Best Thanksgiving Breads to Complete the Feast
Fill your Thanksgiving bread basket with these Yummly original recipes for dinner rolls, cornbread, and biscuits
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Photograph by Olga Ivanova
(Want more Thanksgiving recipes and tips? Check out our big Yummly Thanksgiving page!)
Turkey may get the attention at the Thanksgiving meal, but one of my family's best holiday memories is built on bread.
One year when my twin boys were little, Brian, a favorite uncle, brought a dozen soft herb rolls and set them on the table a good two hours before dinner. I was busy wrangling the bird and gravy, and it wasn’t until we all sat down that I cast my eyes for the rolls. There I spied one lone roll left in the basket — and beside it my sons, looking extremely contented, if a little stunned.
Since then I’ve realized that delicious cornbread, biscuits, and rolls are a Thanksgiving essential and cannot be left to chance — or to the caprices of three-year-olds. With that in mind, here are Yummly original recipes that are guaranteed to be a highlight of your own holiday table, though you may want to set them out at the last minute, just to ensure everyone gets a fair shot.
You’ll find something in this collection for every skill level, from quick breads that are ideal for beginners to yeast breads for when you want to flex your baking chops a little more.
Which recipe will your clan be talking about next year?
Jump ahead to:
Baking powder, baking soda, and yeast FAQs >>
5 easy Thanksgiving quick breads >>
3 primo Thanksgiving yeast breads >>
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Baking powder, baking soda, and yeast FAQs
Your Thanksgiving breads need leavening to make them rise, and you want to use the right product — and the freshest product — to get the best results.
What’s the difference between baking soda and baking powder? Baking soda, aka sodium bicarbonate, requires an acid ingredient such as buttermilk to produce carbon dioxide and make quick breads rise. Baking powder is a blend of baking soda and a dry acidic ingredient such as cream of tartar, and often cornstarch as a binder; it can be used in a wide variety of quick breads, cookies, and cakes to make them rise. Baking soda and baking powder aren’t interchangeable, so be sure you’re using the one your recipe calls for.
Can baking powder go bad? Yes, though it doesn’t go bad so much as lose its leavening power. Using old baking powder could result in biscuits or cornbread that are heavy or flat. For unopened baking powder, check the “best by” date on the bottom of the can. After opening a can of baking powder, plan to use it up within six months.
What’s the difference between active dry yeast and instant yeast? Both types of yeast create carbon dioxide in yeast breads to make them rise before and during baking. Active dry yeast, or “regular,” yeast, needs to be dissolved in warm water between 100° and 110°F before you mix it into dough. Instant yeast, also called rapid-rise or bread machine yeast, has finer particles. For best results, add instant yeast directly to the dry ingredients, and then heat the liquid to 120° to 130°F. You can substitute active dry yeast for instant yeast and vice-versa, but you’ll need to adjust when you add it to the recipe, how you dissolve it, and how warm the liquid is.
Can yeast go bad? Yes, but like baking powder, yeast doesn’t go bad so much as lose its oomph. Look for the expiration date on the package or jar, and if it’s past, buy some new yeast.
5 easy Thanksgiving quick breads
Just as the name promises, these quick breads go together in a hurry. You’ve got options for straight-up flavors to recipes with herbs, garlic, and even cranberries and cheese.
Classic Buttermilk Cornbread
Everyone needs a go-to cornbread recipe, and this one delivers with a tender crumb, moist texture, and just-right proportions. You can customize it to make it more or less sweet, or to add grated cheese, herbs, or even jalapeño chili. Be sure to buy fine cornmeal rather than coarser polenta or grits. No cast-iron skillet? You can bake the cornbread in an 8-inch square baking dish. Though the cornbread is perfect for serving on the Thanksgiving table or for turning into cornbread stuffing, you’re going to reach for this recipe year-round.
Do you know the difference between Northern and Southern-style cornbread? This Southern, or soul food version of cornbread is savory with a whiff of bacon flavor and no added sugar. Baking the batter in a hot oven in a cast-iron skillet creates the crispy crust. You can use the same recipe to create corn muffins or cornbread sticks, as well as Southern Cornbread Dressing.
Buttermilk and Fresh Herb Drop Biscuits
Crispy outside and fluffy inside, these delicious biscuits are extra-special thanks to fresh basil, parsley, and chives. All they need is a generous pat of butter to star alongside the Thanksgiving turkey. The dough comes together fast in a food processor, and there’s no rolling required. Portion them out with a small ice cream scoop, or use a measuring cup.
One-Bowl Cranberry Cheddar Biscuits
Flaky cheese biscuits studded with cranberries and oozing with sharp cheddar cheese make a very special Thanksgiving dinner roll, particularly when spread with butter. You can make the dough ahead and keep the cut-out biscuits in the freezer up to 1 month, ready to bake fresh. And freezing actually helps ensure that they keep their shape and bake up flaky, though it isn’t required. For the tallest biscuits, be sure to cut straight down with a biscuit cutter without twisting.
Keto Buttermilk Biscuits
Even if no one at your holiday table follows the keto diet, there may be someone who eats gluten-free. You’ll be ready with these buttery, melt-in-the-mouth biscuits that are made with almond flour instead of wheat flour.
3 primo Thanksgiving yeast breads
Do you have a need to knead this holiday season? Read on for two variations on yeast roll recipes and an Italian bread made in big slab.
Shortcut Honey-Wheat Dinner Rolls
Looking for something to mop up gravy? These soft but hearty rolls with a touch of sweetness will be a welcome addition to your holiday dinner. Thanks to instant yeast and the technique to put the dough in a barely warm oven for the first rise, the rolls are ready in 2 hours start to finish. For a bigger crowd, you can double the recipe to make 16 rolls. You’ll find white whole-wheat flour (a lighter-colored and milder-flavored whole-wheat flour) at well-stocked grocery stores.
Classic Focaccia with Rosemary and Sea Salt
Rich with olive oil and fragrant with fresh rosemary, focaccia is tailor-made for your Thanksgiving bread basket — though it’s also my top choice for creating next-day turkey sandwiches with cranberry sauce. If you’ve never tried making focaccia, the experience of sinking your fingers into the soft, risen dough to create dimples to hold the pools of olive oil is not to be missed.
Parmesan, Garlic, and Herb Pull-Apart Bread
I’ve saved a favorite Thanksgiving bread recipe for last, one I created as a nod to those herb rolls I mentioned. With the pull-apart shape, crispy cheese and toasted garlic exterior, and tender, herb-flecked interior, this fragrant centerpiece bread is pretty much irresistible to adults and three-year-olds alike. Keep it in mind as an appetizer or weekend brunch bread, too.
To make the bread you’ll dip balls of dough in garlic butter and Parmesan, then layer them in a Bundt pan, and let the dough rise. Just wait until you catch the aroma of the bread baking in your kitchen. If you're looking for a make-ahead option, this one reheats nicely made a day ahead.
On to the Thanksgiving pie
Thanksgiving bakers, don't stop at bread! You're going to need a slice of pie (or two) for after the meal.