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10 Thanksgiving Hacks You Should Probably Try, And 5 You Can Skip

Some of these hacks are total gems...and others I'd like to forget about.

If I had to tell you my favorite meal on this earth, Thanksgiving dinner would be a top contender. But that's because I'm usually just eating — and not hosting — this holiday meal.

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But if you've ever cooked Thanksgiving dinner, you'll know how time consuming and expensive it can be. So I went ahead and tested a bunch of time and money saving hacks to help you cook your best Thanksgiving meal yet, whether you're making a meal from start to finish or just contributing a few dishes.

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Here's what worked really well, what I'd try again, and what I wouldn't suggest trying at your holiday get together this year:

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1.

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What you'll need:

Hannah Loewentheil/BuzzFeed

Russet or Yukon Gold potatoes

Unsalted butter

Heavy cream

Olive oil, salt, and pepper

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How to make them:

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For my entire life, I've been making mashed potatoes by boiling potatoes in water, then adding milk, butter, salt, and pepper while mashing. But while scouring the internet for a more unique recipe, I came across chef Tyler Florence's version. Rather than boiling his potatoes in water, he says to boil them in cream and butter. He also adds garlic, thyme, and bay leaf, which I decided to leave out.

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Once the potatoes are done boiling after about 20 minutes, strain them but reserve the creamy liquid. When it's time to mash the potatoes, add the cream until the potatoes reach your desired thickness.

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The result: Oh baby, were these potatoes rich and creamy.

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I was definitely wary at first because the cream and butter mixture was so thick while I was boiling the potatoes. Keep a close eye on the stove and be able to quickly adjust the heat because the creamy mixture definitely bubbles up and tries to burst out of the pot. But all in all, if you like super creamy, decadent mashed potatoes, this is definitely worth a try. You'll want to add some salt and pepper while you're mashing for extra flavor.

My rating: 🦃🦃🦃🦃/🦃🦃🦃🦃🦃

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2.

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What you'll need:

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Pumpkin puree

Unsweetened coconut milk

Thai green curry paste

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How to make it:

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This soup recipe could not be easier, and because you're using pumpkin puree and all liquid ingredients, there's no blending required. Just dump the pumpkin puree, coconut milk, and green curry paste in a sauce pan. Let the ingredients simmer, stirring from time to time, until combined. All together, this will take about 10 minutes. Here is the recipe I used if you want something to reference!

The result: This is a tasty and fun way to put a new spin on traditional Thanksgiving flavors.

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Thanks to the pumpkin, it will fit right in on your holiday table, but the coconut milk and green curry paste give it a bit of Thai flair. I added some red pepper flakes and a drizzle of olive oil, which was a good touch. Even if you don't make this on Thanksgiving, it's worth trying on another fall night.

My rating: 🦃🦃🦃🦃/🦃🦃🦃🦃🦃

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3.

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What you'll need:

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Cream of mushroom soup

Canned, cut green beans

Crispy fried onions

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How to make it:

Hannah Loewentheil/BuzzFeed

I followed this simple recipe, and I combined a can of green beans, a can of Campbell's cream of mushroom soup, and half a container of French's fried onions in a baking dish. I mixed everything up and baked the casserole for 40 minutes until it started bubbling. Then, I added the rest of the fried onions and baked the casserole for five more minutes until they were browned.

The result: Fine, but pretty bland overall.

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If you're looking for an easy green bean casserole, this should do the trick, but in my honest opinion I found this recipe pretty flavorless and I think it would be worth adding a few more ingredients to make it much more appealing. At the very least, I would add some spices like salt, pepper, garlic and onion powder. If you're up for more of a task, I would definitely make the cream of mushroom soup from scratch instead of from a can. It's pretty no-fuss, and it goes a long way in adding flavor to your casserole.

My rating: 🦃🦃/🦃🦃🦃🦃🦃

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4.

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What you'll need:

Hannah Loewentheil/BuzzFeed

Russet potatoes

Unsalted butter

Creamy blue cheese

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The process:

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OK, full disclosure, I'd never even heard of pommes Anna until I saw this easy recipe from food blog, Friday Night Cake. After all, what could possibly be bad about potatoes, blue cheese, and butter?

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I followed the recipe instructions and I peeled the potatoes and sliced them very thinly and as evenly as I could. While I sliced the potatoes, I melted butter and creamy blue cheese in a sauce pan until it was combined. In a baking dish, I layered the sliced potatoes and the blue cheese and butter mixture, then I baked it in the oven for just under an hour until the potatoes were bubbling, tender, and completely cooked through.

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The result: They taste like a sophisticated take on scalloped potatoes.

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I repeat, what could possibly be bad about potatoes, blue cheese, and butter? This recipe reminded me of decadent scalloped potatoes, but with a much sharper flavor, thanks to the blue cheese. I really liked how the potatoes got crispy around the edges because they were so thinly sliced. If you're a fan of scalloped potatoes or potatoes au grain and you also like blue cheese, these will be a hit. That being said, because of the sharp flavor, they might not be as much of a crowd pleaser as other potato dishes.

My rating: 🦃🦃🦃/🦃🦃🦃🦃🦃

5.

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What you'll need:

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Sweet potatoes

Goat cheese

Pecans

How to make them:

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If you google "baked sweet potato rounds" you'll find tons of iterations on this dish all over the internet. They all start with sweet potato rounds, which I tossed with salt, pepper, and olive oil, and roasted in the oven for about 30 minutes. You can definitely get creative here and top the roasted sweet potatoes with whatever ingredients you like best. I topped mine with creamy goat cheese and crushed pecans, but you could also try whipped cream cheese and bacon or melted marshmallow and brown sugar, just for some additional inspiration.

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The result: This is an easy finger food recipe perfect for snacking on before Thanksgiving dinner.

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This such a great party app because they are cheap to throw together, and they're an easy, shareable finger food to put out when your guests arrive. You could also definitely make them as a dinner side dish. In any case, they're a total crowd pleaser and they require very minimal effort.

My rating: 🦃🦃🦃🦃/🦃🦃🦃🦃🦃

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We've all been there: Uncle Peter doesn't eat dairy, cousin Aaron recently decided to go gluten-free, and your brother's new girlfriend is a vegan. Cooking for a crowd with dietary restrictions can be difficult. Until you find a few go-to vegan or vegetarian recipes that everyone can enjoy....

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6.

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What you'll need:

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Store-bought stuffing cubes

Unsalted butter

Yellow onion

Garlic cloves

Celery

Beyond Meat sausage

Vegetable broth

Egg

Rosemary

Sage

Parsley

Salt and pepper to taste

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I followed an awesome sausage stuffing recipe I've made before and loved, except instead of Italian sausage, I used Beyond Meat's meatless sausage, and to keep things vegetarian I used vegetable broth in place of chicken broth.

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Start off by sautéing the celery, onion, and garlic in butter. Then, in a large mixing bowl, combine the buttery vegetables and the stuffing cubes. Next, cook the Beyond Meat sausage in the buttery pan until it's browned and cooked through. Add the sausage to the breadcrumb mixture and add the herbs.

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Place everything in a baking dish and bake in the oven for just over an hour until the top is golden-brown and crispy.

The result: I swear by Beyond Meat, and this recipe is no exception.

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If shouting things from the rooftop was a thing people actually did, I would shout about Beyond Meat. I am a seriously big fan of all of their products, from the burgers to the ground meat and now, obviously, the sausage. Blindfold your biggest meat lover friend and feed them Beyond Meat sausage and real sausage, and I bet you they won't know the difference. This stuff is the real deal, and it's the easiest way to satisfy a table of both vegetarians and meat lovers.

My rating: 🦃🦃🦃🦃🦃/🦃🦃🦃🦃🦃

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7.

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What you'll need:

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Raw cashews

Carrot

Nutritional yeast

White or cider vinegar

Olive oil

1 tsp salt

Onion powder

Ground nutmeg

Pasta

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I've tried making vegan mac 'n' cheese before, but I always find the flavors pretty unsatisfying and nothing like real cheese. I found this recipe on food blog, Chocolate Covered Katie, and it seemed to have pretty rave reviews.

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The fake cheese sauce gets its flavor from cashews, soaked for at least two hours or over night, nutritional yeast, vinegar, carrot, olive oil, garlic powder, and onion powder. You pulse those ingredients in a blender until the mixture turns into a cheesy-like thickness. Pour the cheese sauce onto cooked pasta and mix it all up.

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The result: It doesn't taste like cheese, per se, but it's definitely good!

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I'm not going to pretend this recipe was as good as real, homemade mac 'n' cheese, but it was actually really good and I would absolutely make it again. While not quite the same as a cheese sauce, the cashew and nutritional yeast mixture is creamy, savory and really good. If you're looking for a vegan-friendly recipe that anyone will enjoy, give this one a try.

My rating: 🦃🦃🦃🦃/🦃🦃🦃🦃🦃

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White Claw is basically America's hero, and turns out you can use it pretty much wherever you would use club soda in big batch cocktails and mixed drinks. I experimented with a few White Claw cocktails, and here's how they turned out.

8.

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What you'll need:

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Grapefruit

Lime juice

Sugar

Tequila

Ruby Grapefruit White Claw

How to make it:

Hannah Loewentheil/BuzzFeed

If you've never had a Paloma before, it's a super refreshing cocktail made with tequila or mezcal, fresh lime juice, grapefruit juice, and club soda-- sort of like a grapefruit margarita. For these Palomas, I followed this recipe, but I used grapefruit White Claw in place of regular club soda.

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The result: A perfectly refreshing drink you can make in a big batch.

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If you like Palomas and tequila-based drinks in general, you'll probably love this fresh and zesty cocktail. The grapefruit White Claw adds a little bit of sweetness and a little extra booze. If you like your drinks on the sweeter side, I would also suggesting adding a bit of non-alcoholic grapefruit juice. Or if you prefer a classic margaritas, you can just use lime White Claw in place of grapefruit, add some orange liqueur like Triple sec, and mix it all up in a cocktail shaker.

My rating: 🦃🦃🦃🦃/🦃🦃🦃🦃🦃

9.

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What you'll need:

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Apple cider

Raspberry white claw

Dry white white (like Pinot Grigio)

Raspberries

Orange liqueur (like Triple-Sec, brandy, or Cointreau)

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If I had to stick to one drink for the rest of my life, I would probably choose sangria. It's so versatile and you can make it taste appropriate for any season. For this version, I roughly followed this Food Network recipe, but instead of club soda I used raspberry White Claw. For this drink I stuck to fresh raspberries, but I usually like dressing up my fall sangria with seasonal fruits like apple or pear. The best part about sangria is that you can customize it with whatever flavors you like best.

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The result: Next time, I'd make these more seasonally appropriate with red wine and fall fruits.

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This sangria is such an easy drink (seriously, it goes down like juice), and it's a practical big batch cocktail for a holiday crowd. It is definitely on the lighter side, thanks to white wine and raspberries, but so if I made it again I would make it feel more wintery by using a red wine like Garnacha, more seasonal fruit, and some spices like cinnamon and star anise.

My rating: 🦃🦃🦃/🦃🦃🦃🦃🦃

10.

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What you'll need:

Hannah Loewentheil/BuzzFeed

Blueberries and blackberries

Mint

Simple syrup

Bourbon

Lime juice

Black cherry White Claw

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I used this recipe from food blog, Feast in Thyme, as a reference. The recipe calls for mint-infused simple syrup, which felt a little extra, so I used regular simple syrup and tossed in some mint leaves as a garnish. I muddled the berries at the bottom of the glasses, then mixed together the bourbon, lime juice, simple syrup, and White Claw. Then I served the drinks over ice.

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The result: If you're a Bourbon-lover, don't skip this.

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I don't usually love bourbon, but this cocktail was a great combination of slightly sweet and zesty. It was definitely a stiff drink (and I don't really enjoy the taste of Bourbon) so next time I would add a little cherry juice in addition to the cherry spiked seltzer. This is a really easy recipe to turn into a big batch cocktail and serve to a crowd.

My rating: 🦃🦃🦃🦃/🦃🦃🦃🦃🦃

11.

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What you'll need:

Hannah Loewentheil/BuzzFeed

Store bought pie crust

Granny Smith apples

Sugar

Flour

Cinnamon

Ground nutmeg

Lemon juice

Aluminum foil

How to do it:

Hannah Loewentheil/BuzzFeed

Confession: I can't make an apple pie (or any pie) without burning the edges to a crisp. So when I came across this very basic trick, I was a little taken aback. Just fasten a thin rim of aluminum foil around the edges of the pie and bake it in the oven as you normally would. How had I never thought of this before...and would it actually work?

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I used this very standard apple pie recipe from Pillsbury, which calls for a store bought crust and homemade apple filling, but go ahead and use your go-to pie recipe. I read some tips that suggested adding the foil toward the end of the baking time, but I found it much easier to apply the foil edge at the beginning before the pie is scalding hot from the oven.

The result: No burnt edges here!

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Well, this pie hack is the truth. Always have a roll of aluminum foil on hand and say goodbye to burnt pie crust for life.

My rating: 🦃🦃🦃🦃🦃/🦃🦃🦃🦃🦃