The best (and simplest) food ideas for Friendsgiving

Friends eating dinner at table with flowers and food.

If you’re hosting Friendsgiving this year, know this: Unless your pals are exclusively chefs, they don’t expect a five-star meal. They expect good food and better company. So, the best food ideas for Friendsgiving don’t have to be expensive or require you to spend days in the kitchen.

Group of friends eating dinner at table with food and flowers.
You don’t have to prep a five-star meal for Friendsgiving. Your best pals want good food and better company. Source: Envato.

Take this as your guide to straightforward Friendsgiving food ideas including main dishes, side dishes, appetizers, and desserts. I’ll kick things off with suggestions on dishes your guests can bring.

Dishes your Friendsgiving guests can bring

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Friendsgiving parties often have a potluck element. Since your friends probably have varying degrees of experience in the kitchen, be forthright about what they should bring. No one wants under-cooked turkey for dinner. Nor do you want a friend spending and money on a dish that overlaps with your menu.

“When I’m meal planning for a large friend get together I always give people a course to be part of and tell them directly. This prevents us from having six appetizers but no side dishes and keeps the meal more balanced.”

Shelby, Fitasamamabear.com

Also consider the potential for food allergies. Friends with allergies may prefer to bring a dish they can eat. You might give them the first pick when you’re doling out food assignments.

“As someone living with a food allergy, I always bring side dishes that are safe for me to eat, but tasty for all to enjoy. That also helps ensure my host doesn’t feel any pressure to go to any extra effort on my account.”

Sage Scott, Sage Alpha Gal

Here are seven excellent suggestions when friends asks what they can bring to your celebration:

  1. Drinks: Wine is expensive, especially if your friends drink like mine do. If you trust your friends’ taste in wine, ask them to donate a few bottles to the Friendsgiving cause. Also, if you have friends who only drink old-fashioneds (or some other pricey, specific cocktail), tell them it’s BYOB.
  2. Chips and salsa: Chips and salsa make a solid appetizer for any occasion. These ingredients are also easy to transport.
  3. Dip and veggies: Everyone loves ranch dip, right? Add some carrot sticks, cucumber spears, and crackers for a crowd-pleasing appetizer.
  4. Slow cooker specialties: You may have a friend who has specialty slow-cooker dish—fondue, meatballs, whatever. Slow-cooker dishes are fabulous additions to a fall potluck. Just coordinate this early so the dish fits with the rest of your menu.
  5. Cookies: Chocolate chip cookies can stand in as a dessert, especially if you have ice cream on hand.
  6. Butter and gravy: Ask the friend who can’t cook to bring a stick of butter or two jars of gravy. I’d gladly make that trade in return for a whole meal.
  7. Rolls: Rolls are the easiest and, possibly, cheapest potluck contribution ever.

Food ideas for Friendsgiving: The menu

  • Main chicken or turkey dish
  • Roasted vegetable
  • Cranberry sauce
  • Stuffing
  • Baked or roasted white potato or sweet potato
  • Store-bought dinner rolls, butter and gravy
  • Cookies, brownies, or pie plus ice cream for dessert

This is a respectable Thanksgiving-inspired meal that’ll serve a bunch of your friends. Even better, this is not a labor-intensive menu. You won’t need a sous chef beside you. You’ll probably be able to socialize some before everyone sits down to eat. And your friends will love that you pulled together a traditional fall feast for them to enjoy.

Friendsgiving dinner ideas

Roasted turkey in black pan with potatoes.

A whole roasted turkey is the default main entree for Friendsgiving or Thanksgiving dinner, but it’s not your only option. You can also roast turkey pieces, a whole chicken, or chicken pieces. See more meaty main dish ideas here.

Super side dishes

Side dishes are important role players for your meal. Don’t discount them. The right combination of side dishes add color, complexity and tons of flavor to the plate.

Green veggies

Try roasting your veggies—this method is easy and delicious. Brussels sprouts, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower and zucchini squash are all candidates for roasting.

The roasting process for any of these is simple. Trim and cut your veggies into bite size pieces. Toss with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and pop them in the oven on a baking sheet. Generally, you can cook them at 400°F (204°C) and check for doneness every 15 minutes. I like to line the baking sheet with parchment paper for easier cleanup.

Here are some pointers by vegetable:

  • Brussels sprouts. Trim the base and cut each in half, or thirds if they are bigger than a ping-pong ball. I like the texture best when they are cooked with the cut side down on the sheet, but that’s not a critical step. Your total roasting time should be about 30 minutes.
  • Green beans. Trim the ends and cut them into evenly sized pieces. Your roasting time will depend on how you like your green beans. They’ll be slightly wrinkled and caramelized after about 15 or 20 minutes. Let them roast for 30 to 40 minutes and they’ll get crispy in places, almost like a healthy French fry. f
  • Broccoli and cauliflower. Both broccoli and cauliflower take 30 to 40 minutes to roast at 400°F (204°C). Again, your taste preference will determine whether you pull them out of the oven after 30 or wait another 10 minutes for that extra crispiness.
  • Zucchini. Cut ends off your zucchini, half them the short way, then cut each half into two or three wedges. If you have a rack that’ll elevate the zucchini above the baking sheet, use that. They’ll be less soggy. Depending on the size of your wedges, they should be done in about 15 minutes.

Kick your veggies up a notch

If olive oil, salt and pepper feels too boring for you and your guests, you can easily upgrade your roasted veggies with extra seasonings, cheese, Panko, nuts, or bacon:

  • Add dried seasonings (or fresh-squeezed lemon juice!) at the beginning, before you roast.
  • Add fresh seasoning at the end, after roasting.
  • Add cheese or Panko breadcrumbs a few minutes before your vegetables are done. Pull them out of the above, toss with your fav cheese and pop them back in for a minute or two.
  • Add roasted nuts or crispy cooked bacon after roasting.

The great cranberry debate

Canned cranberry sauce is the easiest of Friendsgiving dishes. Sadly, it’s also one of the most controversial. For whatever reason, people either love or hate canned cranberry. I say buy the canned cranberry as long as you like it. Friends who don’t like it can work around it.

If you’re feeling ambitious, you can also make your own cranberry sauce. Try Eating on a Dime’s recipe. It has only four ingredients. Just know that you may never go back to canned cranberry after making it yourself.

Must-Have: Stuffing

Stuffing can be labor-intensive, but it’s also one of the more popular fall flavors. You can make it easier by starting with precut ingredients. For a basic but delicious option, try this easy stuffing recipe. Another, more elaborate option is Bobby Flay’s Country Bread and Sage Stuffing.

Potatoes

Mashed potatoes are a lovely addition to a Thanksgiving meal, but they add last-minute work to your process. They’re also hard to get right, since they can easily turn sticky. Baking whole potatoes is a simpler option.

Simply scrub your potatoes, brush them with olive oil and put them in the oven at 400°F (204°C) for about an hour. You can do this with russet potatoes or sweet potatoes.

If you don’t expect everyone to eat a whole potato, you can also cut the potatoes in half and cook them the same way, but wrapped in foil. They’ll cook faster, so check them after 45 minutes.

Store-Bought extras

Buy your rolls, butter and gravy at the store. Or, have your friends bring these. Rolls and butter ensure everyone feels satiated and gravy is easier to buy than to make.

Easy appetizers

You can stick with a simple appetizer menu of chips, salsa, veggies and dip.

If you’re craving something fancier, see Food Drink Life’s list of memorable savory appetizers.

Delicious desserts

Pecan pie on table, one of our friendsgiving food ideas.

Cookies or brownies paired with ice cream makes an easy but also decadent finish to a meal. To go the extra mile, treat your pals to layered peanut butter chocolate brownies or something more traditional, such as homemade pecan pie, pumpkin pie, or sweet potato pie.

Maintain your sanity by preparing the dessert the day before.

Extras

This is already a big list of Friendsgiving food ideas. Even if you stopped reading two paragraphs earlier, your friends are in for a well-rounded, satisfying meal.

Still, if you want to earn the “most amazing host/hostess” title among your friends and make Friendsgiving extra memorable, you could add some after-dinner drink options to your menu. Coffee and warm apple cider are nice choices. Or, play grownup with a digestif, like port wine, armagnac, amaro, or grappa.