There is no other holiday on the U.S. federal calendar that lets you celebrate vegetables, salads, and side dishes in such an unbridled, unapologetic way as Thanksgiving does. When it comes to this holiday, turkey—as much as I love the taste of it with its drippings and the amazing future sandwiches it's destined to root—is the one true side at my table.
Thanksgiving lets you go the extra mile with the supporting characters, so much so that, for many, they somehow end up becoming the stars of the show.
It's a beautiful day, isn't it, when the underdog finally gets to shine?
I'm a sides guy, in short. I think many people are. Which is why it makes sense to really nail down your mix because there's a lot going on in side dish land: You've got to keep some mainstay classics because the point of Thanksgiving is, on the one hand, tradition: the comfort of repetition and family and the dinner table.
On the other hand, time (and the day off!) to do nothing but dwell in the kitchen, cooking and communing and experimenting with new recipes. In the midst of all the cheesy casseroles and starchy starches (the reliable standbys), it helps to throw in something green, or something crunchy, or something fresh and vibrant and zingy—something novel. Eye-opening side dishes that will become, in their magnificence, new classics.
I've gathered below our best Thanksgiving side dish recipes, including some of our latest favorites.
Roasted Brussels sprouts make an excellent side dish all year long, but we especially love this fall-ready version with tangy-sweet pears and crunchy pistachios.
If canned cranberry sauce isn't your thing, don't write off this classic condiment just yet—try this homemade cinnamon and brandy-infused version made with fresh cranberries. It just might change your mind.
One of the greatest things about delicate squash: you don't have to peel it. Simply slice into rings, remove the seeds, roast with lime, and top with a zingy fennel and apple relish.
Over 100 glowing reviews don't lie: this lusciously cheese macaroni and cheese from Martha Stew is the bomb.
Get all those cozy, carb-y stuffing flavors in a single loaf with this soft, tender white bread packed with lots of dried herbs and spices, from dried onion powder and celery seed to dried sage and thyme.
This isn't your average green bean casserole. Here, snappy haricots verts get dressed up in a lush wine and shallot-spiked mushroom bechamel. Basically, side dish heaven.
7. Mashed Potatoes With Caramelized Onions & Goat Cheese
Up the Thanksgiving ante by fancy-ing up your next batch of regular mashed potatoes with a mix of mellow-sweet caramelized onions, punchy goat cheese. and garlic.
Side dishes you can prep in advance are a lifesaver during the holidays, and for that reason, this make-ahead kale salad with studded with squash, almonds, and pecorino is on the menu often.
If you have friends or family who need a bit of convincing that vegan dishes can be just as tasty and satisfying as their non-vegan counterparts, make them this wow-worthy bread stuffing with squash, herbs, alliums, and apples.
You won't find golden-browned marshmallows topping this sweet potato casserole, but don't worry—this recipe calls for a layer of sugar-crusted pecans over smooth, whipped sweet potatoes that's just as satisfying (if not better).
Warm, toasty dinner rolls are a must for any Thanksgiving spread, and these classic Parker House rolls are one of our go-to recipes for a crowd.
These traditional mashed potatoes have a trick that makes them extra fluffy and flavorful: mix in the melted butter first, then add the warmed-up milk.
13. Angel Corn
This creamy baked corn casserole has been a part of former Food52 Editor Cory Baldwin's Thanksgiving tradition for as long as she can remember. She calls it "a magnificent excuse for a vegetable" and we can't help but agree.
For the best-tasting carrot soup, roast your carrots in the oven with nothing but olive oil and salt until they're soft and lightly browned before blending with stock and seasonings.
This dish has all your major food groups: vegetable, carbohydrate, and cheese. Inspired by the classic recipe from the side of a can, my version of the comforting casserole has been spread out onto a sheet pan so that the rice can caramelize and get extra crispy. If you're like my family members—who love rice—then this may replace the turkey at your table this year.
If you're throwing a vegetarian Thanksgiving, we think this doozy of a whole-roasted cauliflower with dried Kalamata olives, a crunchy pistachio-sesame condiment, and turmeric-tahini sauce would make a showstopping side dish for sharing.
Cooking your stuffing on a sheet pan adds a whole new layer of texture: the super-buttery cornbread gets crispy-chewy on the edges and the veggies have just the right amount of bite.
You can never have too many green bean casserole options, in our opinion, and this four-ingredient stovetop riff is a great addition to any list.
"All variations are fair game with these potatoes," Recipe Developer Ella Quittner says. And her recipe Instant Pot buttermilk and leek mashed potatoes, which comes together in just 20 minutes, is one of our favorites.
We're big fan of alllll types of mac and cheese, but we especially love serving up this sheet-pan version with pumpkin and nutty brown butter during the holidays.
Speaking of brown butter, we love it added to a simple stuffing, like this one with just fresh sage, stock, and eggs.
Typical roasted Brussels sprouts get an extra spark with the addition of a fish sauce vinaigrette with lime juice, chiles, and garlic.
"If you love smoked paprika, the odds are high that you’ll love these carrots," writes Dorie Greenspan of her sweet and smoky roasted carrots.
The Instant Pot works its magic again with this creamy, pancetta-y mac and cheese that's sprinkled with a stovetop-toasted panko.
These family-favorite Brussels sprouts from longtime Food52 contributor EmilyC call on a few tricks that make them extraordinarily delicious: start with a piping-hot sheet pan and coat the Brussels sprouts in a balsamic-cranberry glaze.
Fresh sage and roasted butternut squash are a pitch-perfect autumn pairing, but the hazelnut, sage, and ricotta salata pesto(ish) drizzle really takes the combo over the top.
Expect to make an extra-large batch of these addictive sausage-stuffed mushrooms—they're pretty much guaranteed to disappear the second they hit a serving dish.
You don't need to be an seasoned bread-maker to pull off these oatmeal and molasses rolls—the method is exceptionally straightforward and the dough is a dream to work with (no kneading necessary).
You won't need more than three ingredients—potatoes, oil, and salt—to pull off these crispy-edged pan-roasted potatoes, which are indeed, the very best.
30. Corn Pudding
Let one Food52 community member's review of this corn pudding help you decide whether or not to give it a try: "I LOVED this recipe. It was the star of my Thanksgiving menu!!!! My relatives would not stop talking about it the whole meal."
Cauliflower's natural sweetness shines after a stint in the oven, plus it gets a nice complement with smoky cumin and bright cilantro.
Parsnips may not get the same fanfare as this season's other root vegetables, but these smoky seared-meets-charred parsnips deserve just as much attention as carrots, sweet potatoes, and the like.
Your new favorite focaccia recipe has a secret ingredient that makes it the most tender of them all: mashed potatoes. Make an extra portion of mashed potatoes when you're prepping Thanksgiving dinner and use them here for an incredibly soft, bread-y side.
Who would turn down a cheesy gratin with garlic-infused milk, Gruyère, and your fall's favorite root vegetables (like potatoes, parsnips, and butternut squash)? Not us.
Lemony vinaigrette, chèvre cheese, roasted-till-golden pears, and a bed of tender rainbow chard strike the perfect balance of tart, sweet, creamy, and earthy.
This roasted acorn squash is simple and delicious, requiring little more than the ingredients that are listed in the recipe's title.
Potato salad is a summer staple, but this " feisty, grilled version" fits right in during the chillier months.
Squash stuffed with fennel and pistachio-spiked farro makes a hearty side dish, but it can also stand in as the main on a vegetarian Thanksgiving table.
Leeks, cut lengthwise and roasted, shine in this easy panzanella (aka bread salad) alongside toasty pecans and crisp apples.
"This salad has many of my favorite things: sweet, caramelized dates, funky blue cheese, spiced, roasted squash, and peppery arugula," reads the Test Kitchen notes on this hearty salad. Yep, we're sold.
These stewy white beans silky escarole are easy, one-pot, and call for budget-friendly ingredients, so basically you're looking at the ideal side dish.
This baked ricotta takes a few uncomplicated ingredients—ricotta, mushroom, garlic, and balsamic, for starters—and turns them into something spread-able, dip-able, and totally dreamy with a few easy steps.
According to one reviewer, this fall-friendly salad "tastes as good as it looks," which must be very, very good.
"The beauty of this recipe is in the method—adding water right before you roast, and covering the pan," writers former Food52 Editor Kenzi Wilbur of her five-star steam-roasted carrots.
This savory, vegetarian-friendly pie can be prepped a day or two ahead of time, so all you have to do on Thanksgiving is roast your vegetables and bake everything.
"Endive browned to perfection and then slathered in a cheesy cream sauce, topped with bacon and pecans?" asks our Test Kitchen notes. The answer is yes. Always yes.
Three winter standbys—fennel, onion, and orange—make a bright and fresh-tasting trio in this absurdly simply salad recipe.
Heaps of turkey, roasted vegetables, and even a dollop of cranberry sauce would all taste great over this creamy, two-ingredient polenta—yep, we're talking polenta and salt.
This ultra-comforting applesauce is just like what you might buy in a plastic cup—only a bit more fresh-tasting and balanced (thanks to a splash of apple cider vinegar).
It doesn't get more traditional than a tray of roasted root vegetables, but the addition of a sweet-tart vinaigrette takes things to the next level.
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