thanksgiving traditions

Friends of Coveteur on Their Go-To Tricks for Thanksgiving Entertaining

8 experts share their tips for prep, menus, and more.

In theory, Thanksgiving entails a much-needed respite from work and the demands of everyday life. In reality, a bit more work is involved. There's the prep work, the cooking, the cleaning, the table-setting, the mingling, and so much more. So, we called on a few experts across the food and entertaining industries to reveal what their process typically looks like around this holiday. They're sharing their go-to recipes that range from elevated twists on classics—pumpkin pie with a whole roasted sugar pumpkin and fresh, homemade cranberry sauce—to modern additions like Coquito and olive oil cake. Despite all this hubbub, everyone manages to take a bit of time to indulge in the company of their family and friends—hear about some of their favorite traditions below.

Alex Hill

Home Cook, Recipe Developer, and Instructor, Just Add Hot Sauce

thanksgiving traditions

Photo: Courtesy of Alex Hill

Your approach to Thanksgiving entertaining:

"Thanksgiving has always been a big family affair with the drinks flowing! I am all about the 'serve yourself, family style' approach with beautiful table decor. I am also a cook-the-day-of type of person for Thanksgiving—I know that sounds nuts. I'm already an early riser, so doing this is a no-brainer for me. I'm usually up by 6 AM and finished by 12 PM with all the sides, turkey is in the oven (sides go in around 3 PM before guests arrive at 4 PM). As I've gotten older and our family is all over the U.S., it's gotten smaller, but I totally prefer it that way; I love a more intimate crowd. This year is the first year that my boyfriend's family and my family are coming together, but it's still small."

Favorite memories or traditions:

"Coquito is always flowing at Thanksgiving. It's a Puerto Rican holiday tradition. It's a rum-based drink with lots of cinnamon, nutmeg, coconut milk, and condensed milk! It's OMG so good and so boozy."

And the menu:

"My grandma's stuffing is always on the table with arroz con gandules. It's not your typical Thanksgiving side dish, and yes, we have it throughout the year, but it's not Thanksgiving without it. Also, my mom's sweet potato casserole, which is a staple—and kind of like a dessert! I make it every year, and everyone loves it.

"Reserve your turkey beforehand! Lots of grocery stores do it now where you can reserve online. Stick with what you know! Thanksgiving is not the time to try new dishes. I come from a Black and Puerto Rican family, so your feelings will get hurt if you try a new twist on mac 'n' cheese or something out of the norm is on the table. Always have some appetizers for your guests. People arrive hangry, so it's always good to have something they can nibble on before the main. Have a signature cocktail for everyone to try, so you're not breaking the bank trying to satisfy everyone's drink preference. I like to do a signature cocktail and have some bottles of red and white wine. Also, tell your guests BYOB is suggested—we're not real housewives of Beverly Hills here."

Shelley Sanders

Cofounder and Creative Director, The Last Line

thanksgiving traditions

Photo: Courtesy of The Last Line

Your approach to Thanksgiving entertaining:

"Strong pours is one of my worst kept secrets and best tips. Trust me; it's a crowd-pleaser. If I'm being honest, I'm more of a fan of Thanksgiving as a gathering than as a dinner. Most years, we're at one of our parents' homes, and it's typically a small group, which I prefer. It's nice to catch up with everyone without having the pressure of finding things to talk about with your distant cousin. Our set-up is more traditional, but I'm excited to bring something new to the table for our hostess."

Favorite memories or traditions:

"I know my husband would love it if I made a pie, but I'm better suited in coordinating the decor than the desserts, although this year I think I'll give it a go! I love any excuse to design, and a table is a dream canvas. At the moment, I can't get enough candles and love mixing different patterns and textures to create a total maximalist table. I always love flowers (who doesn't!?), but I think this year we'll bring in some natural elements with branches and leaves for height and then complement them with smaller bud arrangements."

And the menu:

"My dream would be if the menu was pizza and red wine, but that's for another day. For dinner, we lean into the really traditional foods––I'm talking canned cranberry sauce and the sweet potatoes with the baked marshmallows on top. It also means I am happy to 'check-in' on the kids table because it means I can sneak a few extra bites of the topping! My husband loves pie so we'll be indulging in everything from classic pumpkin to sweet potato and probably another one, if I'm being honest. 'Tis the season! I think this will be the year I try for at least one homemade so fingers crossed!"

Superlatives Place Cards

Dear Annabelle

Swirl Candles

Edition 94

Cristiana Sadigianis

Founder, Oracle Olive Oil

thanksgiving traditions

Photo: Tom Allen

Your approach to Thanksgiving entertaining:

"In true Greek fashion, the ratio of guests to food is radically disproportionate! If you have traveled within Greece, you probably have discovered the concept of 'philoxenia' firsthand. Philoxenia is an ancient tradition of hospitality, a generosity of spirit that really extends to strangers as an act of love and acceptance. It's quite common for strangers and travelers to be invited into the homes of Greeks for a meal or a coffee with no pretense. And that to me is very much how I approach hosting. Make a lot of food and invite everyone over.

"I co-host Thanksgiving with my parents, and we have an anyone-is-welcome policy. Since half of my family lives abroad, our Thanksgiving dinners tend to veer on the side of intimate, by Greek standards—typically about 18-20 family members and a few friends or friends of friends. We all have very specific roles in the meal preparation, my father is on 'turkey management'—he likes to prepare a Greek-inspired stuffing made with chestnuts, thyme, petimezi (which is a grape molasses), lemon zest, and sausage. My mother makes a serious pita from scratch, folding her own dough, traditionally with squash, leeks, feta, and chard. I'm on salad duty, side veggies, and all other supporting roles, like an arresting crudite platter of purple and yellow carrots, pickled rainbow radishes, dips, and seeded crackers. We like to have a solid hour or so before dinner is served for guests to graze. I'll create a few wooden and slate boards with cheese and dips like beet hummus, whipped feta with honey and bee pollen, spicy dolmas, figs, Marcona almonds that I brought back from Mallorca, olives (both Kalamata and Cerignola), sourdough bread, jams we made from the apricots in Andros this summer, and charcuterie. 'Less is more' is really not a concept well executed when it comes to food and holidays in my family!

"I prefer a more casual but festive vibe. We don't use seating cards, and the meal is served in various Dutch ovens and casseroles so everyone can serve themselves, family-style. I think the act of serving food in the vessel that it was prepared in feels very ancestral and connects the meal to the story behind it. On the dining table, I love using this linen and hand-embroidered tablecloth by French artist Sarah Espeute. It's elegant yet also offers a sense of humor and an homage to the ritual of gatherings and shared meals. As for the tablescape, I always like to include an autumnal centerpiece from Flower Girl NYC, my friend Denise's shop in the LES. I tend to gravitate toward long emerald tassel-looking Amaranthus flowers, pink pepper berries, peonies, Brussels sprout stalks, and even herbs like rosemary and Greek wild mountain tea to create a warm and inviting mood. I like using sculptural-looking vegetables like purple and white cabbage as well as varying sizes and shapes of gourds to create some dimension, quince and stone fruit in vintage Fez blue Moroccan bowls I brought back from Tangier, olive and eucalyptus branches that feel very Greek to me as well as rocks from the beach near our house in Long Island. I think citrus is a nice way to drop some brightness in—especially blood oranges cut open and Meyer lemons with their stems and leaves on.

"A good playlist never disappoints, I have one that's a mix of jazz and reggae, but recently, I've been listening to Radiooooo, which I love because you choose the decade, country, and tempo. It's a nice way to discover new artists and songs and keep the music fresh."

Favorite memories or traditions:

"In Greece, as in a lot of Europe, grocery shopping is usually a multi-stop event. We never shopped from a supermarket, and I approach it similarly. I like to support my local farmers markets and small purveyors. I buy radicchio, chicories, and all produce and eggs from the Union Square farmers market, the turkey and sausage from Marlow & Daughters, cheese from Cavaniola's in Sag Harbor, sourdough bread from Bien Cuit, and amazing gluten-free bread and treats from Knead Love (my friend Sarah is a super-talented baker), spices from SOS Chefs, hummus from Nili, Miss Ada's sister spot for prepared food and coffee, and natural wine from June in Brooklyn. Spending the day before Thanksgiving at various makers' shops and stands—and being able to chat with them—really connects me to the meal I'm going to prepare. It adds a rich narrative to the meal, one that I feel an immense appreciation for. This relationship to the local community is similar to the way I approach making my olive oil."

And the menu:

"Here is the recipe for an Olive Oil Cake with Figs. The reason I love this recipe for olive oil cake is that it's a healthy, gluten-free, and not a very sweet dessert that can be made with other fruit like plums or cherries and can be repurposed and eaten for breakfast the day after Thanksgiving."

Olive Oil Cake with Figs


⅔ cup Oracle olive oil
¾ cup coconut sugar, packed
1 cup almond/hazelnut/walnut meal
1/3 cup buckwheat flour
3 large eggs, divided
3 large eggs, divided
¼ teaspoon salt
approximately 20-25 figs, remove stems; cut small and medium figs into quarters, large figs into sixths or eights
1/8 cup sliced almonds, toasted


1. Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C)

2. Grease 9-inch springform pan lightly with olive oil and line bottom with parchment paper.

3. In a medium bowl, stir together olive oil, coconut sugar, almond meal, buckwheat flour, egg yolks, vanilla, and salt.

4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip egg whites until stiff peaks form, then fold egg whites into olive oil mixture until completely incorporated and smooth.

5. Transfer batter to prepared pan. Arrange figs on top in concentric circles, starting with the rim, with the stem end down. Slices should angle upward. Bake for about 1 hour or until a paring knife inserted into the middle comes clean.

6. Garnish with sliced almonds and dust with powdered sugar. Serve.

Oracle Gift Set

Oracle Olive Oil

Adélaïde Dinner Plate

Astier de Villatte

Sphere Bottle

Giselle Hicks


thanksgiving traditions

Photo: Courtesy of Elena Besser

Your approach to Thanksgiving entertaining:

"My approach to Thanksgiving entertaining is simple. First, prepare all the big stuff in advance of guests arriving so you can also have a great time, too. Second, make sure the food and drinks are flowing the entire time. For me, that means making a signature drink that I batch in advance, a bountiful grazing board, and a few other fall-specific snacks that will keep everyone happy while the final touches are put together. This year, I am not hosting; I am actually spending the holiday with my in-laws for the first time ever (I got married this past September)! But, I grew up in a big family where there was constant comradery and chaos around our Thanksgiving table, and that is what my preference is. However, there is still beauty in an intimate Thanksgiving. As long as you're with the people you love, sharing a beautiful meal together, that's what Thanksgiving is all about.

"Setup starts with making a grocery list, checking my pantry to make sure I don't buy two of something I already have, and cleaning out a shelf on my fridge to make sure that I have an area dedicated to Thanksgiving food only. I will also label the food 'TGives, please don't eat' to make sure none of my family members eat my ingredients. I'll spend the day prior prepping my vegetables, brining my turkey, making cranberry sauce and mashed potatoes, measuring out ingredients for cornbread, etc.—all the big things that can be done in advance without sacrificing on taste day-of.

"The night before, I'll set the table. I love using a large neutral linen tablecloth or butcher's paper as the foundation of my table and then we'll build around it. Lighting can completely make or break an experience, and the Aries woman in me loves to start with tons of candles on the table. I love a combination of pillar, taper, and tea candles to have great height differentiation. Next, I have fun integrating ingredients from the meal in their raw form as the tablescape—like whole cranberries and colorful gourds. Then, I'll fill in with autumnal flowers and branches that still have their color-changing leaves attached. I'll finish the place settings with a knotted linen napkin. It's all about celebrating the bounty of the season!"

Favorite memories or traditions:

"My favorite Thanksgiving memories are in the kitchen with my family. We're a wild bunch, and we love to have music going so we can dance and sing together while we're cooking—it just makes the stress of all the prep so much more bearable. My sister will be working on the mashed potatoes while my brother twists up crescent rolls. My mom and I will monitor all the other dishes while my dad keeps the fire going and the drinks flowing. By the end of the night, we're dancing on the kitchen counters as we clean up, thankful for another year together.

"As far as traditions go, every year we go around the table and say what we're thankful for. It is a great way to reflect on the previous year, and the little or big things that make life great."

And the menu:

"All of the essentials are at the party. Turkey (which I like to spatchcock to reduce the cook time and cover with a melted butter cheesecloth blanket to ensure a gorgeous golden top), stuffing (the crowd favorite—ours is made with onions, celery, and mushrooms), mashed potatoes (with lots of butter), roasted sweet potatoes, buttered peas, cornbread and crescent rolls, cranberry sauce, and lots and lots of gravy!

"As far as drinks are concerned, we always have lots of wine. My siblings and I like to each bring a bottle of natural wine we're loving, and my husband will make sure there is a specialty cocktail that is perfectly spiced for fall. My go-to recipe that has become a hit in my house on Thanksgiving weekend is my cranberry and olive oil corn muffins. Cornbread and cranberries are synonymous with Thanksgiving, and I use leftover cranberry sauce to make these muffins for breakfast the following day. It's a great way to get creative with Thanksgiving leftovers beyond making a turkey sandwich—although next-day turkey sandwiches are really the only reason my family makes turkey for Thanksgiving in the first place!"

Fancy Taper Candles

The Floral Society

Copper Bar Tools Set

Williams Sonoma

Mistletoe Gravy Boat

Michael Aram

Lani Halliday

Food Artist, Gluten-Free Baker

thanksgiving traditions

Photo: Jennifer Trahan

Your approach to Thanksgiving entertaining:

"As much as I adore my extended family, I've always declined to travel on the busiest travel day of the year (in the U.S.), so I've always focused on my little unit—kiddos, partner, and friends. To me, the history of the holiday has never sat well, but it's a national day off and I focus on that. Plus, I enjoy cooking for my beloveds. When It's just me and my kiddos/partner, I do the lion's share of the cooking. The hearth of the home is buzzy with games, slow roasting, and mellow jazz. If friends are involved it's even more incredible—I'm blessed to have chefs Eric See of Ursula and Woldy Reyes of Woldy Kusina as two of my closest friends, so the meal is a true feast."

Favorite memories or traditions:

"I really love the luxuriating of it all. Movies on the TV, chess games, charcuterie snacking all day, and extra helpings of pie. My secret Thanksgiving tradition is that I never make turkey. I'm not a big meat eater to start with and I don't love it—I make chicken for those who want to feast on meat—for me the day is all about the sides."

And the menu:

"I love, love, love cranberry sauce. I make mine by simmering whole fresh cranberries, agave, orange juice, and zest with vanilla, and a pinch of salt. Super simple, but something I definitely put on everything. I always make a big pot because everyone else loves it, too, and it's great the next day with pancakes."

White Petnat


Art Deco Chess

Vintage Chess Shop

Fresh Cranberries

Farm to People

Jessica Latham

Cofounder and CEO, Social Studies

thanksgiving traditions

Photo: Courtesy of Social Studies

Your approach to Thanksgiving entertaining:

"My approach is relaxed. I like to cut down on day-of tasks as much as possible by prepping the night before: pre-batching cocktails and labeling all my serving dishes so I'm not scrambling last-minute. I enjoy hosting potlucks, buffets, and lunches rather than dinners. My family's Thanksgiving is always a lunch with deep-fried turkey. You don't need a big budget to host a memorable Thanksgiving and I love to mix high and low. If you want to rent (or invest) in nice tableware, it's perfectly okay to buy greenery from the grocery store and mix in lots of votive candles, which are super affordable.

"I enjoy intimate gatherings because you can really go wild with personal touches like handwritten menus and place cards, special notes under your guests' plates, little personalized favors, etc. I haven't returned to hosting big crowds but I miss the energy of them and look forward to being able to again in the future. My holiday set-up includes a Social Studies entertaining kit which includes everything needed to set an impressive and elevated table. I love to mix in earthy materials, such as the teak coasters, wood candle holders, and preserved Eucalyptus bundle found in our Espresso Martini kit with Absolut. I layer on one of our occasion boxes, which have essential decor for the holiday table or pull from our larger retail assortment. I also like to decorate my table with things I already have around the house, like espresso beans, or in my backyard, such as seasonal veggies and pomegranate seeds in a bowl along with a few fresh florals."

Favorite memories or traditions:

"Since we generally serve lunch, we always go for a family walk afterward through the neighborhood. It's rare that we get to spend this type of time all together—my parents, brothers, sister-in-law, their children, etc. It's a lovely moment where we all get to catch up on life...usually a little loose from a few cocktails or glasses of wine at lunch. Then, we all go take a nap before waking up for round two!"

And the menu:

"This cocktail crowd-pleaser can be made in advance in a batch so you don't have to play bartender all day. These oatmeal lace cookies are a light dessert that pairs really well with an espresso martini. My mom has made them for years during the holiday season. She's famous for them in our hometown."

Absolut Espresso Martini Punch

(makes 8 servings)


2 cups of Absolut infused with chai—steep a chai tea bag for one hour
2 cups Kahlua
2 cups cold brew concentrate
½ cup water, for dilution
Serve over ice
Garnish with cinnamon stick


To scale as needed for your party size, follow the guidelines of 1 part Absolut infused with chai, 1 part Kahlua, 1 part cold brew concentrate, and ⅕ of water for dilution.

Coco's Oatmeal Lace Cookies


½ cup butter
1 ½ cups oatmeal
pinch of salt
¾ cup sugar
1 tablespoon flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)
8 pounds boneless skin-on pork shoulder, butterflied, trimmed to ½- to ¾-inch thick
8 (14-inch) pieces of butcher twine
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper


1. Melt butter and pour over oats. Mix with a fork. Add all other ingredients.

2. Cover cookie sheet with foil, shiny side up.

3. Drop dough on foil in small teaspoons, allowing space for spreading wafer thin. You should be able to get 1 dozen on a cookie sheet.

4. Bake for approximately 10 minutes at 350°F. Watch them closely and remove from oven when golden brown. Don't undercook as they will stick to the foil and taste burned. Also, it is very important to allow them to cool thoroughly. The trick to making these cookies is baking them just the perfect amount of time. Also, they MUST be cool before removing them from foil. Do not try to lift the cookie from the foil, as it will crumble. Peel the back of the foil from the cookie.

Espresso Martini

Social Studies

Essential Oil Towelettes

Herban Essentials

Always Pan

Our Place
$145 $99

Eden Grinshpan

Chef and Author, Eden Eats

Photo: Courtesy of Eden Grinshpan

Your approach to Thanksgiving entertaining:

"I love to host an intimate Friendsgiving dinner. I have lived in NYC for the last 13 years and my family lives in Canada and Israel, so I am always with my friends during this time. It is usually around four to five couples plus kids, and we just feast on all the goodies and drink all the wine. I love this holiday."

Favorite memories or traditions:

"I hosted a Friendsgiving dinner in upstate New York a couple of years ago with some of my closest friends, and we cooked and drank wine all day. It was magical. We ended the night with dessert by the fireplace. I love that Thanksgiving is spent cooking all day and setting up for this lavish dinner. It is so festive."

And the menu:

"Along with a turkey (I always spatchcock mine since it cuts down the roasting time in half and the breast doesn't dry out), I have a large variety of veg dishes. For me, Thanksgiving is all about the sides, not the turkey. I find it is an amazing way to change up the meal and provide great variety. I love making my Whole-Roasted Sweet Potato with Sunflower Gremolata and Lemony Sour Cream from my book Eating Out Loud. It is incredibly easy to make and packs so much flavor. Your vegetarian friends and non-vegetarian friends will love it. Other Thanksgiving dishes I have made are also in my book. My Roasted Romanesco with Pistachios and Fried Caper Vinaigrette, Aleppo- and Orange-Roasted Fennel, Roasted Cauliflower with Date-Parsley Gremolata, Winter Squash with Crispy Sage and Honey, Crispy Smashed Potatoes with Chimichurri and Urfa, and Honey-Roasted Parsnips with Dates and Tzatziki are all amazing and fantastic side options."

Storm Plate

Beau Rush

Lula Taper Candle Holder

Urban Outfitters

Big Deal

Great Jones
thanksgiving traditions

Photo: Studio 1208

Your approach to Thanksgiving entertaining:

"My number-one hosting advice is to have fun and be relaxed. Play music, dance while you cook, get your guests involved in the cooking, and don't take any element too seriously. I love to play jazz in the kitchen and leave room for experimentation and spontaneity with my cooking. I definitely try to make as much in the days leading up as I can. I prefer to do a little at a time to avoid being overwhelmed on the day of, which also gives room to troubleshoot if you need to (which, let's be honest, is par for the course). I set the table the day before and have everything ready to go to make that happen. In L.A., we are lucky enough to have the vibrant creatives at Country Line Florals, who bring my floral dreams to life on another level. Our mood this year is about gray pumpkins, bordeaux dahlias, white ranunculus, and sprawling, organic low florals accented with tall candles—moody, natural, and honoring harvest season. My soul really is filled when I can take care of larger groups, so we are hosting a full crew this year outside in our yard."

Favorite memories or traditions:

"This year we are actually starting a new tradition. We are hosting families who won't be traveling home or have existing Thanksgiving traditions. I think so many of us often feel disconnected, especially now that we have so much freedom of choice when it comes to where we live. Being back home in L.A. now, I hope to be that anchor I wish I had living away from my West Coast home all these years. We want our children to grow up with a village that takes care of everyone and is open to all, especially during this time when togetherness is so important."

And the menu:

"I am known for my pumpkin pie with a whole roasted sugar pumpkin and graham cracker crust (plus, I roast the seeds and dust them with our West~bourne spices as a starting snack for guests). Every year I make new appetizers and side dishes—I like to keep it fresh and exciting rather than just have standard go-tos. This year, I'll be doing a salad with chicory (from our garden), stilton cheese, toasted hazelnuts, and apples. We are also going to try a roasted whole carrots with romanesco dish."

The Dutchess

Great Jones

Recycled Glassware

Hawkins New York

Wooden Rolling Pin

Herriott Grace

15-Inch Beech Bowl Set

Holland Bowl Mill
Part of the series:


Part of the series:

Holiday Haul

You May Also Like