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Holiday Dinner Ideas: Supermarket Products You Can Make at Home

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When it comes to holidays, gathering around a table to enjoy a meal with our loved ones is hard to beat. When you’re planning the holiday meal, you might fall back on the easy boxed version — maybe it’s what you grew up with. But many of our favorite dishes — the Christmas side dishes, the Thanksgiving turkey —  are easy to make at home from scratch. Use these holiday dinner ideas to plan your homemade holiday meal. You can do this.

And while you’re thinking about a homemade holiday meal, consider these ideas for giving experiences rather than gifts. Fun stuff!

holiday dinner from above -- plate with turkey, mashed potatoes, and stuffing

Homemade holiday dinner ideas

If you’ve gotten into the habit of trusting shortcuts to help you through making big holiday meals, I’ve got one word for you: Potluck. Our family affairs were always potluck, with the host making the main course and Christmas side dishes and Thanksgiving desserts provided by guests. It made the holiday feast easier on everyone.

But whether you’re hosting a big meal for extended family or keeping it relatively simple, take a peek through the recipes included below for holiday dinner ideas that you can make from scratch. Whether you’re planning Easter brunch, a Thanksgiving feast, or looking for Christmas dinner ideas: No box required.

I think you’ll be surprised to find that it doesn’t take that much more time or effort — plus, homemade just tastes better.

roasted turkey in white baking dish

Homemade holiday dinner ideas: Roasted turkey

Raise your hand if you remember your mom getting up in the wee dark hours to put the turkey in to cook all. Day. Long. What was up with that? A nice big turkey might take three or four hours to cook, but certainly not all day. Yes, you need to allow a few hours for cooking, but once it’s in the oven there’s little required of you. Don’t let a big bird or memories of tedious 1970s-style turkey prep scare you away — give it a try! 

Easy Sweet Potato Casserole with Pecans in white casserole dishes

Homemade holiday dinner ideas: Sweet potatoes

Holiday sweet potatoes — canned yams topped with marshmallows — ruined this root vegetable for me for years. They were just too sweet. I know some people love them that way, but not me. Good news: You can have the goodness of sweet potatoes fresh from the farmer with these amazing recipes.

mashed potatoes in a brown bowl with rosemary sprig

Homemade holiday dinner ideas: Mashed or scalloped potatoes

Potatoes are a must have for holiday dinners, though every family seems to have a preferred way of preparing them. Whether you prefer scalloped or mashed, you can easily skip the box and go straight for homemade goodness. And making homemade mashed potatoes will save you a bundle, too — those pre-made boxes full of dried potato flakes aren’t cheap!

Homemade holiday dinner ideas: Stuffing

Call it stuffing or call it dressing; cook it in the bird or alongside. No matter, you’ll be amazed at the difference between homemade and boxed.

CORNBREAD dressing in a casserole dish

Homemade holiday dinner ideas: Gravy

Truly, I don’t know why gravy has such a reputation for being hard to make. It’s not. Homemade gravy starts with broth (and some pan drippings for extra goodness) and can be thickened with a number of ingredients. All purpose flour is common, but cornstarch works, too.

dinner rolls in glass dish

Related: How to Host a Party With Less Waste

Homemade holiday dinner ideas: Dinner rolls and breads

Of all the homemade dishes on the holiday table, dinner rolls and bread are probably the most time consuming. They are also often the most appreciated by diners. There’s nothing better than a hot dinner roll fresh out of the oven. In my book, they’re completely worth the effort. And making them yourself allows you to control ingredients, especially for gluten free folks.

chunky cranberry sauce in a white dish with a sprig of mint

Homemade holiday dinner ideas: Cranberry sauce

We stuck with canned cranberry sauce for years — family tradition and all — until my eldest started making a wonderful orange spiced cranberry relish. Nothing wrong with creating new family traditions, right?

Homemade holiday dinner ideas: Drinks

Even in a household that considers water to be the best drink ever, during the holiday season we like to splurge a bit. Warm drinks, spiked drinks, juicy drinks – pick your poison and make it yourself. Who needs an “instant drink mix” on the holiday table?

Cast iron skillet apple pie with a nicely browned lattice top crust

Homemade holiday dinner ideas: Dessert

Is it any coincidence that there are more dessert recipes listed here than any of the others? I think not. Because, dessert! Pie! Cake! Tarts! Crisps! There’s kind of no end to the wonderful homemade desserts that can replace the frozen version. And some are downright easy.

Originally published in December, 2014; this post has been updated.

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Meet the Author

Kris Bordessa

Kris Bordessa founded Attainable Sustainable as a resource for revitalizing vintage skills. Her book, Attainable Sustainable: The Lost Art of Self-Reliant Living (National Geographic) offers a collection of projects and recipes to help readers who are working their way to a more fulfilling DIY lifestyle.

5 comments… add one
  • Loriel @ Naturally Loriel Nov 21, 2014, 2:52 am

    I love this!! What a fantastic list and such a great resource for those of us who really want to start cooking from scratch. Thank you for including my recipes, as well.

  • Tara @ We Got Real Nov 21, 2014, 10:25 am

    Fantastic list! Pinning for sure.

  • Debi @ Life Currents Nov 24, 2014, 1:01 pm

    Thanks so much for sharing this list! I’ll be making Thanksgiving dinner this year, and lists like these are always helpful! Also, thanks for including a couple of my recipes. I’ve shared this around lost of social media. Happy Thanksgiving!

  • Karen Lynn Dec 6, 2014, 2:38 pm

    Great list! Thanks for sharing my recipe too!

  • Mary Lindquist Dec 9, 2018, 4:18 pm

    Great basics! My mom started making Tropical Sweet Potatoes when I was a kid. Canned sweet potatoes, pineapple chunks and juice, large banana chunks. Toss with brown sugar cinnamon nutmeg and clove. Put into a buttered pan. Top with cubes of butter and bake at 350 until bubbly throughout. Remove from oven and serve as is or top with marshmallows and or toasted coconut. Yum.

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