15 Irresistible Thanksgiving Sides to Make Ahead of Time Before the Big Day

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Ready to tackle Thanksgiving dinner? Sure, the turkey is the crown jewel of the dinner table, but let’s be real — it’s the side dishes that really make or break the meal. So, in the spirit of saving our sanity, here are 15 make-ahead side dishes so irresistible, they might just upstage the bird.

Pistachio salad topped with nuts and cherries.
Pistachio Fluff Salad. Photo credit: Upstate Ramblings.

I’m talking old-fashioned fluffy dessert salads that kids will adore and healthy-ish salads that will make you feel less guilty about all that pumpkin pie you are planning to eat for dessert. Make these ahead of time, and you can spend Turkey Day basking in the glory of your culinary genius, instead of sweating it out in the kitchen.

Pistachio Fluff Salad

Whip up this Pistachio Fluff Salad in no time; it’s a nostalgic treat that’s a cinch to prepare. Known affectionately as Watergate salad, it’s fluffy, nutty, and a pastel-perfect addition to your Thanksgiving spread. Prepare it ahead, and watch it become the quirky favorite everyone looks forward to.
Get the Recipe: Pistachio Fluff Salad

7 Layer Salad

Seven layer salad in a bowl.
7 Layer Salad. Photo credit: Upstate Ramblings.

Layer upon layer, this traditional 7 Layer Salad is a showstopper, with its colorful strata of veggies and creamy dressing. It’s the kind of dish that doubles as a centerpiece, perfect for making ahead and guaranteed to draw ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ at your Thanksgiving table. Its make-ahead magic lies in the layers staying distinct and delicious.
Get the Recipe: 7 Layer Salad

Pea Salad

Pea salad in a blue bowl.
Pea Salad. Photo credit: Upstate Ramblings.

This vintage Pea Salad is your ticket to creamy, tangy bliss with a hint of sweetness, ideal for your holiday menu. Assemble it in advance and let the flavors meld into a side that’s as convenient as it is comforting. It’s a retro recipe that’s remained a favorite for good reason.
Get the Recipe: Pea Salad

Broccoli Crunch Salad

A close shot of a fork full of broccoli salad.
Broccoli Crunch Salad. Photo credit: Upstate Ramblings.

Broccoli Crunch Salad is your answer to a fresh, make-ahead side with a satisfying bite. The combo of crisp broccoli with chewy cranberries and the smoky crunch of bacon creates a an amazing blend of textures. It’s a vibrant dish that holds up beautifully, even when dressed in advance.
Get the Recipe: Broccoli Crunch Salad

Lime Jello Salad

Piece of lime jello salad topped with whipped cream and a cherry.
Lime Jello Salad. Photo credit: Upstate Ramblings.

Dive into the retro charm of Lime Jello Salad, a zesty and cool addition to your Thanksgiving feast. This whimsical green favorite can be whipped up ahead, freeing up your day for more festivities. It’s the spoonable, shareable side that brings a dash of fun to the table.
Get the Recipe: Lime Jello Salad

Texas Caviar Dip

Texas caviar on a tortilla chip.
Texas Caviar Dip. Photo credit: Upstate Ramblings.

Texas Caviar Dip, a.k.a. Cowboy Caviar, is a medley of beans and veggies that brings a fresh twist to Thanksgiving. Its sweet and tangy profile is the ideal make-ahead marvel, marinating into a more flavorful experience over time. Serve it up for a hearty dip that doubles as a conversation starter.
Get the Recipe: Texas Caviar Dip

Amish Macaroni Salad

Bowl of Amish macaroni salad with some on a spoon.
Amish Macaroni Salad. Photo credit: Upstate Ramblings.

Delight in the creamy, sweet comfort of Amish Macaroni Salad, a time-tested pleaser you can prep in advance. Its simplicity belies a depth of flavor that only gets better overnight, making it a pragmatic yet beloved addition to your holiday table. A side that’s always in season, it’s a must-have for any festive spread.
Get the Recipe: Amish Macaroni Salad

Ramen Noodle Salad

Three white bowls filled with ramen noodles and vegetables.
Ramen Noodle Salad. Photo credit: Upstate Ramblings.

Transform the humble ramen into a crunchy, tangy Ramen Noodle Salad that’s as fun to eat as it is to make. This salad’s charm lies in its ability to stay crisp, even when dressed ahead, ensuring a no-fuss addition to your Thanksgiving bounty. It’s a side that brings a little crunch to the munch.
Get the Recipe: Ramen Noodle Salad

Cherry Salad

Cherry fluff salad in blue bowls with whipped cream.
Cherry Salad. Photo credit: Upstate Ramblings.

Cool off with Cherry Salad, a fluffy, sweet side that’s a breeze to whip up for a large gathering. Dubbed ‘Pink Fluff,’ this six-ingredient wonder is a delightful throwback that’s as easy as it is addictive. It’s the perfect prep-ahead potluck pick-me-up.
Get the Recipe: Cherry Salad

Chickpea Salad

Healthy chickpea salad in a blue bowl.
Chickpea Salad. Photo credit: Upstate Ramblings.

Vibrant and brimming with freshness, this Chickpea Salad is a rainbow of healthy flavors that gets better with time. Vegan, gluten-free, and dazzling, it’s a breeze to prepare and a standout among sides. It’s a nutritious dish that promises to be as visually appealing as it is tasty.
Get the Recipe: Chickpea Salad

Cajun Pasta Salad

Cajun pasta salad of noodles with celery and bell pepper.
Cajun Pasta Salad. Photo credit: Upstate Ramblings.

Kick your Thanksgiving up a notch with this zesty Cajun Pasta Salad, where pasta meets a medley of veggies in a creamy, remoulade-inspired dressing. It’s the side with a spicy personality that you can toss together ahead of time. A guaranteed crowd-pleaser, it’s the side that brings the spice to your holiday slice.
Get the Recipe: Cajun Pasta Salad

Orange Fluff Salad

Orange fluff salad in a bowl.
Orange Fluff Salad. Photo credit: Upstate Ramblings.

Orange Fluff Salad offers a creamsicle-flavored nostalgia trip with a no-fuss prep that’s ideal for busy holidays. Cottage cheese, oranges, Jello, and Cool Whip combine for a side that’s both refreshing and sweet. It’s a classic dish that’s a cinch to make and a joy to serve.
Get the Recipe: Orange Fluff Salad

Amish Broccoli Salad with Cauliflower and Bacon

Amish broccoli salad with broccoli, cauliflower, cheese and bacon.
Amish Broccoli Salad with Cauliflower and Bacon. Photo credit: Upstate Ramblings.

Amish Broccoli Salad is a hearty mix of raw veggies smothered in a creamy dressing, topped off with the irresistible crunch of bacon. It’s a make-ahead marvel that melds health with indulgence. This salad brings the best of Amish culinary traditions to your modern-day feast.
Get the Recipe: Amish Broccoli Salad with Cauliflower and Bacon

Blue Cheese Coleslaw

side view of bowl of blue cheese coleslaw
Blue Cheese Coleslaw. Photo credit: Upstate Ramblings.

For a tangy twist on a classic, try this Blue Cheese Coleslaw, rich and creamy with a bold blue cheese punch. It’s a refreshing side that pairs beautifully with your Thanksgiving turkey and can be made in advance for convenience. This coleslaw is sure to intrigue and entice your guests with its unique flavor profile.
Get the Recipe: Blue Cheese Coleslaw

Beet Salad

Grated beets, apples and carrots on a spoon.
Beet Salad. Photo credit: Upstate Ramblings.

This Raw Beet Salad is a colorful, sweet addition to your table, bringing the fresh tastes of summer to your fall celebration. Vibrant, easy to prepare, and visually stunning, it’s a welcome break from heavier holiday fare. It’s a make-ahead gem that’s as healthful as it is beautiful.
Get the Recipe: Beet Salad

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15 thanksgiving sides to make ahead.

Hi, I’m Anne!

I love to cook and I want to share my recipes with you. I believe cooking should be approachable and fun, not a chore. I want to make simple recipes using everyday ingredients that you can make again and again, whether it is for a busy weeknight, a summer cookout or a special dessert. Read more...

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