Thanksgiving Menu Ideas ~ Diane's Vintage Zest!

Thanksgiving Menu Ideas

Halloween is over, which always makes me a little sad.  :(  However, my consolation is that we get to start planning our Thanksgiving dishes!  Yay!

Over the next few weeks, I will share several of my favorite dishes that you could easily work into your Thanksgiving menu.  By the end of it, hopefully you will have a couple of new recipes for your guests!

And in a couple of weeks, after I have dazzled you with the best of our Thanksgiving recipes, I will share with you a few of my Thanksgiving fails.  Hopefully, you can avoid making the same mistakes I have over the years, or else sharing my embarrassing, ugly dishes will be in vain!  :)

First of all, I would like to share my personal history with hosting Thanksgiving dinner, if you all don't mind.  :)  Otherwise, just scroll down to see our menu!

Until I asked to start hosting Thanksgiving in college, we never had a family dinner at home.  Every year we were invited to the home of a good family friend, but when the father of the family had a stroke, they understandably stopped hosting their large parties.  While I was in high school, we just simply did not have a Thanksgiving dinner.  I didn't really mind, since I was probably an angsty teen that did not miss family time anyways!

Then, in college when everyone went home for Thanksgiving break, I asked my mom if we could host a family dinner.  The joke was on me though because my mom had never cooked a Thanksgiving from scratch on her own, so she ordered it from a restaurant!

It was just okay, and I knew that I could do better, even though I did not cook regularly at the time!  The next year, I did EVERYTHING myself from soup to nuts, or rather turkey to apple pie.  Unfortunately, some of the dishes were duds and it took way too long.  That is when I decided that we should divide and conquer.  So over the last several years, my mom, my sister, and I have shared the dishes.  That way, we only have to prep and cook five dishes maximum.  Much more manageable!  Add to that the dishes that all of my aunts bring over, and we have tons of food to spare!  We have lots of family, so that's always a concern for us.  :)


Okay, now that you know our story, here is how we plan our menu every year.  We take into account everyone's likes and dislikes, dietary restrictions, popular items from the year before, and overall yumminess!  It's been several years of trial and error, but we finally have our best Thanksgiving menu!


  • Turkey:  The main attraction and the only dish that is a must!
  • Ham:  We have a cousin who grew up on a farm with chickens, so she doesn't eat any poultry.  For her, my aunt always brings over a ham!
  • Rotating Entree #3:  In the past I made a Brisket and a Spinach Lasagna, my sister made Beef Chili, my mom made Grilled Salmon, and another aunt brought over a pasta dish, which have all been big hits.  We decide on the last entree depending on where there is a hole in the menu, oven timing, and whomever has the energy to take on another dish!

  • Roasted Potatoes:  Over the years, we have tried mashed, scalloped, fried, etc.  As a whole, we decided that we like roasted potatoes the best!  Mom's in charge of this dish.
  • Gravy:  Except for me, our family never used gravy, so we decided to nix it from the menu.  :(  A couple of years ago, my mom found a recipe from TV that is a total winner and now I finally have my gravy!
  • Stuffing:  This was the bane of my existence because once again, I looooved stuffing but no one in my family did.  So, it was up to me to find a recipe that I liked.  I tried a different one year after year, until I FINALLY found one that the entire family loves!
  • Macaroni & cheese:  My sister changes her recipe every year and swears that it was better the year before.  Silly girl, it's always amazing!
  • Dinner Rolls: One of cousins brings these over every year.  Easy peasy!


  • Salad:  I always insist on having something colorful and healthy on the table.  Note that everything above is basically brown and yellow.  It's not particularly pretty on the plate, so I take charge of this!  P.S - I already shared my recipe with you months ago because it's a year-round fave!
  • Roasted Brussels Sprouts:  One year my mom tried frying Brussels sprouts.  Not great.  We decided that my sister would take over this dish since she roasts them at home on a regular basis anyways.  :)  They're a hit!
  • Spinach Stuffed Mushrooms:  I love these little guys that my mom has made for every holiday that I can remember!
  • Creamed Corn:  My little cousins insist that my mom makes it.  In fact, she usually makes 3 batches: one for my sister, one for my cousins, and one for the rest of the family!  Sorry, no recipe for this because this is a family secret, according to my mom.  :)
  • Rotating Vegetable: We have made sauteed green beans, roasted parsnips, lemon broccoli, and creamed spinach in the past.  We'll see what strikes our fancy this year!


    • Cornbread Mini Muffins:  For most people this would be considered a side or starch, but we like our cornbread sweet around here.  None of that dry, tasteless bread at my house!  Also, one year I suggested that I make a loaf, but EVERYONE wanted the mini muffins instead.  Message received!
    • Sweet Potatoes:  This is also considered a starch for lots of people, but my family likes it sweet and topped with marshmallows.  Sounds like a dessert to me!  Once, I tried making it subtly sweet with cranberries and a streusel-crumb topping, which was not popular.  I ended up topping it with marshmallows later in the night so it would be eaten!  :)
    • Fruit Cobbler or Crumble:  Depending on the quality of the fruit in stores, I switch up the dessert.  Here's the recipe for the Plum Crumble and the Mixed Berry Cobbler!
    • Sweet Potato Pie:  I lived in Nashville for four years and got addicted to this dessert.  I love this lightened-up version best and there are never too many sweet potatoes on our table!

    And that's our typical Thanksgiving menu!  I know it's large, but we have an extra large family!  Remember, we also have someone who will randomly bring over a chocolate cake, beef stew, or even fried chicken.  Really, it is always pot luck with my family, even when you least expect it!

    Oh my, that's a huge plate mish-mosh of Thanksgiving food, isn't it?


    Several things to note here that you may want to add to your own menu.
    • Cranberry Sauce: Nobody likes it around here, so we don't even buy a can of the stuff since it just gets thrown away.
    • Rice:  We don't usually serve rice because we have bread, pasta, and potatoes on the table.  We do make wild rice to accompany the salmon, if my mom cooks it.
    • Biscuits:  Dinner rolls are sufficient for us, so we don't have biscuits on the menu.
    • Butternut Squash Soup:  My sister made butternut squash soup one year, but we all forgot about it on the stove when we started to serve ourselves.  Well, we had enough food to go around anyways!
    • Pies:  Once upon a time, I made traditional apple and pumpkin pies for dessert.  Although they were good, they were not a big hit around here.  It is not just my versions, because my family does not like storebought pies either.  They prefer my cobbler or crumble, so they are on the menu instead!
    • Cocktail:  Some homes serve a cute cranberry cocktail or festive beverage, but we are simple cooks around here, not bartenders!  Now that I think of it, maybe I'll have my guy think about shaking up a recipe or two, since he will have a hand free.  :)

    I hope all of this information is not too overwhelming or specific to my family.  Hopefully, this will get some of your creative juices flowing.  :)  At the very least, my family's brainstorming session is in one place, so when everyone forgets what they signed up to cook, I can send them to this page.  Yes!

    What do you cook for Thanksgiving?


    1. Yum! Such a great group of recipes! Pinning!

    2. Ha. I laughed when I saw that plate at the end and read the paragraph above it. That sounds like my husband's side of the family. Anything goes, lots of potluck thrown in, who knows what strangers will show up ~ and we all love it! Those potato wedges and plum crumble look especially tasty. Thanks for sharing your family's traditions. Would you be willing to share this post and any of your other great ones at our Making Monday link party? We would love it and think our readers will, too. Thanks. Have a fantastic Tuesday.

      Lori @ A Bright and Beautiful Life

    3. Good! I was a little on the fence to show the crazy plate of food, but it's how we like to pile it all on with so much food to choose from! I'll be sure to stop by later. :)

    4. Wow! Thanks for the great ideas! Everything looks delicious!

    5. What a great story, it's so cool that you decided to take on Thanksgiving at such a young age. Asking people to bring a dish is so much easier on the hostess, it's a big job anyway!
      I love the stuffing and can't believe you're the only one in your family who likes it....I love it, so I'm with you.

    6. All of that sounds so good! Can you adopt me? I come from a big family, too, but we are all so scattered and no one is close...i always fix a big spread for my fam of 6. Turkey, briskets going in the smoker, stuffing and gravy, homemade cranberry orange sauce, green bean casserole, corn casserole, that Jell-o pudding and marshmallow squidge my kids call gopher Guts, and some kind of sweet potatoes. I cannot wait for Turkey Day! i will visit your blog often to see what's up with your menu!

    7. I enjoyed your Thanksgiving tradition story. Traditions have to start somewhere. My Mom always cooked a big dinner for Thanksgiving and would invite anyone and everyone who would come over that day. We have a lot of wonderful memories! My house is home base now. Everyone brings a dish which makes the meal more cohesive, fun and less work on any one person!

    8. We aren't sure yet if/ where Thanksgiving will be this year as my FIL was just released from the hospital but, you have given me some inspiration on changing up what I bring to the table! Thank you for sharing this at the party this week! I am featuring it on my Facebook page and have pinned it to the You're Gonna Love It board on Pinterest :-)

    9. What a great Thanksgiving Menu and the food looks fantastic, beautiful Turkey. Hope you are having a great day and thank you so much for sharing with Full Plate Thursday!
      Come Back Soon,
      Miz Helen

    10. Ha! It is a blessing and a curse to have so much family nearby. I can't believe you cook so much for your family! The Gopher Guts sound so funny, I'd love to see what they look like. :) I'm antsy to cook up all these goodies too. Thanks for visiting!

    11. Thanks for reading my story! I wasn't sure if it was too boring to include, but I wanted to mention why I started the tradition as a relative youngster in the family and the reason that so many of my recipes are developed from sheer trial and error. There were no recipes handed down from past generations! I suppose I'll be the parent one day who gets to pass down the recipes. :)

      I love the kind of party that you have where everyone is invited. The more, the merrier!

    12. I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving, and it sounds like you can be thankful for having the entire family together, including your FIL. Thanks for the Facebook feature too!

    13. Thanks! Even better, the turkey was actually delicious too. :)

    14. Hopped over from the sunday funday linkup :)
      I am now salivating all over my laptop! haha. What a great Thanksgiving menu!
      Have a blessed day <3

    15. Saying hello from the blog hop. Everything looks wonderful!

    16. Thanks so much! And hello back, of course!

    17. Wow I cant imagine never having Thanksgiving , I remember back around 5 years my Grand Mothers , I was just big enough to see over the dining table top and stared at a huge steaming bowl of corn on the cob....We had Potatoes, gravy, rolls, stuffing, rutabaga, turnips, acorn squash, and tons of Turkey we made my Grandmother cooked for 30...after she was older Mom took over until her ive cooked for the last 40 years......all the original menu items, pies & cheesecake included, and my own recipe of Chocolate frozen pie..which I have to make 5 or there is never enough...and what im most proud of ? I make it all by myself.....and its always been great for 40 years....! AMEN ! Happy Thanksgiving everyone !

    18. Your Thanksgiving menu looks delicious and you're making me hungry! It's great that you're able to come up with a menu the whole family enjoys. Thanks for sharing with us over at the Homeacre Hop!

    19. You're welcome, and thanks for visiting!


    I love to hear your comments! And putting in your two cents is always free. :)