine
Want More Ideas? Find Your Thanksgiving Style.
Transform your table this holiday by planning your Thanksgiving feast around one of our fun (and delicious!) themes. Take our quiz to find the perfect menu, stunning tablescape decorations and more—all based off of your personality.