9 Thanksgiving Sides That Are Super Speedy, Thanks to One Shortcut

Hint: It's in your freezer.

November 12, 2019
Photo by Rocky Luten

We've partnered with the National Frozen & Refrigerated Foods Association to share holiday-ready hacks straight from the freezer aisle that'll help you cut down on prep, cook time, and food waste this season.

Pulling together a Thanksgiving dinner can be a daunting task for even the most seasoned cooks, let alone first-timers. In addition to roasting the bird, there's a bevy of side dishes you'll need to whip up to make the whole spread feel complete.

Most traditional sides rely on ingredients that require lots of peeling, slicing, and dicing before they're ready to use in a recipe. But you don't have to do all the prep work yourself, or even make everything from scratch (like, ahem, those frozen dinner rolls or frozen roasted potatoes you can pop straight in the oven).

There's one trick you can try this year that's guaranteed to help cut down on the overall prep and cook time: harness the power of frozen foods for your side dishes.

We rely on frozen foods all year long, for everything from tasty dinners on the fly to our favorite breakfast-y quiche. Here's why: They're picked at peak freshness, so you'll get all the flavor and nutrition you're looking for, whether or not something's in season.

Plus, you can use only what you need and toss the rest right back in the freezer; frozen foods can last anywhere from three months to a year. No longer do your leftover fresh green beans, carrots, and corn run the risk of going south and ending up in the trash—an easy win for cutting back on food waste.

Now that I've made my case, here are nine Thanksgiving side dishes—a mix of classic hits and new favorites, from green bean casserole to butternut squash soup with brown butter—that come together effortlessly with a little help from the frozen foods aisle.

9 Thanksgiving Side Dishes Made Easy With Frozen Ingredients

1. Angel Corn

This much-loved family recipe (a creamy, golden-brown baked corn casserole) from former Food52 editor Cory Baldwin actually calls on frozen corn in the ingredients list. Even better, you can make it the day ahead of Thanksgiving and pop it in the oven to reheat just before everyone's ready to sit down for dinner.

2. Homemade Green Bean Casserole

Green bean casserole is a Thanksgiving classic. This easy homemade version gets even easier when you bring pre-trimmed frozen French green beans into the mix. Blanch frozen green beans in boiling water to quickly thaw them before transferring to an ice bath, and then simply stick to the recipe as written.

3. Edna Lewis & Scott Peacock's Sweet Potato Casserole

It's no secret that peeling and slicing pounds and pounds of sweet potatoes is a pain, but they're still a Thanksgiving staple. Luckily, you can cut out a good chunk of the prep and oven time in this sweet potato casserole: Buy pre-roasted frozen sweet potatoes and heat them up according to the package instructions—no lengthy sweet-potato roasting necessary! Then, beat the heated-through sweet potatoes with brown sugar, vanilla, honey, and nutmeg until fully combined and smooth; top with a crackly, nutty topping; and bake the casserole in the oven as the recipe indicates.

4. Roasted Brussels Sprouts With Pears & Pistachios

This cozy side dish comes together in a cinch when you use frozen Brussels sprouts (in some cases, you can even buy them pre-halved!). To make sure the sprouts come out just as crispy as fresh ones would, no need to thaw them—just toss them, frozen, with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roast in the oven, making sure that each sprout touches the pan (no overlapping). Though you may need to tack on an extra 10 to 15 minutes of baking time for these frozen Brussels sprouts, the reduced prep time and overall convenience is well worth it. If you want a bit of extra browning on your sprouts, pop them under the broiler for a few minutes at the end.

5. Cauliflower Gratin with Mornay Sauce

This luscious cauliflower gratin is just as showstopping as this thinly sliced carrot and potato rendition, but comes together much more quickly, thanks to frozen cauliflower. Parboil the frozen florets for six minutes, run under cold water to stop them from getting mushy, and then follow the rest of the recipe steps as written.

6. Ina Garten’s Parmesan-Roasted Broccoli

You'll be hard-pressed to find an easier side dish than this Parmesan-roasted broccoli from Ina Garten—and using frozen, pre-cut broccoli florets really ups the ante. You don't need to thaw them; just toss the broccoli with olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic, and add it straight to the pan for roasting (you may just need to increase the cook time by five minutes or so).

7. Tots & Cheese

Making a lusciously cheesy, perfectly crispy, browned and bubbling side dish requires little more than frozen tater tots, cheddar, and dash of mustard, when you're working with this sheet-pan-style casserole.

8. Thomas Keller's Butternut Soup with Brown Butter, Sage, and Nutmeg Crème Fraîche

This soup might seem complicated, but it becomes totally doable when you use frozen butternut squash—you skip the annoying process of peeling, scooping out the seeds, and slicing the vegetable. And frozen cubes of squash should be nice and blend-able after roasting them for about 15 minutes in a 450°F oven, according to The Kitchn, cutting your overall cook time way down.

9. Roasted Cranberry Sauce With Orange

Frozen cranberries easily shine in this zingy riff on traditional cranberry sauce, featuring orange, balsamic vinegar, fresh rosemary, and more. No need to let the frozen cranberries thaw—just give them a quick rinse in cold water, drain, and add them straight to the baking dish to roast in the oven for about 40 minutes (you may need to tack on a touch of extra cooking time).

What's your favorite way to use frozen ingredients during the holidays? Tell us your tastiest ideas in the comments below!

Cut down on time (and stress!) in the kitchen this holiday season by using frozen fruits, vegetables, potatoes, and rolls for your favorite dishes. We've teamed up with the National Frozen & Refrigerated Foods Association to share our go-to fall and winter recipe ideas that call on staples from the freezer, like green bean casserole, cheesy cauliflower gratin, and more. A sweet perk of using frozen ingredients: it helps cut back on food waste. Anything you don't end up using during the holidays can go right back in the freezer to be used later—instead of getting tossed. Even sweeter: frozen fruits and vegetables maintain their taste and quality anywhere from three months up to a year.

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Erin Alexander is the Brand Partnerships Editor at Food52, covering pop culture, travel, foods of the internet, and all things #sponsored. Formerly at Men’s Journal, Men’s Fitness, Us Weekly, and Hearst, she currently lives in New York City.

1 Comment

Catherine November 15, 2019
Using frozen items may certainly be easier in terms of prep, but I wonder what the effect is on cost? I'm guessing more expensive, but that probably depends on the item in question and area in which it is being sold/purchased.