Looking for tips on throwing the ultimate Thanksgiving in Dublin? Between finding a turkey a month before Christmas, or finding American marshmallows, I’ve done it all before and I want to share my tips with you!
Throwing a Thanksgiving in Dublin is no easy feat. A turkey alone can take up to three hours to cook, and it’s not a real feast without a smorgasbord of sides, salads, and desserts. What’s more, it can be difficult to even find a turkey in Dublin this far before Christmas. Luckily, I’ve become somewhat of a self-proclaimed professional at throwing a Thanksgiving feast abroad. I’ve thrown a one every year while living in Glasgow and Belfast, and Dublin. I’ve done my research on where to find things like canned pumpkin puree or whole frozen Turkeys (that won’t break the bank). Without further ado, here is my personal guide to throwing the ultimate Thanksgiving feast in Ireland.
Finding a turkey for your Thanksgiving in Dublin
The general rule of thumb when it comes to the size of the bird that you buy is 1lbs or 0.5 kg of Turkey per person. So if you’re throwing a party for 12 people, a 6kg bird should be enough (unless you want leftovers that is). For my Thanksgiving, I find the most reliable place to buy a Turkey in November in Ireland is Lidl. First, they say how many servings the bird is on the packaging, so no need to do the maths. Second, the meat has always turned out succulent and flavourful, even without brining! Even better, I bought frozen two medium turkey crowns this year for only €10.99 each! Now I know it’s last minute for a frozen bird, but there’s still time to prep it! Where you would usually need a few days to defrost in the fridge, you can also opt for running cold water over the bird to speed up the defrosting process safely.
The only issue I found with these frozen turkey crowns is that they don’t come with the giblets. If you’re family is like mine, we tend to put the turkey liver in the stuffing and we stew the rest of the giblets in the gravy for added flavour. I tend to substitute the turkey liver for chicken livers which you can find at Tesco, Aldi, and sometimes Lidl. If you can’t find them there, check M&S (a bit pricier but you can make some wonderful pate with the excess). For the gravy, rather than giblets, take some of the cooked turkey bones and stew them in chicken broth and pan drippings (you can even add a teeny bit of the marrow to intensify flavour – just don’t add too much or it will get grainy).
A typical Christmas dinner in Ireland is very similar to Thanksgiving, and things like sausage, apple, bread, even pre-made stuffings are fairly common at Irish grocery stores throughout the autumn and winter months. As far as pre-made stuffing goes, I’ve never tried it but the Tesco Finest range has never disappointed me and they offer a selection of stuffings including wild sage and buttered onion as well as garlic and herb for €2.50-€3. Additionally, Tesco also have stuffing mixes at only €1.99. If you have to forego homemade stuffing, I would recommend these options.
Guys, it’s Ireland. You got this one.
Mac & Cheese
Again, pasta’s pretty common here and you can get pretty good pre-made ‘mac’ from Lidl, Tesco, Aldi – pretty much any grocery store. You got this one too. I believe in you.
Green bean casserole
My family’s never made this for Thanksgiving. We tend to prefer just sautéed beans but casserole is a classic. After looking at several recipes, I’m confident you can find everything you’ll need at Lidl for a good price and great quality (I promise they aren’t sponsoring me, I just love Lidl). In fact, try to buy most of your fresh produce either at Lidl or the Moore Street Market. They’ll taste great and not break the bank. Additionally, the independent Asian grocery stores also tend to have inexpensive, great produce.
You won’t find Ocean Spray canned cranberry sauce here. Trust me, I’ve tried. If you want to make your own, you can find frozen cranberries at virtually any chain grocery store in Ireland. Additionally, Lidl’s jarred cranberry sauce is tasty and it’s only €1-2. I highly recommend this as a tasty substitute that you can definitely find at the Lidl on Thomas Street in The Liberties (I know because I bought it there last night).
Sweet potato pie
I personally am not a fan, but if you insist on having a sweet potato pie at your Thanksgiving, Aldi on Parnell is the most reliable for sweet potatoes. That being said, I’ve seen them quite a few times recently at both the Lidls on Moore Street and Thomas Street. If you can’t find them at any of those locations, I’d recommend either the M&S on Mary Street or check out some of the independent Asian grocery stores.
As far as marshmallows go, do not buy marshmallows here and expect them to taste the same. I don’t know what it is, but marshmallows here have a hint of fruity flavour that I’m not sure would pair well. If you’re looking for a taste of home, you can find American-style marshmallows from the Tesco on Parnell Street, or check out one of the American candy stores (my favourite is Candy Lab in Temple bar, even though it’s pricey it’s the most reliable). Again, they might come up to €2-4 per bag but the taste will be worth it.
This dessert is close to my heart. I look forward to it every Thanksgiving. Sadly, finding pumpkin puree can be difficult and somewhat pricey. I’m a die-hard Libby’s canned pumpkin fan, but that’s hard to come by in this city. However, Fallon and Byrne offer a very similar American-style pumpkin puree at 2 cans for €5. It’s a little pricey compared to what we’re used to but I guarantee you very few of your non-American friends will have had the opportunity to try pumpkin pie. If you really can’t make the price work, then make a pecan pie. I promise you, you’ll have no problem finding the ingredients for that all over the city. And honestly, either of these desserts will be perfect to complete your first Thanksgiving in Dublin!
Tips and Tricks
- Start the night before. Prep your vegetables, make your desserts and sides that can be reheated etc. Make tomorrow as easy as possible on yourself.
- Buy a meat thermometer. Seriously. It’s the most reliable way to get a fully cooked turkey that isn’t totally dried out.
- Recruit your friends for help. They’ll probably love the novelty of helping cook their first Thanksgiving dinner and things will get done faster. Plus it’s fun cooking with friends!
- Ask for people to chip in. I started throwing these dinners as a broke university student and the costs can be high. Even if people just give you a couple of coins for the dinner, it’ll really help take the edge off.
- OR, if you’re cooking/supplying most of the food, tell them they have to bring the beverages. After all, it’s only fair.
- Even if it’s cringe, go around the party and say what you’re thankful for. I used to hate this a kid because it felt so sappy, but you’re friends are going to love the American-ness of it all. Trust me, it’ll be cute.
At the end of the day, Thanksgiving is a great opportunity to express how grateful you are for the people you love by feeding them. So go forth! Throw a Thanksgiving in Dublin! And if you do, Tweet/Instagram/Facebook us a photo of your dinner with #babylonthanksgiving to @babylonradio. We’d love to see the feasts you put together!
Do you have any tips/tricks for throwing a Thanksgiving in Dublin? Put them in the comments below!
Looking for places [other than Lidl] to buy your Thanksgiving fare? Check out our article on Markets in Ireland!