Travel-Friendly Thanksgiving Dishes for Those of Us Not Hosting

Whether you love cooking or just want to be a good guest, it’s usually pretty cool to bring the dish with you to Thanksgiving dinner. (Obviously, check with the host first, and whatever you do, don’t bring anything that requires cooking to their house!) But not all meals are suitable for travel by car, train, or plane.

The main qualities you want from a travel-friendly meal are:

  • Stable (ex: no spills).
  • Solid (for example: not liquid or gel, for air travel).
  • Durable (ex: does not shrink).
  • Can be served at room temperature. (The fewer demands you make on the host’s kitchen, the better.)
  • Will not spoil easily. (You can use a refrigerator or an insulated container, but it’s better to be safe than sorry, let’s not cause food poisoning for the entire large family if we can help).

It’s hard to find a dish that fits all of these criteria, but striving for most of these qualities will still increase your chances of being able to walk through your holiday food transport without making a mess. Here are your best rates, from most travel-friendly to lowest (but still ok).

Bread. It’s not something we necessarily consider a Thanksgiving staple, but freshly baked buns are a Thanksgiving hero. (They’re also handy to have on hand for leftover sandwiches.) They can be quickly reheated or served at room temperature, and can survive a lot of bumps during travel. And homemade bread is impressive! Dinner rolls are a classic, but the cookies are pretty and juicy, and the cornbread is very themed.

Cranberry Sauce. It’s insanely easy to make, and if you’re not into the can-shaped jelly cult, homemade cranberry sauce is surprisingly good. You can make it classic with bourbon and vanilla , or a million other ways. Do this ahead of time, chill in the refrigerator, place in high quality Tupperware cookware – airtight – and you’re done. (Not like hand luggage on the plane.)

Salad. I know – Thanksgiving salad ?? But when your plate is filled with fatty, hot, salty, and savory foods, you’ll be grateful for a little crunchiness, a little acidity in your mouth (and a little fiber in your intestines). On your trip, take a strong salad that does not fade – an autumn salad or shaved Brussels sprouts , or a vegetable-based dish cooked at room temperature (transport delicate herbs separately and mix right before serving).

Dessert. When it comes to sweets, biscuits and bars take a lot – and they’re the best choice if you’re on an airplane – but everyone knows that the real Thanksgiving star is pie. And if you are going to make a deal, you will need to buy yourself a pie and make sure it does not roll over. Provided you carry it in a suitable carrier – which will really make your dessert a success – cakes are generally firm, spill-proof, and good at room temperature.

Casserole. It will most likely need to be reheated, but if your host has room for an oven – or you’re traveling a short distance and can start hot from home – that’s a huge contributor to lunch. Green beans , sweet potatoes , toppings or delicious casseroles – make your choice. And buy a baking dish with a snap-on lid (and maybe even your own insulated bag !) So you don’t put too much trust in aluminum foil. Don’t waste Black Friday washing sweet potatoes from the trunk of your car.


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