Traditional Homemade Thanksgiving Recipes

It’s really hard to find ways to save money on your Thanksgiving dinner because, let’s face it – It doesn’t get a whole lot cheaper than a turkey dinner! Here are some Thanksgiving recipes that will bring back great memories of grandma’s house.

traditional Thanksgiving recipes

Roast Turkey

1 turkey, 20-22 lbs.
1 stick margarine or butter

Defrost frozen turkey for several days in the refrigerator according to the directions on the package. Line a roasting pan with aluminum foil. Remove the insides of the turkey and save for giblet gravy or for fried livers and gizzards.

Lay turkey, breast side down, in the pan and place the stick of butter on the inside. Cover tightly with aluminum foil. Bake at 250 degrees for 1 hour. Reduce heat to 200 degrees and roast for 10-15 hours. Cooking time can be longer to fit your schedule. Test with a meat thermometer to make sure the temperature in the thigh is 180 degrees.

If I have a 20-22 lb. turkey, I put it in the oven one hour before I go to bed (that way I can turn it down to 200 degrees and sometimes I go down to 180 degrees before I go to bed.) It will be done by noon the next day. Because it is at such a low temperature, it will stay just fine in the oven even if you aren’t going to eat until 1 or 2 PM.

If I have a 10 lb. turkey, I put it in the oven early on Thanksgiving morning (about 6 or 7 AM in order to eat at noon. You don’t need to worry too much about it getting done. An hour or two before the meal, check it and see how it is doing. If it isn’t cooking quickly enough, you can always raise the temperature to 350 degrees. With a 10 -12 lb. turkey you only need to use half of a stick of butter (about 4 Tbsp.). You can also place the turkey in a large crockpot on low.

This is the best turkey you will ever eat! The meat will just fall off the bones so you will have to serve it already carved. It will be very juicy and moist.

Mashed Potatoes

5 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. butter
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup milk

In a large saucepan, place potatoes and enough water to cover the potatoes. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat. Cover and simmer until potatoes are tender (about 10-15 minutes depending on your altitude). Drain. Transfer potatoes to a mixing bowl and mash. I use a hand mixer for this but you can use a potato masher. Add butter, milk, sugar and salt. Beat until smooth. Serves 5-6.

Sweet Potato Casserole

3 cups sweet potatoes, mashed
1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 Tbsp. vanilla

1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup pecans
1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup butter, melted

Mix all the ingredients and put in a buttered 9×9 casserole dish. Sprinkle on topping. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. This is a great dish for holiday dinners and potlucks because it can be made the day before and then baked the next day. Serves 8-9.

Homemade Stuffing

You can adjust any of these ingredients to suit your taste and, if you want, you can add different things to the dish. For example, you can replace some of the bread with cornbread or you can add mushrooms, celery, apples, or giblets and many other things according to your own taste. This is one of those recipes that looks complicated but is really easy once you make it.

Here is the basic recipe:

8-10 cups dried bread, cubed or torn (You can use anything including hot dog buns, dinner rolls or French bread.)
1/2-1 lb. pork sausage
1/2-1 onion (or onion powder to taste)
3 eggs, slightly beaten
1 1/2 cups broth*
1 chicken bouillon cube
1/4-1/2 cup margarine
3 heaping tsp. ground sage
1 small bag or box of seasoned croutons
Salt and pepper

Cube and tear bread, place in a very large mixing bowl and let it set out overnight if not dry enough. Fry sausage and onion. I don’t like celery in my dressing but if you do you can add it at this time. Drain and add to the bowl of bread. Pour broth into a large measuring cup. Add margarine and bouillon cube and heat in the microwave to melt margarine and bouillon cubes. Pour this mixture and eggs over bread. Add sage, salt, pepper and onion powder if not using onions and croutons. Using your hands, mush it all together until well mixed. Place in a well greased casserole dish or pan. Cover. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes.

If you like your stuffing soft on the inside with a crispy crust, just remove the cover for the last 15 minutes. If your dressing seems too dry, add a little milk for more moisture.

*For broth, I simmer the neck and giblets in a pan of water for an hour or two as soon as I take them out of the turkey. Then I use this water and some broth from my turkey, which has been cooking, to make my 1 1/2 cups.

Turkey Gravy

3-4 cups turkey juices/drippings
1/4 cup flour
Salt, pepper to taste

Pour turkey juices/drippings into a sauce pan. Whisk in flour. Add salt and pepper. Simmer for about 15 mins. stirring once in a while until the right consistency.

If the gravy is too strong or you need to stretch it just a little, you can add a small amount of water. Another way I used to make turkey gravy (either way works) is to dissolve the flour in 1/2 cup of cold water and then whisk it into the turkey juices.

Pie Crust

3 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 1/4 cups shortening, cold
1 egg, cold
1 Tbsp. vinegar, cold
5 Tbsp. water, cold

Mix flour, salt and sugar in a bowl. Cut in shortening with a pastry blender or 2 knives (I use my fingers). Add egg, vinegar and 3 tablespoons water. Mix lightly. If dough is too dry, add more water. Mix with hands. Don’t over mix. Mix just until the dough sticks together.

Divide into thirds. Roll out to make 3 pies crusts. When using the crust for the top of the pie, sprinkle sugar on top and poke with a few steam holes. Crust can be frozen in balls and then defrosted and rolled out when ready to use. Makes 3 crusts.

Pumpkin Pie

1 pie crust
2 eggs
1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1 (12 oz.) can evaporated milk

Bake pie crust at 350 degrees for 1-2 minutes until crust starts to puff with small bubbles. Watch carefully. Then remove from oven. Blend all ingredients together in a bowl. Pour into pie crust and bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. Then turn the oven down to 350 degrees for 45 minutes. When a knife is inserted into the center of the pie and comes out clean, it is done. Makes one pie.

Pecan Pie

1 stick butter
1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. vanilla
dash of salt
1 1/4 cups pecans, chopped
1 (8-9 inch) unbaked pie crust

Brown butter in a pan until golden brown. Do not burn. Cool. Add other ingredients in order given in a separate bowl. Mix well. Blend in cooled butter well. Pour into pie crust. Bake 10 minutes at 425 degrees and then 40 minutes at 325 degrees. Makes one pie.

Jill Cooper and Tawra Kellam are frugal living experts and the authors of the Dining On A Dime Cookbook. Dining On A Dime will help you save money on groceries and get out of debt by cooking quick and simple homemade meals. For free tips & recipes visit, sign up for our free Living On A Dime Newsletter and learn to save more!

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