Healthy Holiday Sides
Healthy Holiday Sides
Ginger-Chile Roasted Acorn Squash
Fresh ginger, red Fresno chile, and pomegranate don’t usually appear on the Thanksgiving table, but we love how they transform simply roasted squash into a dish with tingly heat and pops of color. Leave the sheet pan in the oven as it preheats to jump-start browning, saving roasting time in the oven.
Farro Stuffing with Butternut Squash, Red Onion, and Almonds
Side dishes shine during the holiday season, so don't settle for sub-par accompaniments. From bright, flavorful veggies to creamy mashed potatoes, we've got everything you need to make a great plate.
First up is this nontraditional stuffing, in which earthy flavors and starchy comfort come from whole-grain farro, not bread. You can assemble up to 2 days ahead. Take out of the fridge, let stand at room temperature 45 minutes, then bake at 350° for 25 minutes or until thoroughly heated.
Sheet Pan Roasted Vegetables
A 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.
Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Pomegranate and Pine Nuts
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.
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.
Skillet Green Bean Casserole
We've shortened (and lightened) this holiday classic by bringing everything together in one pan and using the stovetop and broiler rather than baking.
Grapefruit, Endive, and Arugula Salad
Tossing the endive leaves in the vinaigrette first softens their bitter edge. You could also sub thinly sliced fennel or chopped Romaine hearts.
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.
Sausage and Chestnut Dressing
Chestnuts bring rich, nutty flavor without adding much fat or many calories, as would pecans or walnuts. You can find whole roasted chestnuts in the baking aisle.
Baked Mac and Cheese
We added a surprise ingredient, canola mayonnaise, to make things extra creamy.
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.
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.
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.
Classic Corn Bread Dressing
This is the quintessential Thanksgiving side dish in the South. It is made from crumbled corn bread, with no added French or sourdough bread to cut it, so the texture is unique. Loads of aromatics give this dressing its flavor; don't be tempted to use less.
Cheesy Potato Casserole
Rather than using sodium-loaded canned soup, we made our own creamy sauce to update this dish.
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
No Thanksgiving table is complete without this sweetened vegetable. Our modern twist on the classic sweet potato casserole is a fragrant vanilla bean streusel.
Shaved Apple and Fennel Salad with Crunchy Spelt
Simply put, apples and fennel are right together—the flavors are so complementary. We love the way the paper-thin slices intertwine and then get interrupted by bright hits of parsley. Canola oil may seem like an odd choice, but we wanted to keep the flavors clean and straightforward; you can always use olive oil if you'd like the vinaigrette to assert itself.
Southern Corn Bread Dressing Squares
The original recipe is made with two sticks of butter, but we lightened it by saving most of the butter for the crispy top. Look for stuffing mixes free of additives, unhealthy fats, and sugar, such as Arrowhead Mills, Trader Joe's, or Whole Foods 365.
Roasted Broccoli with Pistachios and Pickled Golden Raisins
Some version of broccoli, usually laden with cream and cheese, lands on many a Thanksgiving table. But this dish, with its beautifully balanced flavors, is much lighter—and vegan.
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.
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.
Smoked Barley, Beet and Grapefruit Salad
This CL–perfected stovetop technique makes smoking food easier than ever (though the salad is still tasty if you choose not to smoke the grains), and smoke is such a fun flavor to apply to unexpected ingredients like barley. A sweet vinaigrette, earthy beets, and the intense citrus twang of grapefruit balance the robust smoky hit of the grains for a memorable salad. To make sure you're getting the whole-grain version of barley, look for hulled, and skip past pearled.
Roasted Turnips With Sage Browned Butter
Sage and browned butter is a classic pairing that enhances roasted turnips (which look like white, oversized radishes). Toss with the butter mixture as soon as the turnips are done.
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.
Sautéed Green Beans with Miso Butter
Super savory miso elevates crisp beans beyond their humble goodness.
Garlic-Caper Roasted Mushrooms
Roasted mushrooms are a revelation—intensely savory yet still tender and juicy. The mushrooms transform again once tossed with garlic butter, briny capers, and fresh lemon. Use cremini or baby bella mushrooms here—white button mushrooms are too mild. Dress the mushrooms right after roasting so the mixture stays vibrant. Both earthy and bright, this dish pairs well with any combination of fall dishes.
Leek and Pancetta Potato Rösti
Maximum surface area means more crunchy bits in this rösti, essentially a large potato pancake, perfect for the hash brown lovers in your family. If making ahead, cool on a wire rack, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate. Reheat in an ovenproof skillet at 350° for 10 minutes or until recrisped.
Triple-Herb Pumpernickel and Sourdough Stuffing
This two-toned stuffing actually boasts five herbs, though hearty sage, rosemary, and thyme are most prominent. Look for packages of poultry herbs at the store; they’ll contain just the right amount of each these three herbs. You could also stick to just sage or rosemary, but leave the amounts as they are; otherwise they will overwhelm the dish. Look for bakery-style bread loaves, not presliced sandwich bread. If you can’t find pumpernickel, you can substitute seeded rye bread.
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.
Caramelized Onion and Garlic Mashed Potatoes
You can respond to cries of "It's not Thanksgiving without mashed spuds!" by taking this classic to the next level: Think garlic-infused olive oil and sweet caramelized onions.
Linguiça Sausage Stuffing with Mushrooms
This twist on a classic sausage and sourdough stuffing uses smoky Portuguese linguiça in place of crumbled pork sausage. Kielbasa or any smoked sausage would also work.
Crispy Smashed Potatoes with Chive Sour Cream
These potatoes deliver the best of both worlds: creamy, starchy center and crisp, golden edges. To smash, place the back of a wide spatula over each potato, and then press with the heel of your hand.
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.
Winter Radish Salad With Parsley And Olives
Sautéed Haricots Verts with Bacon Breadcrumbs
Slender haricots verts get delightfully browned and crisp in the pan. A bacon breadcrumb topper makes them an instant crowd-pleaser.
Pear, Sage, and Golden Raisin Stuffing
Pears are at their peak in late fall and their firm texture is ideal for baking. Here we fold them into a classic sourdough stuffing with plump golden raisins and fresh sage. A little thick-cut bacon goes a long way here, leaving just enough drippings in the pan to sauté the vegetables. You could also use diced pancetta (such as Boar’s Head). Look for a whole-wheat sourdough loaf from the bakery section—the thick crust and hearty texture will absorb more liquid. Cut leftover stuffing into squares and reheat in the oven to crisp the edges.
Crispy Caulifower with Italian Salsa Verde
Southern Green Beans And Potatoes
Green beans, a holiday staple, are only improved with the addition of tender red and golden potatoes. Only peeling a single strip from the spuds makes for a great presentation and also helps them release more starch.
Fennel and Blood Orange Salad
This salad is a feast for the eyes, and a welcome relief from the brown and gold tones on the Thanksgiving table. Sweet-tart blood oranges and a honey vinaigrette offset the bitter edge of the endive and radicchio (you can also use milder romaine lettuce hearts). If you can’t find blood oranges, try ruby red grapefruit or pretty pink Cara Cara oranges.
Apple-Sage Stuffing Cups
The muffin cups give you crispy edges and a tender interior in half the time, though the stuffing won't hold its shape like a traditional muffin. Presliced bread and prechopped onion and celery save time.
Creamed Greens with Farro
This dish takes its cues from classic creamed spinach and raises the bar with braised mixed greens, whole-grain farro, and a crisp panko crust. Hearty yet not heavy, and gorgeous straight out of the oven, this is the kind of side that looks and feels holiday special. Swiss chard and dark, bumpy lacinato kale both wilt down fairly quickly; their texture and vibrancy will stand out once combined with the creamy three-cheese sauce. The farro can be cooked, drained, and refrigerated in an airtight container for up to a week before Thanksgiving.
Green Bean Casserole with Caulifower Cream
Once simmered in milk and pureed, cauliflower transforms into a silky, luscious cream sauce—a dead ringer for the classic yet with a much better profile, saving nearly 500mg sodium and 4g fat per serving. We intensify the mushroom presence by using meaty cremini and shiitake mushrooms and roasting them first to cook out the excess liquid. If you can’t find shiitakes, use 2 (8-oz.) packages of cremini mushrooms. Skip the fried onions and use torn whole-wheat bread for a rustic, crunchy topper.
Maple-Caraway Brussels Sprouts
Layer upon layer of bold flavor earned these Brussels sprouts our test kitchen’s highest rating. The sprouts get deeply caramelized in toasted caraway and browned butter, then are quickly finished with a sweet and pungent mixture of maple syrup, Dijon mustard, and sherry vinegar. Caraway has an anise-like flavor similar to fennel seed. Add to roasted carrots or parsnips, or sprinkle over whole-grain rolls or crackers. Start the caraway and thyme in a cold pan so they can infuse the butter as it browns.
Potato and Parsnip Gratin
The addition of parsnips is an elegant twist to this traditionally all-potato dish. Parboiling and drying the sliced parsnips and potatoes first will keep them from absorbing the sauce in the oven so the gratin stays creamy. Half-and-half is our dairy of choice for this dish—a combination of equal parts cream and whole milk that gives the sauce its body while keeping the saturated fat at just 3g per serving. Toss the vegetables gently with the sauce so the slices don’t fall apart.
Roasted Butternut Squash With Sticky Walnut Topping
Molasses complements the sweetness of the roasted butternut squash and gives the slices a deeply bronzed look. We add cider vinegar for balance and stir in walnuts for a sticky, praline-like topping. The dish is best served warm, when the molasses mixture is still gooey. You can roast the squash ahead and reheat the slices while you make the topping. A quick trick for cleaning a sticky saucepan: Fill with water and bring to a boil, letting any residue dissolve, and then drain.