Thanksgivings Past: Old Holiday Menus
Turkey, cranberries, potatos and more on the Thanksgiving table.
Credit: Brent Hofacker, Shutterstock

When Thanksgiving was declared a national holiday in 1863, the typical Turkey Day table was stuffed with far more than turkey. Multiple meats were the norm, including unheard-of-today mincemeat pie.

Gradually, as Thanksgiving mythology became codified during the late 1800s, turkey took its place at the head of the table. But some of the side dishes eaten in Thanksgiving's early days rarely make an appearance now.

Here are some menus and recipes from early Thanksgivings, provided to LiveScience by food writer Cynthia Bertelsen, who blogs at Gherkins & Tomatoes. Maybe these old-fashioned meals will inspire something new on your table this year. [Read More: The History of the Thanksgiving Menu]

Pies, Pies, Pies

The French Cook, a 1653 translation of major French cookbook Le Vrai Cuisinier François, including this pumpkin pie recipe, which illustrates a rather more laissez-faire method of cooking instruction than seen today:  

Tourte of pumpkin - Boile it with good milk, pass it through a straining pan very thick, and mix it with sugar, butter, a little salt and if you will, a few stamped almonds; let all be very thin. Put it in your sheet of paste; bake it. After it is baked, besprinkle it with sugar and serve.

If crust isn't your thing, the 1796 American Cookery has you covered with several options for "pompkin" pudding:

No.1 One quart stewed and strained pompkin, 3 pints milk, 6 beaten eggs, sugar, mace, nutmeg, and ginger, laid in to paste and baked in dishes three quarters of an hour.

No. 2. One quart of milk, 1 pint pompkin, 4 eggs, molasses, allspice, and ginger in a crust, make 1 hour.

Menu madness

Menus for Thanksgiving Dinners from American Cookery magazine, November 1921:


Three-Course Dinner for Small Family in Servantless House:

Roast Chicken, stuffed with Chopped Celery and Oysters

Baked Sweet Potatoes

Boiled Onions



(Fine chopped apples and nuts in red apple cups)

Cream Dressing


Mince or Squash Pie a la mode

Sweet Cider




A Simple Company Dinner of Six Courses



Clam Bouillon, Saltines

Ripe Olives


Roast, Chestnut-Stuffed Turkey, Giblet Sauce

Buttered Asparagus

Glazed Sweet Potatoes

Moulded Cranberry Jelly


Chicken Salad in Salad Rolls


Thanksgiving Pudding

Hard Sauce


Chocolate Ice Cream

Strawberry Sauce


Assorted Fruit




A Formal Company Dinner. Eight Courses

Curled Celery

Oyster Soup, Bread Sticks

Radish Rosettes


Turbans of Flounder

Hollandaise Sauce

Potato Straws


Crusty Rolls

Salted Nuts


Capon a la Creme

(Stuffing of Potatoes, Mushrooms, Chestnuts, etc.)

Mashed Potatoes

Green Pea Timbales

Cranberry Sauce


Sweet Cider Frappe


Venison Steaks

Currant Jelly Sauce

Baked Parsnips


Apple-and-Grape Salad


Macaroon Pudding

Frozen Mince Pie

Hot Chocolate Sauce


Glaceed Walnuts


Black Coffee



Elaborate Formal Dinner. Ten Courses

Fruit Cocktail

Oysters on Half-shell

Brown Bread-and-Butter Sandwiches

Quartered Lemons


Clear Bouillon, Oysterettes




Boiled Halibut

Potato Balls in Parsley Sauce

Sweet Pickles


Cauliflower au Gratin


Braised Turkey or Capon

Bread Stuffing

Giblet Gravy

Duchesse Potatoes



Crystallized Ginger

Salted Pecans

Pineapple Fritters, Lemon Sauce


Granite of Cider and Apples


Cutlets of Duck, with Chopped Celery


Orange Salad


Pumpkin Pie

Raisin and Cranberry Tarts

Chocolate Parfait

Almond Cakes





Candied Orange Peel

Black Coffee


Thanksgiving menu from Fannie Farmer’s 1896 Boston Cooking-School Cook Book.

Oyster Soup
Crisp Crackers
Salted Almonds
Roast Turkey
Cranberry Jelly
Mashed Potatoes
Onions in Cream
Chicken Pie
Fruit Pudding

Sterling Sauce

Mince, Apple, and Squash Pie
Neapolitan Ice Cream
Fancy Cakes
Nuts and Raisins
Café Noir

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