If you’re hosting Friendsgiving this year, know this: Unless your pals are exclusively chefs, they don’t expect a five-star meal. They expect good food and better company. So, the best food ideas for Friendsgiving don’t have to be expensive or require you to spend days in the kitchen.
Take this as your guide to straightforward Friendsgiving food ideas including main dishes, side dishes, appetizers and desserts. I’ll kick things off with suggestions on dishes your guests can bring.
Dishes your Friendsgiving guests can bring
Friendsgiving parties often have a potluck element. Since your friends probably have varying degrees of experience in the kitchen, be forthright about what they should bring. No one wants undercooked turkey for dinner. Nor do you want a friend spending time and money on a dish that overlaps with your menu.
“When I’m meal planning for a large friend get together I always give people a course to be part of and tell them directly. This prevents us from having six appetizers but no side dishes and keeps the meal more balanced.”—Shelby, Fitasamamabear.com
Also consider the potential for food allergies. Friends with allergies may prefer to bring a dish they can eat. You might give them the first pick when you’re doling out food assignments.
“As someone living with a food allergy, I always bring side dishes that are safe for me to eat, but tasty for all to enjoy. That also helps ensure my host doesn’t feel any pressure to go to any extra effort on my account.”—Sage Scott, Sage Alpha Gal
Here are seven excellent suggestions when friends ask what they can bring to your celebration:
- Chips and salsa
- Dip and veggies
- Slow cooker specialties
- Butter and gravy (the friend who doesn’t cook can bring sticks of butter or premade gravy)
Food ideas for Friendsgiving: The menu
You’ll want to include an entrée, sides and dessert, but you can be as creative as you want with the types of dishes you offer. Here’s a classic menu that’s just right:
- Chicken or turkey entree
- Roasted vegetable
- Cranberry sauce
- Baked or roasted white potato or sweet potato
- Store-bought dinner rolls, butter and gravy
- Cookies, brownies, pie and/or ice cream for dessert
This is a respectable Thanksgiving-inspired meal that’ll serve a bunch of your friends. Even better, this is not a labor-intensive menu. You won’t need a sous chef beside you. You’ll probably be able to socialize some before everyone sits down to eat. And your friends will love that you pulled together a traditional fall feast for them to enjoy.
Friendsgiving dinner ideas
A whole roasted turkey is the default main entree for Friendsgiving or Thanksgiving dinner, but it’s not your only option. You can also roast turkey pieces, a whole chicken or chicken pieces.
Super side dishes
Side dishes are important role players for your meal. Don’t discount them. The right combination of side dishes add color, complexity and tons of flavor to the plate.
Try roasting your veggies — this method is easy and delicious. Brussels sprouts, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower and zucchini squash are all candidates for roasting.
The roasting process for any of these is simple. Trim and cut your veggies into bite size pieces. Toss with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and pop them in the oven on a baking sheet. Generally, you can cook them at 400 F (204 C) and check for doneness every 15 minutes. I like to line the baking sheet with parchment paper for easier cleanup.
Kick your veggies up a notch
If olive oil, salt and pepper feels too boring for you and your guests, you can easily upgrade your roasted veggies with extra seasonings, cheese, panko, nuts or bacon.
- Add dried seasonings (or fresh-squeezed lemon juice) at the beginning, before you roast.
- Add fresh seasoning at the end, after roasting.
- Add cheese or panko breadcrumbs a few minutes before your vegetables are done. Pull them out of the above, toss with your favorite cheese and pop them back in for a minute or two.
- Add roasted nuts or crispy cooked bacon after roasting.
The great cranberry debate
Canned cranberry sauce is the easiest of Friendsgiving dishes. It’s also one of the most controversial. For whatever reason, people either love or hate canned cranberries. I say buy the canned cranberry if you like it. Friends who don’t like it can work around it.
If you’re feeling ambitious, you can also make your own cranberry sauce. Try Eating on a Dime’s recipe. It has only four ingredients. Just know that you may never go back to canned cranberry after making it yourself.
Stuffing can be labor-intensive, but it’s also one of the more popular fall flavors. You can make it easier by starting with pre-cut ingredients. For a basic but delicious option, try this easy stuffing recipe.
Mashed potatoes are a lovely addition to a Thanksgiving meal, but they add last-minute work to your process. They’re also hard to get right, since they can easily turn sticky. Baking whole potatoes is a simpler option.
Simply scrub your potatoes, brush them with olive oil and put them in the oven at 400 F (204 C) for about an hour. You can do this with russet potatoes or sweet potatoes.
If you don’t expect everyone to eat a whole potato, you can also cut the potatoes in half and cook them the same way, but wrapped in foil. They’ll cook faster, so check them after 45 minutes.
Buy your rolls, butter and gravy at the store. Or, have your friends bring these. Rolls and butter ensure everyone feels satiated and gravy is easier to buy than to make.
You can stick with a simple appetizer menu of chips, salsa, veggies and dip.
If you’re craving something fancier, see this list of memorable savory appetizers.
Cookies or brownies paired with ice cream makes an easy but also decadent finish to a meal. To go the extra mile, treat your pals to layered peanut butter chocolate brownies or something more traditional, such as homemade pecan pie, pumpkin pie or sweet potato pie.
Maintain your sanity by preparing the dessert the day before.
This is already a big list of Friendsgiving food ideas. Even if you stopped reading two paragraphs earlier, your friends are in for a well-rounded, satisfying meal.
Still, if you want to earn the “most amazing host/hostess” title among your friends and make Friendsgiving extra memorable, you could add some after-dinner drink options to your menu. Coffee and warm apple cider are nice choices. Or, play grownup with a digestif, like port wine, armagnac, amaro, or grappa
Catherine Brock is the blogger behind Blog Chef. She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico with her husband and spends her free time riding horses and finding new ways to cook with green chiles.
This article originally appeared on Blog Chef.