The Holidays are always a mad rush, aren’t they? If you are hosting Christmas dinner this year, I have more than 45 make-ahead Christmas dinner recipes that you can prepare ahead of time to help you stay more organized and be able to stress less. Whether you are getting a head start by prepping a mouthwatering appetizer, hearty entree or even a sweet dessert by using one of my easy make ahead recipes, you’ll find joy in being able to cross something off your to-do list!
Easy Make-Ahead Appetizers
My favorite holiday appetizers are the ones that can be prepped, put into the fridge and pulled out whenever you are ready for them. I am also sharing make ahead recipes that require some reheating, but are equally as easy! These easy appetizers can be prepared ahead of time, allowing you to spend more time enjoying the holiday festivities with your guests.
- Deviled Eggs – Make these the night before and just take them out when your guests start to arrive.
- Caprese – These are so easy to prep ahead of time. Slice the mozzarella and tomatoes, then store them separately in the refrigerator. Quickly put together when you are ready.
- Million Dollar Dip – This might be the fastest recipe on my website, requires no cooking, and you can make it in advance. And it’s incredibly tasty!
- Sweet and Spicy Pecans – or any spiced nut you can find. If you have a Trader Joes near you, they have a jar of spiced nuts that is fantastic. All grocery stores will. have some type of spiced nut though.
- Stuffed Mushrooms – Mushrooms are one of the best appetizers for a fancy Christmas dinner.
- Mushrooms, cream cheese, garlic, breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, herbs. You can also cook some sausage and add crumbles into your mixture. Yum!
- Prepare the stuffing, fill mushrooms, and refrigerate. Bake at 350 degrees before serving.
- Spinach and Artichoke Dip – You can actually FREEZE this! When you’re ready just thaw and reheat in the oven.
- Greek Layered Dip – I love that this is a healthy appetizer that feeds a crowd!
- Cold Spinach Feta Dip – This easy appetizer is packed with flavor and goes wonderfully with a platter of veggies, crackers, pita chips, or pretzels.
- Brie in a Pie Crust – You can wrap the brie in the pie crust (hold off on the egg wash), wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, and freeze. When you’re ready to bake, unwrap it, brush with egg wash, and bake directly from frozen. You can serve with your favorite crackers, grapes and apples.
- Cranberry and Feta Pinwheels:
- Ingredients: Flour tortillas, cream cheese, feta cheese, dried cranberries, green onions.
- Spread the filling on tortillas, roll them up, and refrigerate. Slice before serving.
- Party Meatballs – This is one of those easy appetizers we ALWAYS have at Christmas. You don’t need to necessarily prep ahead, but just throw it all in the crockpot and it’ll stay warm all day!
- Marinated Mozzarella – I get asked for this recipe for ALL THE TIME!
- Brie and Cranberry Bites – These are little bite sized pieces of heaven.
- Brie cheese, cranberry sauce, phyllo cups.
- Fill phyllo cups with a small piece of brie and a spoonful of cranberry sauce. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted, phyllo cups are golden, and serve.
Make-Ahead Main Dish Recipes
Getting a head start on your main course for your Christmas dinner is a great time saving strategy. This way you can enjoy a delicious Christmas dinner without spending all day in the kitchen. Here are some classic main dishes that can be prepared in advance:
- The Best Roast Turkey – Precook the turkey a day ahead, carve it into slices, and store it in the refrigerator. On Christmas day, reheat the slices in gravy to keep them moist. Some people think turkey is even better the next day!
- Honey Glazed Ham – I recommend preparing the glaze ahead of time and warming it before brushing it on the ham so it will coat nicely.
- Crockpot Turkey Tenderloin – This slow cooker turkey is delicious and satisfying because of the slow cooking process and easy preparation. The turkey is so moist and the flavor is fantastic.
- Meatball Pasta Casserole – This can be assembled a day or two in advance. Pop it into the oven for the final bake on Christmas day. For a dish that requires a only a handful of ingredients, you won’t just be making this at Christmas!
- French Onion Pot Roast – Let your French onion pot roast cook low and slow while you sleep and it’ll be ready to shred and store in the morning. Then, just reheat for dinner!
- Turkey Breast – If you have a pressure cooker, this is one of the most flavorful and tender ways to prepare your turkey breast!
- White Lasagna with Spinach – This white lasagna can be pre-assembled with the spinach, then covered and stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 48 hours before baking. Once you are ready to cook, pop it into the preheated oven and add 10-15 minutes on to the bake time to account for the lower starting temperature.
- Stuffed Shells – The night before, assemble your stuffed shells in a casserole dish. Cover and store in the fridge. When you’re ready to bake it, either allow it to come to room temperature or add 10-15 minutes more to bake time if you are going straight from fridge to oven.
- Classic Crock Pot Beef Brisket – So easy and delicious!
- Mississippi Pot Roast – After this has been slow cooking all day, you won’t believe the incredible flavor.
Easy Make-Ahead Side Dish Recipes
If you are committed to focusing on a main dish that takes more attention, you definitely need some sides that are easy. I love recipes that use simple ingredients and are quick and easy, but still pack in a ton of flavor! These are a few of my favorites that won’t take much time to prepare and can be done ahead of time:
- Make ahead Mashed Potatoes– Make these ahead and let the crockpot do the hard work.
- Cranberry Sauce – This recipe can be made a week in advance and only has 3 ingredients!
- Caramelized Onions – Onions in a crockpot? Yes!
- Crispy Roasted Brussels Sprouts or Sautéed Green Beans – cook these a day ahead and then reheat in the oven before serving.
- Corn Casserole – This is a great recipe to prep ahead the night before. I have 2 specific things that I do, so make sure to read that recipe post!
- Green Bean Casserole – Assemble the green bean casserole without baking, cover it tightly, and refrigerate. Bake it on Christmas day for a crispy topping.
- Roasted Vegetable Medley – Roast vegetables a day ahead. Reheat them in the oven before serving.
- Sweet Potato Casserole – Make this a day ahead. Reheat it in the oven on Christmas day.
- Dinner Rolls – These are even freezer friendly. Check out the “freezer section in this post”.
- Baked Mac and Cheese – Make the entire oven baked mac and cheese, just don’t bake it. This will keep in the fridge covered for up to 3 days. Then, bake when ready to enjoy.
Christmas Salads to Make-Ahead
Salads are always a great addition to any dinner, but especially to your Christmas dinner. Remember to keep dressings separate until you’re ready to serve to keep your lettuce from wilting. These salads are not only delicious but also add vibrant colors and textures to your Christmas dinner table on the big day.
- Tomato Basil Mozzarella Salad – Simple and delicious!
- Quinoa Salad – You can make this the day before and store in an airtight container.
- Kale Salad – This salad can be kept in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 2-3 days. It tastes even better after the flavors have all marinated together! Sprinkle some cranberries and sweet and spicy pecans on top to make it more festive. *Note – the dressing does not wilt kale.*
- Arugula Pear Salad – This is actually my favorite holiday salad. Prep the pears and dressing ahead of time. Dress the salad with toppings shortly before serving.
- Cranberry Walnut Chicken Salad – Perfect for a holiday gathering or a brunch with friends!
Make-Ahead Christmas Desserts
As we prepare for our Christmas dinner, I recommend prepping desserts in advance to alleviate last-minute stress. Making these delicious treats ahead allows us to enjoy more moments together without the rush of last-minute preparations. Here are some that I suggest making ahead of time:
- The BEST Apple Pie – This is THE BEST dessert! You can make the entire pie ahead of time and freeze it. Read the “freezer section” notes on the recipes page. It’s easy!
- Caramel Filled Snickerdoodles
- Ooey Gooey Pecan Bars – These are a crowd please so don’t leave these off your menu. 😉 Get ahead of baking and prepare these pecan bars a couple of days before you’re ready to serve them.
- The BEST Soft Sugar Cookies
- Cranberry Upside Down Cake – The prettiest Christmas cake you’ll ever see.
- Dark Fudge Brownies
- Chocolate Peanut Butter Ritz Cracker Cookies – You can prepare these up to a week in advance or freeze for up to a month.
- Chewy Peanut Butter Cookies – Top these with a Hershey kiss and you have my favorite holiday treat.
- Butter Cookies with Cinnamon Glaze
- Bakery Style Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies – I have a confession – I actually sneak bites of these throughout the day while I’m getting everything together!
Make-Ahead Christmas Breakfasts
If you are looking for some breakfast or brunch items you can make ahead, I have included some of my tried and true favorites! Making breakfast ahead of time for Christmas is always a great idea. Here are some delicious breakfast recipes you can prep ahead of time for Christmas:
- Breakfast Casserole with Bacon – I have overnight instructions for this casserole!
- English Muffin Breakfast Casserole – A simple recipe that can be prepared ahead of time or whipped up any morning as an easy breakfast or brunch.
- Apple Cinnamon Muffins – You won’t want to loser this recipe because of how good it is!
- Cheddar Bay Sausage Balls – Preparing these sausage balls ahead of time makes it easy to pop them in the oven whenever you’re ready. You can even freeze them for later!
- Greek Yogurt Parfait –
- Layer Greek yogurt with granola, fresh fruits, and a drizzle of honey in jars or containers.
- Prepare several bowls or cups and refrigerate. Pop out of the fridge in the morning before opening gifts!
- Breakfast Sliders – Whether you make this ahead of time for the holidays or for breakfast meal prep during the busy school weeks, these are a major upgraded breakfast sandwich!
- Green Chile Egg Casserole – This has great Mexican flavors, but not too spicy and it appeals to adults and children.
- Spinach and Sausage Quiche – If you need to make this recipe, but are extra short on time, here are a few ideas that can help make this recipe even faster!
- Roasted Veggie Casserole – A meatless breakfast item that is a crowd please!
- Chia Seed Pudding – Ingredients: Chia seeds, milk (dairy or plant-based), sweetener (honey, maple syrup), vanilla extract, fresh fruits and berries.
- Mix chia seeds, milk, sweetener, and vanilla extract in a jar.
- Refrigerate overnight.
- When ready, top w fresh fruits, berries or granola.
- Apple Fritter Breakfast Casserole – With just a few simple ingredients, this casserole comes together in minutes and feeds a crowd.
- Stuffed Biscuit Breakfast Bombs – Only 5 ingredients and super quick and easy to make. Read the post for instructions on how to make them ahead of time, or prepare them as a freezer meal to save time on busy mornings.
- Cinnamon Roll Breakfast – Kids love this, but so do the adults!
- Ham and Cheese Croissant Casserole – Make it the night before or more ahead of time by freezing it. Instructions are in the post. Check it out!
- Fruit Salad – Sneak a little nutrition in with this super easy, make ahead fruit salad.
I hope this list of make-ahead dishes makes Christmas dinner prep feel a little less intimidating, so that you can enjoy the holidays and rush around a little less. If you need more ideas, feel free to browse all of my easy side dish recipes. I also have a huge list of ideas for what to serve with your ham at Christmas right here.
What can you cook ahead of time for Christmas dinner?
If your food is properly stored in airtight containers, you can prepare most items 1-2 days ahead of time and just reheat before serving. Some of the items I’ve included above can actually be prepared and frozen. So, if you need to prepare food further out, I suggest looking at the freezer instructions on each recipe.
What Christmas vegetables can be cooked in advance?
Carrots, asparagus, broccoli, brussels sprouts, green beans etc would all work well.
How do you store prepped vegetables?
Store cut vegetables in a clean, airtight container and store in your refrigerator.
- 10 lb bone in ham, up to 15 pounds will work. Fully cooked. Can be whole or spiral sliced.
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup salted butter
- 1/4 cup pineapple juice
- 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar, or more to taste
- Preheat the oven to 325˚ F. Place ham in a large roasting pan cut side down.
- Bake ham, uncovered, in the preheated oven for 10 minutes per pound, or about 2 hours.
- While the ham is baking you can combine honey, brown sugar, pineapple juice, and dijon mustard in a skillet. As your mixture comes to a boil, continue to whisk over med-high heat. Reduce heat and simmer until glaze thickens slightly, about 5 to 10 minutes. Then stir in apple cider vinegar to taste.
- Remove ham from the oven. Brush with glaze. Bake for an additional 30 to 40 minutes, brushing ham with glaze every 10 minutes.
- This will be enough glaze for a 10-15 pound bone in ham.
- You can use a whole ham, or spiral ham. If using whole, just baste the outside. If using spiral you can baste between slices as well to add more flavor.
- The drippings and glaze leftover in the pan can be reduced further to make a sauce to serve with the ham. It is so delicious!
- The glaze will be really sweet before putting it on the ham. Once it is on the ham, it the sweetness will mellow when combined with the fat and salt of the meat.