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What does Ina Garten make for Thanksgiving?

Ina Garten, also known as the Barefoot Contessa, is famous for her delicious Thanksgiving recipes. She has authored several best-selling cookbooks and hosted the popular show Barefoot Contessa on Food Network for over a decade. Ina’s Thanksgiving recipes strike the perfect balance between traditional and innovative. She puts her own unique twist on classic Thanksgiving dishes like turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and more. If you want to host an unforgettable Thanksgiving feast, looking to Ina Garten’s recipes is a great place to start.

In this article, we will explore Ina Garten’s famous Thanksgiving recipes and traditions. What are Ina’s secrets for cooking the perfect Thanksgiving turkey? How does she make her famous Thanksgiving sides like mashed potatoes and green beans? And what delicious Thanksgiving desserts does the Barefoot Contessa have up her sleeves? Read on to learn everything you need to know about how to host a fabulous Thanksgiving feast, Ina Garten style.

Ina’s Famous Roast Turkey Recipe

The centerpiece of any Thanksgiving meal is the turkey. Roast turkey can easily dry out and be bland if not prepared properly. But Ina Garten has a foolproof technique for creating a moist, flavorful Thanksgiving turkey every time. Her secret? An herb butter rubbed directly under and on top of the skin.

Ina’s recipe starts with a 12-14 pound fresh or thawed turkey. She recommends buying the best quality turkey you can. Free range and organic is ideal. The night before Thanksgiving, Ina removes the neck and giblets from the turkey cavities. Then she lightly salts and peppers the inside of the turkey before placing it breast side up on a rack set inside a roasting pan.

The key is Ina’s herb butter. She mixes together 1 1/2 sticks of softened butter with chopped fresh thyme, lemon zest, garlic, salt, and pepper. She carefully loosens the skin from the breast meat and rubs half of the herb butter directly onto the breast meat under the skin. Then she spreads the remaining herb butter all over the skin on top of the breast. This infuses tons of flavor into the turkey meat.

Ina roasts the turkey at a high temperature, 425°F, for 45 minutes. Then she drops the heat to 325°F and continues roasting until the thickest part of the breast reads 160°F and the thickest part of the thigh reads 175°F on a meat thermometer. The turkey roasts for 2 3/4 to 3 hours total. The high heat at the start helps the turkey brown beautifully. And finishing at a lower temp allows the meat to cook through without drying out.

The result is a moist, flavorful turkey with crisp, golden brown skin. Let the turkey rest for at least 20 minutes before carving to allow the juices to redistribute. Ina’s herb butter turkey is so delicious, people may even choose to eat the skin!

Ina’s Herb Butter Recipe

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper

Mix all ingredients together thoroughly before rubbing under and on top of the turkey skin.

How to Make Ina Garten’s Famous Thanksgiving Stuffing

No Thanksgiving meal is complete without a good stuffing or dressing. Ina Garten’s Thanksgiving stuffing is flavored with earthy sage, tart dried cranberries, and toasted pecans. It’s the perfect blend of textures and flavors.

Ina starts by sautéing onions and celery in lots of butter (of course!). She then adds cubed day old bread, chopped parsley, sage, thyme, salt, and pepper. Chicken broth gets mixed in to moisten the stuffing.

Just before baking, Ina folds in toasted chopped pecans and dried cranberries. The nuts add crunch while the tangy cranberries balance out the richness. You can bake Ina’s stuffing inside the turkey cavity or cook it separately in a baking dish for a crisp top.

This stuffing pairs perfectly with Ina’s roast turkey. The citrusy, herby flavors complement each other beautifully. It also stands out on the Thanksgiving table next to more traditional cornbread based stuffings.

Ina’s Thanksgiving Stuffing Recipe

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
2 large onions, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
2 14-oz bags cubed country bread, crusts removed
1 1/4 cups chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh sage
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 3/4 – 2 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 cups toasted pecans, chopped
3/4 cup dried cranberries
  1. Melt butter in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and celery and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
  2. Transfer to very large bowl. Add bread cubes, parsley, sage, thyme, salt, and pepper and toss to combine.
  3. Add just enough broth to moisten stuffing. You don’t want it wet.
  4. Fold in pecans and cranberries.
  5. Transfer to greased baking dish, cover with foil and bake at 400°F for 30 minutes. Uncover and continue baking until crumbs are crisp, about 30 minutes more.

Ina’s Recipes for Thanksgiving Sides

While turkey and stuffing may take center stage at Thanksgiving, the side dishes play an equally important role. After all, the sides are what makes each Thanksgiving menu unique. Ina Garten has some stellar recipes for elevated Thanksgiving sides to round out your holiday feast.

Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes

Ina’s make-ahead mashed potato recipe produces the creamiest, fluffiest spuds without needing to be tended to on Thanksgiving Day. She steams russet potatoes before mashing them with butter, cream, sour cream, and seasoning.

The trick is to spread the mashed potatoes in a baking dish and refrigerate them, covered, for up to 2 days. Then on Thanksgiving, pop the dish in the oven, uncovered, and bake until the potatoes are heated through and the tops are nicely browned. The prep can be done in advance but the potatoes taste like you just finished mashing them!

Ginger Roasted Carrots

Ina turns humble carrots into a delicious Thanksgiving side with this recipe. She roasts carrot sticks tossed in olive oil, ginger, maple syrup, garlic, and thyme until caramelized and tender. The ginger’s spice pairs well with the carrots’ natural sweetness.

Green Beans with Fried Shallots

Forget about mushy canned green bean casserole. Ina’s fresh green beans are sautéed with olive oil, garlic, and spices. The kicker – tossing the hot green beans with crunchy fried shallots. Fried shallots add fun crispy texture and savory onion flavor.

Creamy Parmesan Potatoes Gratin

Potatoes au gratin is a comforting Thanksgiving side dish, but Ina lightens it up by using a combination of cream and broth. Thinly sliced potatoes layered with cream, chicken stock, garlic, thyme, and nutmeg bake until bubbly and golden. A parmesan breadcrumb topping adds richness.

Ina’s Delicious Thanksgiving Desserts

After feasting on savory dishes like turkey and dressing, it’s time for dessert! Ina Garten has some stellar recipes for cakes, pies, and other sweet treats to end your Thanksgiving dinner on a high note.

Make-Ahead Apple Cranberry Crisp

This easy apple crisp is made a day ahead so there’s no baking required on Thanksgiving Day. Tart fresh cranberries complement sweet apples tossed in cinnamon and sugar. An oat streusel topping laced with toasted pecans bakes into a crunchy granola-like layer.

Salted Caramel Chocolate Pecan Pie

Pecan pie gets a luxurious upgrade with salted caramel and bittersweet chocolate. Ina makes her own salted caramel sauce and folds it into the pecan filling before pouring into a pie crust. Decorating the cooled pie with chocolate shavings takes this classic dessert over the top.

Spiced Pumpkin Cheesecake

Pumpkin and cheesecake are blended into the ultimate Thanksgiving dessert. Ina purees canned pumpkin with cream cheese, eggs, sugar and fall spices like cinnamon and nutmeg for the filling. It bakes in a graham cracker crust for wonderful texture contrast.

Maple Cappuccino Cake

This unique coffee-flavored cake has layers of maple syrup for sweetness. Brewed coffee and coffee extract enhance the deep, earthy coffee taste. Cinnamon adds warmth, and a fluffy maple frosting makes this cake a crowd-pleasing dessert.

How to Create an Easy Thanksgiving Menu Like Ina

Planning an entire Thanksgiving dinner menu can feel daunting. With so many dishes to prepare, how do you pull it all off? Ina Garten recommends keeping the menu simple. Choose just one or two side dishes that can be prepped ahead of time. And always include at least one dessert that can be baked beforehand. This way, your oven won’t be crowded on Thanksgiving Day, and you’ll actually be able to enjoy some of the holiday with your guests!

Here is a sample easy Thanksgiving menu inspired by Ina Garten:

Suggested Easy Thanksgiving Menu

Herb Roasted Turkey
Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes
Green Beans with Fried Shallots
Cranberry Sauce
Make-Ahead Apple Cranberry Crisp

As you can see, the entire meal has just 5 components. Choose your favorite Thanksgiving turkey recipe and just supplement it with sides that can be prepared ahead of time, like Ina’s make-ahead mashed potatoes. Round out the menu with a simple homemade cranberry sauce and an easy dessert you can bake the day before.

This allows you to focus on roasting the turkey on Thanksgiving Day without needing to cook 5+ different dishes at once. You’ll be able to relax and actually spend time with your guests rather than being stuck in the kitchen all day. The food will impress without the hassle and stress!


Ina Garten’s legendary Thanksgiving recipes prove that you don’t need to labor away in the kitchen all day to create an amazing holiday feast. Her flavorful dishes like herb roasted turkey, sausage stuffing, and make-ahead sides simplify the Thanksgiving meal without sacrificing any deliciousness. And ending the meal with indulgent desserts like salted caramel pecan pie or maple cappuccino cake is the cherry on top of a perfect Thanksgiving dinner.

Use Ina’s recipes, along with her tips for creating an easy Thanksgiving menu, for a holiday that you’ll look forward to sharing with loved ones for years to come.