15 Most Unexceptional Thanksgiving Side Dishes

Sides Dishes

Welcome to the best list of Side Dishes:

Homemade Macaroni and Cheese

For vegetarians, some recipes to try on Thanksgiving are tofu turkey, meatless lasagna, and, of course, pumpkin pie. But reader Lauren Batavia’s favorite always has been Homemade Macaroni and Cheese. “It has become a tradition,” she says, “And we always add some Thanksgiving spirit by using turkey-shaped noodles.”

Serves 6-8 as an entree. Serves 8-10 as a side dish. 14 oz. bag of pasta

  • 7 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour4 cups whole milk
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons dry mustard
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 3 cups extra-sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/3 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese 1 cup fresh bread crumbs
  • 2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and butter a 9×13 baking dish. In a heavy saucepan, melt 6 tablespoons butter over medium-low heat. Add flour and

whisk for three minutes (the mixture will create a roux). Add milk in a stream, whisking, and bring to a boil. Continue whisking. Add mustard, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper, and simmer until thickened, approximately two minutes. Cook pasta for six minutes in gently boiling water, until just about done (al dente). Drain pasta in a colander. In a large bowl, gently combine pasta, sauce, Cheddar cheese, 1 cup Parmesan and sour cream. Transfer to baking dish.

2. In a small bowl, combine bread crumbs and the remaining cup Parmesan and sprinkle over pasta. Cut up the remaining 1 tablespoon butter and top with bread crumbs. Bake pasta in the middle of oven for 25 to 30 minutes until golden and bubbling.

To prepare ahead: Keep the dish covered in the fridge for a day, and let it come to room temperature before baking.

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Yield: Four To Six Servings

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or butter
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and lightly crushed
  • 1/2 tablespoon minced fresh oregano, or 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano 1 cup chicken stock or broth
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1/2 pound macaroni (mostaccioli or penne preferred)
  • 3 ounces soft blue cheese such as gorgonzola or Saga
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon each freshly ground black and white pepper
  • Salt to taste
  • 5 ounces gruyere cheese, cut in thin slices
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees, with a rack placed in the center. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a saucepan. Add the chopped onion and simmer until onion softens. Add the garlic clove (impaled on a toothpick), oregano, stock, and cream. Bring to the point of a boil and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. Remove and discard the garlic clove.

2. Cook macaroni in boiling, salted water for 8 to 10 minutes, or until al dente. Do not allow the pasta to become soft. Remove from heat and drain.

3. Add blue cheese to the sauce in small bits. Stir until liquefied and smooth. Add pepper. Taste and add salt to taste, if necessary. Dissolve cornstarch in

2 tablespoons cold stock or water and add to the sauce. Stir over heat for 1 minute, or until sauce thickens.

4. Rub a remaining tablespoon of oil over the bottom and sides of a 1-quart gratin pan or shallow baking dish. Spread drained macaroni evenly in the pan, pour cream sauce over it and arrange sliced gruyere in a single layer on top. Sprinkle on grated parmesan, working from the center outward.

5. Transfer to the oven and bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes, or until cheese has melted and formed a golden-brown crust.

Crustless Asparagus Quiche

A hint of freshly ground nutmeg adds a subtle, delicate flavor to this light side dish.

Preparation time: 15 minutes Cooking time: 30 minutes Yield: 8 servings

  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 10 ounces fresh asparagus, trimmed, cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1 package (8 ounces) shredded Swiss cheese
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg Freshly ground pepper

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk eggs in medium bowl; whisk in asparagus, half of the cheese, milk, flour, salt, nutmeg and pepper to taste.

2. Pour into a buttered quiche pan or 9-inch pie pan. Top with remaining cheese. Bake until set, about 30 minutes. Allow resting on a wire rack to cool before cutting, about 10 minutes.

Nutrition information

Per serving: 174 calories, 57% of calories from fat, 11 g fat, 6 g saturated fat, 134 mg cholesterol, 6 g carbohydrates, 13 g protein, 248 mg sodium, 1 g fiber

Bacon, Mushroom and Cheese Crustless Quiche

If you’re looking to indulge a little more with your quiche, try this recipe — now with bacon.

Four to five servings
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Baking time: 1 hour

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 pound mushrooms, cleaned, sliced
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups milk (or whipping cream or half-and-half), warmed
  • 1/2 cup fried, coarsely crumbled bacon (6 thick slices)
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan or gruyere cheese
  • Salt, pepper to taste

1. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Heat butter and oil in a large skillet. When very hot, add mushrooms. Cook mushrooms over high heat until lightly browned and juices have evaporated. (Do not crowd mushrooms in a pan or they will steam instead of brown. Cook in two batches if necessary.

2. Beat eggs. Whisk in milk. Add mushrooms, bacon, cheese, salt, and pepper. Pour into 5 to 6-cup baking dish. Set baking dish in a larger pan. Fill the larger pan with water to come halfway up sides of the baking dish. Bake until knife inserted is withdrawn hot and clean, about 50 to 60 minutes.

Turnips and Onions au Gratin

“This is a fabulous old, old recipe from a 1960s food magazine,” wrote Carolyn McConnell of Michigan City, Ind. “My kids are still amazed they can enjoy it so much! As little kids, they said, ‘Oh, no, not turnips!’ but loved it, and they have, every Thanksgiving since.”

Preparation time: 35 minutes Cooking time: 1 hour
Yield: 6 servings

  • 4 quarts water
  • 6 to 7 small white turnips, peeled, diced 1 pound small white onions, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup grated white Cheddar cheese 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper

1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs, browned in a little butter

3 tablespoons grated Parmesan or Swiss cheese

1. Heat 4 quarts salted water to a boil in a stockpot over high heat. Add turnips; cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Remove turnips with a slotted spoon to a buttered shallow gratin dish.

2. Add onions to the stockpot; cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain. Add onions to gratin dish; set aside.

3. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Stir the cornstarch into the cream in a small saucepan until dissolved; cook over medium heat until the cream begins to thicken, about 5 minutes. Stir in the grated cheese; season with the salt and pepper to taste. Pour the sauce over the vegetables; sprinkle the dish with the bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese. Cook until browned and bubbly, about 25 minutes.

Nutrition information

Per serving: 240 calories, 63% of calories from fat, 17 g fat, 11 g saturated fat, 61 mg cholesterol, 18 g carbohydrates, 5 g protein, 352 mg sodium, 2 g fiber

Side Dishes: Corn Soufflé

“This recipe is from my sister-in-law, Mitzi, who lives in Jackson, Miss. There’s a Southern twang to it, but my Chicago friends and neighbors all love it,” wrote Susan Amato of Park Ridge. “Super-easy, very moist, not especially low-cal or low-carb, and it reheats beautifully. This is great as a Thanksgiving side dish, but also versatile enough to pair with barbecue, beef stew, chicken soup or chili at other times of the year.” If doubling the recipe, use a 13-by-9-inch pan and bake 30-35 minutes.

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 25 minutes
Yield: 8 servings

  • 1 small package (8 1/2 ounces) cornbread mix
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) butter, melted
  • 1 can (15 ounces) creamed corn
  • 1 can (15 ounces) white or yellow corn, drained
  • 1 carton (8 ounces) sour cream
  • 2 eggs, beaten

1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Combine the cornbread mix and melted butter in a large bowl. Add the creamed corn, white corn, sour cream, and eggs; mix just until combined.

2. Pour into a greased 8-inch-square baking pan; bake until lightly browned and a toothpick inserted in center comes out dry 25-30 minutes.

Nutrition information

Per serving:493 calories, 61% of calories from fat, 34 g fat, 19 g saturated fat, 125 mg cholesterol, 42 g carbohydrates, 7 g protein, 870 mg sodium, 3 g fiber

Yellow Squash Casserole

Squash is a staple Thanksgiving vegetable. The casserole is a staple autumn dish. Combined, they make an excellent addition to your holiday feast.

Six to eight servings

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Baking time: 20 minutes

  • 3 medium yellow squash
  • 9 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup onions, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half
  • 1 1/2 cups (about 6 ounces) sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 cup cracker crumbs (saltines)

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Cut squash lengthwise in half; then cut into 1/2-inch thick slices. There should be about 3 cups.

2. Melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in a saucepan. Saute squash and onions until squash is slightly tender, about 5 minutes. Drain, reserving liquid.

3. For the sauce, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Stir in flour; cook and stir 1 minute. Slowly stir in milk, half-and-half and reserved liquid from squash. Cook until smooth and thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir in cheese. Remove from heat; stir until cheese melts.

4. Mix cheese sauce and squash in 1 1/2-quart greased casserole. Top with cracker crumbs. Dot top with remaining 3 tablespoons butter. Bake until bubbly and golden, about 20 minutes.

Green Bean Casserole

If there is a title for “most traditional Thanksgiving vegetable,” then Green Beans certainly hold it. You can serve them straight — but what’s Thanksgiving without Green Bean Casserole?

Prep: 30 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes
Makes: 8 servings

For the canned fried onions, try the natural version available at Trader Joe’s. 2 pounds fresh green beans, ends trimmed

  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 large sweet onion, peeled, halved
  • 1/4 ounce dried mushrooms, such as porcini 2 whole cloves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons each: butter, flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup fried onion pieces

1. Heat a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the green beans; boil, uncovered, until crisp-tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain; rinse under cold water. Refrigerate covered up to a couple of days.

2. Put milk, sweet onion, dried mushrooms, cloves and bay leaves in a small saucepan. Heat to a simmer. Remove from heat; steep, about 20 minutes. Strain to capture the milk. Discard the cloves and bay leaves. Finely chop onion and mushrooms.

3. Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Whisk in the flour until smooth. Slowly whisk in the strained milk. Cook and stir until smooth and thick. Add chopped onion and mushrooms; season with salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate covered for up to a couple of days; thin with a little milk when reheating, if needed.

4. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Toss green beans with sauce. Arrange in a buttered 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Bake until heated through, 15 to 20 minutes. Sprinkle with fried onions; bake 5 minutes.

Nutrition information

Per serving: 135 calories, 7 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 10 mg cholesterol, 15 g carbohydrates, 4 g protein, 230 mg sodium, 4 g fiber

Stovetop “Baked” Beans

Looking for that extra side to fill out your meal? These simple baked beans can be made in a pinch.

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
Yield: 6 to 8 servings

  • 1/2 pound lean bacon, diced 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded, diced
  • 2 cans (28 ounces each) pork and beans
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon prepared mustard, such as Dijon

1. Put bacon, onion and green pepper into a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring often until bacon begins to brown, about 10 minutes. (Drain off fat if desired.)

2. Stir in beans with their liquid and remaining ingredients. Cook over low heat, stirring often, to blend flavors, about 10 minutes.

Tangy Green Beans of Side Dishes

Liven up the traditional serving of green beans with this simple recipe.

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 6 to 8 minutes
Yield: 6 to 8 servings

  • 2 pounds green beans
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 2 tablespoons each: sugar, Dijon mustard, cider vinegar, lemon juice

1. Heat salted water to a boil in a large pan. Add beans and cook just until tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain well.

2. Melt butter in the same pan. Add sugar and mustard and mix well. Add vinegar and lemon juice then toss in beans to coat well. Serve hot.

Red Wine Braised Oxtails with Butternut Squash and Pearl Onions

If you’re feeling ambitious but want to avoid venturing too far outside the bounds of Thanksgiving flavors, this non-traditional side will surprise and impress your guests.

Prep: 30 minutes
Cook: 3-4 hours
Makes: 8 servings

I like to serve this over wide egg noodles, such as pappardelle. If the produce section sells cut-up butternut (or other winter squash or root vegetables), use about 18 ounces as a speedy substitute for the whole squash.

  • 4 1/2 to 5 pounds oxtails, cut into 1 1/2 inch lengths
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 3 teaspoons salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground allspice
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil or peanut oil
  • 3 large carrots, halved, thickly sliced
  • 2 ribs celery, sliced
  • 1 large sweet onion, halved, cut into wedges
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 1/2 cups dry red wine
  • 3 to 4 sprigs each: fresh thyme, rosemary, oregano (or 1/2 teaspoon each dried)
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 large butternut squash, halved, seeded, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 bag (14 ounces) frozen pearl onions
  • 8 ounces pitted prunes, about 1 1/2 cups, halved
  • Cooked wide egg noodles for serving
  • Chopped parsley

1. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Pat oxtail pieces dry. Mix flour, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and allspice in a zippered food bag. Add a few pieces of oxtail at a time; shake to coat well. Transfer to a plate while you coat the remaining pieces.

2. Heat oil in a large, heavy-bottomed Dutch oven set over medium heat. Add oxtails, in batches, in single uncrowded layer. Cook, turning occasionally until nicely browned on all sides, about 15 minutes; transfer to a plate. Repeat to brown all the meat.

3. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat; stir carrots, celery and onion into pan drippings. Cook and stir, 3 minutes. Stir in garlic and red wine, scraping up all the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Boil gently to reduce the wine slightly, about 5 minutes.

4. Return the browned meat to the pot. Stir in the herbs and broth. Heat to a boil. Cover the pan tightly; place it in the oven. Bake, stirring once or twice, until the meat is nearly tender, 2-2 1/2 hours.

5. Stir squash, pearl onions, and prunes into the pot along with the remaining 2 teaspoons salt. Cover; return to the oven until the squash is fork-tender, 45 to 60 minutes.

6. Taste the pan juices (which will have thickened nicely from the flour); season with additional salt and pepper. Reduce the sauce further if needed; discard the herb sprigs. Serve over cooked noodles in wide serving bowls. Sprinkle with parsley. Red-Wine-Braised-Oxtails-with-Butternut-Squash-and-Pearl-Onions

Nutrition information

Per serving: 788 calories, 34 g fat, 14 g saturated fat, 281 mg cholesterol, 38 g carbohydrates, 81 g protein, 631 mg sodium, 6 g fiber

Hershel’s Six Bean and Barley Soup

“I love that this soup has such a delicious flavor without any oil,” says reader Kat Stepkin.

Prep: 18 minutes
Soak: 1 hour
Cook: 1 hour
Makes: 8 servings

This soup calls for a small amount each of six dried legume varieties; you can sub with 2 cups dried bean soup mix.

  • 1/3 cup each, sorted, rinsed: pinto beans, lentils, split peas, navy beans, kidney beans, black beans (or 2 cups bean mixture)
  • 1/3 cup barley
  • 6 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 ribs celery, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 overflowing cup snow peas, strings removed, halved 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon each: salt, chili powder
  • Freshly ground black pepper

1. Place the beans and barley in a large pot with water to cover. Heat to a boil over high heat; cook, 2 minutes. Cover and remove from heat. Let sit for 1 hour.

2. Drain beans and barley. Return to pot. Add broth, bay leaf, onion, garlic, and celery. Cover. Heat to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer; simmer, 50 minutes.

3. In the final 5 minutes of cooking time, add the green peppers, snow peas, soy sauce, salt, chili powder and pepper to taste. Cover; cook until vegetables are tender-crisp. Taste; adjust seasonings.

Nutrition information

Per serving: 210 calories, 1 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 39 g carbohydrates, 12 g protein, 578 mg sodium, 13 g fiber

Beef Stew – Side Dishe

Meat other than beef will work. Pork can be substituted with little difference in taste. Venison will add a gamy flavor and may require longer cooking for tenderness. Any way you make it, this stew is sure to become a family favorite.

Four servings
Preparation time: 45 minutes
Cooking time: 3 hours

  • 2 strips hickory-smoked bacon
  • 16 to 18 whole small onions
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless beef-stew cubes, about 1-inch cubes 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon each: salt, pepper
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1 cup each: beef broth, burgundy wine
  • 1 can (14 ounces) tomatoes, undrained
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3/4 pound small new potatoes
  • 2 cups 1-inch thick carrot slices
  • 1 green pepper, seeded, diced1 red pepper, seeded, diced
  • 1 small zucchini, thinly sliced
  • 1 small yellow squash, thinly sliced 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Minced parsley for garnish

1. Cook bacon in large heavy-bottomed Dutch oven until crisp. Remove bacon and reserve. Add whole onions to bacon fat in pan; cook until very nicely browned, about 10 minutes. Transfer with slotted spoon to bowl.

2. Add 1 more tablespoon oil to pan if needed. Shake beef in flour, salt, and pepper to coat lightly. Shake off excess flour. Add beef and garlic to pan. Cook until beef is very nicely browned on all sides.

3. Add beef broth, wine, and tomatoes. Heat to boil, scraping up browned bits from bottom of pan. Add bay leaves. Simmer, partly covered, until meat is almost fork-tender, about 2 hours.

4. Add potatoes and carrots. Cook, until almost fork-tender, about 15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings.

5. Meanwhile, saute green pepper, red pepper, zucchini, and yellow squash in olive oil in large skillet until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Drain. Add to stew; add reserved onions. Simmer, uncovered, until heated through, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with crumbled reserved bacon and parsley.

Stuffed Squash with Mushrooms, Tofu and Pecans

This savory squash side dish offers both a festive and delicious turkey alternative as well as a complement to traditional Thanksgiving sides.

Preparation time: 35 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour, 40 minutes
Yield: 8 servings

  • 4 small winter squash, such as acorn, halved, seeded
  • 1 cake (14 ounces) firm tofu, pressed, cut into small cubes
  • 3 tablespoons each: tamari soy sauce, dry sherry
  • 4 cups small bread cubes
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 each, chopped: onions, celery ribs
  • 1 package (16 ounces) sliced mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth or water
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 cup pecans, toasted, chopped, see note
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking pan with aluminum foil; brush lightly with vegetable oil. Place the squash halves, cut side down, in the pan; add about 1/2-inch of water to the pan. Bake until tender, 30-35 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, toss the tofu cubes with soy sauce and sherry in a medium bowl; set aside. Cook the bread cubes on a baking sheet until toasted, about 5 minutes.

3. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat; add the onions and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms, broth and thyme. Heat to a boil; reduce heat to a simmer. Cover; cook until flavors come together, about 10 minutes.

Uncover; stir in the tofu with marinade and bread cubes. Cook, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in the pecans and lemon juice.

4. Distribute the filling among the baked squash halves. Put halves in a deep casserole dish; cover. Cook until squash is fork-tender, about 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on the size of the squash.

Note: Toast pecans in a small dry skillet over medium heat, stirring often, until aromatic, 3-5 minutes.

Stuffed Squash with Mushrooms, Tofu and Pecans

Nutrition information

Per serving: 382 calories, 42% of calories from fat, 19 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 44 g carbohydrates, 16 g protein, 592 mg sodium, 8 g fiber

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