Let’s start with the essential question, “When is Thanksgiving dinner in Canada?” This year, Thanksgiving Day in Canada is Monday, October 9, 2023.
If you’re wondering what to serve for dinner (or what to bring as a guest), the most popular vegetable dish and the best side to pair with turkey, look no further. We’ve combed through the archives and found 23 of the best tips from chefs, food writers, and other experts to make the most of Thanksgiving 2023.
For an effortless Thanksgiving, plan ahead (and ask for help!)
Reduce your day-of stress. What can you make ahead? Consider freezing sides and appetizers, along with cranberry sauce and gravy, in advance. Even mashed potatoes – with enough sour cream, butter or milk – can be made ahead and reheated.
Your menu does not need to be complicated (more on this below), nor should it be a solo task –ask friends and family (preferably those who are supportive and can follow directions) for help.
Preparing Thanksgiving dinner is a lot of work. Can you trust friends and family to bring bread/rolls and dessert? Or consider a potluck approach to sides (we have suggestions for what to cook). With just a week left before the official Thanksgiving holiday, it’s time to divide and conquer. Ask your company for help; they likely are already wondering what they can contribute to the meal.
Lucy Waverman: 11 more tips to host a big dinner without the stress.
For a stunning dinner table, embrace tablescaping
Tablescaping – or dressing up your table – is a great way to add flair to your dinner party.
- Start with a tablecloth or table runner. Try layering in colour and pattern with napkins. Think beyond the traditional flowers in a vase as a centerpiece; it can impede visibility for your guests.
- But go gourde-less: Bright orange mini pumpkins belong in the patch or at the farmer’s market. Instead, try small potted succulents or potted herbs.
- Use your fancy glassware – it makes dinner more festive.
For peak ambiance, follow these music rules
Music at a dinner party should establish a mood – not start a private karaoke room. Keep it simple: Play something that sets a relaxed, warm mood, but does not distract in any way from conversation. Jazz from the late fifties or early sixties is probably a safe bet.
For a no-cook appetizer, try a charcuterie board
The beauty of charcuterie? Anyone can prepare an impressive platter.
Start with a large wooden board. Then select meats to suit your specific taste (from denser spicy chorizo to more tender prosciutto), choose a few strong or mild cheeses, add a handful of nuts and dates and finish it off with crusty French baguette.
Add a pot of grainy mustard and a selection of olives or cornichons, an aged balsamic vinegar, and some cantaloupe or grapes for freshness and you’re done. That’s an easy, no-fuss finger food for guests to enjoy while you put the finishing touches on the main course.
Also great: This squash and duck pizza is a delicious appetizer to get everyone salivating before the main event.
- Buy the correct sized bird: Make sure it’ll fit in your oven. Generally, 14-pound (seven-kilogram) birds fit in all ovens, but really big turkeys need larger appliances.
- Store the turkey correctly: Unwrap paper and plastic from the turkey. Place the bird on a baking sheet, cover with a clean tea towel and set in the refrigerator for up to two days.
- Let the turkey rest after cooking: Fifteen to 20 minutes is enough to let the turkey juices retract. The bird will be easier to carve.
- Carving the bird: Find the joints for the leg and thigh and remove those whole on each side. Cut down through bones to divide thigh and leg. Remove wing bones. Carve the breasts into long thin slices. Place everything on a platter. (Find a visual guide here.)
- Serving the turkey: Decorate the platter with fresh herbs, cranberries or other edible ingredients you have on hand.
For a new twist on the old greenery, try spicy Brussels sprouts
Add some zing to your menu with these spicy roasted Brussels sprouts with romesco sauce.
- 500 g (1 lb) Brussels sprouts, halved lengthwise
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/3 cup sliced almonds
- 1/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs
- 1/2 cup tomato, seeded and chopped
- 1/2 cup red pepper, roasted and chopped
- 1 tsp garlic, chopped
- 1/2 tsp chili flakes or more to taste
- 1/2 tsp hot Spanish paprika
- 1 tbsp sherry vinegar
How to prepare the Brussels sprouts: Preheat the oven to 425 F. Toss sprouts with oil and season with salt and pepper. Spread on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes, turning once or until tender-crisp and golden.
To make the Romesco sauce, heat 2 tbsp oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add almonds and sauté until lightly browned. Add breadcrumbs and sauté until golden. Remove from heat and stir in tomato.
Place skillet ingredients in a food processor along with remaining oil, red pepper, garlic, chili flakes and paprika. Process until smooth and then add vinegar. Season with salt to taste. If the purée is too thick, thin it with a little water.
The sauce can be poured over the sprouts or served on the side.
(If necessary, use less spice than suggested for a milder option.)
For a vegetable dish that’ll outshine the turkey, try this Sicilian cauliflower with anchovies
To prepare ahead of time, cook the cauliflower and prepare the spiced sauce, then mix together when cool and reheat when your guests arrive.
- 1 medium-size head of cauliflower
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp sliced garlic
- 2 tbsp anchovies, chopped
- ½ tsp chili flakes
- 1 tbsp capers
Cut cauliflower into florets. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add cauliflower and boil 3 to 4 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain well and refresh with cold water to prevent overcooking.
Heat olive oil in a skillet on medium-low heat. Add garlic, anchovies, chili flakes and capers. Cook until the flavours meld and garlic is softened, about 3 minutes. Add cauliflower to the skillet and toss until well-coated and hot.
For really great gravy, use this classic recipe
It’s no secret good gravy can be the star of the show (or, used liberally, the saving grace for a dry, overcooked turkey).
If you have drippings, use that along with flour, turkey or chicken stock, cranberry jelly and port for a simple gravy. Start by removing the turkey from the roasting pan. Drain off fat and juices, leaving 3 tbsp fat. Place the roasting pan on medium heat. Slowly stir 3 tbsp of flour into fat, cooking until flour is the colour of straw. Gradually pour in 3 cups of turkey or chicken stock, 1 tbsp of jelly and 2 tbsp port, stirring constantly. Bring to a boil, stirring and scraping up any bits at the bottom of the pan. Reduce heat and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes to combine flavours. Season well with salt and pepper.
For a vegetarian gravy, start with the browned bits from a tray of roasted vegetables. There should be some residual oil on the pan, too – if not, add a drizzle, sprinkle with a spoonful of flour and whisk in vegetable or onion stock on the stovetop until it bubbles and thickens.
For mains your vegetarian (or vegan) friends will actually enjoy, skip the Tofurky
Chances are, the vegetable-based dishes you whip up will be more delicious – and nutritious – than a store-bought mock-bird. Stuffed portobello mushrooms can make a sturdy main, while this lentil and mushroom Wellington is delicious enough to be put on a pedestal. For another mushroom-based dish, try this creamy vegan risotto.
For a classic homemade cranberry sauce, try this simple recipe
Cranberries are a superfruit full of antioxidants and vitamin C. For a classic, tart cranberry sauce, start with fresh or frozen cranberries and sugar, then stir in orange juice.
Classic cranberry sauce: Mix 12 oz (375 mL) of fresh or frozen cranberries with 1 cup sugar (any colour), honey or maple syrup in a medium saucepan. Stir in 1 cup water or orange juice, bring to boil and simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes or until the cranberries pop. Cool and refrigerate.
For extra flavour: Add whole spices such as star anise, cinnamon, cardamom or chilies. Remove whole spices before serving. Vanilla or grated citrus zest (orange, lemon or lime) are other good additions.
For stuffing (or is it dressing?) that stands out, make it yourself
Packaged stuffing mixes just don’t cut it, nor do the store-bought flavoured croutons; both are too processed and salty.
Here’s how to make stuffing at home: All breads work, but a neutral egg bread or a chewier-textured sourdough work really well. The bread must be air-dried: Let it go stale for about two to three days, if possible. Cube the bread for a chunkier stuffing, or use smaller crumbs for a more uniform one.
Use 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup stuffing for each pound of turkey. Don’t pack stuffing too tightly; it expands as it cooks. Use 1/2 the amount of vegetables and protein to the amount of bread (so 10 cups of bread needs five cups of other ingredients). For a more compact stuffing, use eggs. Use liquid – like stock or apple juice – only if you prefer a wetter texture.
Sauté onions for an aromatic base; precook other vegetables, such as carrot, celery or fennel, and combine with chopped and sautéed apple or dried fruit. Bake your stuffing at the temperature used for the turkey in a well-greased baking dish, covered, for 30 minutes, then uncovered for another 15 to 30 minutes.
For a pumpkin-forward dessert, stick with a classic pie
Pumpkin pie is a Thanksgiving staple for good reason. Stick to the classics here, and be sure to use canned, unseasoned pumpkin – not pumpkin-pie filling.
A classic pumpkin pie
- 2 cups pumpkin
- 1½ cups whipping cream
- ½ cup brown sugar
- ¼ cup maple syrup
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp ginger
- ¼ tsp allspice
- 2 eggs
Preheat the oven to 425 F. Combine all filling ingredients and beat until well mixed using an electric whisk or by hand.
Pour into a prepared pie crust. Bake for 15 minutes and then reduce heat to 350 F for about 45 minutes or until the filling is set and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.
Not gourd enough? Also try pumpkin squares, pumpkin (with ginger), pumpkin panna cotta, pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin flan, another pumpkin cheesecake (with compote), pumpkin tartlets, pumpkin brownies or pumpkin bundt cake.
For a cookie – that, yes, features the orange squash – try these chewy pumpkin snickerdoodles
Feed your seasonal craving with pumpkin snickerdoodles. These soft, chewy cookies come together quickly and make enough (36) to feed even the hungriest of dinner groups. The dough needs to be chilled in the fridge for at least 40 minutes (up to 24 hours), making them a perfect make-ahead option. Since they take just nine to 12 minutes to bake, you can pop the first tray into the oven when serving your main course.
For a break from all that cooking, look at these really huge pumpkins
For a non-squash sweet, try these non-traditional Thanksgiving desserts:
- Pear and cranberry galette: If you’re sick of squash, try a pear and cranberry galette. Pears and cranberries make for a perfect Thanksgiving combination. Save yourself some time and hassle by buying all-butter puff pastry for the crust.
- Caramel apple cake: For a vegan treat, try this wonderful fall caramel apple cake. Topped with cookie crumbles and a drizzle of salted caramel, it’s sure to please.
- Dark chocolate orange cranberry cookies: Stuck with leftover cranberries? Try these easy, chewy vegan drop cookies; it makes 36. They’re is easy to adapt to individual preferences and require just 15 minutes in the oven.
For a white wine pairing, stick with chardonnay
A rich, oaky chardonnay is the best wine pairing for pumpkin.
Most chardonnays, while technically dry white wines, are matured in oak barrels. Chardonnay delivers not just richness but a suggestion of sweetness thanks to the buttery, vanilla-like profile, writes wine expert Beppi Crosariol.
Have the wine chilled and ready to go when guests arrive.
Chris Waters: Ten balanced, flavourful wine picks to please any dinner guest
For a red wine pairing, how about mulled wine?
Is it too early for mulled wine? If cooler temperatures arrived early where you live, try a pot of red wine, orange juice, cinnamon and cloves.
- The approach is simple: Heat red wine with a mix of spices, sugar and fruit, and ladle into mugs.The key is to warm the wine until it starts to give off steam. Once that happens, immediately turn down the element to the lowest setting and keep the pan at a bare simmer for 20 or 25 minutes. Never allow the mixture to boil or it will take on a cooked-prune-like flavour.
For an excellent variation on the old standard, try glogg, a Scandinavian brew spiked with aquavit and laced with raisins and sliced almonds.
- 2 large, firm, thick-skinned oranges
- 10 small green cardamom pods
- 2 750 ml bottles dry red wine
- 1/2 bottle of ruby port, about 1 1/2 cups
- 1 cup aquavit or vodka
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped dried figs
- 3/4 cup dried cranberries
- 1/2 cup sliced almonds
- 1/3 cup honey
- 2 star anise pods
- 1 tsp pink peppercorns
- 4 whole cloves, optional
- 3 4-inch cinnamon sticks
How to make glogg: Remove thin strips of peel from the oranges, avoiding the bitter pith. Juice the oranges, straining out the pulp. Bash the cardamom pods just hard enough to crack them open. Add all ingredients into a large soup pot over medium heat, or in a slow cooker set on high. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and set aside for about two hours.
The aroma is half the pleasure. When guests arrive, strain glogg through a cheesecloth-lined sieve or colander to remove solids. Add it back to the pot or slow cooker and gently reheat.
For a kid-friendly drink option, try warm apple cider
Non-alcoholic beverages could include apple cider served warm with mulling spices. You could also pour sparkling water into pear cider or cranberry cocktail for a fun and festive drink.
For a non-alcoholic bevvy that mimics the real thing, try these booze-free wines
ClearSips makes high-quality, non-alcoholic drinks. The fresh and fruity Rabl Kamptal Verjus Spritz from Austria works as a zesty aperitif served on its own (or as an appealing base for a spritzer or wine-based cocktail).
Eins Zwei Zero makes a de-alcoholized wine range that includes rieslings and rosés (still and sparkling) and a pinot noir. The sparkling rosé is particularly impressive, with attractive flavours and a refreshing finish.
For a pint that packs no punch, try these booze-free beers
Popular beer brand Bellwoods Brewery also makes zero-proof options, such as the Bellwoods Stay Classy IPA. Sober Carpenter, a microbrewery based in Montreal, offers non-alcoholic craft beers including the Irish Red Ale, a medium-bodied, reddish-brown brew.
For an invite back next Thanksgiving, be a good guest
If you’re not hosting, and want an invite back next year (or for Christmas, Easter or a casual Friday night dinner), be a good guest. That means: Don’t show up empty-handed (even if the host insists otherwise).
- Show up on time. Be courteous of the planning the host put into the dinner.
- Make conversation with other guests – but steer clear of taboo or sensitive topics.
- Offer to bring a side dish, bottle of wine or dessert.
- Consider a small gift for the host: Good-quality chocolates, a bottle of good olive oil, flowers (in a vase, not a bunch) or a plant, or another bottle of quality wine.
Show your appreciation. Offer to do the dishes or help tidy up after the meal.
For an easy day-after meal, get inventive with leftovers
Soup, chili or savory waffles are just some of the ways to enjoy Thanksgiving beyond the big day.
Toss a salad with leftover turkey, adding in leafy greens, tomato or any kind of bean or grain. Turkey also makes a great soup with the addition of some stock, vegetables and maybe a spoonful of cream and herbs.
This Basque dish is excellent with cooked turkey, too. Eggs are often poached in the sauce, making it a substantial breakfast or breakfast-y dinner.
To enjoy the fruits of your labour longer, store leftovers correctly
If stored properly, foods remain safe and retain their quality, nutrients and flavour longer. Foods that sit at room temperature longer than two hours should be thrown out.
Wrap leftovers well in airtight packaging or storage containers to keep bacteria out and prevent leftovers from drying out.
Hot foods can be placed directly into the refrigerator, but transfer them to smaller portions, so they cool more quickly to a safe temperature.
Most leftovers can be kept for three to four days in the fridge. If you have more food than you plan to eat within that time, freeze within two hours after it’s cooked.