Lighter American Side Dishes

Everyone always talks about the main dish, but a really good side dish can steal the show. Here we keep the calories low enough so that a second helping won’t do much damage.

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

Photo: Oxmoor House

Lighten Up, Side Dishes!

What would Thanksgiving be without sweet potato casserole? Who wants meat without the potatoes? Feel free to dig into these significantly lighter casseroles and veggie dishes that will delight your family and dinner guests.

For example, a delicious serving of Brussels Sprouts with Bacon.

Roasting Brussels sprouts really brings out their nutty flavor, which goes so well with smoky bacon and sweet red onions.

View Recipe: Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

Mashed Potatoes

Photo: Oxmoor House

Mashed Potatoes

If you start with naturally creamy potatoes, like Yukon Golds, you won’t need to add cream and sticks of butter to make delicious mashed potatoes. A gentle fresh chive garnish brightens these rich flavors.

View Recipe: Mashed Potatoes

Fennel, Sausage & Caramelized-Apple Stuffing

Photo: Oxmoor House

Fennel, Sausage & Caramelized-Apple Stuffing

This sophisticated stuffing truly satisfies. It combines the sweet licorice flavor of fennel, the tang of sourdough bread, the tartness of apple, and the rich spiciness of Italian sausage.

View Recipe: Fennel, Sausage & Caramelized-Apple Stuffing

Squash Casserole

Photo: Oxmoor House

Squash Casserole

Moms often serve this dish to picky eaters who don’t want to eat their vegetables. It works every time, thanks to the crumbled crackers and creamy cheese traditionally found in this dish. This version is lighter—but your kids will never know the difference.

View Recipe: Squash Casserole

See More of America's Favorite Casseroles

Corn Pudding

Photo: Oxmoor House

Corn Pudding

Corn pudding is a specialty of the rural South. This recipe, which uses 5 cups of kernels, is great when you have a bumper crop of corn. Frozen, thawed kernels can be substituted when corn is out of season.

View Recipe: Corn Pudding

Fried Rice

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Fried Rice

Enjoy a healthier version of this Chinese takeout favorite at home! To make it a meal, increase the portion size and top with a sunny-side-up egg.

View Recipe: Fried Rice

Truffled Mac and Cheese

Photo: Johnny Autry

Truffled Mac and Cheese

This recipe is a lightened-up version of the double award-winning mac and cheese from Chef Tico Starr of Rustique Bistro in Aspen, Colorado. His secret ingredient is white truffle oil, which adds a rich, earthy flavor to the sauce.

View Recipe: Truffled Mac and Cheese

Tips for Magnificent Mac and Cheese

Calabacitas

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Calabacitas

This Southwestern summer squash mixture is a popular side dish throughout New Mexico and south Texas. Calabacitas means “little squash” in Spanish. Tuck it into tortillas for a vegetarian taco or add pork or chicken to make it a main.

View Recipe: Calabacitas

Butternut Squash Agrodolce

Photo: Oxmoor House

Butternut Squash Agrodolce

Roasted butternut squash is a classic fall dish. A tangy sweet-and-sour vinaigrette made with honey and red wine vinegar and a garnish of vibrant basil and mint gives this well-loved dish a delicous new twist.

View Recipe: Butternut Squash Agrodolce

Funeral Potatoes

Photo: Oxmoor House

Funeral Potatoes

This popular Utah comfort food is commonly brought to a post-funeral communal meal. The covered dish, or easy-to-reheat casserole, is a classic for potlucks and other large gatherings.

View Recipe: Funeral Potatoes

Classic Slaw

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Classic Slaw

This is a simple slaw with a lot of attitude. It’s the perfect complement to a pulled-pork sandwich and an ideal side dish to serve at a summer barbecue.

View Recipe: Classic Slaw

Vermont Baked Beans

Photo: Oxmoor House

Vermont Baked Beans

In Boston, molasses and salt pork are the traditional additions to a pot of baked beans. The sauce for these baked beans isn’t as thick and sweet as Boston’s rendition, and the flavor of the maple syrup and bacon make it undeniably Vermont.

View Recipe: Vermont Baked Beans

Baked Louisiana Dirty Rice and Beans

Photo: Oxmoor House

Baked Louisiana Dirty Rice and Beans

This spicy casserole, an old Cajun favorite, traditionally features chicken livers and gizzards, but we’ve substituted juicy chicken thighs.

View Recipe: Baked Louisiana Dirty Rice and Beans

Southern Field Peas

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Southern Field Peas

The Southerners in the Cooking Light Test Kitchen love this dish. It uses pink-eyed peas, which are a local favorite, but feel free to use black-eyed peas instead.

View Recipe: Southern Field Peas

Sweet Onion Casserole

Photo: Oxmoor House

Sweet Onion Casserole

This is THE way to enjoy sweet onions from Washington, California, or Georgia. Rice and cheese add heft and flavor to this casserole while letting the star veggie shine.

View Recipe: Sweet Onion Casserole

Roasted Carrots

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Roasted Carrots

This recipe was inspired by a dish at Nightwood restaurant in Chicago. Roasting carrots brings out their natural sweetness.

View Recipe: Roasted Carrots

Wild Rice Stuffing with Dried Cherries & Toasted Pecans

Photo: Oxmoor House

Wild Rice Stuffing with Dried Cherries & Toasted Pecans

The nutty, almost smoky flavor of wild rice pairs beautifully with sweet dried cherries. This dish works well with turkey and other poultry.

View Recipe: Wild Rice Stuffing with Dried Cherries & Toasted Pecans

Quick Collards

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Quick Collards

Collard greens are a favorite in the American South, where the greens are traditionally boiled with ham hock. This modern technique relies instead on a speedy sauté, which cooks ribbons of greens in record time. The quick cooking preserves most of the greens’ nutrients so they aren’t lost to the “pot likker,” the broth left at the bottom of the pot after the greens have been cooked.

View Recipe: Quick Collards

Sweet Potato Casserole with Marshmallow Topping

Photo: Oxmoor House

Sweet Potato Casserole with Marshmallow Topping

Based on sweet potato pie, a favorite in the South, this famous Thanksgiving side dish has a rich history. The marshmallows were added by Janet McKenzie Hill, the founder of the Boston Cooking-School Magazine, in 1917, when the marshmallow evolved from a specialty confection into an everyday treat.

View Recipe: Sweet Potato Casserole with Marshmallow Topping

Garlic-Parsley Steak "Fries"

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Garlic-Parsley Steak "Fries"

These roasted potato wedges, blistered and brown from the heat of the oven, beautifully combine the rich flavors of potato and garlic.

View Recipe: Garlic-Parsley Steak "Fries"

Grilled Sweet Potato Salad

Photo: Oxmoor House

Grilled Sweet Potato Salad

Cooking the sweet potatoes on a grill retains vitamins that would be lost if they were boiled, and gives them a crisp, charred edge that contrasts with the sweet interior. Tossing them with the lemon-olive oil dressing brightens the flavor.

View Recipe: Grilled Sweet Potato Salad

Roasted Cauliflower with Mornay Sauce

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Roasted Cauliflower with Mornay Sauce

Roasting intensifies the delicate flavor of this vegetable, lending it a sweet, nutty flavor and creamy texture. The dry cooking technique far surpasses boiling, which can leave cauliflower soggy, bland, and depleted of nutrients.

View Recipe: Roasted Cauliflower with Mornay Sauce

Beans & Greens

Photo: Oxmoor House

Beans & Greens

This recipe takes its cue from Italian-American cooks, who know how to make fresh seasonal ingredients taste wonderful. For a hearty main dish, simply toss with whole-wheat pasta.

View Recipe: Beans & Greens

Onion Rings

Photo: Oxmoor House

Onion Rings

Unlike deep-fried onion rings, these are cooked in a shallow pan with a smaller amount of oil. Be sure to check that the underside of each onion is nicely browned before you flip.

View Recipe: Onion Rings

Succotash

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Succotash

Succotash is generally made with lima beans, but edamame add protein to this colorful side. Shelled edamame are now commonly available year-round in the frozen food section of most supermarkets.

View Recipe: Succotash

Stewed Okra & Tomatoes

Photo: Oxmoor House

Stewed Okra & Tomatoes

Okra is a Southern classic that people tend to love or hate. Here, the acidity of the tomatoes helps thin the vegetable’s viscous juices and preserves its crunchiness. Be sure to pick small pods, as they are more tender.

View Recipe: Stewed Okra & Tomatoes

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