Pass on holiday stress by making your entire holiday dinner ahead of time.

By Abby Wolner
Updated October 16, 2020
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Prep for this five-course, make-ahead Christmas menu (complete with a cocktail) is completed seven hours before your actual dinnertime. We're sharing a festive Christmas dinner menu starring slow-cooked duck breast, creamy potatoes, and peppermint bars for dessert. This easy holiday menu can be made with just a little planning ahead. Come Christmas dinner, you'll be able to relax and enjoy a cup of sweet winter sangria.

Duck Breast with Maple and Plums
Credit: Andy Lyons

Entree: Duck Breast with Maple and Plums

Juicy duck breast flavored with maple and fresh rosemary proves that make-ahead doesn't have to mean basic. To make it ahead, toss everything (spicy parsnips, savory shallot, and four servings of duck breast) into the slow cooker ($17, Target) the morning of your Christmas dinner. Add the plums at the end so they don't get too soft.

When to make it: Seven hours ahead

fresh citrus salad with oranges
Credit: Andy Lyons

Side Salad: Fresh Citrus and Cranberry Salad

Let winter produce shine in your make-ahead Christmas menu. This palette-perking salad serves up orange slices and cranberries with freshly grated ginger and mint. The longer you let the ingredients chill together, the more dramatic the flavors will be.

When to make it: Two days ahead

Brussels Sprouts Casserole with Pancetta and Asiago Cheese
Credit: Blaine Moats

Vegetable Side: Brussels Sprouts Casserole with Pancetta and Asiago Cheese

Every Christmas menu needs a gooey casserole. Thanks to heaps of Asiago cheese, this vegetarian-friendly bake fills the bill. It achieves peak savory goodness with a medley of tender vegetables and salty fried pancetta.

When to make it: Chop the vegetables and chill in an airtight container ($40, Bed Bath & Beyond) up to 24 hours ahead of time.

Make-Ahead Herb Buttered Mashed Potatoes
Credit: Minh Ngo

Make-Ahead Herb Buttered Mashed Potatoes

No holiday plate is complete without a steamy spoonful of classic mashed potatoes, and this make-ahead recipe checks all the boxes: herby, buttery, and creamy.

When to make it: Make the Herb Butter at least one day ahead.

Apple-Cinnamon Winter Sangria
Credit: Kritsada Panichgul

Cocktail: Apple-Cinnamon Winter Sangria

For a simple make-ahead Christmas cocktail, try this one-pot sangria with no stirring or shaking necessary. Thanks to seasonal produce, cinnamon, and bold red wine, one glass warms from the inside out.

When to make it: One day ahead. Store in the fridge.

Peppermint Sugar Cookie Bars
Credit: Jacob Fox

Dessert: Peppermint Sugar Cookie Bars

Send guests home with minty memories of these chewy six-ingredient sweets. The festive peppermint topper makes them a cinch to display—just pile them onto an evergreen-color platter ($30, Williams Sonoma)!

When to make it: Three days ahead. Store in the fridge.

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