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You’re Attending Someone Else’s Thanksgiving, So What Should You Bring?

So, you are taking a year off from hosting and heading to someone else’s table for the turkey day feast. Here are eight categories based on you, the cook, to make deciding your Thanksgiving contribution super easy. Find the category that suits you best, choose your dish, and be on your way.

Cooked turkey on platter

You’ve got one job: to bring one dish to someone else’s Thanksgiving. Easy enough, right? The possibilities are endless! But that’s exactly what makes deciding what dish to bring incredibly difficult.

There are generally 2 types of Thanksgiving hosts. Some hosts go into what I call “party planning mode;” they’re organized and they divvy out specific dish assignments via spreadsheet or personalized text according to what they need covered. Other hosts take a more laid back approach, giving you a little bit more freedom (a.k.a. responsibility). When you inquire about what to bring, you get a kind, but a overly-neutral, response such as, “Oh, whatever you want to bring will be great,”  “Bring your favorite,” or “How about you bring a side?”

….Well that doesn’t help at all.

To keep you from aimlessly sifting through piles of recipes, here are some killer dishes sorted into categories depending on you. Everyone knows that the first rule in potluck is that you have to contribute to the feast if you’re going to partake in the feasting, so let’s get cooking. Find your category, choose your recipe, and let’s do this thing.

1. You’re in a slight time crunch. Okay, really crunched for time. 

It’s time for a quick appetizer. It’s a no pressure addition to the big meal that everyone appreciates. Make a 5-ingredient recipe, like Basic Deviled Eggs, or better yet, make simple Crostini and choose your own topping combinations. You can do great things with phyllo cups from the freezer section, like these Red Pepper Jelly-Brie Bites or Creamed Spinach Phyllo Cups. For other purchase ahead cheats, well not a cheat but a shortcut, check out our 6 Supermarket Shortcuts for last-minute holiday parties. You’ll be surprised at just how good cornbread and dessert can be even when you start from packaged mixes.

2. Beginners have to start somewhere. 

Bring something easy, with minimal ingredients or little prep, that tastes complex and fancy. And yes, such recipes do exist. These Pesto Pastries are delicious, simple, and the only part you have to worry about is a little bit of assembly. Goat Cheese Poppers with Honey requires only 2 culinary techniques, mixing batter and frying goat cheese. Master them and the results are an incredible impressive appetizer you can come back to time and time again. If you want to bring a simple dessert, try making these Chocolate-Praline Dipped Pretzels. You are 5 ingredients away from a dessert that pleases both salty and sweet lovers.

3. You want to contribute something healthy. 

Late fall and winter are so underrated in terms of produce. There are countless awesome fruits and vegetables that are in peak season. Bring roasted vegetables to Thanksgiving rather than a vegetable casserole. Roasted Butternut Squash with Pecans and Sage takes advantage of fresh vegetables and unique accents. This Brussels Sprouts Gratin is a crispy, flavorful alternative to a traditional potato gratin. Start the meal off right with a salad that incorporates vibrant winter flavors, like this Spinach Salad with Citrus and Roasted Beets.

4.  Slow cooker is your middle name.

Yep, you can cook everything in a slow cooker, from the turkey to dessert. We have a slow cooker recipe for every Thanksgiving dish that you could possibly want, listed in How Your Slow Cooker Can Make This Thanksgiving the Easiest Thanksgiving Ever.

5. You want to keep it classic.

Nothing says Thanksgiving like cornbread dressing and sweet potato casserole. Grandmother Carter’s Cornbread Dressing and Sweet Potato Casserole will serve as your guides to doing these classic dishes the right way. Give your pumpkin pie the ultimate festive touch with a thankful note using this Maple Pumpkin Pie with Message recipe. Any recipe that fondly reminds other guests of past Thanksgivings will be a sure winner.

6. Bless you, because you’re in charge of the turkey.

We’ve gathered our most reliable and loved turkey recipes for you in a collection called 5 Star Roast Turkeys. My personal favorites? Roast Turkey with Sage and Garlic Butter for a brined bird that’s moist and flavorful, or Sugar-and-Spice Cured Turkey if you prefer a dry brine with a dynamically favored rub. Remember that brining it is a good idea, but please don’t wash your turkey.

7. It’s going to be an unconventional Thanksgiving meal. 

For inspiration on a unique Thanksgiving dish or full menus, check out Modern Takes on Thanksgiving Menus. For a subtle makeover on a classic, check out our 5 Updated Side Dishes to Try this Thanksgiving. More and more people are branching out from the traditional. Try bringing a dish inspired by another culture, like Asian-inspired Shrimp, Cabbage, and Carrot Potstickers or Chinese-American Thanksgiving Meatballs. Some hosts encourage more casual American favorites–even pizza. If that’s your case, why not go all the way with a dish like Penne a la Vodka Pizza, where pasta and pizza magically become one.

8. If booze is all ya need…

Some of us are simple. And there’s nothing wrong with that. If drinks are your thing, find out what people are bringing and check out our guide to Fall and Winter Seasonal Foods and Wine Pairing. Don’t stress too much, because the rule that says, “white wine should be served with poultry and red wine should only be served with red meats” is long gone. When in doubt, grab a bottle of both red and white wine. Go for varieties that are versatile and pretty universally loved, like Pinot Noir for a red and Sauvignon Blanc for white.

Keep things fun and festive with an autumn-inspired cocktail like a Maple Old Fashioned or a Pondicherry Sour, made with chai spice syrup. Try bringing cranberry to the table in a fresh way with this Cranberry Sangria.

If I don’t have you pinned and you still haven’t picked a dish, check out our ThanksgivingRecipes page for even more inspiration. And above all, try not to overthink it. This is a day to celebrate family, friends, and all you’re grateful for; the food is for sure important, but you showing up to dinner is, hands down, going to be the best thing you can bring to the Thanksgiving table this year.

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