Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Pomegranate and Pine Nuts
This staff favorite adds color and texture to your buffet and makes a splash on the Thanksgiving table. For a bit of showmanship, bring the whole cauliflower to the table, and then "carve" and dress with the vinaigrette, pomegranate arils, pine nuts, and parsley. While most holiday dishes are designed to be delicious warm or at room temperature, this is one dish that's worth saving until the end of your prep and serving straight out of the oven.
Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes
Keep mashed potatoes warm by placing in a heatproof bowl, covering with plastic wrap, and setting over a saucepan of gently simmering water. This will keep them moist and warm without scorching. A ricer finely breaks up the cooked potatoes without activating the potato starches, which could make the consistency gluey. It also allows the butter and liquid, such as milk or buttermilk, to quickly incorporate so the mash is smooth and free of lumps. If you don't have a ricer, use a potato masher, being careful not to overwork the potatoes. Our Butternut-Swirled Mashed Potatoes and Roasted Garlic and Parmesan Mashed Potatoes variations require a little extra time but are well worth the effort.
Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad
Chef Jonathan Waxman taught Cooking Light Editor Hunter Lewis how to make this fall salad many years ago. Riff with the ingredients to find the flavor balance you prefer. With a zing of fresh citrus to cut through the acidity, this crunchy winter salad is the perfect light addition to your holiday spread.
For a vegan version, omit the parmesan.
Sheet Pan Roasted Vegetables
Opt for simply roasted veggies in place of rich and creamy casseroles and loaded potato dishes brimming with fat and calories. This mix of colorful root vegetables may be your star side. Peeled, prechopped butternut squash saves time, but pieces tend to be irregular and small—we prefer peeling and cubing it yourself. A simple mixture of olive oil, whole-grain mustard, apple cider vinegar, thyme, salt, and pepper dresses these vegetables up for the occasion.
Braised Leeks with Parmesan
Wash leeks after they’re halved by dunking them in a bowl of cold water and vigorously swishing to dislodge dirt and grit trapped between the layers. You may need to repeat the process once or twice, depending on the level of grit. We love the simplicity of this dish. White wine provides a little tangy acid to the leeks, while Parmesan cheese packs an umami whallop, making for a supremely satisfying side.
Grapefruit, Endive, and Arugula Salad
Give yourself the gift of one worry-free dish this holiday season. This 15-minute, no-cook, citrus-flecked salad tastes best when it sits at least 10 minutes. No guest will be able to resist our lemony homemade vinaigrette, which adds sweet flavor without lots of fat, calories, or carbs. Tossing the endive leaves in the vinaigrette first softens their bitter edge. You could also sub thinly sliced fennel or chopped Romaine hearts. Top with chopped walnuts, Gorgonzola cheese, and grapefruit slices.
Green Beans with Dried Cranberries and Hazelnuts
Every plate needs a little green on it. Blanch the beans ahead, and store in the refrigerator to eliminate a task from the Thanksgiving Day prep list.
Orange-Tarragon Sheet Pan Roasted Vegetables
You'll wow friends and family with this simple side that will be a guaranteed hit. A vibrant citrus dressing brightens fresh-cut vegetables for a Thanksgiving side you'll come back to again and again. Combine 3 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon maple syrup, 1 tablespoon fresh orange juice, 2 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper in a bowl, stirring with a whisk. Combine butternut squash, parsnips, Brussels sprouts, and potatoes from master recipe, then follow remaining steps.
Braised Brussels Sprouts with Cider and Bacon
The sweetness of the cider complements the saltiness of bacon bits. One bite will leave you craving more (and more, and more).
Coal-Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Roasting sweet potatoes in a lightly ashed-over bed of coals turns their flesh fluffy and smoky. Drizzle with sour cream, and garnish liberally for a riot of textures, colors, and tastes.
The sizzling fat from bacon crisps the vegetables and coats them in a layer of smoky flavor.
This side dish comes together in minutes, making it an ideal match for a more labor-intensive entrée.
Lemon-Herb Sheet Pan Roasted Vegetables
Combine 3 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper in a bowl, stirring with a whisk. Combine butternut squash, parsnips, Brussels sprouts, and potatoes from master recipe in a large bowl, then follow remaining steps.
Braised Brussels Sprouts with Mustard and Thyme
Arranging the Brussels sprouts cut side down in the pan allows them to brown evenly.
Glazed Sweet Potatoes with Maple Gastrique
The gastrique, a tangy-sweet glaze, is Thanksgiving worthy but also simple enough to pull off on a weekday.
Mom's Smashed Mashed Potatoes
To keep potatoes warm until the meal is ready, place them, loosely covered, in a heatproof dish or bowl, and set them (without submerging them) in a larger pot of hot water over very low heat. They'll stay warm without scorching on the bottom.
Roasted Broccoli with Pistachios and Pickled Golden Raisins
This dish came to us from kitchen of longtime Cooking Light friend Rich Landau. Landau, chef and owner of Vedge in Philadelphia, offered us this lovely autumn salad, in which bright bursts of sweet-tart raisins accompany each bite of toasted broccoli. Some version of broccoli, usually laden with cream and cheese, lands on many a Thanksgiving table. But this dairy-free dish, with its beautifully balanced flavors, is much lighter—and vegan.
Grand Marnier Cranberry Sauce
What makes this sauce extraordinary isn’t the orange liqueur, though it rounds out the tart and sweet flavors beautifully. It’s the whole fresh cranberries reserved before cooking and stirred in just before serving. You might think the fresh berries would be too tart without simmering—we did too—but the result is simply outstanding. This jammy sauce is punctuated by pops of whole cranberries. You can sub fresh orange juice for the orange liqueur if you like. Double the batch and use as a breakfast jam or sandwich spread, or spoon warm sauce over frozen yogurt.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts
With only 5 minutes of hands-on time, you'll have this side dish on the table in no time.
Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Look for long, thin sweet potatoes; they make better oven fries than shorter, more squat ones.
Rutabaga has a luscious buttery quality when cooked, so naturally, this root veggie shines in mash form. We incorporate potatoes as a way to provide the starch that rutabaga lacks, making for an ultrasilky, comforting hearty spin on classic Irish champ.
Roasted Red and Golden Beet Salad
This composed two-toned beet salad is a showstopping way to highlight the vegetable's natural beauty. We recommended dressing the red beets separately from the golden beets to preserve each one's rich jewel coloring (red beets aren't shy about spreading their natural beauty around).
Brussels Sprouts Salad with Pickled Rye Berries
Something rather lovely happens when you soak the chewier whole grains (such as rye or wheat berries) in a pickling brine; the tangy notes make the chew that much more enjoyable.
Butternut Squash with Orange
Orange zest and fresh orange juice provide a delicate hint of citrus to naturally-sweet butternut squash. Use freshly-squeezed orange juice instead of the bottled kind so you avoid unnecessary added sugar, which will be too sweet with the squash.
Asparagus with Crispy Pancetta
Dress up plain asparagus by sprinkling with pancetta, often referred to as Canadian bacon, and seasoning with pepper and lemon juice for a fresh taste.
A fresh, crisp salad balances the lineup of heavier, rich side dishes. You can follow a recipe or just compose one with pretty cuts of your favorite vegetables and herbs tossed with a light vinaigrette. Make this salad a day ahead if you want the flavors to absorb into the cauliflower a little more. Just hold off on adding the cheese until right before serving.
Turn up the volume on classic glazed carrots with exotic cardamom and fragrant fresh ginger. If you can find multicolored carrots, use them for a lovely presentation, as we did in the photo. The parchment paper lid slows moisture loss just enough to form a beautiful glaze.
Carrot Mash with Crème Fraîche
Simmered carrots are lightly buttered, but a bit of tart cream adds an extra-silky richness. We like the smooth texture you get from pureeing in a food processor; if you prefer a chunkier texture, use a potato masher. Garnish with green onions for added color.
Goat Cheese and Basil Polenta
Green Beans with Walnuts
Honey-Roasted Butternut Squash
This side is simple and fabulous. The cooking is mostly hands-off, and the prep is easy. Serve the tender butternut squash in large pieces to catch every last bit of the honey-butter drizzle.
Roasted Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes
Sautéed Green Beans with Spice-Glazed Pecans
Beat the last-minute cooking frenzy by making the glazed pecans up to 3 days in advance and storing at room temperature in an airtight container; double the ingredients for an appetizer guests can munch on before the meal.
Sweet Potato Stacks with Sage Browned Butter
Holiday sweet potato sides can lean toward too-sweet territory; a dose of salty, nutty Parmesan balances the flavor in these adorable, delicious stacks. Get the kids to help by having them stack the slices and cheese in muffin cups as you follow behind with the browned butter. Use small potatoes so the slices will fit into the muffin cups. Make sure to slice the potatoes on the thin side, about 1⁄4-inch thick, so they’ll cook through (insert a toothpick in the center of each stack to test for doneness). You can also alternate with slices of baking potato or parsnip for pretty white and orange layers.
White Balsamic and Rosemary Cranberry Sauce
If you’re looking for a way to amp up your traditional sauce, this is it. Fresh rosemary gives the sauce a light herbal flavor (the berries are robust enough to stand up to the piny herb). White balsamic vinegar balances the sweet and adds a dimension of fruity tang to the tart cranberries. If you don’t have white balsamic, use white wine vinegar or cider vinegar—regular balsamic is a bit too strong and would darken the finished sauce. Beyond your holiday plate (and inevitable holiday leftovers), add to a cheese plate or sandwich buffet. Omit the orange liqueur from the master recipe. Simmer cranberries with rosemary sprigs, sugar, water, and cranberries. Stir in balsamic vinegar.
Chorizo and Roasted Poblano Wild Rice Stuffing
Hot cooked wild rice is incredibly nutty and fragrant, a perfect counter to smoky paprika, quick roasted poblano peppers, and spicy fresh chorizo. Look for ground, raw Mexican chorizo rather than Spanish chorizo (cured, cased sausage). The rice will absorb the drippings from the sausage as the two bake together in the casserole dish. If you can’t find Mexican chorizo, try hot Italian pork or turkey sausage. We treat the rice the same as a bread stuffing—binding it with a mixture of stock, eggs, and butter—for a richer, more cohesive stuffing that will brown beautifully in the pan.
Grilled Radicchio and Sorghum Pilaf
The deep maroon hues come from radicchio and dried cranberries, whose bitter and sweet flavors add depth. When toasted, sorghum takes on a rich malty taste; just be prepared that it takes a long simmer to get it tender. Don’t be alarmed if, while toasting the grains on the front end, a few pop—just fish them out and continue with the recipe.
Potato and Leek Gratin
A mandoline will slice the potatoes quickly and to the same thickness, though a sharp knife will also work. Instead of being buried in cream, the potatoes and leeks are simmered in and drizzled with milk so the potatoes get wonderfully crisp and tender and the cheeses form a melty, golden crust. The result is a rich, rustic potato side with contrasting flavors and textures—a bit of crunch to round out the stuffing, sauces, and mashes on the plate. Reheat leftovers in the oven until crisped and warmed through, and then serve with eggs and a side of fruit for breakfast.
Side: Buttery Roasted Cauliflower
This quick 30-minute side gets its flavor from a mixture of shallots butter and fresh chives.
Olive Oil Mashed Potatoes
Olive oil is beautifully complex in flavor—a characteristic that gets muted in cooking—so we love it best when the flavor can really shine: drizzled over greens, roasted veggies, or velvety mashed potatoes. We skip the butter in this classic dish and add richness and depth with full-bodied extra-virgin olive oil. The oil saves a hefty 5.4g sat fat per serving over butter and adds a burst of full, fruity flavor when drizzled on top.
Supersavory Wild Rice Pilaf
The fluffy pilaf will soak in all the delicious juices from your plate making it the perfect side dish.
Sweet Potato Casserole with Crunchy Oat Topping
This classic casserole often straddles the line between side and dessert (indeed, we've enjoyed the leftovers both ways). We dial down the sugar to steer the dish back to savory territory, and add a crunchy oat and nut topper for texture. A final drizzle of maple syrup just before serving gives the casserole a lovely sheen. While we call for a ricer in our master mashed potatoes, a potato masher is perfectly acceptable here since the spuds will be bound with an egg, topped, and baked. Chopped almonds or walnuts would be a delicious sub for the pecans.
Roasted Kabocha and Kale Salad
Kobocha squash, also known as Japanese pumpkin, is the sweeter cousin of the pumpkin. The vivid orange flesh of this winter squash is tender and rich, with a flavor reminiscent of a sweet potato. While the shell is very hard when raw, it becomes very tender when cooked, making peeling optional. It's wonderful here, dressed with olive oil, coriander seeds, pepper, and salt.
Buttery Mirin Mushrooms
Super easy to get to the table, button mushrooms coated in butter and garlic makes this side dish melt-in-your-mouth delicious.
Roasted Cranberries and Grapes with Rosemary
Your relish is going to get a much needed revamp with the addition of grapes and rosemary. Black grapes have thicker skins than red grapes, and they'll hold up better under the broiler.
Braised Brussels Sprouts with Balsamic and Grapes
Braising is a simple technique that locks moisture and flavor into ingredients. Here, sweet grapes downplay pungent Brussels sprouts, and simmering these two ingredients together intensifies their unexpectedly satisfying flavor combination. For vegetarian or vegan diets, substitute olive oil for butter and water for chicken stock.
Cheesy Sorghum and Shaved Squash Pilaf
Long, slender ribbons of butternut squash make for a beautiful and unusual presentation; just be gentle when stirring so you don't break all those gorgeous pieces. Try to grab a squash with a long neck—that straight surface works best for ribboning. If you can't find sorghum, you can use farro.
Mushroom Carpaccio with Gremolata and Shaved Parmigiano
Fresh button mushrooms don't have loads of flavor, but they have a wonderfully meaty, dense texture. A sprinkle of garlicky gremolata, typically served with osso buco (braised veal), punches up the dish and makes it special.
This salad is the perfect antidote to the winter blues, and it pairs beautifully with foods of the season—roasts, stews, and braises. You could use a mandoline to slice the mushrooms, but a sharp knife will do.
Roasted Balsamic Radicchio with Pancetta and Walnuts
There are so many types of radicchio at the market, such as Castelfranco with its scarlet speckled leaves and Verona with its long, curled fingers. Round Chioggia is delicious roasted and topped with crispy pancetta and a drizzle of honey.
Radicchio—that bitter, crunchy, scarlet and white vegetable Italians adore, becomes entirely different when roasted. Its color deepens and the flavor turns mellow and nutty, with just a hint of bitterness remaining. Serve it alongside roast pork, chicken, or beef. Or, to turn it into a main course, chop and toss with hot cooked pasta.
Roasted Parsnips with Lemon and Herbs
If you’re not familiar with parsnips, try these quick recipes to acquaint yourself with them. The root veggies look like white carrots and have a decidedly sweet, earthy flavor. Shop for medium to small parsnips, as larger ones tend to have tough, woody cores. In the main recipe here, a hit of fresh lemon juice and sprinkling of fresh herbs make the whole dish taste fresh and bright. If you don’t have parsley on hand, you can leave it out, but do seek out the dill.