RVing during the holidays is a treat! You get to spend time with family and friends while seeing some amazing sights. It’s the perfect time to make new memories. But what do you do when it comes to Thanksgiving dinner?
If you’re like us, you’re probably looking for ways to make your RV Thanksgiving dinner as special as possible. But with a small kitchen and limited space, that can be a challenge. Don’t worry, though – we’ve got some great ideas to help you out! Here are some fun ways to have a delicious and festive meal, even in a small RV space.
Guest Post and Photos by TheAdventureDetour
Traditional Versus Non-Traditional Meal
It can be fun to celebrate Thanksgiving while traveling. Celebrating the holidays on the road gives you the opportunity to keep things traditional or the freedom to completely mix things up and make some new memories. If you would like to have traditional Thanksgiving foods, it’s also an option to have a traditional meal but scale it down to keep things simple and easier in a small space. Read on for some non-traditional and traditional meal ideas that work great for a Thanksgiving dinner on the road in your RV!
Non-Traditional Thanksgiving Meal Ideas
Traveling during a holiday is already a special way to celebrate, so why not make your Thanksgiving meal something unexpected as well? Any meal that is out of the ordinary for your household can be a fun option to switch things up this year. Don’t be afraid to try something completely new!
Food Bars, Fondue, Or Italian
Consider creating a themed food bar for some fun and variety. Examples of delicious food bars include a taco bar, a baked potato bar, and a soup and chili bar. Load the food bar up with fun toppings that you don’t normally have around the house so everyone can help themselves to make their unique dinner creation. You can even set up your food bar outside on the picnic table if you need more room.
To make a really easy pre-made soup bar, give Costco a visit and grab their delicious heat and eat broccoli cheddar and chicken tortilla soups. If you want you can even make chili or buy pre-made chili to go with the soups. Pick up some fun varieties of crackers and delicious croissants that are also at Costco. Then add some fun toppings to the bar like Fritos, sour cream, chopped green onions or chives, bacon bits, and crispy fried onions. Adding cornbread could be another option. Get creative and have some fun with this idea!
Another non-traditional meal idea that really feels special is fondue. We purchased a fondue pot a few years ago to use in our RV for special occasions and it is a blast! Some people put oil in a fondue pot for cooking chunks of meat on skewers. We use our pot though for cheese that we dip precooked meat and other tasty items in.
You can also make a cheese dip in a crock pot or all-in-one pressure cooker and use that to dip things in. Fun dipping meal items include cherry tomatoes, chunks of chicken or beef, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, and different types of bread. Then continue the fun by using the pot for dessert with melted chocolate. We love to dip strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, kiwi, bananas, graham crackers, marshmallows, and crackers or cookies. There are so many dipping options for the meal and dessert using fondue!
Another non-traditional Thanksgiving meal option is to go Italian and have a big pasta dinner. Choosing to make one pasta dish in the RV is doable and you can have a fun assortment of meats and cheeses to go with it. Consider making the salad extra loaded and adding a couple of types of bread to make the meal feel really special.
If you don’t want to cook the pasta dish, pick up a premade chicken fettuccini alfredo or lasagna from Costco. They also have delicious focaccia bread there or grab Italian bread and croissants. We have even made cheesy garlic toast on our grill outside before. It can be fun to mix things up with the bread. Note that frozen lasagna takes a very long time to bake so make sure you have plenty of time and propane.
Since you are camping during the holiday, why not cook part of your Thanksgiving meal out on the grill? It can be a blast to hang out outside enjoying your campsite while you cook your holiday meal. Consider smoked meats, grilled fish, steaks, burgers, chicken, or pork chops. Anything goes out on the grill. We love grilling vegetables and even fruit sometimes for something unique and special. Plus using the grill saves room in your RV kitchen for cooking other meal items.
Picnic Or On Location Thanksgiving Meal
You don’t have to stay in your RV for your Thanksgiving meal. Sometimes heading to a scenic location for a picnic is an incredibly special meal memory. Why not take the ultimate Thanksgiving picnic to the beach, at the lake, or in a park?
Consider bringing the items to set up the ultimate holiday charcuterie board to enjoy. Bring along all of the fun meats, cheeses, pickles, mustards, veggies, fruits, and even some fun dessert finger foods. Don’t forget to bring along some fun drinks or wine. A large assortment of drinks you don’t usually have can help make the meal really special. We love to picnic on location and bring along yard games like a frisbee. This is a great way to incorporate your travels into your Thanksgiving!
Dining With New Friends
Many campgrounds we have stayed at during Thanksgiving have offered dinner at the clubhouse. Usually, the meat is provided and attendees bring a side dish or dessert. We attended a campground dinner for our first Thanksgiving on the road. The food was amazing, the clubhouse was decorated so nicely, and everyone had a great time.
Sometimes we have also met individual people in the campground hosting their own get-togethers and inviting campers to join. This is another great option especially if you are missing the larger family gatherings that you may be used to at home. Thanksgiving could be a great excuse to celebrate while making new camping buddies!
Traditional Thanksgiving Meal Ideas While RVing
Sometimes whether you cook the meal or not, you just feel like having those good ole fashioned traditional Thanksgiving foods. Of course, you can still cook a paired-down Thanksgiving meal just fine in an RV. But in case you want to really make the meal easy, here are some ideas to still have the foods you love without having to cook them all.
Purchase Some Traditional Premade Food Items
Even if you cook part of the meal in your RV yourself, you can always add some premade items to help save time and space. Or you can choose to make the whole meal with heat and eat options. Some of these are so good that your family won’t even know the difference!
One of the best ways to simplify your Thanksgiving meal in the RV is to buy precooked meat. Both grocery stores and Costco offer different sizes of turkey breasts and hams all precooked. In fact, if your family is large or you love leftovers, consider getting both a smaller ham and a turkey breast. A great way to heat up the meat and save space in your RV is to buy foil pans at the store and put the meat out on the grill. If you are looking for a whole turkey precooked, check out Trader Joe’s cooked whole turkeys or Popeyes cajun seasoned turkeys.
Once you have your meat figured out, it’s time to move on to most people’s favorites, the sides. In our family, the sides are always the main attraction. Luckily there are some incredible precooked Thanksgiving sides ready to heat and eat for your holiday meal at Costco and Aldi.
Our favorite premade items at Costco for Thanksgiving are mashed potatoes, cheesy scalloped potatoes, brussel sprouts with bacon and cranberries, veggie tray, sliced meats and cheeses, dinner rolls or croissants, and of course their famous enormous pumpkin pie. At Aldi, we can’t say enough about the sweet potato casserole with candied pecans on top! They also have a goat cheese log with cranberries or cranberry cheddar cheese, premade green bean casserole, and seasoned steakhouse green beans in garlic sauce.
Complete Cooked Meal From A Restaurant Or Grocery Store
Another option is to get the entire meal cooked and simply pick it all up. This is a really convenient option for those that want to focus on their RV trip and need the convenience of the whole meal ready to go. These complete meals do need to be ordered ahead of time.
Check to see if local grocery stores in your travel area offer a Thanksgiving meal to go. Stores like Whole Foods, Publix, The Honey Baked Ham Company, Kroger, and Albertsons do. You can also get a complete traditional Thanksgiving meal from restaurants such as Cracker Barrel, Denny’s, Bob Evans, Boston Market, Buca Di Beppo, BRIO Italian Grill, and Bravo! Italian Kitchen.
Helpful RV Kitchen Gadgets
Whether you are heating up premade items or cooking the entire Thanksgiving dinner yourself, here are a few RV gadgets that make small-space cooking easier. If you plan to use your RV oven, make sure you have plenty of propane. It also helps to use a baking stone in your RV oven for more even heating.
Your RV microwave or microwave/convection oven can really come in handy to heat things up or even cook. A toaster oven is something that many RVers find helpful in the kitchen. We used to often use a toaster oven outside to save space and keep from heating up the RV. Now we use our convection microwave instead of a toaster oven. Also, consider using your grill with disposable foil pans to cook or heat things up.
Inside our RV kitchen, our favorite 2 kitchen gadgets are an electric hot plate and the Ninja Foodi all-in-one cooker. We love using the hot plate with our skillet to save on propane or as an additional cooking area that we can take outside. The Foodi is versatile because it bakes, air fries, and pressure cooks. We use it every day. So with a few handy RV kitchen gadgets that are good year-round, you have many areas to cook or heat things up. And since some of them can also be taken outside, you can really increase your space in the RV kitchen.
RV Traveling during Thanksgiving can be an incredible way to both travel and still enjoy celebrating the holiday. It’s a great opportunity to make new memories with your family on the road. Whether you plan to cook or purchase premade items, have dinner at your campsite or on location, or eat with your household or the entire campground, there are so many options to make a Thanksgiving in your RV one to remember. I hope these ideas have inspired you to enjoy a Thanksgiving on the road.
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Scott, his wife Van, and their 12-year-old daughter Sissy have traveled full-time in their RV for 7 years. They have worked and homeschooled on the road through 42 states so far. They blog about RVing tips, travel destinations, and the full-time RV lifestyle on their blog, TheAdventureDetour. They are also RV content creators @theadventuredetour on Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook. They love connecting with RVers so be sure to reach out to them and say hi!