10 Cookbooks That’ll Take The Stress Out Of Cooking Thanksgiving Dinner

No need to spend hours planning or cooking alone in the kitchen — get back to what’s important at the holidays.

Last year, with much of the U.S. in lockdown, my family was spread apart for Thanksgiving. Instead of making a 26-pound turkey, cornbread and crawfish stuffing and the requisite five pies, I went minimalist and helped my kids get through solo holidays in the kitchen via Zoom. I bought “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat and cooked Samin Nosrat’s infamous buttermilk-brined chicken for our small feast for two. It was fabulous and low-stress.

This year, as COVID-19 variants still surge and parts of the country experience everything from hurricanes to scorching wildfires, this year’s holidays are an opportunity to embrace low-stress prep and enjoy what is the heart of the celebration, family and friends.

Whether you’re cooking solo or preparing a family feast for Thanksgiving, these 10 cookbooks will bring some joy to being in the kitchen.

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"Modern Comfort Food: A Barefoot Contessa Cookbook" by Ina Garten
There may not be a more reliable recipe writer than Ina Garten, in my opinion. I own all of her cookbooks and have never had a failed recipe. "Modern Comfort Food" fills a void for nostalgic, homey, big-flavor meals inspired by separation from loved ones during the holidays. Garten provides 85 easy-to-follow recipes coupled with gorgeous photography, and her own notes about stages of cooking and entertaining — her constant support and advice that fill the pages make you feel like the Barefoot Contessa is there in the kitchen with you.

This cookbook offers simple and satisfying meals for any occasion, not just Thanksgiving. And it is not purely a Thanksgiving cookbook, though Garten’s recipe for Turkey Roulade and Hot Spiced Apple Cider would be welcome at any Thanksgiving feast. "Modern Comfort Food" serves up a recipe for good food and good conversation among friends. How easy is that?

Get it from Amazon for $19.
"Thanksgiving: How to Cook It Well" by Sam Sifton
Sam Sifton has been a trusted voice in food writing since founding the New York Times Cooking section. His simple, reliable recipes for Thanksgiving classics guide even the novice cook through a stress-free feast preparation. There are no innovative techniques here, just foundational information and recipes to make Thanksgiving in a traditional way for family and friends.

Sifton lends his advice on everything from pots and pans, to tools, knives and pantry basics like salt and pepper, to brining and carving the turkey, to cranberry sauce and the all-important topic: what to do with leftovers. It is comprehensive but approachable even for the novice cook. This cookbook does not rely on photography to tell its tale — it is a conversational collection of thoughts about the fourth Thursday of November, and how not to lose your mind while still preparing a classic holiday meal. This is about the basics of a traditional Thanksgiving feast with a side of wicked wit, and no appetizers.

Whether you will be entertaining a group or dining on a smaller scale, this cookbook captures the essence of holiday nostalgia, and lays out a blueprint for a foolproof Turkey Day.

Get it from Amazon for $13.99.
"The Superfun Times Vegan Holiday Cookbook: Entertaining for Absolutely Every Occasion" by Isa Chandra Moskowitz
This cookbook not only will get you through Thanksgiving vegan-style, but all the other holidays as well with Moskowitz’s usual charming wit. She acknowledges Thanksgiving meal prep is stressful and provides tips to make it easier. There are make-ahead lists, allergy substitutions, tips for how to use equipment on hand, and straightforward recipes, and Moskowitz guides you through each step with beautiful photography and humorous banter.

The 250 recipes are organized by holiday and use seasonal ingredients. If you have ever wondered how to holiday entertain vegan-style, Moskowitz provides tasty, reliable options that even your non-vegan friends will love.

Get it from Amazon for $34.67.
"Big Little Recipes: Good Food With Minimal Ingredients and Maximal Flavor" by Emma Laperruque
Minimalism is what "Big Little Recipes" promises, and it delivers. Born of a column for Food 52, this book embraces the idea that you can cook great food with fewer ingredients and less fuss. The 60 recipes range from whimsical "Salads with or without lettuce" to "Meats and Fishes" to "Vegetables that aren’t sides" and more. Laperruque questions every ingredient’s necessity to strip recipes down to minimal ingredients and maximum flavor.

As we move into another unsure holiday season, "Big Little Recipes" is comforting in its simplicity. There is the requisite pantry stocking list, an innovative approach to water as a powerful ingredient and philosophical writing about canned tuna. Laperruque provides a road map to simplify cooking in a fun, approachable voice. There is no Thanksgiving section in this cookbook, but the Skillet Chicken Thighs with Schmaltzy, Vinegary Radishes are a tasty alternative to gravy-soaked turkey. And there is no huge grocery shopping leading up to the holiday — most of what you need already lives in your pantry.

Get it from Amazon for $22.49.
"This Must Be the Place: Dispatches & Food from the Home Front" by Rachael Ray
Like many of us, Rachael Ray turned to food for comfort last year. She and her husband, John, produced a cooking show with just the two of them, an iPhone and their upstate New York kitchen. From homey pantry staples and one-pot meals to more elaborate celebration dinners, the 125 recipes fed not only Ray and her husband, but a nation hungry for comfort and connection.

In the background of this gorgeously photographed book is Ray’s story of pandemic lockdown, navigating her home away from the studio and the fast-paced life of the city, and finding solace in the kitchen. As we continue to wade through pandemic waters, this cookbook provides a life raft of easy-to-prepare, limited-ingredient recipes and a supportive friend to guide you through the holiday season. This is not a Thanksgiving cookbook, but it is a cookbook about giving thanks for the people in our lives and the food in our pantry.

Get it from Amazon for $22.49.
″Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking” by Samin Nosrat
Anyone on Twitter last Thanksgiving will probably remember the flurry of activity around Samin Nosrat’s Buttermilk Chicken. Turkey shortages were happening, smaller gatherings were the norm and people were searching for something comforting with few ingredients. I was one of those people.

Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat” is not your traditional glossy cookbook — it’s more. Written in Nosrat’s relatable voice, it feels almost like there is a supportive friend on your shoulder as you cook your way through. There are 100 approachable recipes written in Nosrat’s knowledgeable style, but the illustrations and infographics by Wendy MacNaughton clinch this as a must-have cookbook.

It is not a Thanksgiving cookbook, at least not in the traditional sense. There is no full menu plan with listings of table settings. There is, however, the Spatchcocked Thanksgiving Turkey recipe and the Spicy-Brined Turkey recipe, but you don’t have to limit yourself. I made a riff on the Buttermilk Chicken with turkey and it had ridiculously easy prep, minimal ingredients and low-stress cooking. This cookbook provides the foundation of flavor, and then encourages you to experiment. But she also includes a killer classic pumpkin pie recipe if traditional is how you want to roll.

Get it from Amazon for $16.67.
″New Native Kitchen: Celebrating Modern Recipes of the American Indian” by Freddie Bitsoie & James O. Fraioli
If you're looking to cook a Thanksgiving dinner that honors Indigenous cuisines, this book will be a gift. “New Native Kitchen” provides modern takes on 100 recipes ranging from Braised Bison Short Ribs to Wampanoag Cherrystone Clam Soup, accompanied by stunning photography and illustrations.

Written by Freddie Bitsoie, the former executive chef at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian and a Navajo tribe member, and James Beard Award-winning author James O. Fraioli, this cookbook celebrates the varied cooking styles of American Indians from coast to coast. The approachable recipes are coupled with cultural insight and center on local, seasonal ingredients, the backbone of Indigenous cuisines.

Get it from Amazon for $40.
"Beautiful Boards: 50 Amazing Snack Boards for Any Occasion" by Maegan Brown
Let’s face it, snack boards have been having a moment since the pandemic started, and they are still going strong for those who don’t want to spend hours in the kitchen, are burned out from constant cooking at home and want a little snacking variety in their lives. So why not try one for your Thanksgiving meal?

"Beautiful Boards" details all the ways you can create stunning snack boards for all occasions, including a Turkey Board and a Pumpkin Board for those who want Thanksgiving without the stress. Maegan Brown includes 50 step-by-step recipes for a wide array of snack boards, as well as information about how to arrange, make ahead and source from stores to alleviate prep. Her voice shines in each headnote, sharing the mindset behind boards and the philosophy of spending less time tied to your kitchen and more time with family and friends. There is a section on supplies, one on building and serving, and a section on transporting for those traveling for the holiday.

Whether you are road-tripping for the holidays, having a small get-together, or a full-on family feast, this book has options to make Thanksgiving less kitchen stress, and more valuable time together ... and fewer dishes.

Get it from Amazon for $17.09.
"Instant Family Meals" by Sarah Copeland
When looking for ease of meal prep, the Instant Pot is hard to beat. Whether you want a roast, a turkey breast or a take on Turkey Meatball Soup for Thanksgiving, Sarah Copeland has a recipe for it in her "Instant Family Meals" cookbook. Busy families, and those wishing for something a little less stressful in the kitchen will find her fix-it-and-forget-it style approachable.

Copeland weaves in her own narrative of needing relief as a full-time working parent, throwing together emergency guest dinners and sharing how her electric pressure cooker purchase gave her back valuable time with her family. Copeland writes recipes made for any cooking level, and in addition to 192 pages of stunning photography and nourishing recipes, Copeland also provides a step-by-step guide for those new to the multicooker.

This is not a traditional choice for Thanksgiving meal planning, but if you are looking to simplify and capitalize on the extra time for family and friends, Copeland provides a road map for a mostly hands-off meal.

Get it from Amazon for $15.89.
″Friends: The Official Cookbook” by Amanda Yee
“Friends” became a binge sensation last fall when people were home looking for escapism. The quirky show provided much-needed humor and a reminder of what getting together with friend groups feels like. With the holidays approaching and travel still uncertain, it’s a great time to reconnect with Monica, Phoebe, Chandler, Rachel, Joey and Ross.

With over 70 recipes for all skill levels, including Monica’s memorable Friendsgiving Feast, author Amanda Yee captures the power of sharing a meal together. If your holiday plans involve a gathering of friends, prepare Monica’s Roasted Turkey with Mashed Potatoes and Cornbread Stuffing, turn on some Netflix and chill out on nostalgia.

Get it from Amazon for $23.99.

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