22 Time-Saving Make-Ahead Side Dishes for a Stress-Free Holiday

Orange-Sage Sweet Potatoes Bacon
Photo: Jason Donnelly

Preparing side dishes shouldn't be stressful when getting ready for family and friends to come over for the holidays. Whether you're prepping for Christmas, New Year's, or just a gathering of family and friends, these easy make-ahead side dish recipes will help you get an early start on your hosting duties.

01 of 22

Rustic Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Rustic Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Scott Little

Christmas dinners wouldn't be the same without a bowl of mashed potatoes. Instead of taking the time to prep, peel, and boil them, whip up a batch of these fluffy garlic mashed potatoes for a dozen guests in your slow cooker. This make-ahead holiday side dish will cook for eight hours on the countertop, giving you plenty of time to prepare for your guests.

Buy It: Crock-Pot 6-Quart Cook & Carry Programmable Slow Cooker, $80, Amazon

02 of 22

Bacon-Topped Green Bean Casserole

Bacon-Topped Green Bean Casserole
Andy Lyons

Everything is better with bacon—including this green bean casserole. As one reviewer says, this is a "fantastic ADULT version of this classic dish," thanks to fresh green beans and the addition of hearty mushrooms, not just the canned soup. Chill this easy make-ahead side dish up to 24 hours in advance of your holiday dinner, then prepare for mouthwatering smells to fill the kitchen as it warms in the oven.

03 of 22

Carrot-Mushroom Stuffing

Carrot-Mushroom Stuffing
Jason Donnelly

If you love stuffing as much as us, jazz up the traditional classic holiday side dish with some carrots and mushrooms. Haven't been on board the earthy shiitake mushroom train yet? This is a great time to change the types of mushrooms on your menu. This make-ahead side dish goes in the fridge for up to 24 hours before it's time to go in the oven.

04 of 22

Black-Eyed Pea & Quinoa Salad

Black-Eyed Pea & Quinoa Salad
Buff Strickland

Black-eyed peas might be known for bringing in the New Year, but if you're looking for ways to add a little more fiber to your meals, this make-ahead side dish paired with protein-rich quinoa will help you out. Pickled jalapeños, red sweet pepper, and corn bring festive colors to your holiday spread. Make this one a day before your gathering and let it chill for up to 24 hours.

05 of 22

Orange-Sage Sweet Potatoes with Bacon

Orange-Sage Sweet Potatoes Bacon
Jason Donnelly

If you're used to marshmallows topping your roasted orange spuds in the wintertime, give your oven a rest and try out one of our favorite healthy slow cooker recipes. Orange juice and crispy bacon give this make-ahead side dish a special twist. It makes 12 servings to feed your entire family. Good luck on trying to grab seconds.

06 of 22

Overnight Refrigerator Rolls

Overnight Refrigerator Rolls
Jason Donnelly

What's better than warm, buttery dinner rolls served alongside your Christmas dinner. A batch you can prepare the night before! This make-ahead dinner roll recipe requires only 12 minutes in the oven, so it won't take up too much valuable oven space.

07 of 22

Winter Slaw with Kale and Cabbage

Winter Slaw with Kale and Cabbage
Blaine Moats

Try a wintry twist on the summer potluck classic with this easy side dish filled with in-season veggies kale and cabbage. Tossed in a creamy, herb-infused sauce, this fresh make-ahead vegetable side dish recipe will keep in the fridge up to a day in advance.

08 of 22

Make-Ahead Pepper and Basil Tortellini Soup

Pepper and Basil Tortellini Soup
Andy Lyons

There's nothing better than a steaming bowl of soup to go with your dinner on a cold, chilly night. The best part about this soup is that the entire recipe is made ahead. Cheesy tortellini, tomatoes, and the rest of the ingredients are stored in a gallon freezer bag until it's time to reheat the hearty soup for your party.

09 of 22

Cheesy Mashed Potatoes with Gouda and Crispy Pancetta

Cheesy Mashed Potatoes with Gouda and Crispy Pancetta
Andy Lyons

We combined red and russet potatoes with salty pancetta and melty cheese to up our mashed potato game. This make-ahead side dish can be prepared a day in advance after placing it in a greased baking dish. If you're wanting a meatless side of cheesy mashed potatoes, sub the pancetta for artichoke hearts.

10 of 22

Homemade Green Bean Casserole

Homemade Green Bean Casserole
Jason Donnelly

Every holiday menu should include a green bean casserole side dish. Our lightened-up version of the make-ahead vegetable side features mushrooms, herbed cheese, and a splash of white wine, and can be made and chilled 24 hours ahead.

11 of 22

Twice-Baked Pesto Mashed Potatoes

Twice-Baked Pesto Mashed Potatoes
Andy Lyons

Be ready for your guests to flock to the dinner table with the smell of toasty pine nuts and pesto in this make-ahead twice-baked mashed potato dish. With only five ingredients (plus salt and pepper) and a tip for making the potatoes 24 hours ahead, these side-dish spuds couldn't be easier.

12 of 22

Fresh Citrus and Cranberry Salad

Fresh Citrus and Cranberry Salad
Andy Lyons

For a festive take on salad, we added a refreshing kick of mint and ginger to arugula, then topped it with chopped fresh cranberries. You can prepare this make-ahead vegetable side dish up to two days in advance. When you're ready to eat, all you need to do is add the dressing.

13 of 22

Squash, Mushroom, and Farro Dressing

Squash-Mushroom and Farro Dressing
Blaine Moats

Nutty and chewy, farro is one grain we think deserves a little more attention all the time—so why not add it to the holiday menu? Instead of bread, this make-ahead holiday side dish utilizes the whole grain with the addition of some of our favorite winter flavors, like tender butternut squash, crispy pancetta, and fragrant rosemary. Make this dressing and put it in the fridge a day in advance until it's ready to go in the oven.

14 of 22

Herbed Potato Salad

Herbed Potato Salad
Andy Lyons

Classic potato salad is all dressed up and ready to party with this easy make-ahead side dish. Tiny red potatoes get fresh flavor from green onion and snipped tarragon, and the light Dijon-mayonnaise sauce adds flavor without all the calories. Pop this holiday side dish into the fridge up to four hours before serving time.

15 of 22

Acorn Squash with Bacon-Chive Crumbs

Acorn Squash with Bacon-Chive Crumbs

Let your slow cooker do the work in this comforting make-ahead side dish. Finished with a crunchy bacon topper, this winter squash will be ready in four to six hours on low heat. Your sliced squash can even be prepared and stored in the fridge up to 24 hours in advance before you put the dish together in the slow cooker.

16 of 22

Olive Bread Stuffing with Fennel

Olive Bread Stuffing with Fennel
Jason Donnelly

Fresh herbs, fennel, and two kinds of mushrooms put a Mediterranean-inspired spin on this traditional holiday stuffing recipe. Prepare this make-ahead Christmas side dish and keep it in the fridge for up to two days before the feast.

17 of 22

Glazed Carrots with Pistachios

Glazed Carrots with Pistachios
Blaine Moats

A thyme and brown sugar glaze and crunchy toasted pistachios add just the right amount of sweet and savory flavor to this quick and easy holiday side dish. To make ahead, cook the carrots and toast the pistachios the day before, then glaze and briefly reheat before serving.

18 of 22

Sweet Potatoes with Toasted Pecans

Sweet Potatoes Toasted Pecans
Reed Davis

Toasted pecans and sticky-sweet marshmallows top creamy sweet potatoes to make a satisfyingly sweet holiday side dish. We like to whip up these sweet potatoes for an easy make-ahead side dish that keeps in the refrigerator 24 hours in advance before baking.

19 of 22

Paella-Style Stuffing

Paella-Style Stuffing
Blaine Moats

This make-ahead Christmas side dish has the expected bread cubes, onion, and celery, but kicks things up with the addition of chorizo and green olives. To make ahead, simply put together and keep it stored in your refrigerator for up to 24 hours. All that's left is to pop it in the oven for 45 minutes before dinnertime.

20 of 22

Corn Bread

Corn Bread
Blaine Moats

Easy to make, cornbread is a great make-ahead holiday side dish for any meal. Since it includes ingredients you'll likely have in your pantry, you can go ahead and whip up a batch any time to store in the freezer for up to one month.

21 of 22

Chunky Applesauce

Chunky Applesauce
Andy Lyons

The best thing about apples is that they taste great with savory or sweet dishes. This easy, make-ahead side dish can be made up to three weeks ahead of time. Applesauce doesn't have to be the star of just the kids' plates when it's this tasty.

22 of 22

Make-Ahead Apple, Bacon, and Onion Stuffing Muffins

Apple, Bacon, and Onion Stuffing Muffins
Kritsada Panichgul

Making stuffing in a muffin tin is a brilliant make-ahead holiday side dish to take along to a holiday party. The convenient individual servings will also give everyone a chance to get that yummy crispy outside we all love to fight over.

Buy It: OXO Good Grips Non-Stick Pro Muffin Pan, $28, Amazon

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