Big Little Recipes

16 Thanksgiving Recipes in 5 Ingredients (or Less)

November 26, 2019
Photo by Rocky Luten

A Big Little Recipe has the smallest-possible ingredient list and big everything else: flavor, creativity, wow factor. Psst—we don't count water, salt, black pepper, and certain fats (specifically, 1/2 cup or less of olive oil, vegetable oil, and butter), since we're guessing you have those covered. Today, we’re simplifying Thanksgiving.

I have a theory when it comes to holidays: The more dishes you’re making, the simpler those dishes should be. And by simple, I mean preparation—whether that’s the ingredient list, method or, better yet, both—not flavor.

These dishes know what I’m talking about. Each one hails from our Big Little Recipes column. Which is to say, each one has five ingredients or less. Now there’s something to be thankful for.

To Start

1. Crispy Garlic Dip

Just like onion dip, but instead of caramelizing onions for an hour then stirring them into sour cream, you crisp garlic for a few minutes then stir this into Greek yogurt. Potato chips all around.

2. Garlic Butter Hummus

Where you’d expect to find tahini or olive oil, this recipe swaps in garlicky butter, yielding an atypical hummus that’s as silky as can be. Serve with crispy pita chips and raw vegetables.

3. Extra-Cheesy Spinach-Artichoke Dip

For better spinach-artichoke dip, give the gooey cream cheese a couple of big-personality friends: sharp cheddar and zesty Dijon mustard. Team up with seedy crackers and toasted bread.


4. Salt & Vinegar Mashed Potatoes

Mashed potatoes learn a couple tricks from their chippy counterparts: Don’t skimp on the salt and add a splash of vinegar (we like malt, but you can use white or cider, too) for tangy contrast.

5. Sausage Stuffing With Broccoli Rabe

Sausage stuffing is a Thanksgiving classic. It’s also heavy as heck. This version brightens things up with a boatload of broccoli rabe (plus its ultra savory blanching liquid in place of stock).

6. Brown Butter Stuffing

Skip the caramelized onion and celery, the browned meat and sautéed greens, the toasted nuts and dried fruit, yada-yada-yada—and still end up with a crusty, buttery, second helpings–worthy stuffing.

7. Stovetop Green Bean Casserole

Traditional green bean casseroles come together in the oven, which we’re guessing is already full of turkey, sweet potato casserole, and then some. That’s why this modern take happens completely on the stove (and only needs four ingredients to boot).

8. Miso Charred Carrot Soup

Have you ever burned your roasted vegetables by accident? This recipe does it on purpose—as a path toward bigger, bolder flavor. Just puree with water, no stock necessary.


9. Very Easy Apple Cake

Based on the Russian sharlotka, this apple cake needs no butter, oil, or even leavening agents. Instead, eggs do most of the work. White whole-wheat flour and brown sugar bring lots of caramely-nutty vibes.

10. Flourless Pecan Cake

For those of us who don’t want to make pecan pie, there’s this cake. Based on Emiko’s Calabrian Walnut Cake, this recipe needs no flour—just a lot of pecans, pulsed until cornmeal-esque, bound with eggs and brown sugar.

11. Simplest Bread Pudding With Salted Brown Sugar Sauce

Think of it like stuffing, but for dessert. In this case, the “gravy” is actually salted brown sugar sauce, and we’re very here for it. Fresh fruit, like persimmons or ripe pears, would be great on top.

12. Pumpkin Cheesecake bars

That just so happen to be no-bake. (“Thanks much!” your oven says.) These bars are pumpkin-y as can be (they use a whole can), thanks to a secret ingredient that creates a custardy, set structure.

13. Apple Cider Butterscotch Pudding

Butterscotch usually starts with brown sugar. This version goes rogue and starts with apple cider instead. Just boil it—then keep boiling it—until you reach the consistency of caramel sauce. From there, you’re on your way to a puckery, appley pudding.

14. Butter Pecan Cookies

Yes, you can and should serve bite-sized cookies on Thanksgiving. Especially these buttery, crumbly, extra-tender ones—think pecan pie meets shortbread.

15. Sheet-Pan Apple Crisp

For the ideal fruit-to-streusel ratio, ditch the deep casserole dish and opt for a shallow sheet pan. Not only does this cook faster, but it means more crunchy topping in every bite.

16. No-Churn Pumpkin Ice Cream

No ice cream machine required. This no-churn method (condensed milk plus whipped cream) is foolproof as can be. A splash of bourbon—or rum, if you want—keeps things scoopable and creamy.

What few-ingredient recipes do you have lined up for Thanksgiving this year? Let us know in the comments!
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Emma is the food editor at Food52. Before this, she worked a lot of odd jobs, all at the same time. Think: stir-frying noodles "on the fly," baking dozens of pastries at 3 a.m., reviewing restaurants, and writing articles about everything from how to use leftover mashed potatoes to the history of pies in North Carolina. Now she lives in Maplewood, New Jersey with her husband and their cat, Butter. Stay tuned every Tuesday for Emma's cooking column, Big Little Recipes, all about big flavor and little ingredient lists. And see what she's up to on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.