100+ Healthy Thanksgiving Side Dishes
105 Best Thanksgiving Side Dishes
Tangy Glazed Brussels Sprouts
Tangy white balsamic vinegar teams up with pomegranate juice to rev up this twist on the classic Thanksgiving side dish.
Sausage, Apple, and Herb Stuffing
This healthy stuffing recipe captures the traditional stuffing vibe with the flavors of sausage, aromatic vegetables, sage, and thyme. The bread soaks up all the goodness and stays moist inside, with a crispy layer on top. Bulk sausage is ideal, but you could use links and just remove the casings. You can skip the first step if you cut the bread into cubes and let them dry on the counter for 24 hours.
Green Bean Casserole
We’ve given the classic casserole an upgrade by swapping sodium-heavy canned soup for a rich and chunky homemade mushroom sauce. For bean blanching instructions, see the note on the recipe at left.
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.
For a holiday side with earthy, savory depth, add a trio of mushrooms: creminis, meaty shiitakes, and mild white button mushrooms. A splash of sherry vinegar picks up the browned bits in the pan and rounds out the flavors beautifully. The mushrooms will release plenty of liquid after a couple of minutes in the pan; be patient and let these juices evaporate so your stuffing will be rich, not soggy.
Green Beans with Bacon
Shallots and garlic kick up the green beans’ flavor, toasted pecans add crunch and fiber, and center-cut bacon lends a salty punch without tons of sat fat. Last but not least, utilizing the rendered bacon grease in the skillet eliminates the need for butter.
Brussels Sprouts Tarte Tatin
The key to delicious Brussels sprouts is to cook them just enough so their flavor stays earthy-sweet and their texture tender without too much give. Use our “knife test” as described in this recipe to check for doneness. They’re best served right away (they’re not a great make-ahead option), so plan accordingly.
Spinach and Feta Quiche with Sweet Potato Crust
The simple, scalloped shell made from thinly sliced rounds of sweet potatoes makes this version of a popular brunch (or supper) dish gluten-free. Choose potatoes with comparable diameters to create uniform slices for the easy-to-make crust. A mandoline makes slicing quick and precise, but a sharp chef's knife will work too. You can also slice the potatoes in the food processor using the slicing blade.
We use the tart-shell method from the master recipe for a fuss-free version of the classic Greek spinach-and-cheese-pastry. A little pimiento, brightened with vinegar, adds pop; you could also sub chopped olives. Make sure to drain the spinach mixture well; extra liquid could make the crust soggy. Let the spinach drain while the crust bakes. Build and finish baking the tart shortly before guests arrive.
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. For a vegan version, omit the Parmesan cheese.
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.
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.
Wild Rice–Pecan Stuffing
This stovetop recipe would make a tasty addition to your Thanksgiving table. Both wild and brown rice reach the perfect level of tenderness (without getting mushy); the wild rice gets a bit of a head start so that everything cooks to the ideal texture at the end.
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.
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.
Classic Turkey Gravy
Slow-roasted turkey juices reduce and intensify for a divine sauce. It gives the meat a little extra moisture and richness and rounds out the rest of the plate. Use any reserved giblets here. If you didn't roast the neck, sauté it for 8 minutes. Remove and discard the neck once the gravy is done. For a sweet twist, try our Maple-Pepper Gravy or Gravy Bordelaise with sliced shallots and dry red wine.
Modify the recipe for our Honey Whole-Wheat Pull-Apart Rolls by stirring in Asiago cheese and chopped rosemary. Substitute 1 tablespoon sugar for honey and reducing butter to 1 1/2 tablespoons. Add 1/4 cup grated Asiago cheese and 1 tablespoon chopped rosemary to milk mixture with butter, sugar, and eggs in step 1. Sprinkle 1 tablespoons grated Asiago over rolls before baking.
Black Pepper and Herb Mashed Potatoes
Buttermilk adds an extra layer of creaminess to these herb-infused potatoes flecked with parsley, tarragon, and chives.
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.
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.
Whole-Wheat Seeded Breadsticks
Just a couple of turns of the wrist transforms ordinary breadsticks into lovely holiday twists. The key is to twist the dough no more than three times, otherwise the breadsticks will become too tightly wound and lose their subtle corkscrew shape. Gently score the rectangle of dough to measure out the strips before cutting them (a 12-inch ruler is especially helpful here). We love an “everything” mix of seeds, but you can use any combination you like. You can also substitute chopped fresh herbs, grated fresh orange rind, or freshly cracked black pepper.
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.
Pancetta, Kale, and Raisin Stuffing
Torn bread gives this healthy stuffing a lovely rustic appearance, but you can cube it if you’d rather. Kale, pancetta, and raisins all provide a flavor update, and there’s just enough red pepper to give a hint of heat.
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.
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.
Green Bean Salad
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.
Whole-Grain Spelt and Cornmeal Biscuits
Gently pat the dough flat instead of rolling with a rolling pin. Patting preserves all the pockets of fat needed for flaky biscuits, whereas rolling pancakes them into small, dense pucks. Cut the biscuits into squares to avoid any leftover scraps. This will also help you avoid the twisting motion of using a cutter that can also lead to flat biscuits. Spelt flour adds a deep nutty flavor, but you can use white whole-wheat flour if you can't find spelt.
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.
Sweet Potato Medallions with Almond Sauce and Chickpea Salad
It may seem too good to be true, but it's not: This impressive plate requires only 5 ingredients (water, oil, salt, and pepper are freebies). Microwaved sweet potatoes are sliced into medallions, brushed with oil, and lightly seared so they become satisfyingly steak-like. The creamy, nutty sauce adds richness, and the lemon-dressed arugula-chickpea salad bulks up the plate beautifully. In place of almond butter, you can use any nut butter you like—try peanut, cashew, or sunflower butter. And if canned chickpeas aren't in your pantry, try cannellini or navy beans.
Tricolored Beet Tart
Start your holiday meal with a simple yet gorgeous beet tart, topped off with tangy goat cheese, crunchy hazelnuts, and flaky sea salt. Par-bake the crust to get a lovely raised edge (what forms the shell of your tart) and ensure that the bottom will be cooked through. If you or your guests are not beet fans, substitute sweet potatoes: Wrap 4 (4-ounce) sweet potatoes in parchment paper, and microwave at HIGH 3 minutes. Then cool, peel, and slice. You can also sub feta for goat cheese and pecans or walnuts for hazelnuts.
Dirty Farro Stuffing
Give nutty whole-grain farro the dirty rice treatment with the classic trinity (onion, bell pepper, and celery) and spicy andouille sausage. The chicken liver adds incredible richness without any livery flavor—it's the "secret" ingredient that will have guests scraping the dish clean. Use turkey liver if your bird comes with one, or omit the liver all together for a side with a little less depth that’s still delicious. You can try brown rice, barley, or wild rice in place of farro. To turn this side into a leftover main, reheat with a splash of chicken stock and stir in a can of unsalted, rinsed, and drained black-eyed peas.
Spiced Apple-Cranberry Sauce
A trio of warm spices takes this holiday staple out of candy-sweet territory and into the world of robust holiday condiments. The sauce is delicious to top off your holiday protein for the rest of the season. Apples counter the tartness of the cranberries and help the sauce thicken. No fine dice on the apples here; the rustic chunky look of the two fruits is what makes the sauce beautiful and enticing. If you’re feeling extra generous, double the batch and spoon into small jars for guests to take home.
Kale, Jicama, and Orange Salad
Bland veggie trays tend to lose out over sugary treats; serve this dish instead. This salad pops with color and texture from juicy citrus, creamy avocado, and crisp jicama. Dark, bumpy kale fits the mood, but you can substitute any lettuce you like. We love the pink hue of Cara Cara oranges in the salad, but regular navel or even blood oranges (in keeping with the spooky theme) would also work. Sturdy lacinato kale will become perfectly tender when dressed and left to stand at room temperature. Coating the avocado in the dressing first will keep it from browning while you're out having fun.
Apple, Cranberries, and Pecan Stuffing
We give the classic holiday side a fall spin with fresh apple, toasted pecans, and dried cranberries. For the vegetarians at your table, you can substitute vegetable stock for the chicken stock. Raisins and walnuts can work in place of the cranberries and pecans.
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.
Baked Mac and Cheese
We added a surprise ingredient, canola mayonnaise, to make things extra creamy.
Side: Savory Sweet Potato Mash
Get your daily dose of vitamin A with this nutritious side. In addition to providing you with 400% of your daily vitamin A requirement, you'll receive a boost of vitamin C and fiber. So grab your thyme, butter, milk, salt, and pepper, and start mashing.
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.
Spicy Broccoli Rabe with Fried Walnuts
This side dish gets a sprinkling of nutty flavor from walnuts that are lightly dusted with powdered sugar and fried. The sweetness of the nuts plays off the bitter personality of the broccoli rabe. If you prefer a less bitter taste, substitute Broccolini. This hybrid of broccoli and Chinese kale has big, almost fluffy florets and thinner stalks than broccoli. Whichever vegetable you use, blanching will soften the firm stalks to get them ready for a quick sauté to pick up flavor from pungent garlic and lemon zest. Make sure not to skip the instructions to rinse the broccoli rabe after it is blanched to stop the vegetable from overcooking.
Radicchio, Frisée, Apple, and Manchego Salad
Pleasantly bitter radicchio and frisée balance sweet notes from honey and fresh apple, while rich, salty Manchego rounds out the flavors.
Cran-Blueberry Sauce with Candied Ginger
Make this sauce a couple of days ahead, and refrigerate in an airtight container. Reheat in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, adding water—a tablespoon or two—to thin it.
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).
Roasted Parsnips with Walnuts, Maple, and Thyme
If you're not familiar with parsnips, they look like white carrots and have a decidedly sweet, earthy flavor. Avoid larger parsnips, which tend to have tough, woody cores.
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.
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: Lemony White Bean-and-Arugula Salad
An quick side salad with cannellini beans lends healthy plant-based protein to your meal, and a simple DIY dressing keeps sodium low by using less salt than bottled versions you'll find in the grocery store.
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.
Supersavory Wild Rice Pilaf
The fluffy pilaf will soak in all the delicious juices from your plate making it the perfect side dish.
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.
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.
Make-Ahead Turkey Gravy
The key to flavorful gravy is a good turkey stock. In the fall, it's easy to find turkey wings, which make an especially rich stock. Try this classic gravy or one of the variations at right. All can be made ahead, cooled, and frozen up to two months. Thaw; then reheat over medium-low, stirring with a whisk.
Savory Harvest Vegetable Tart with Toasted Quinoa Crust
The brilliant use of whole-grain quinoa for a press-in-the-pan tart shell hits all the right marks. Toasting the grain adds nutty crunch to the foolproof crust. Peppered goat cheese and a colorful crown of caramelized veggies make this dish simply spectacular.
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.
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.
Roasted Cranberries and Grapes with Rosemary
Grapes, rosemary, and cinnamon elevate traditional cranberry sauce in an unexpectedly delicious way. Simply combine all ingredients on a jelly-roll pan and let the broiler do its magic. We recommend black grapes for their sturdier skins, but you can substitute red grapes if necessary.
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.