Thanksgiving is less than a week away, and now is the time I like to finalize my menu. That way, I can reduce stress and hassles on turkey day by creating a “game plan” of what I can prepare ahead of time, and possibly freeze. We all have our family favorites – those dishes that have become “traditional” in our own households – and to mess with those can be perilous. I have found that the best way to get a new dish accepted at the Thanksgiving table is to start with a classic dish and then give it a new twist – as simple as adding parsley and chives to the mashed potatoes, or as wide afield as a cheesy leek gratin in place of the traditional creamed pearl onions. Here are four of my favorite – and most popular – updates to traditional Thanksgiving side dishes – all of which can be prepared at least in part prior to turkey day (make ahead instructions are included in each recipe).

Sausage, Butternut Squash and Yam Casserole


I never was a fan of candied yams or sweet potato casserole (the one with marshmallows on the top), and this more savory twist is the perfect alternative. Yams and butternut squash are mashed and mixed with butter and a bit of nutmeg, then combined with sausage, cheddar cheese and pecans. Not only is this dish scrumptious, you can make it weeks before Thanksgiving and freeze it!

Lemon-Dijon Green Beans with Caramelized Shallots


Healthier and just as easy to prepare, my green beans are the prefect update to the classic green bean casserole. No canned soup or french-fried onions here, just roasted green beans tossed in a light sauce of olive oil, lemon and mustard, topped with the deep, rich sweetness of caramelized onions. The beauty of this dish is it can be served hot or at room temperature, making it an ideal make ahead dish for Thanksgiving.

Leek Gratin


This twist on the traditional pearl onions in a cream sauce features sautéed leeks, hard-boiled eggs and a delicious creamy cheese sauce. Your friends and family will go nuts over this dish!

Mashed Potatoes with Parsley and Chives


One of the main drawbacks to a traditional Thanksgiving menu is the lack of color – most everything is brown and white. I fix this by adding green herbs  – parsley and chives – to my mashed potatoes. I also reduce the butter and use milk instead of cream to lighten them up a bit.


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Share This With The World


About the author

Hi, I'm Lee.

I am inspired by my mother, Sally’s, love of cooking and entertaining to gather friends and family together over great meals and conversation. In fact, I held my first dinner party at the age of 16. Throughout the years, I’ve provided recipes, menu advice and cooking tips to friends seeking uncomplicated and delicious ideas for home entertaining.

Sign up for recipes, tips & more!
Join the club

Latest Posts