There's No Shame In Making Some Of Thanksgiving's Most Loved Dishes With Canned Ingredients

The best part about the holiday season is coming together with friends and family, and, for me, this starts with Thanksgiving. While celebrating and enjoying the company of my loved ones makes me exceptionally happy and grateful, there's also a lot of work that goes into the preparation and execution of cooking a decadent Thanksgiving meal for a large group of people. Instead of letting this stress me out, I choose to make several of Thanksgiving's most loved dishes with canned ingredients, and there's no shame in that.

Making various Thanksgiving side dishes with canned ingredients makes juggling a large meal easier and quicker. In addition, cooking with canned ingredients significantly lowers the overall cost of the meal, and that's something we all can appreciate. Many people also prefer the taste of some of these dishes when canned ingredients are used because it reminds them of being a kid; myself included. I know cutting corners for every plate doesn't pay off when it comes to flavor. For example, I wouldn't recommend using canned cheese or boxed mashed potatoes, but for some dishes, like dips and casseroles, the difference in taste is negligible. If I factor in the other benefits as well, canned ingredients are kind of a no-brainer for me.

Green bean casserole like Grandma made it

By far, my favorite side dish at Thanksgiving is green bean casserole, so it's essential it is made just the way I like it best. Luckily for me, that includes making it with canned ingredients. My love for the canned version stems from my grandma making it that way when I was a kid. I know it doesn't have the same crisp texture as when fresh green beans are used, but the softness of canned green beans is nostalgic for me and many of my family members, as well. Sure, the scratch-made version is amazingly delicious, too, but it doesn't remind me of Thanksgivings past and my grandma's Southern cooking style.

In addition to the sentimental value attached to using canned ingredients for green bean casserole, it also makes preparing the dish much more straightforward, quicker, and less expensive. All you need is a couple of cans of green beans, canned cream soup, milk, spices, and fried onion topping. I use French-cut green beans and substitute the traditional cream of mushroom soup for cream of potato soup because I don't like mushrooms. I've been making it this way for as long as I can remember, and, over the years, I have turned several of my guests on to the dish who shared my dislike of mushrooms. Needless to say, it's a big hit, so why would I concern myself with slicing green beans and making the base from scratch?

Effortless candied yams with the perfect consistency throughout

I'll be honest: Candied yams aren't really my thing. Sure, they taste good, but with all the other yummy dishes served at Thanksgiving, they simply aren't a priority for me. I know this may be somewhat controversial, but I'd rather save room for my favorites, like green bean casserole and mac and cheese. However, I know people in my inner circle love candied yams, so I choose to make them anyway. As a result, finding a shortcut for candied yams really speaks to me, and canned yams do precisely that.

Using canned ingredients makes candied yams one of the most uncomplicated plates to prepare. All you need is molasses, brown sugar, and some spices. Roasting sweet potatoes isn't really all that difficult or labor-intensive, but it definitely takes a while to prepare and roast them evenly. That's why canned sweet potatoes are an outstanding option. They have already been cleaned, peeled, cut, and pre-cooked. Plus, oven space is often limited, so minimizing the time this dish spends in the oven helps free up space for other things. Lastly, during my many years helping cook Thanksgiving dinner, I've noticed that most people can't even tell the difference between fresh and canned sweet potatoes. The dish is saturated with sugary ingredients and seasonings that soften the yams and mask most of the fresh flavor, anyway.

Hands down, canned pumpkin makes the best pie filling

This probably doesn't come as a big surprise to most people, but canned pumpkin, with the addition of a few spices, makes the perfect pie filling. Everyone I know makes pumpkin pie this way and most recipes you find online call for canned pumpkin. As a result, it is a super easy pie to make, and considering it is one of Thanksgiving's most popular desserts, there's no reason to leave it out. I also like to assemble it the night before and leave it in the fridge so that when the time comes, I can simply bake it in the oven after everything else comes out.

While I've never made pumpkin pie from scratch myself, I have eaten it before when a chef at a restaurant I worked for made it. The scratch-made pie was undoubtedly delicious, but the filling didn't seem all that different from the canned version I make at home, and constructing it sounded extremely labor-intensive. Not only did the chef have to deal with a giant pumpkin, but they had to scrape the seeds and pulp out, cut the pumpkin, and mash it into a smooth consistency before it was ready to be used in the pie. For me, that just doesn't sound like it is worth the extra steps, especially considering how similar it tasted to the alternative. One thing I will note, though, is that the homemade crust was certainly better than a store-bought crust.

All you need for the perfect cranberry sauce is a can opener

Cranberry sauce is the easiest and fastest dish I put on the Thanksgiving table. It's also the cheapest and least labor-intensive because I use the canned version. I know making cranberry sauce from scratch is somewhat simple because I've occasionally made it for other meals, but it requires several ingredients and quite a few steps to pull it all together. Instead of adding more to the list of cooking duties, I simply open the can, let the contents slide out onto a plate, and put it on the table. It's really that easy, and there are plenty of tasty cranberry sauce brands to choose from.

In the past, I've tried adding ingredients to canned cranberry sauce to spice it up a bit, but it's not necessary, at least not amongst my friends and family group. Typically, one or two people at my Thanksgiving dinner love canned cranberry sauce just as it is, but the rest don't care at all. In fact, I remember several years when the gelatinous mold went entirely untouched during the meal. Sure, it gets some attention when it comes to leftovers, but this is more than enough reason for me to skip putting any additional effort into the dish.

Cheesy corn dip and hummus get Thanksgiving off to a smooth start

I love starting the Thanksgiving festivities with several appetizers, like charcuterie and tasty dips. Fortunately, a few of my favorite dips can be made with canned ingredients, which minimizes effort, reduces prep time, and helps you get something substantial out on the table quickly.

My No. 1 dip is a cheesy Southwestern corn dip. You only need two cans of Mexican-style corn with diced peppers, a can of sliced green chilis, sour cream, various cheeses, and spices. I used to follow a recipe but made a few changes to make it my own. Either way, canned ingredients are the best way to make this dip. It is much cheaper and ensures I don't have to shuck, boil, and remove corn from the cob, dice bell peppers, or roast and slice green chilis. Best of all, the taste is basically the same. I made it with fresh produce for another meal and barely noticed the difference.

Another dip I like to make with canned ingredients is creamy hummus. I know I can buy a container of premade hummus, but I like mine better, and considering all the other corners I cut, why not do it myself? Making hummus is also significantly cheaper than buying it from the store, regardless of whether you use dried or canned chickpeas. I choose to use canned chickpeas because they don't need to be soaked overnight and blend into a creamy texture much easier.