Come Thanksgiving, my plate is always piled high with sides. Preferably those that only seem to find their way to the table in November. But as simple as sides may be, they can require a lot of work. Or, more accurately, time. The turkey is easy, just pop in the oven and cook. But a creamy sweet potato casserole with perfectly toasted marshmallows? That bad boy takes commitment. In order to secure all your favorite sides make it to dinner, you’re going to need these hacks for making Thanksgiving sides.

If you’re like me, you do not want to sacrifice any of your holiday favorites even though it can mean spending an entire day in the kitchen. The good news is, preparing large amounts of sides doesn’t have to take up tons of time. By implementing a few tricks in the kitchen, you’ll be able to spend less time by the stove.

And spending less time in the kitchen means more time spent watching the parade or playing football with your family and friends. (Speaking of family and friends — don’t forget to have them pitch in! Ask everyone to bring a side dish or join you in the kitchen for the chopping, boiling and mixing.) So are you ready for quicker Thanksgiving meal prep? These 11 hacks for making side dishes will save you time and sanity without sacrificing the flavor of your meal.

1. Make A Slurry

It may have an odd name, but a slurry could save your Thanksgiving dinner. Combo of cornstarch and water, the slurry is key for thickening sauces. Add this magic mixture to your gravy to speed up the thickening process.

2. Preheat Liquid

Before adding your liquid to sauces and gravy, Southern Living suggests popping liquids in the microwave for 30 to 45 seconds. Since you won’t need to wait for the temperature of the liquid rise, it will mean less time standing in front of the stove.

3. Buy Chopped Veggies

There is no shame in letting the grocery do the dirty work. Save time in the kitchen by purchasing pre-cut vegetables you can toss straight into a pan or oven. People also won’t judge if you opt for frozen vegetables.

4. Add An Unexpected Ingredient

Impress your Thanksgiving guests by elevating a basic dish. Toss in a handful of fresh herbs or an ingredient that pairs surprisingly well with traditional sides. Try adding truffle oil to mashed potatoes or jalapenos to cranberry sauce. It’s sure to win the guests over (and if not, just skip this next year.)

5. Roast It

Instead of making a million different sides, simple set your oven to 450 degrees and let your vegetables roast. Most veggies taste great roasted with just a little seasoning, and it means less dishes for you to clean up after.

6. Make Ahead

If you know you have a long list to accomplish on the day of Thanksgiving, do yourself a favor and make a few things ahead. Choose dishes you know will keep well in the refrigerator for a day or two and will be easy to reheat. On a similar note, prep your ingredients as far in advance as possible. This means cleaning, cutting and measuring out every item on that list so it is ready to go when you need it.

7. Perfect Mashed Potatoes

Want to wow your guests with the creamiest mashed potatoes they have ever eaten? Joe Yonan, food and dining editor for The Washington Post, has a few tricks for making perfect mashed potatoes (like drying them out before you mash them up.)

8. Use A Slow Cooker


The crockpot can be a cook’s best sous-chef (Heck, you can even make an entire Thanksgiving dinner in the crockpot.) But not all foods are created slow cooker equal. Make sure to check which foods are crockpot prep safe before you toss frozen meats into the crockpot. (Spoiler alert: that’s a no-no.)

9. Soften Brown Sugar

Is your brown sugar hard as a brick. Real Simple suggests microwaving brown sugar to soften it up and make it easier to measure. Using a microwave-safe bowl and one teaspoon of water, any amount of brown sugar can be softened. Just make sure to toss in between heating, done in one-minute intervals.

Images: Courtesy of Satya Murthy, Glory Foods, Dave Johnston, hyacinth50, Amanda Wray, Amy Stephensen, Nicole Abalde, Ernesto Andrade, Christopher Paquette, Ania Mendrek/Flickr