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When to Use Fresh Produce and When to Use Canned Fruits and Vegetables for Thanksgiving

This is your yearly reminder that it’s okay, and even encouraged, to lean on shortcuts if they get you out of the kitchen and to the table with loved ones faster. One easy way to do that: When you can, use canned! Even if you’re committed to making Thanksgiving dinner solely from scratch, there may still be an ingredient or two for which you’d actually benefit from swapping fresh for its shelf-stable shortcut.

Here’s when we think you can swap in canned fruits and veggies for the fresh version:

Green Beans

When to use canned green beans: In casseroles, bakes, and anywhere else it plays a supporting role

When to use fresh green beans: When they’re the hero ingredient, like in simple sides or salads

Our pick and why: Both. Which one is better suited than the other is a case-by-case basis

Get the recipe for: 3-Ingredient Green Beans


When to use instant gravy: When you’re strapped for time or guests are bringing the turkey

When to make homemade gravy: When you’re tasked with the turkey

Our pick and why: Fresh. Include it in the turkey-making process and you’re tackling two things at once

Get the recipe for: Better-Than-Store-Bought Gravy

Mashed Potatoes

When to use instant mashed potatoes: When strapped for stove or counter space, or when your arms aren’t up for mashing

When to use fresh potatoes: Most of the time

Our pick and why: Fresh. Pro tip: mashing is a great task for kiddos that want to lend a hand

Get the recipe for: Mashed Potatoes with Caramelized Shallots

Pumpkin Purée

When to use canned pumpkin purée: Most of the time—it saves you oven space, dish washing, and above all, time!

When to use fresh pumpkins: If you want to save the seeds for roasting or granola

Our pick and why: Canned. It’s just as fresh, if not fresher—and way more convenient

Get the recipe for: Our Go-To Pumpkin Pie Recipe


When to use premade stuffing: When you want an easy win (or if it has a sentimental place at the table)

When to make homemade stuffing: When you have a stash of stale bread

Our pick and why: Fresh. If you cube stale bread in the weeks leading up and stash it in the freezer, you’re cutting down on time and food waste

Get the recipe for: Sourdough and Herb Stuffing


When to use canned corn: If you’re making casseroles, bakes, or cornbread

When to use fresh corn: When it’s in season

Our pick and why: Canned. Because peak sweet corn season usually runs from May to September

Cranberry Sauce

When to use canned cranberry sauce: When you’re on Team Jellied, are feeling nostalgic, or can’t find fresh crans

When to use fresh cranberries: When you like to customize your sauce

Our pick and why: Fresh. There’s just something about a recipe that’s easily made your own, whether that’s adding in orange zest or increasing the tartness

Get the recipe for: Cranberry Relish

Find more Thanksgiving recipes.