Nine Make-Ahead Holiday Meals to Save Some Time
Let’s be real, cooking during the holidays can be stressful, even if you consider yourself a master chef and a highly experienced host. Save yourself some stress, and a lot of energy, by making a few holiday dishes ahead of time this year. You’ll be happy you did when the big day gets started and you can relax with your family, instead of spending your day in the kitchen. Creating easy, make-ahead dishes doesn’t mean you’ll have to skimp on taste or presentation. You may find a few new favorites to serve during the holiday seasons to come.



  1. Make-Ahead Eggnog

If you’ve always bought your eggnog by the jug from the grocery store, you may have never considered preparing a homemade version. Luckily, homemade eggnog is pretty easy to make. It’s also a great item to keep on hand in the fridge as a delicious holiday treat for chilly evenings of chatting by the fire.


This particular recipe provides instructions for crafting this delicious beverage in a slow cooker or crockpot. You dump all the ingredients in and let it cook on low for 2-3 hours. Easy! You can then simply turn your crockpot to “keep warm” or another low setting to keep the eggnog ready to serve all evening long. Just pour this silky pick-me-up into holiday mugs like these from Pottery Barn, crown them with some whipped topping and you’ve got a festive beverage to sip all evening long.


Pro Tip: If you have children, or plan to have any in your home this year, make their eggnog a little more fun by topping the whipped cream with holiday-themed sprinkles!


  1. Buttermilk Biscuits

While we’re not above quickly baking up some fluffy, canned biscuits, if you have an opportunity to make homemade buttermilk biscuits from scratch, they’re completely worth the extra effort! Perfect for a holiday brunch served with butter and jam, or as a savory dinner side which can be used to sop up any extra gravy left on your plate! Best of all, these biscuits can easily be made ahead of time, frozen, and reheated in just 15-20 minutes in your oven. Save yourself some additional time and make these in bulk for all of your holiday meals.


We love this simple, six-ingredient classic recipe because the biscuits can be used in so many different ways. Breakfast sandwiches, biscuits, and gravy, southern ham biscuits, cinnamon rolls – limitless opportunities to use the tasty little treats!


Pro Tip: Don’t have the time, or desire, to make homemade jam? Check out this variety pack of Bonne Maman mini fruit preserves. Imported from France and highly reviewed by jam enthusiasts, it’s sure to add a little something special to your holiday bread.


  1. Appetizer Meatballs

If you’re a crockpot recipe connoisseur, you’re going to love this simple meatball recipe. Let people serve themselves right out of the crockpot to ensure the meatballs stay nice and warm. Like some of the other handy make-ahead recipes we’ve featured, these meatballs can be easily frozen and stored for future use, making your holiday meal prep even easier.


Looking for a meatless meatball recipe? Try out these slow cooker vegan chili sauce and grape jelly meatballs. What a mouthful, right? This recipe is a great alternative to traditional cocktail meatballs if you’re planning to feed the vegan or vegetarian in your life, or you’re just trying to cut down on your meat consumption.


Pro Tip: Get creative with the BBQ sauce and jelly you choose for this recipe. Make these little appetizers spicy with some pepper jelly or a little tart with a seasonal, cranberry jam.


  1. Maple-Whipped Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are a holiday staple in many households. This Martha Stewart recipe for maple-whipped sweet potatoes is unique, hardy, and sure to please the entire family. These inventive sweet potatoes can be made up to two days in advance and heated up on the stove when you’re ready to serve them. Convenience sure is sweet!


You may have had whipped or mashed sweet potatoes in the past, so you’re probably wondering what’s so novel about this recipe in particular. What we enjoy about this recipe is the simplicity of flavors, which mush together just perfectly! With just five ingredients – sweet potatoes, butter, maple syrup, salt, and pepper, you couldn’t ask for an easier or tastier side dish.


Pro Tip: If you want to take these sweet potatoes to the next level, consider sprinkling each serving with a little cinnamon or crushed pecan pieces to add flavor and crunch.


  1. Make-Ahead Roast Vegetables

A lighter side dish of seasonal vegetables is sure to complement any main dish you choose to serve at this year’s holiday celebration. This recipe is quick and easy, taking just under an hour to prepare and roast in your oven. It calls for seasonal produce, like butternut squash, and an array of colorful vegetables, like red beets. Additionally, this dish keeps things pretty simple, allowing you to season the vegetables as you see fit.


You can serve these vegetables as a savory side dish immediately, or, after your beautiful, roasted vegetables cool completely, feel free to store them in a storage container, like these awesome and sustainable Stasher bags, to reheat and serve later.


Pro Tip: Play around with the product you have on hand first. No one likes wasting food or wasting money! If you need to replace the butternut squash with acorn squash because you happen to already have it in your pantry, this is perfectly acceptable.


  1. Crockpot Ham with Brown Sugar

A holiday ham is one of those quintessential main courses that’s worth every inch of space it takes up in your oven. Luckily, you can “bake” a delicious, juicy ham with the convenience of your crockpot, leaving precious room in your oven for your other casseroles and baked goods.


This recipe calls for just a few ingredients, keeping the price tag small, but still ensuring your ham is big on flavor! Brown sugar, maple syrup, and pineapple are used to glaze the ham while it cooks in the crockpot. This produces a very sweet ham which pairs nicely with savory side dishes like green bean casserole and stuffing.


A holiday ham may be a classic dish you prepare every year, but many other cuts of meat similarly prepared in the crockpot can serve as excellent alternatives. Pot roast and pork loin are popular crockpots pick for the holiday season.


Pro Tip: Serving the main course is all about the presentation. Be sure to garnish your ham with fresh herbs like sage, rosemary, or parsley.


  1. Make-Ahead Green Bean Casserole

Nothing says it’s the holiday season quite like green bean casserole. What’s better than the creamy, gooey goodness of a warm casserole topped with crunchy, fried onions? That’s right, nothing!

A primary element that makes us crazy about this recipe is that it doesn’t use canned soup. Instead, the recipe calls for butter, half and half, flour, and chicken stock to create a creamy base from scratch! Small changes like these give a dish a homemade feel.


It’s a great idea to make this recipe ahead of time and freeze it. When you’re ready to serve it, you can bake this casserole from frozen! 45 minutes into the baking processes, you’ll add those delicious, crunchy onions and bake the casserole a bit longer, ensuring the onions stay crisp.


  1. Chestnut and Chocolate Torte

This dessert will make your family think you’ve been slaving away all day once they taste the rich, nuttiness of this sweet treat. A torte is an ultimate dessert and this chestnut and chocolate torte highlights one of our favorite nuts of the season while serving up a delightful last course. Conveniently, this confection serves as the perfect make-ahead dessert as it requires an overnight stint in the refrigerator to set!


Pro Tip: This recipe includes a very limited number of ingredients, so sourcing high-quality chocolate, chestnuts, and cocoa powder will be essential for a decadent dessert! Have you ever wondered about the quality of the chocolate you snack on or bake with? You can learn more about that here.


  1. Cranberry-Pecan Coffee Cake

This seasonal and delicious take on a traditional coffee cake has us feeling festive! Nothing says it’s the most wonderful time of the year like the tangy taste of cranberries paired with buttery nuts. We recommend serving this with a cup of coffee on a chilly winter morning, but this cake can also serve as the perfect after-dinner treat.


The best aspect of this dessert is that it can be made two days ahead of time, freeing up space in your oven for other delicious holiday treats. Store your coffee cake in an airtight container on your countertop, where it won’t get too warm or too cold. The leftovers can also be wrapped in foil and frozen, then heated in the microwave.


Pro Tip: If you have the time and want to make the display of your holiday feast even more special this year, but this lovely coffee cake front and center. Garnish your prettiest cake plate or stand, like this one from West Elm, with leftover cranberries and pecans, and maybe even a few coffee beans.



Remember, you don’t have to do all of the preparation and cooking yourself! Ask your family to pitch in when it comes to creating a side dish, setting the table, or cleaning up the kitchen after your meal. You deserve to enjoy your holiday celebration just as much as everyone else will! Plan your menu ahead of time while taking note of our make-ahead tips and get your grocery shopping done early. This year’s holiday celebration may not look like previous years, but we’re hoping it’s one full of food and joy!