Grandma’s Secret Last-Minute Holiday Recipes

Updated: May 19, 2024

Grandma knows best—especially when it comes to holiday cooking—but that doesn't mean she never took shortcuts! When you're running low on time, reach for one of these quick, easy, grandma-approved recipes.

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Grandma's Cranberry Stuff

What could taste better than turkey and cranberry on Thanksgiving Day? My grandmother's classic recipe makes the best cranberry stuff to share with your family and friends this holiday. —Catherine Cassidy, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Get more last-minute recipes in our ultimate holiday guide.

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Nana's Rocky Road Fudge

We make rocky road-style fudge every Christmas, but why wait until the holidays for a recipe this good? —Ashley Berry, Montgomery Village, Maryland
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Hurry-Up Biscuits

When I was young, my mom would make these biscuits with fresh cream she got from a local farmer. I don't go to those lengths, but the family recipe is still a real treat. —Beverly Sprague, Baltimore, Maryland
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Minestrone with Turkey

I remember my mom making this soup; now I make it for my kids as often as I can. It's a good way to use up leftover vegetables. Sometimes I add a can of rinsed and drained kidney or garbanzo beans. —Angela Goodman, Kaneohe, Hawaii
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Cookie Jar Gingersnaps

My grandma kept two cookie jars in her pantry. One of the jars, which I now have, always had these crisp and chewy gingersnaps in it. They're still my favorite cookies. My daughter used this recipe for a 4-H fair and won a blue ribbon. —Deb Handy, Pomona, Kansas
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Nutty Stuffed Mushrooms

Basil, Parmesan cheese and mushroom blend together well, while buttery pecans give these treats a surprising crunch. Our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren always ask for them! —Mildred Eldred, Union City, Michigan
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Lemony Turkey Rice Soup

While growing up in Texas, I spent a lot of time helping my grandma cook. Lemon and cilantro add a deliciously different twist to turkey soup. —Margarita Cuellar, East Chicago, Indiana
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Pizzelle

This recipe was adapted from one used by my Italian-born mother and grandmother. They used old irons on a gas stove, but now we have the convenience of electric pizzelle irons. The cookies are so delectable and beautiful, they’re worth it! —Elizabeth Schwartz, Trevorton, Pennsylvania
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Creamy Irish Coffee

My maternal grandma seldom drank more than a glass of champagne at Christmas, but she couldn't resist my Creamy Irish Coffee. —Rebecca Little, Park Ridge, Illinois
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Grandma's Biscuits

Homemade biscuits add a warm and comforting touch to any meal. My grandmother makes these tender biscuits to go with her seafood chowder. —Melissa Obernesser, Utica, New York
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Canadian Bacon with Apples

When the holidays roll around, I'd rather spend time with family and friends than be stuck in the kitchen. I learned how to make Canadian bacon like this because it's such an easy-to-fix recipe. No one can resist Canadian bacon and apples coated with a brown sugar glaze. —Paula Marchesi, Lenhartsville, Pennsylvania
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Old-World Puff Pancake

My mom told me her mother-in-law showed her how to make this dish, which became popular during the Depression, on their "get acquainted" visit in 1927. At that time, cooks measured ingredients in pinches, dashes and dibs. But through the years, accurate amounts were noted. My wife and I continue to enjoy this dish today, particularly for brunch. —Auton Miller, Piney Flats, Tennessee
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Oyster Cheese Appetizer Log

When you say "holiday tradition" around our house, this appetizer comes to mind immediately. Every winter, I make lots of cheese logs and freeze them for when I'm expecting company or need to take food to someone's home. The blend of smoked oysters, chili powder, nuts and cream cheese tastes good-even people who don't like oysters may enjoy this interesting appetizer. —William Tracy, Jerseyville, Illinois
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Grandma's Honey Muffins

I can remember my Grandma Wheeler making these delicious muffins—we'd eat them nice and warm, fresh from the oven! She was a "pinch of this and handful of that" kind of cook, so getting the ingredient amounts correct for the recipe was a challenge. Now it's a family treasure! —Darlis A. Wilfer, West Bend, Wisconsin
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Angel Food Christmas Candy

It was my dad who inspired me to first try making this candy. He remembered it from when he was a boy. The ultimate compliment was when he told me my version tasted even better! My husband is a driver with a parcel service, so he works long hours around the holidays—which gives me time to make treats! —Shelly Matthys, New Richmond, Wisconsin
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Triple Mash with Horseradish Bread Crumbs

Why settle for traditional mashed potatoes when you can enjoy three times the flavor? Combine spuds with rutabaga and parsnips, along with the zip of horseradish, for a taste treat. —Lily Julow, Lawrenceville, Georgia
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Cauliflower au Gratin

Count on this dish to make new vegetable converts. Whenever I serve it, people ask me for the recipe. Sometimes I’ll substitute broccoli for all or half the cauliflower, and the green veggie tastes just as good! —Jacki Ricci, Ely, Nevada
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Red Roasted Potatoes

Some fragrant rosemary, fresh or dried, gives these roasted red potatoes a distinctive and subtle taste. This dish is simple to prepare yet elegant in color and flavor. It's a wonderful addition to any menu. —Margie Wampler, Butler, Pennsylvania
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Fluffy Hot Chocolate

This is our daughter's favorite hot chocolate recipe. It may look like ordinary cocoa, but a touch of vanilla sets it apart from the rest. And the melted marshmallows give it a frothy body you won't get from a cocoa packet. —Jo Ann Schimcek, Weimar, Texas
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Christmas Meatballs

Cranberry sauce and brown sugar create a tangy glaze for moist meatballs that are good Christmas appetizers or Christmas dinner ideas. We love them so much, I prepare them year-round. —Joyce Bentley, Redlands, California
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Winning Cranberry Chip Cookies

Chock-full of cranberries, chocolate chips and nuts, these cookies are fun to eat. They offer a change of pace from traditional Christmas cookies...but don't wait until December to make them. My family requests them all year-round.
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Hot Spinach Apple Salad

With a light sweet-tangy dressing, the spinach doesn’t wilt and the apples retain their crunch. We serve this salad with homemade bread. —Denise Albers, Freeburg, Illinois
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Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies

Everyone who tries these beloved gems is amazed that they use only five ingredients. Baking cookies doesn't get much easier than this. —Dee Davis, Sun City, Arizona
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Bacon-Stuffed Mushrooms

I first tried these bubbly treats at my sister-in-law's house. The tender mushroom caps and creamy filling were so fabulous that I had to get the recipe. It's hard to believe how simple, fast and easy they are. —Angela Coffman, Kansas City, Missouri
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Shrimp Scampi

This shrimp scampi recipe looks elegant enough to serve to company, but it’s easy to prepare. The bright flavors of lemon and herbs enhance the shrimp. Serve it over pasta and wait for the compliments. —Lori Packer, Omaha, Nebraska
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Snickerdoodles

The history of these whimsically named treats has been widely disputed, but their popularity is undeniable. Help yourself to one of our soft cinnamon-sugared cookies and see for yourself. —Taste of Home Test Kitchen
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Cheesy Cream of Asparagus Soup

Kids may not want to try a vegetable soup, but once they spoon up a mouthful of this cheesy variety, the flavor will keep them coming back for more. —Muriel Lerdal, Humboldt, Iowa
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Sausage-Stuffed Acorn Squash

Acorn squash gets the sweet and savory treatment when stuffed with sausage, onion, spinach and cranberries to make this cozy main dish. Cooking the squash in the microwave is an easy solution for a busy weeknight. —Taste of Home Test Kitchen
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Cherry Chocolate Chunk Cookies

These rich, fudgy cookies are chewy and studded with tangy dried cherries. It’s a good thing the recipe makes only a small batch, because we eat them all in one night! —Trisha Kruse, Eagle, Idaho
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Festive Cranberry Fruit Salad

This fruit salad is a tradition on my Christmas table. It goes together quickly, which is a plus on such a busy day. —Rousheen Arel Wolf, Delta Junction, Alaska
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Coconut-Layered Pound Cake

If you love chocolate, almonds and coconut, this cake is for you. It comes together in a flash and tastes just like an Almond Joy candy bar! —Linda L. Nichols, Steubenville, Ohio
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Christmas Eve Confetti Pasta

This easy Christmas dinner has become a holiday tradition in our home. All the prep is done before we attend Christmas Eve service. On returning, I just boil water and saute. It's so colorful with a tossed salad and garlic bread — and always gets raves! — Ellen Fiore, Ridgewood, New Jersey
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German-Style Cabbage and Beans

This is one of my greatest hits for a potluck dish at church suppers. If you use some red cabbage, it will have very festive colors, light pink with green. It looks so pretty. —Winifred Winch, Wetmore, Michigan
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Crab Crescents

This recipe is so good, no one will guess how quickly you put it together. These little bites are delicious and decadent! —Stephanie Howard, Oakland, California
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Orange-Glazed Beets

Beets were a popular vegetable in our house when I was growing up, and this recipe is a real favorite of ours. It's very easy to make, and the orange gives it a delightful citrus flavor. —Susan Punzal, Orchard Park, New York
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Creamy Pineapple Fluff Salad

Guests of all ages will gravitate to this traditional “fluff” salad, chock-full of pineapple, marshmallows and cherry bits. —Janice Hensley, Owingsville, Kentucky
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Honey-Thyme Butternut Squash

This golden, honey-sweetened squash is just as hearty and comforting as your favorite potato dish. With its bright color, it makes an attractive side for special autumn meals. —Bianca Noiseux, Bristol, Connecticut
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Mashed Potatoes with Garlic-Olive Oil

Garlic mashed potatoes are high on our love list. To intensify the flavor, I combine garlic and olive oil in the food processor and drizzle it on top of the potatoes. — Emory Doty, Jasper, Georgia
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German Beer Cheese Spread

We love recipes inspired by our German heritage. This tangy spread is fantastic served alongside everything, including pretzels and pumpernickel or crackers and sausage. Choose your favorite beer—the flavor really comes through. —Angela Spengler, Tampa, Florida
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Apricot-Glazed Bacon Spirals

Here’s a real crowd-pleaser for an appetizer table or brunch buffet. A whole piece of crispy bacon is rolled into each spiral. It's so good with the apricot preserves, which make it a sweet-and-salty treat. —Kellie Mulleavy, Lambertville, Michigan
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Three-Cheese Creamed Spinach

Cream cheese, Parmesan and mozzarella make this dish wonderfully cheesy. Sprinkle it with french-fried onions for a crisp boost of flavor. —Kathy Vazquez, Amarillo, Texas
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Holiday Cornflake Cookies

I can't seem to make enough of these cornflake wreaths around the holidays. The cookies firm up quickly, so you'll need to place the Red Hots right away. —Kathleen Hedger, Fairview Heights, Illinois
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Brandy-Glazed Carrots

Carrots sport a light brandy sauce for a beautiful side with mass appeal. —Tammy Landry, Saucier, Mississippi
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Cranberry Honey Butter

If you are traveling to a friend's or loved one's for the holidays, bring them something even better than a bottle of wine—this easy to whip up treat! —Arisa Cupp, Sherwood, Oregon
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Holiday Rum Balls

I make these rum balls for special occasions with my wonderful family and friends. The treats are so easy to make and pack a festive punch. — Diane Duschanek, Council Bluffs, Iowa
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Gingerbread Hot Cocoa

Are you in the Christmas spirit yet? If not, this special cocoa will do the trick. It’s like drinking a chocolate gingerbread cookie! —Erika Monroe-Williams, Scottsdale, AZ
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Brussels Sprouts in Rosemary Cream Sauce

Brussels sprouts in a rosemary-infused cream sauce have the power to bring friends together – but watch out for fights over who gets the last of the sauce. —Liz Koschoreck, Berea, Kentucky
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Old-Fashioned Peanut Butter Cookies

My mother insisted that my grandmother write down one recipe for her when Mom got married in 1942: the how to make peanut butter cookies from scratch recipe. That was a real effort because Grandma was a traditional pioneer-type cook who used a little of this or that until it felt right. This treasured recipe is the only one she ever wrote down! —Janet Hall, Clinton, Wisconsin
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Quicker Chicken and Dumplings

Ready in 30 minutes, this easy chicken and dumplings recipe takes advantage of convenience items and uses time-saving, drop-style dumplings. —Willie DeWaard, Coralville, Iowa
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Buttermilk Smashed Potatoes

My family loves this decadent homestyle recipe of buttermilk, potatoes and butter. Serve with your favorite toppings and enjoy! —Marla Clark, Albuquerque, New Mexico
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Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies

Dotted with cranberries, orange zest and vanilla chips, these cookies are so colorful and fun to eat. They look lovely on a dessert tray and would be a great addition to your Christmas cookie lineup. —Pat Habiger, Spearville, Kansas