30 Thanksgiving Dishes That Travel Well
Traveling with food is a cooking conundrum, but we've got the recipes to make sure you don't show up to Thanksgiving dinner empty-handed.
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Most of us are traveling for Thanksgiving. Some are hopping on an airplane to meet family across the country and aren't expected to bring anything more than a bottle of wine. Others are meeting friends across the street armed with their favorite Thanksgiving side dishes, still hot from the oven. But for those of you traveling a distance somewhere in between, you have a unique challenge when coming up with dishes to contribute to the Thanksgiving table: traveling with food. Most Thanksgiving recipes aren't designed to sit in the car for three hours. To remedy the roadblock, we curated a collection of dishes that travel well for Thanksgiving.
Before You Start
The main thing you want to keep in mind when you're choosing a dish to bring is temperature. Your best bet for a recipe that you can transport is to choose something that can be served at room temperature or doesn't call for milk/cream, eggs, or meat (depending on the type of meat you want to serve); those are items that tend to spoil faster than grains and vegetables. But the problem with "room temperature" is bacteria.
I don't want to turn this into a lecture on bacteria, but that's what we're fighting here. Bacteria in food grows exponentially when it sits at temperatures between 40℉ and 140℉, the "Temperature Danger Zone." Government regulators suggest putting away any food that's been left out at room temperature for two hours and to throw away anything that's been out for four hours. I, personally, like most of my food at room temperature and I frequently eat things that have been out for six hours or more and I've never gotten food poisoning. I might just be lucky — you might not want to take the same kind of risk.
The Thanksgiving dishes we selected are made to buy you a little bit of time, but to ensure your food is safe to eat, keep the hot food hot and the cold food cold.
If you're tasked with bringing appetizers, you might consider looking in the direction of Italy where they've mastered the art of room temperature appetizers.
Antipasto Cheese and cured meats like salami and prosciutto were designed to last a long time without refrigeration, making the antipasto platter an excellent option for riding in the car for several hours.
Bruschetta Bruschetta is easy to make ahead as long as you don't assemble the toasts until you arrive at your destination. You can toast the bread an hour before you leave and store it in a paper bag instead of plastic to keep it crunchy. The tomato-garlic mixture can be made the night before and stored in the refrigerator until you leave. A couple of hours in the car will even give the tomatoes time to absorb the flavors of the herbs.
Tapenade Along the lines of bruschetta, olive tapenade is a great spread for toast or bread. The salt in the olives is enough of a preservative to keep the spread safe at room temperature for extended periods.
For side dishes, you might want to lean into spice and flavorings. Like acid, there are some spices and ingredients that actually kill bacteria. About 20 years ago, researchers at Cornell University dug a little deeper into spices and figured out which ingredients help kill bacteria. This is the list of Cornell's top 30 spices and ingredients with antimicrobial properties.
|Ingredients with Antimicrobial Properties|
|Lemon grass||Bay leaf||Capsicums|
|Anise seed||Celery seed||Lemon/lime|
When you're looking for recipes that travel well, look for those ingredients. If you haven't used Yummly's filtering function, you can pick out dishes with the right ingredients. The filter gives you the option to include and exclude ingredients for just such an occasion. But here are a few examples of side dishes you might like to bring to Thanksgiving dinner that require minimal refrigeration.
Cranberry Sauce If your Thanksgiving host is not making cranberry sauce, this is an excellent (and necessary!) dish that can go long periods without refrigeration. The acid from the cranberries help preserve the dish (it's also delightfully easy to make!).
Bean Salads Cooked beans mixed with some key spices and bacteria-killing ingredients can make an excellent portable meal. The Thanksgiving Lentil Salad calls for many bacteria-fighting ingredients including bay leaves, vinegar, mustard, garlic, and onions.
Wild Rice Salads Rice can also be part of your moveable feast with the right ingredients. The Moroccan Butternut Squash Wild Rice includes coriander, cumin, cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon for a flavorful dish.
Other Dishes to Consider
If all that requires too much thought, there are some things you can prepare that are naturally safe at room temperature like bread and some desserts.
Cornbread Cornbread is a quick bread that you can make the night before. It requires no refrigeration and everyone loves it.
Dinner Rolls You can mix, knead, and proof your dough the night before Thanksgiving and bake your rolls before you leave. Just make sure to transport them in an airtight container so they don't stale.
Most desserts on traditional Thanksgiving tables don't require refrigeration. Apple pie, pumpkin pie, pecan pie, fruit crumbles, betties, and cobblers can all travel for hours at room temperature and be ready to serve when you arrive.
Transporting Traditional Dishes
If there's a dish you are determined to bring to your holiday potluck like corn casserole or you have a special recipe for broccoli pie, you can get a portable food warmer. They look like coolers with a cord that plugs into your car cigarette lighter to heat things up. With something like this, you could even transport a Thanksgiving turkey.