You’re making pie crust and cranberry sauce and realizing you somehow forgot to buy butter—or maybe you just don’t want to dirty your kitchen before the marathon cooking session and its mountain of dishes kicks off in the morning. Whatever the case, you still need to eat.
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You can order takeout, of course, or you can cook these easy dinners that won’t derail your Turkey Day prep, or wreck your kitchen. They’re better and cheaper than ordering in, and in some cases they’re ready well before GrubHub could even get there. There’s also a minimum of meat, since you’ll likely be having loads of that tomorrow.
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This one-pot meal is simple yet satisfying, hearty yet healthy, and uses ingredients probably already in your fridge. Plus, you can make it even easier by eschewing the knife work. Just tear the kale leaves away from the stems and rip them into roughly even pieces instead; it saves you time and avoids dirtying your knife and cutting board. If you don’t have kale, use spinach and saute it for a shorter time. Get our Kale and Parmesan Egg Drop Soup recipe.
A good grilled cheese sandwich is nothing to sniff at, but this version with nutty gouda and sweet, crisp Asian pear ups the interest quotient without making it any more difficult. You can use a standard pear or even an apple if that’s what you have in your fruit bowl. And sharp cheddar works just as well as gouda. Get our Asian Pear and Gouda Grilled Cheese recipe.
This simple salad is great alone if you’re after a light bite, or serve it alongside the grilled cheese above; in fact, since you don’t need the whole pear for the sandwich, you can use the rest for tossing with the tender, mineral spinach leaves and sharp, crisp slivers of red onion in their honey-Dijon vinaigrette. Get our Pear and Spinach Salad recipe.
No time for melting cheese? Stir some minced herbs, cracked pepper, lemon juice, and parmesan into rich ricotta and spread it on toasted bread or crackers, topped with rosy slices of prosciutto if you have some.
Since you probably have sage and thyme on hand for the turkey, feel free to swap them in for the basil and parsley called for (but use a lighter hand on the fresh sage). And if you’re fresh out of ricotta, blend up some softened cream cheese with a smidgen of milk or whipping cream to lighten the texture.
For a salad that truly stands alone, this chunky apple and beet combo with creamy blue cheese and bitter radicchio can’t be beat. If you pick up the pre-roasted beets that are so prevalent in grocery stores these days, it takes almost no time at all to assemble. Get our Tangy Apple and Beet Salad recipe.
But if you’re not into the earthy sweetness of beets or the bitter bite of radicchio, try this mixed green salad on for size. Chopped almonds, halved grapes, and shards of cheddar bulk it up, add textural interest, and inject loads of flavor. It’s basically a stripped-down cheese plate in salad form. Get our Grape and Almond Mixed Greens Salad recipe.
Pasta might seem like a bit much the night before a feast, but this quick carbonara manages to be both rich and restrained—and it’s made with pantry ingredients, so you can whip it up whenever the mood strikes you. Do yourself a favor and scale back the recipe to only make as much as you’ll want to eat for dinner, because you’re about to have plenty of other leftovers. Get the Easy Spaghetti Carbonara recipe.
Eggs slipped into a skillet of simmering tomato sauce: Another one-pot meal that’s ridiculously easy yet wholly comforting, and perfect with the addition of some toast. This is basically the Italian answer to shakshuka; either one may also be the answer to your prayers for an easy meal you can make on autopilot. Get our Eggs in Purgatory recipe.
Cracking open a can of tuna for dinner is a classic no-cook move, and not too shabby if you (a) use a good oil-packed brand of tuna, and (b) mix it up with a few lively add-ins, like the pepperoncini and cornichons featured here. You can make it into a sandwich, spoon it onto a pile of greens, or scoop it up one-handed with pita chips while you’re finishing up your prep work for the big day ahead. Get our Deli-Style Tuna Salad recipe.
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Related Reading: 15 Delicious Things to Do with Canned Sardines
Canned chickpeas can be transformed into a delicious vegan curry with tomatoes, spices, spinach, and a few minutes of sauteing onions, garlic, and ginger. It’s pretty much diametrically opposed to the typically rich, heavy Thanksgiving meal, so you’ll appreciate that in addition to the ease of putting it together. It’s great with rice, but in the interest of only sullying one pot, serve with store-bought naan this time around. Get our Indian Chickpea Curry with Spinach recipe.
Admit it: Part of you still just wants to order a pizza. But this easy method for making pizza in a cast iron skillet is far more affordable and tastier than takeout. And you can absolutely apply it to a ball of store-bought pizza dough.
Since most tomatoes aren’t up to snuff this time of year, skip ’em; rub the dough with a little olive oil and cracked pepper before topping with shredded mozzarella, blue cheese, and thinly sliced apples or pears instead. If you’re pre-cooking bacon for any part of your Thanksgiving meal, add an extra slice or two to the sheet pan and crumble it on top of this perfect pie. Get the Skillet Pizza recipe.
For more tips, tricks, hacks, and last-minute recipes, see our Ultimate Guide to Thanksgiving.