Many folks think make-ahead meals means frozen casseroles. In reality, there are many great dishes you can make ahead of time, from appetizers and desserts to main dishes and sides. Planning the menu for a holiday party or family gathering? You can make these wonderful dishes hours, days, weeks, or even months ahead of the big day. Doing as much menu planning, prepping, and cooking as possible in advance can save you time. And that gives you more time to enjoy your guests and the delicious dishes you’ve prepared.
Make-Ahead Meals for Brunch
Brunch is a favorite meal for many during the holiday season. And the combination of sweet and savory foods in the same meal ensures you’ll have something for everyone.
Sample Make-Ahead Menu
- Vegetable Quiche (make up to a month ahead and freeze)
- Apple Bread or Coffee Cake (make 1-2 weeks ahead and freeze)
- Potato and Smoked Salmon Breakfast Bake (make 1 day ahead and refrigerate)
- Fresh Berry and Melon Salad (make 1-2 hours ahead and refrigerate)
See 15 Delicious Make-Ahead Brunch Recipes at thekitchn.com for more inspiration.
Whether you prefer hot or cold appetizers, choose recipes like these that you can make or prep ahead of time.
- Dips and spreads: make one day or more ahead.
- Prep the dippers and dunkers, such as carrots, celery, and peppers, ahead as well.
- Charcuterie plates: prep everything ahead.
- Place mustards, relishes, dips, olives, and other garnishes in their serving bowls, slice cheeses and meats, then wrap tightly with plastic and refrigerate. When it’s party time, simply unwrap and arrange on a platter.
- Puff pastry pinwheels: make them several months ahead of time and freeze.
- These pastries are one of the best make-ahead hot appetizers. They are super quick and easy and you can find many variations online such as prosciutto and Gruyere cheese, or garlic and Parmesan cheese.
Check out Martha Stewart’s 12 Make Ahead Appetizers.
Make-Ahead Meals for Dinner
Plan your make-ahead holiday dinner around seasonal flavors as well as traditions. Pumpkin soup, a hearty chili, or lasagna are just a few dinner items you can make up to a month ahead and freeze. Did you know you can make mashed potatoes a day ahead and reheat?
Make-Ahead Mashed Potato Bake Recipe
- 5 lbs Russet or Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cubed
- 6 oz green onion and chive cream cheese
- 6 oz sour cream
- 1/2 cup milk (more or less depending on consistency)
- 6 tbsp butter
- Salt and pepper to taste
Place potatoes in a large pot of lightly salted water. Bring to a boil, and cook until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain, and mash. In a large bowl mix cream cheese, sour cream, milk, salt, and pepper. Combine with the mashed potatoes. Transfer to a large buttered casserole dish. Spread evenly and pat with butter. Cover tightly with foil and refrigerate overnight. When ready to bake, remove from refrigerator approx. 30-45 minutes before baking. Bake covered in preheated 350 degree oven for about 40-50 minutes until heated through, removing foil for last 10 minutes of baking.
Want to prepare a dessert weeks or even months ahead? Choose recipes you can freeze, such as fruit pies, cookies, brownies and bars. Or, make a frozen dessert like pineapple freezer cake, ice cream sandwiches, or frozen pumpkin squares.
You can also prepare desserts several days ahead without freezing. Ideas include barks, candies, and caramel corn. Or, for cakes, bake cake layers 2-3 days ahead, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate. Then simply frost and decorate when needed.
Want to make an impressive dessert one day ahead? Consider a festive cranberry cheesecake, a holiday trifle, or a classic tiramisu. See 10 Make Ahead Holiday Dessert Ideas from finecooking.com for more ideas.
Making the Holidays Easier
When you plan and prepare make-ahead meals, it can help make a holiday dinner more enjoyable for you. And your preparation has the added benefit of giving you more time for other things, like making homemade gingerbread cookies or wreaths, hosting parties, and more. These helpful articles can help make your holiday one to remember: