Thanksgiving Dinner Sides
While the turkey has the lead role in Thanksgiving dinner, Holiday Side Dishes are the real stars of the meal. We all have our family favorites, but it’s also fun change things up a bit and try out creative, new recipes. So, I thought I would help you out and share my favorite easy and impressive Thanksgiving Dinner sides – 13 of which can be made ahead. I also share my tips for creating a Thanksgiving Dinner Menu.
[Note: this post has been updated, adding even more recipes!]
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Thanksgiving Side Dishes – Menu Planning Tips
Traditionally, a Thanksgiving dinner will always include turkey, stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and vegetable sides. The latter often includes sweet potatoes, green peas and/or green beans. And, it’s always finished with pie – pumpkin and/or pecan, sometimes apple.
If you’re creating your own menu, here are a few tips:
- Include at least 3 sides – 2 vegetables and one potato or bread. The more the better, especially if you’re feeding a crowd. (After all, this is a holiday that’s all about the food.)
- Aim for at least 1 to 2 sides that will add color – turkey, stuffing, gravy and mashed potatoes have none!
- Try to add texture – something crunchy in the stuffing (like nuts or celery) or in the vegetables (again, nuts or crumbled cooked bacon).
26 Thanksgiving Side Ideas
I start receiving emails in early November from folks asking me for easy Thanksgiving side dishes, healthy side dishes, Thanksgiving side dishes to make ahead, etc. So, in response, here are 26 delicious sides for you to pick from. I’ve divided them into two groups – Make Ahead and Dishes to Impress.
13 Good Side Dishes for Thanksgiving to Make Ahead
Here are my favorite Thanksgiving dinner sides that can be prepared ahead of time. Some can even be make up to 2 months ahead and frozen! I recommend including at least 1 or 2 “make aheads” in your menu, to reduce Thanksgiving day stress.
Twice Baked Potatoes Casserole (Make up to 2 months ahead)
Twice Baked Potatoes Casserole (Golden Potatoes) is an easy to prepare, crowd-pleasing side dish that can be made ahead of time. Baked potatoes are shredded, combined with butter, Cheddar cheese, sour cream and green onion, and baked with a breadcrumb topping. So easy, so scrumptious!!
Sausage, Butternut Squash and Yam Casserole (Make up to 1 month ahead)
We gave the traditional sweet potato side dish a savory update by combining yams and butternut squash with sausage and Cheddar cheese. Nutmeg and pecans give the dish a decidedly modern update.
Cranberry and Golden Raisin Relish (Make 2 weeks ahead)
Refreshing and colorful, this no-cook Cranberry and Golden Raisin Relish is the perfect complement to your Thanksgiving turkey, is super easy to prepare and can be made up to 2 weeks before Thanksgiving!
Parmesan-Buttermilk Cornbread (Make up to 1 month ahead)
Parmesan Buttermilk Cornbread is moist, tangy and super delicious! Easy to make ahead, too. Don’t have (or can’t find) buttermilk? No worries – I provide substitutions in the Notes section below.
Herb Quick Bread (Make up to 2 days ahead)
Savory and scrumptious Herb Quick Bread is easy to prepare – no yeast or electric mixer required! Just two mixing bowls, one loaf pan, a couple of whisks and a spoon along with pantry staples is all you’ll need. And it’s healthier, too. Most of the white flour is replaced with whole wheat flour and cornmeal. And, no refined sugar or butter.
Best Broccoli Salad Recipe (Make up to 3 days ahead)
This make ahead Broccoli Salad is the best! An updated twist on a classic recipe, it’s creamy, light and refreshing, featuring an easy to make tangy, lemon-y Caesar Dressing. Perfect for your next BBQ, picnic or potluck.
Note: the blanched broccoli and other ingredients need to be very dry, so the salad doesn’t get watery after tossing with the dressing.
Couscous with Dried Cranberries and Pecans (Prepare earlier in the day)
Couscous with Dried Cranberries and Pecans is quick and easy to prepare, full of fall flavors like cranberry and cinnamon, and beautiful on the plate. It’s savory with a tad of sweetness and a bit of crunch.
Wild Rice Salad Recipe with Parmesan Vinaigrette (Prepare 24 hours ahead)
Easy to prepare Elegant Wild Rice Salad with Parmesan Vinaigrette is the quintessential make ahead side dish, making it perfect for potlucks, picnics and buffets!
Vegetable Couscous Recipe (Prepare earlier in the day)
Looking for a fresh, healthy and fabulous side dish? Well, you’ve come to the right place! This Vegetable Couscous is full of vibrant flavors and textures. Nutty couscous is tossed together with fresh spinach, green peas, mushrooms, onions, jicama and mozzarella – then served with a bright Dill Vinaigrette. Yum!
Dorothy’s Potato Salad (Prepare up to 2 days ahead)
A long time family favorite, this Potato Salad is tangy, eggy and crunchy while a bit creamy. It’s the perfect side dish for your next summer gathering!
Butternut Squash Soup (Prepare up to 2 days ahead)
Creamy and flavorful Butternut Squash Soup is an impressive first course or luncheon entrée. Squash is seasoned with curry and onion powder, and apple for a hint of sweetness.
Tomato Basil Bisque Recipe (Prepare up to 2 days ahead)
Tangy, tasty and terrific, this Tomato Basil Bisque is smooth, creamy and full of rich tomato flavor. And, the flavors are perfectly blended and balanced by the addition of a special ingredient not found in most tomato soup recipes. Perfect for a cool fall evening!
13 Thanksgiving Sides to Impress
I like to have a few recipes in my Thanksgiving day menu that are easy to prepare but still have that “Wow!” factor when served. Maybe they are beautiful, or unusual, or full of unexpected flavor. And, many of these side dish recipes can prepared at least in part a day or two ahead!
Pumpkin with Apple-Cashew Stuffing
Roasted Pumpkin with Apple-Cashew Stuffing is beautiful, elegant, delicious, healthy – and perfect for Thanksgiving, too! A hollowed out pumpkin is stuffed with a mixture of cooked rice, quinoa, herbed stuffing, apples, cashews, onions, celery and spices. Easy to prepare and impressive to serve.
Butternut Squash Gratin
Cooked squash is layered with sharp and flavorful Gruyere cheese, baguette slices and a leek-white wine mixture in this scrumptious Butternut Squash Gratin. Easy to prepare, and vegetarian, too!
Asparagus Wrapped in Prosciutto Recipe
Easy and elegant, Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus is the perfect make ahead side dish you can pop in the oven 10 minutes before serving. The contrasting colors of red and green provide lots of color on the plate, and the flavors complement one another perfectly.
Brandied Sweet Potato Soufflé
Brandied Sweet Potato Soufflé is a showstopper out of my mom’s recipe files, that can be served as either a side dish or dessert. The flavor of the sweet potatoes is enhanced by roasting, then adding in brandy, milk, butter, nutmeg, lemon zest and eggs. The end result is the perfect amount of sweetness – with no added sugar!
Roasted Carrot Soufflé
Scrumptious Roasted Carrot Soufflé is full of buttery carrot flavor, with just the right amount of sweetness. It’s easy to prepare, too – just blend and bake! No beating or folding of egg whites required.
Baked Leek Gratin
Baked Leek Gratin is easy to prepare, full of flavor, and great to make year round. Hard boiled eggs and sweet, mild leeks are baked in a luscious creamy cheese sauce. Plus, it’s flexible and can be served as a side dish or light entrée. Make it after Easter to use up all those hard boiled eggs, or as a side dish at Thanksgiving instead of traditional creamed onions. It’s also perfect as part of a Mother’s Day brunch!
Southern Corn Pudding
Moist, fluffy and soufflé-like, Southern Corn Pudding is perfection in every bite. Easy to prepare, too, with fresh, available ingredients – no canned corn or boxed cornbread mix. Plus, our Corn Pudding recipe dates back generations, so it’s definitely tried and true!
Lemon-Dijon Green Beans with Caramelized Shallots
Lemon-Dijon Green Beans with Caramelized Shallots is an easy and impressive side dish that pairs with most entrées and is perfect for buffets, potlucks or picnics.
This distinctive Anise Bread is different than any savory bread you’ve ever had. A crisp, brown crust flecked with sesame seeds surrounds a moist interior spiced with anise seeds. And no licorice flavor here; I don’t like black licorice and I love this bread!
Convent Pie (Cheese Soufflé with Pasta)
Light and airy, Convent Pie is basically a scrumptious cheese soufflé with pasta inside! Easy to prepare with readily available ingredients, it’s great for brunch, lunch or a light dinner.
Salad with Pear and Goat Cheese
Pear and Goat Cheese Salad is perfect for fall and winter months. Crisp, fresh greens are topped with slices of juicy, sweet pears, crumbles of tangy goat cheese, candied walnuts and dried cranberries. It’s finished off with a walnut vinaigrette that’s super quick to prepare with only 3 ingredients!
Mixed Green Salad with Apples, Walnuts and Stilton Cheese
Crisp, juicy red apples are the star in this refreshing salad. They provide color, sweetness and crunch that pairs perfectly with the earthy toasted walnuts and hearty mixed greens. What really sets this salad apart is the delightful, tangy Walnut Vinaigrette dressing. It’s quick and easy to prepare, with just 3 ingredients, too!
Roasted Butternut Squash and Mushroom Spinach Salad
Roasted Butternut Squash and Mushroom Spinach Salad is perfect for those who want to eat healthier without sacrificing taste. Roasting vegetables brings out their natural sweetness and makes them tender; the addition of creamy, tangy goat cheese and candied walnuts balances out the flavors perfectly.
What are the Top Thanksgiving Dinner Side Dishes?
According to YouGov.com, an international research data and analytics group, mashed potatoes and stuffing are the top side dishes for Thanksgiving. Their 2020 survey assessed the popularity for all Thanksgiving dishes; looking at just side dishes, here are the top 10:
- Mashed potatoes – 78%
- Stuffing – 77%
- Bread or rolls – 74%
- Scalloped potatoes – 66%
- Sweet potatoes or yams – 65%
- Gravy – 64%
- Green beans – 64%
- Macaroni and cheese – 62%
- Corn – 60%
- Potato salad – 57%