Friday, November 3, 2023

Prepare for Thanksgiving weeks in advance with freezer-friendly recipes

This is a sponsored post by Challenge Butter, but the text and opinions are all mine. Thank you for supporting brands that make Kylee's Kitchen possible! 

Sit back, relax, and say goodbye to the crazy week leading up to the big feast. Did you know you can prepare and freeze (almost) your entire Thanksgiving meal now so it’s ready to go when the big day arrives, and you’re not duking it out against the grocery store crowds.

Which Thanksgiving foods can I freeze?

I learned from my time in culinary school and working in a bakery that you can freeze just about anything. But there are a few Thanksgiving foods I do not recommend freezing: custard pies, cream pies, meringue pies, amd anything with gelatin. I also avoid freezing cream or milk-heavy dishes because the flavor and texture may change, and it also may separate during the reheating process. For that reason, I’m not a fan of freezing green bean casserole or creamy soups.

Important note: If something is meant to be crispy, don’t freeze it! Example: Don't top your sweet potato casserole with nuts or add bacon or breadcrumbs to the top of your casserole before freezing it. Add those things right before your dish is placed in the oven.

Freeze before or after cooking

Before cooking: Pies, sweet potato casserole, dressing/stuffing

After cooking: Cranberry sauce, gravy, mashed potatoes, cheesecake, bread/rolls

How to prep foods for the freezer

First, allow your food to cool (preferably for several hours in the refrigerator) before putting it in the freezer in order to prevent freezer burn.

Once cooled, choose the right freezer storage container. You need a vessel that is meant to go in the freezer. I really like using freezer-safe Ziploc bags because you can lay them flat and they take up little space. Bags not specifically labeled "freezer" may split and break.

I also like using aluminum trays. They can go straight from the freezer to the oven, and you don't have to worry about them breaking from the temperature swing.

Eliminate as much air exposure as possible to prevent food from drying out and developing freezer burn. For food in a container, I recommend laying plastic wrap on the surface of the food, wrapping the whole thing twice, and then wrapping in a layer of aluminum foil. For food in a bag, be a human vacuum sealer! Close the bag except for a tiny portion that you can stick a straw into. Use a straw to suck as much air as possible out of the bag, quickly remove the straw, and close up the bag. (Don't do this with raw meat, spicy peppers, or horseradish. Also, make sure you don't breathe back into the bag.)

Label everything! Write the name of the item, the date, and the baking instructions on your food before sticking it in the freezer.

How to heat after freezing

Pies go straight from the freezer into the oven. Don't thaw in order to avoid a soggy crust! Bake the pie for about 20 minutes longer than a pie that isn't frozen. Just make sure the crust doesn't burn. If it starts to get too dark cover it in foil.

Cheesecake can be thawed in the refrigerator for 24 hours before serving.

Cranberry sauce and gravy can be thawed for 24 hours in the refrigerator before heating on stovetop to desired temperature.

Frozen rolls can be thawed on the kitchen counter, wrapped in foil, and heated in a 300-degree (or lower) oven until warm.

Sweet potato casserole and dressing/stuffing can be thawed for 24 hours in the refrigerator and bake as directed. If your casseroles require a crunchy topping, now is the time to add it!

Mashed potatoes can be placed in an oven-safe dish, covered, and heated at 350 degrees for about 20 - 30 minutes.

A lot of Thanksgiving recipes use butter, so when I'm prepping for the big day, I always make sure to have a few extra pounds of Challenge Unsalted Butter on hand. Challenge Unsalted Butter is 100% real fresh cream butter but with no salt added, which is why it's my preferred choice for all-around kitchen use.

Jalapeno cranberry sauce


  • 1 Tablespoon Challenge unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 jalapeños, seeds removed, minced
  • 1 pound fresh cranberries
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons lime zest


  1. Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Add shallot and jalapeños and cook until they soften, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add cranberries, maple syrup, water and salt to saucepan and increase heat to medium-high.
  3. Stir often and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low and cook until cranberries burst and juices thicken, about 10 minutes
  4. Remove from heat. Stir in lime juice and lime zest. Let cool.
  5. Before serving, taste and add more lime juice or zest if necessary.

To freeze: Cool sauce completely, pour into freezer-friendly zip-top bag, remove as much air as possible, and lay flat. Freeze up to 3 months. Thaw for 24 hours in refrigerator before heating on stovetop to desired temperature.

Herby sweet heat chutney


  • 8 dates, pitted
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 1/2 cup lime juice, plus more to taste
  • 1 jalapeño, no seeds, chopped
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons fresh ginger, grated
  • 6 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 4 cups cilantro leaves (2 bunches)
  • 2 cups parsley leaves (1 bunch)


  1. Place dates in bowl. Cover with hot water and set aside.
  2. Toast cumin seeds on medium heat until they become aromatic, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Grind with mortar and pestle.
  3. Remove dates from water (keep water) and place in food processor with cumin, lime juice, jalapeno, ginger, garlic, and salt.
  4. Run food processor until it’s mostly smooth.
  5. Add herbs to food processor and pulse until mostly smooth, scraping sides periodically. Add reserved water from dates 1 tablespoon at a time if necessary to get blades moving.
  6. Taste and adjust lime juice and salt if necessary.

To freeze: Pour into freezer-friendly zip-top bag, remove as much air as possible, and lay flat. Freeze up to 3 months. Thaw for 24 hours in refrigerator.

Instant Pot leek mashed potatoes


  • 4 Tablespoons Challenge unsalted butter
  • 2 cups leeks, white and light green parts, sliced into half moons
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 3 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed, peeled or unpeeled, cut into fourths
  • 1/2 cup vegetable stock (or chicken or turkey)
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper (freshly cracked makes a big difference)


  1. Heat Instant Pot on sauté setting. Add olive oil. Once hot, cook leeks and garlic until transluscent, about 5 minutes.
  2. Deglaze pot with wine. Bring to simmer.
  3. Add potatoes and stock, cover pot, and cook on high pressure for 10 minutes.
  4. Once cooking is complete, release pressure. Add remaining 2 Tablespoons butter and mash potatoes. to desired smoothness.
  5. Stir in buttermilk, cream, salt and pepper. Adjust seasoning to taste. 

Recipe adapted from Food52

To freeze: Cool mashed potatoes completely. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Portion mashed potatoes into balls using an ice scream scoop. Set mashed potato balls on parchment paper. Place in freezer. Once balls are frozen, place in freezer-safe zip-top bag and remove as much air as possible. Store up to 3 months. Mashed potatoes can be placed in an oven-safe dish, covered, and heated at 350 degrees for about 20 - 30 minutes.

Mushroom and leek dressing


  • 6 cups (about 8 ounces) sourdough bread, torn into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Challenge unsalted butter
  • 4 ounces pancetta
  • 4 cups leeks, white and light green parts, sliced into half moons
  • 2 pounds white mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh tarragon leaves
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper (freshly cracked makes a big difference)
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves, minced
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup chicken or turkey stock
  • 1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) Gruyère cheese, grated


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spread bread cubes on large sheet pan and bake until dry, about 20 minutes. Set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, heat oil and butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. 
  3. Add pancetta and cook, until it starts to brown, about 5 minutes. 
  4. Stir in leeks and cook until leeks are transluscent, about 5 minutes. 
  5. Stir in mushrooms, wine, tarragon, salt, and black pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until mushrooms have released their liquid and most of it has evaporated.
  6. Remove from heat and stir in parsley.
  7. In large bowl, mix eggs, cream, stock, and 1 cup of Gruyère. 
  8. Add bread cubes and mushroom mixture, and stir well to combine. 
  9. Set aside at room temperature for 30 minutes to allow bread to absorb liquid. 
  10. Heat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and pour dressing into 13 x 9-inch dish. 
  11. Sprinkle with remaining Gruyère and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until top is browned.

Recipe adapted from The Barefoot Contessa

To freeze: Before baking, transfer dressing to freezer-safe zip-top bag and lay flat. Or before baking, transfer dressing to 9x13-inch aluminum pan, cover surface with plastic wrap, wrap twice more in plastic wrap and once in aluminum foil. Freeze up to 3 months. Thaw for 24 hours in the refrigerator and bake as directed. 

Classic dinner rolls


  • 4 - 5 cups (540 - 600 grams) all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup (66 grams) granulated sugar
  • 21 grams instant yeast (from 3 packets)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups warm milk, around 110 degrees
  • 5 Tablespoons Challenge unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 5 Tablespoons Challenge unsalted butter, melted


  1. Combine 4 cups flour, sugar, yeast, and salt in bowl of stand mixer. Add milk, 5 Tablespoons softened butter, and egg.
  2. Mix on low speed until everything is incorporated.
  3. Attach dough hook to mixer. Mix on low speed for 3 minutes, then increase speed to medium, and mix until the dough is smooth, pulling away from sides, and slightly sticky, about 3 minutes. Add up to 1 additional cup flour if necessary,
  4. Transfer dough to lightly greased bowl and cover with towel or plastic wrap. Let rise for 30 minutes at room temperature.
  5. Remove covering and deflate dough by lightly pressing down with fingers.
  6. Divide dough into 20 equal pieces about 2 ounces each.
  7. Form dough into balls by cupping. fingers around dough and rolling it on work surface.
  8. Lightly grease 9x13-inch pan and arrange dough into 5 rows of 4.
  9. Cover rolls with towel or plastic wrap. Let rise for 30 minutes at room temperature. 
  10. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake rolls for about 15 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through. Internal temperature should register around 190 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  11. Remove rolls and brush with melted butter. 

Recipe adapted from Mom on Timeout

To freeze: Let rolls cool completely. Place in freezer-safe zip-top bag. Remove as much air as possible. Freeze up to 1 month. Frozen rolls can be thawed on the kitchen counter, wrapped in foil, and heated in a 300-degree (or lower) oven until warm.

Pumpkin basque cheesecake


  • 18 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 6 ounces goat cheese, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups (300 grams) granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 15 ounces pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup (30 grams) all purpose flour 
  • 5 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cardamom


  1. Preheat oven to 410 degrees Fahrenheit. Line springform pan with parchment paper and lightly grease.
  2. Beat cream cheese, goat cheese, and sugar on high speed until smooth, about 2 minutes.
  3. On medium speed, mix in eggs 1 at a time.
  4. Add pumpkin puree and heavy cream and mix until smooth.
  5. In small bowl, mix flour, pumpkin pie spice, salt, and cardamom. Sift dry ingredients into batter and mix on low just until combined.
  6. Place prepared pan on baking sheet and pour batter into pan. Transfer to oven and bake until lightly browned but still jiggly, about 65 to 70 minutes.
  7. Remove cheescake from oven and cool completely. It's okay if it cracks and sinks in center.
  8. Before serving, remove cheesecake from pan and pull away parchment paper. Serve at room temperature.

To freeze: Wrap cheesecake in plastic wrap several times, making sure plastic wrap touches all surfaces of cheesecake to prevent freezer burn. Place cheesecake in freezer-safe zip-top bag. Store up to 3 months. Place cheesecake in refrigerator 24 hours before serving in order to thaw. 


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