Yes, Thanksgiving is a time for gathering with friends and family to show thanks and gratefulness — but it’s also about the food. If you’re planning your Thanksgiving feast weeks or even months in advance of the holiday, here’s your complete guide to all things side dishes, from the stuffing to the cranberry sauce to the mashed potatoes.
Picking Your Thanksgiving Side Dishes
Picking your Thanksgiving side dishes is arguably the most important part of planning your Thanksgiving menu. You want to include the classics or the dishes your family devours year after year, but you may also want to shake things up a little. If you’re a creative cook, this is your spot to shine (because you probably don’t want to try a brand-new turkey recipe for the biggest turkey holiday of the year).
Side dishes are also the spot where you can allow less-than-stellar cooks in the family to contribute. It’s pretty difficult to mess up classic mashed potatoes or, if you really need something simple, opening up a can of cranberry sauce. If your Thanksgiving is potluck-style, you’ll want to think about which side dishes you can assign to others.
To help get those creative juices flowing, here are 39 of the best Thanksgiving side dishes to consider adding to your menu this November, from the classics to some new takes to the oh-so-easy side dishes that anyone can do.
Classic Vegetable Side Dishes for Thanksgiving
Sure, you could fill up on just turkey, rolls and pie, but really you should try to sneak a few veggies in there, too. Try some of these classic options.
Your family may not care for brussels sprouts normally, but what about when they’re covered in bacon?
Yes, you could make green bean casserole by simply following the directions on the back of the Campbell’s can … or you could make it from scratch and really impress your in-laws.
What’s Thanksgiving without a casserole dish of bright orange mashed yams covered in miniature marshmallows?
Even if you don’t care all that much for spinach, you can likely agree that there’s just something about spinach when it’s covered in a generous helping of cream cheese and butter.
Creamed corn casserole is just one of the many, many casseroles that make their way to the holiday table. Creamy, sometimes cheesy and always delicious, corn casserole is a favorite in the South.
Broccoli is yet another vegetable that’s often forced into a casserole come Thanksgiving. This broccoli and rice casserole is topped with crispy breadcrumbs.
Simple and delicious, glazed and roasted carrots share a lot of similarities with sweet potatoes. They’re both orange. Both are usually covered in brown sugar and sometimes maple syrup. Both are buttery. But that’s no reason not to have both on Thanksgiving!
If you haven’t considered adding collard greens to your Thanksgiving spread yet, now’s the time. This Southern staple finds its way onto many menus regardless of the holiday, but the tangy, earthy greens go especially great with turkey.
New Takes on Potatoes for Thanksgiving
Had your fair share of sweet potato recipes and mashed potatoes? Try one of these newer potato side dish options this holiday.
If you’re not a fan of mashed potatoes (gasp!) or you just want to try something new, consider these crispy smashed potatoes that are as fun to make as they are to eat.
These sweet potato bites are a serious upgrade over your traditional sweet potato casserole. Rather than spreading out your mashed sweet potatoes in a casserole dish, covering them in marshmallows and pecans, and then throwing it all in the oven, this recipe asks you to slice your sweet potatoes, top them with glaze and marshmallows, and then roast them, for individual, caramelized bites with more texture than your typical yam casserole.
Break out your air fryer! You can put this favorite countertop appliance to good use by frying up some crispy potatoes.
These little baked potato rounds are easy to make, topped with cheese and easy to eat with your hands (if you want — the kids’ll appreciate it). If you might normally make loaded mashed potatoes or twice-baked potatoes for Thanksgiving, these are a fun alternative.
13. Duchess Potatoes
Elegant, a bit over the top and just the thing for Thanksgiving, this duchess potatoes recipe will require you to dig out your piping bags, but the extra effort is well worth it.
Thanksgiving Side Salads
Yes, salads get their own section within our holiday side dish recipe roundup, apart from the veggies. Often, Thanksgiving vegetables are smothered in butter, cheese or some other tasty sauce, and a crisp, refreshing salad can be just the palette cleanser you need before you move on to another helping of turkey.
Bring a little lightness to your plate with this healthy kale salad that includes lots of fall flavor and seasonal bites of cherries and apples.
If you’re not planning to serve fried or roasted brussels sprouts as part of your Thanksgiving menu, consider serving them as a salad. This salad also incorporates pomegranate seeds and almonds.
Maybe you prefer your salad with a healthy dose of buttermilk ranch dressing, cheddar cheese and iceberg lettuce, though. If that’s the type of salad you prefer, over anything kale or Brussels sprouts, then go with this salad from The Pioneer Woman for your spread.
While not technically a salad, slaw can definitely stand in for one during your Thanksgiving feast. This recipe features a maple cider and mustard-based dressing and combines cabbage, cranberries and almonds for the base.
If you’re not planning on including rice elsewhere in your Thanksgiving Day menu, consider adding it to your salad with this recipe that combines rice, arugula, mangoes, cashews and cranberries.
Thanksgiving Bread, Carbs and More Goodness
You’ve got to have some bread and other carbs to soak up all that gravy. Try one of these recipes.
19. Classic Stuffing
Whether you prefer your stuffing actually served inside the bird or not, whether you call it “stuffing” or “dressing,” there’s no denying that this recipe is ultra-tasty.
Not keen on classic stuffing? Try this seasoned rice stuffing instead, which is primarily just white rice that’s been seasoned with chicken bouillon, dill and sage.
Some may consider macaroni and cheese too “casual” for Thanksgiving, but we think it’s just the thing to add some cheesy, carb-y goodness to your menu. It’ll also be a hit with the kids and those picky eaters at the table who turn up their noses at turkey or don’t like the look of the yams.
Of course, if you’re short on stove and/or oven space, you can make your Thanksgiving macaroni and cheese in your Instant Pot for extra convenience.
You’ve got to have at least one bread side. If you like fluffy, warm, yeasty bread, go with these dinner rolls.
If, though, you prefer something with a little more texture, consider adding biscuits to your Thanksgiving table. They’re not just for breakfast.
Of course, rolls and biscuits aren’t your only bread options at Thanksgiving. Cornbread is also a favorite.
Popovers are a more unexpected option for your bread side dish and easier to make than you might assume.
Simple Thanksgiving Side Dishes
Can’t cook? Or, working with a crew of family members who can’t cook? Or just really short on time? Try some of these simple and easy Thanksgiving side dishes.
They’re a classic for a reason, and thankfully, they’re super-easy to make.
28. Cranberry Sauce
Okay, so this easy recipe isn’t quite as simple as just using the can opener, dumping the jellied cranberries into a bowl and then calling it a day, but it is still pretty simple and totally tasty.
For the home cook who somehow can’t even get the sweet potato casserole right, give them an easy out with these baked sweet potatoes that require very little work and very little oversight. After the sweet potatoes are baked, your family can top them with whatever way they want, so everyone’s helping is customized to their particular preferences.
Yes, some people just won’t be able to make green bean casserole from scratch. Some won’t even be able to make it following the on-the-can directions. For those folks, steamed fresh green beans are the way to go.
No good with the stovetop or oven? No problem. This stuffing recipe comes together using the magic of the microwave.
This particular salad recipe requires very little chopping and mixing but is still pretty big on the flavor.
The Necessary Liquids
Liquids aren’t just for your wine glass this Thanksgiving. You’re going to need to set a few bowls at the table this year for these delicious sauces and soups.
33. Turkey Gravy
There’s, of course, the turkey gravy, which you definitely need (especially if you’re trying to rescue a dry turkey — don’t worry, it happens to the best of us).
What better soup to enjoy as a simple Thanksgiving side than butternut squash soup? It’s seasonal, it’s warm, it’s comforting — but it’s not so filling that it’ll detract from the other food.
Parsnips are a little underrated. Give them some extra love this season by featuring them as your soup course at Thanksgiving.
36. Potato Leek Soup
If you’re not having potatoes elsewhere on your menu, let them shine alongside leeks for this yummy soup that comes together in less than an hour.
Totally Surprising Side Dishes
Want to make something that’s really going to surprise everyone at the dining room table? Here are a few options to consider that no one will see coming.
It’s a tart. It’s an upside down cake. It’s savory. It’s somewhat sweet. It’s an upside down butternut squash tart.
What if you could take all of the comfort foods and side dishes and just combine them into one? That’s kind of what this casserole does. It features Brussels sprouts, rice, cranberries and sweet potatoes. If you really wanted to make it even more Thanksgiving-themed, you could even swap out the chicken for turkey.
No one is going to predict this unique take on sweet potato casserole. Sweet potato poutine is a fun twist on the Canadian favorite, swapping out the regular fries for sweet potato fries, the cheese curds for marshmallows and the salt for sugar.
Quick Tips for Your Thanksgiving Side Dishes
Have your eye on a few of the above Thanksgiving recipes? Take a few tips with you to ensure your Thanksgiving feast goes off without a hitch.
Make sure you plan ahead.
The day before Thanksgiving is not the time to plan your Thanksgiving meal. Plan ahead of time, at least a week or two in advance, to give you plenty of opportunities to grab the necessary ingredients from the grocery store and delegate side dishes to guests if you’re going to.
Make an actual plan.
But beyond just putting together a plan for what you’ll be having for Thanksgiving, also put together a plan for the day before and the day of. Know exactly how long each item on your menu takes to make, as well as how long those items can be kept at room temperature, in the fridge or on a burner before the quality is compromised. Some items may be able to be made the day ahead and then reheated before dinner, while others should be finished right when your guests are sitting down.
Have enough food.
And, of course, you’ll want to have enough food to go around. For couples or small groups of friends or families, plan to serve at least three side dishes in addition to your turkey (or ham or whatever star entree you choose), a few appetizers and one or two desserts. For the average family, aim for about five side dishes.
Need More Tips for Thanksgiving Dinner?
If you’re cooking up a vegan Thanksgiving, try one of these 38 vegan-friendly Thanksgiving recipes. Then, when you’re ready to burn off your Thanksgiving meal, check out the truth about what all those calories mean.