I’ve never been a do-or-die traditionalist when it comes to fall sides. There are just too many opportunities to surprise and delight with the hearty vegetables (beets, winter squash, leafy greens) and warm flavors of fall to make the same stuffing and green bean casserole every year. I also love the challenge of creating a colorful, balanced plate that excites the palate rather than weigh it down. If the Brussels sprouts are all my friends and family talk about this year, I’ll take that as a win.

These 5 sides are some of my absolute favorites:

So simple, so easy, and just 5 ingredients! Sautéed Brussels Sprouts with Bacon retain their crisp-tender texture and come together lickety split. I also love the stovetop sauté since it leaves the oven free for other tasks.

Sautéed Brussels Sprouts with BaconWild Rice Dressing with Roasted Chestnuts and Cranberries is the rock star side that might overshadow your bird, and it’s totally worth the effort. This whole grain alternative to bread stuffing is chock full of aromatics and plumped dried cranberries. Bottled roasted chestnuts, roasted once more in the oven, provide meaty nuggets throughout, though toasted hazelnuts or walnuts would also be delicious.

Wild Rice Dressing with Roasted Chestnuts and CranberriesIf fall isn’t fall to you without a mashed spud, you have to try Butter-Pecan Mashed Sweet Potatoes. Just 4 ingredients this time, and the sweet potatoes are cooked in the microwave in case oven space is at a premium. The nutty browned butter makes this a truly outstanding side.

 Butter-Pecan Mashed Sweet PotatoesFresh fennel is typically associated with spring, shaved raw into salads and slaws. But roasting them, especially for Roasted Fennel with Rosemary Breadcrumbs, is a total revelation. The natural sugars caramelize, the anise flavor mellows nicely, and the crunchy texture becomes almost velvety.

Roasted Fennel with Rosemary BreadcrumbsEvery fall I fall in love again with beets, and my favorite preparation by far is in a Roasted Red and Golden Beet Salad. Earthy beets need a sharp vinaigrette to make them shine, and this salad achieves just that. A bed of peppery watercress and a sprinkle of soft goat cheese are perfect compliments.

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