Thanksgiving: College Style

Thanksgiving is probably one of the best holidays of the year, especially for college students. A celebration with unlimited, home cooked, FREE food??! I rest my case.

Around this time of year, it’s common to host a “Friends”giving of sorts with your roommates, friends, THON Committee, or other group of choice. While these events provide a fun opportunity to break out your domestic skills, it’s not always practical to go full-Food Network, but don’t fret. We have a few recipes that are in accordance with the three rules of college cooking: (1) they are easy, (2) they are cheap, and (3) they are delicious.


Turkey is generally the centerpiece of most Thanksgiving traditions. But let’s face it: It’s just not that practical of a protein to serve to a small college crowd. Buying a turkey is expensive and not to mention impossible when just about every grocery store takes “pre-orders” nowadays. I say skip the turkey, and shove a beer can up a chicken. Beer can chicken is easy, quick, and delicious. Plus, you only use half a can, so the rest of the beer is left for the chef’s personal enjoyment (you have to make sure it tastes good after all).

If you’re extra lazy, Wegmans has amazing pre-roasted whole chickens that come in a variety of flavors including barbeque, Caribbean lime, and plain. Stick that sucker in the oven before your guests arrive and they’ll never be the wiser.

Mashed Potatoes

A crowd favorite, mashed potatoes don’t have to involve a peeler and two hours of your life, and you don’t have to resort to the weird potato flakes. Look in the freezer section for microwavable potatoes — hear me out! There are vents! That means you can steam them IN THE BAG. Just make sure you put the bag in vent side up, and cook for the time listed on the packaging. When they’re done, dump them into a bowl and add liberal amounts of butter, cream, salt, pepper, and sour cream and chives (if you’re into that sort of thing).


Stuffing is one of those controversial foods that can drive a family apart. You’ve got your “in the bird stuffing,” the moist, food safety hazardous bread shoved up inside of the turkey, and you’ve got your “dry stuffing,” ¬†the toasty kind made separately. The pros and cons of both are too numerous to mention here, but suffice it to say, my aunt still makes both kinds each year to avoid the awkward silences and dirty looks.

If you’re not making an entire turkey, dry stuffing is the only option for you. If you’re one of those “I must have my stuffing shoved up the backside of a turkey” kind of people, don’t worry, once you put gravy on it they both pretty much taste the same. You can either make your own simple stuffing, or bust out the boxed kind, depending on how ambitious you’re feeling.



Sweet Potatoes

People either love ’em or hate ’em, but if you have to have sweet potatoes at your Friendsgiving, think outside the box. Sweet potatoes are already sweet, so why are we constantly putting marshmallows on top of them? To save yourself time and to masquerade as a culinary genius, make some sweet potato fries instead. They cook faster, and are a unique spin on an old classic that even the sweet potato haters might try a bite of. You can make your own, or pick up some gourmet frozen ones like the Alexia brand. They have spicy chipotle flavored fries that are to die for and even sweet potato tots!


Now what good is all this food for without some gravy to smother all over it? But please, do yourself a favor and skip the gravy from a can. That stuff is a sodium bomb of flavorless-ness, and honestly you can do better. You’re getting a bachelors degree. It’s about time you learned how to make your own gravy.

All you need is butter, flour, and chicken stock. Melt the butter over medium heat, then add the flour, and stir to combine. (If you want to impress people, this concoction is called a roux.) Next, slowly add your chicken stock, whisking constantly to prevent lumps. Add salt and pepper to taste, and revel in your new found gravy prowess.

 Cranberry Sauce Cocktails

Personally, I’m not that big of a fan of cranberry sauce, mostly due to the fact that it maintains the shape of the can when served. I would much rather ingest my cranberries in alcohol form, so if you insist on including the little red fruit, may I suggest a nice crantini?

If you already got the canned stuff, portion it out into some dixie cups, add a shot of Vlad, and voila! Cranberry jello shots. You’re welcome.

Pumpkin Pie

Mmmm…pumpkin pie. The smooth spiced filling. The tender crust. The dollop of whipped cream. Truly a dessert masterpiece.

If you don’t want to buy store bought pie and are convinced your homemade version could never compare to grandma’s, listen up! The Creamery actually makes pumpkin pie ice cream. It even has chunks of pumpkin pie in it. If I was served Creamery ice cream instead of actual pie I wouldn’t be the least bit disappointed, but sandwich that goodness between some gingersnaps and I’m in heaven.

If you want to get crazy, try making some bourbon pumpkin pie milkshakes. If you pick up some of that pumpkin Creamery ice cream all you have to do is add milk and gratuitous amounts of bourbon. Happy Friendsgiving indeed.

Your ad blocker is on.

Please choose an option below.

Sign up for our e-mail newsletter:
Support quality journalism:
Purchase a Subscription!

About the Author

Catie Simpson

Catie is a junior majoring in Human Development and Family Studies. She's also the resident townie and culinary enthusiast due to a brief stint at the CIA (the culinary school not the secret government agency). She currently works at a Baby Temperament Lab on campus where she tries to get babies to do dangerous things. She's also on the twitter.

Penn State Board Of Trustees Approves 2025-26 Fiscal Budget

The budget features increases between 1-4% for tuition, housing, and food for most students.

OS Reviews: Penn State In College Football 25

Whether our staffers loved playing in Beaver Stadium or beating Ohio State, here’s how they found the newest EA Sports game.

Reintroducing Onward State’s Penn State Football Student Ticket Exchange

Whether you’re trying to offload a ticket you don’t want or making sure you get to sit with your friends, Onward State’s ticket exchange is here to help.

Other posts by Catie

IHOP: Worth The Wait (And The Weight)

Having never been to an IHOP before, I awaited it’s arrival to dear old State College with apprehension and excitement. After push back upon push back it seemed like we were doomed to be IHOP-less forever. But then suddenly, and without warning, “poof”. It appeared.

Hot Pot Hot Spot

Brewing Beer In The Happiest Of Valleys