It’s a-comin’. That big day, that big meal. But if you plan ahead, you will rule the world on the third Thursday of November. And I think many people agree the turkey is great, but the side dishes are where you get to show off, be creative, hang on to family traditions, or shake it all up year after year.
As you can see, we are all about the sides in my family. I lean towards the classic dishes (Brussels sprouts, green beans, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, stuffing, mashed potatoes, salads, and so on). But as you can also see, that hardly means the same old, same old. Here are the pantheon of Thanksgiving side dishes I pick and choose from each year for Thanksgiving and other fall and winter holiday gatherings.
Tips for Making Thanksgiving Side Dishes Ahead of Time
- One Week Ahead: Get all non-perishables, including canned and boxed items, baking staples, and also sturdier produce like potatoes, apples, squash, and carrots.
- A Couple of Days Before: This is when you go back to the store for the more perishable items: the greens, herbs, breads, and so on. And also all the other stuff you forgot the first time (bay leaves, extra onions, chicken broth…).
- Create a Timeline for the Day of: Write down all of the little things, like putting the mashed potatoes into the oven to reheat, tossing the salad, and warming the gravy.
- Do What Can Be Done Ahead of Time: Thanksgiving menus are usually full of sturdy side dishes that can be reheated on the stovetop, in the microwave, or in the oven. Make use of all of the heat sources, plot out which dish you will reheat in which way, and put together a game plan. Brussels sprouts, mashed potatoes, roasted butternut squash, cranberry sauce…all of these can be made a day or more ahead of time.
- Make salad dressing.
- Clean and chop all vegetables.
- Peel potatoes and keep them in cold water to cover in the fridge to prevent browning.
- And, of course, make any side dishes that you can; get them ready to be reheated or served at room temperature for the big meal. You will see that most of these dishes can be in advance and kept in the fridge. Many can even be frozen. Check each individual recipe for specific make-ahead, reheating, and serving instructions.
- Don’t Be Afraid of Room-Temperature Food: Hey, by the time everyone serves themselves and finds a seat, the food isn’t going to be super hot anyway! Give yourself permission to not stress about getting all of the food to the table piping hot at the same time. When you go back for seconds, it’s always room temperature anyway, right? And has that ever slowed anyone down?
Great Thanksgiving Side Dish Recipes
Here are the recipes that I am 100% sure will be on our table, and it would thrill me to no end if some of them were on yours as well.
Bread and Stuffing Side Dish Recipes
Fresh corn and rosemary — plus bacon! — adds a summery note to moist, tender cornbread made in a cast-iron skillet.
Full flavored, moist (but not soggy!). As seen on The Today Show!
This is the dressing (or stuffing!) we all want on the holiday table: satisfying, flavorful, moist, and filled with texture and color.
This simple cornbread takes all of 10 minutes to get into the oven, and it makes any meal just that much better.
Earthy and slightly sweet.
There's a nice bit of heat in these moist corn muffins.
Get an amazing garlic bread recipe that is an easy and satisfying way to use parsley and leftover pesto. In just a few minutes, dinner feels super special.
Fluffy and comforting, studded with corn kernels, this is the perfect side dish for Thanksgiving or another holiday feast.
Spoon bread is a soft and comforting sweet potato casserole perfect for holiday meals.
Brussels Sprouts Side Dish Recipes
Super crispy on the outside, tender but not mushy on the inside, they are like roasted Brussels sprouts at their best. And they take just 15 minutes in the air fryer!
So much going on in terms of taste, texture, and color — this is a fully engaging salad.
Asolutely delicious, and kind of like Brussels sprouts au gratin. They make a tempting fall and winter side dish. and I would eat them as a vegetarian main dish any time.
Alex Guarnascelli's sophisticated but not-at-all-complicated Brussels sprouts are pretty close to divine.
Brussels sprouts get extra texture and flavor from a fabulous chorizo-spiked breadcrumb topping.
The dish is amazingly complex for being so simple — and that is the true beauty of Parmesan.
Two of my favorite vegetables, bound together in love and bacon.
Brussels sprouts make an easy-elegant side.
Pasta and Rice Side Dish Recipes
Can there ever be too many mac and cheeses?
The sweet-tart chewy cranberries are a great foil for the slightly smoky, nutty flavor of the wild rice. A perfect fall or holiday side dish.
Potato Side Dish Recipes
This casserole can be served as a vegetarian main course or a substantial side.
A comfort food gets even more comforting.
An easy scalloped potato recipe is the perfect way to round out any holiday meal.
Kind of like a rough and ready scalloped potato dish in a cast iron pot.
The perfect partner to most anything.
Possibly the most perfect comfort-food side dish in the world.
The addition of roasted garlic (which is so freaking easy to make) gives sweet potatoes a very savory twist.
Because there will never be enough recipes for mashed potatoes. This has a nice combo of buttery Yukon and sweet potatoes, plus a tussle of sliced sautéed leeks.
Classic mashed potatoes get a little more personality and flavor with the addition of a little Parmesan cheese. This is the ultimate comfort food.
When roasted potatoes meet nutty Parmesan only good things can happen.
Sweet potatoes deserve many shining moments, and also to be scalloped.
A perfect three-ingredient recipe (including the salt!). Because sweet potatoes+butter+salt+heat are a winning combination.
What's best about roasted potatoes, tender on the inside, but with even more crunchy bits!
Salad Side Dish Recipes
The addition of dried fruit is a pretty and flavorful way to make a green salad much more special.
Different colored radishes and carrots make this salad a riot of color and texture.
Everything you need to know about cooking with arugula, and a recipe for a colorful, peppery, citrusy salad (and more arugula recipes!).
Dinner feeling a little drab? Add this burst of color and flavor.
A bracing salad with a bit of sweetness from the pear — a perfect companion to a rich meal.
If you are looking for a salad that shouts “Holidays!” then you have come to the right place.
This is one of my favorite simple salads.
This is a perfect autumn salad, and comes together in 10 minutes.
Vegetable Side Dish Recipes
Squash is nestled in a beautiful green sauce made with chard, cream, and gruyere cheese for a flavorful and unusual side dish.
The ruffle-y green exterior contrasts with the orange interior, and there is a lovely blend of heat and sweetness.
Black lentils and bright orange squash provide dramatic color contrast.
Cipollini in Agrodolce, a wonderful sweet and sour preparation for these charming little onions.
Healthy and satisfying, plus a serious dose of good-lookingness (which is now officially a word).
This belongs on any holiday table, and then some.
Green Bean Casserole from scratch! An updated version of a favorite holiday side dish.
A great mix of colors, texture, and flavors in a fresh green bean and citrus salad.
Sautéed green beans and mushrooms belong on pretty much any holiday table.
The dressing is bright and bracing and adds an extra layer of flavor to this simple green bean side dish.
A little bit of heat, a nice earthy flavor, a pretty alternative to mashed potatoes.
A simple (5-Minute!) honey mustard dressing transforms green beans into a flavorful side dish.
Protein-packed lentils brightened with some spices and seasonings shine in this vegetarian or vegan recipe.
This is a simple side, but a real powerhouse of nutrition and flavor. Just a few ingredients, and the oven does all the work.
Caramelized and beautiful — the perfect addition to any fall or holiday table.
This is a terrific autumnal or holiday side dish.
These roasted carrots have a tangy dressing and are a gorgeous and colorful side side to all sorts of meals from holiday feasts to weeknight dinners. Serve warm or room temp!
Chimichurri sauce turns roasted cauliflower into something special.
A little fussy, but it is worth all the effort.
Just when you thought roasted vegetables couldn’t get any better.
A bit of heat perks up these earthy vegetables in such a great way (and livens up those rich holiday meals, too).
Earthy, with a touch of sweetness, and very simple to make.
When green beans are at their freshest, you only need to cook them lightly with simple seasonings to make them perfect.
Sautéed haricots verts is a lovely simple side dish; terrific for holiday meals and weeknight dinners, both.