Gluten-Free Thanksgiving Side Dishes
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.
Bacon and Brussels Sprout Slaw
Slaws aren’t just for summer; their crunch and creamy, tangy dressing is a welcome contrast to the heartier dishes of fall. You can make it ahead or at the last minute, and it won’t take up valuable oven space. If using a mandoline to shred the Brussels sprouts, hold each by the stem end and slice whole, being careful not to get your fingers too close to the blade (you can also use a sharp knife). Try shredded Brussels sprouts as your salad base all season long, dressing at least 10 minutes before you plan to serve to soften the leaves.
Roasted Cabbage Wedges with Orange and Caraway
These slow-roasted wedges will make a cabbage convert out of anyone and are a beautiful first source sub for the usual appetizer salad. Leave the core intact so the wedges hold their shape. Caraway has an earthy, anise-like flavor, almost like a combination of cumin and fennel seed. Use a mortar and pestle or small heavy skillet to crush the caraway seeds, or pulse in a spice grinder.
Acorn Squash With Wild Rice Stuffing
This two-for-one dish of wild rice stuffing and roasted acorn squash is a sure crowd-pleaser. You can cut the stuffed halves into quarters so they don’t take up as much room on the plate. Wild rice takes about as much time to cook as long-grain brown rice, which you can use as a substitute. You can also make the rice ahead and refrigerate. Reheat with a splash of water before adding to the sausage mixture.
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.
A simple side of perfectly roasted carrots is the breather a crowded Thanksgiving table needs—a bit of palate relief (and ease for the cook) that still looks elegant. Sweet, slightly firm, and tossed with fresh parsley and cilantro, these carrots would fit here and all season long. Use any remaining cilantro in leftover turkey tacos or chili. For an extra-pretty presentation, cut the carrot pieces at a 45° angle before roasting.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Balsamic-Glazed Pearl Onions
Deeply caramelized with balsamic vinegar until glossy and browned, these sweet and tangy jewels are a gorgeous addition to your holiday plate. We actually prefer frozen, peeled pearl onions over fresh for convenience; you save a lot of time by not peeling fresh pearl onions. You will be tempted to stir the pan frequently as the liquid reduces, but the onions need time to cook undisturbed in order to get deeply browned. Keep the heat low so the liquid in the pan doesn’t dry up too quickly.
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.
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.
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
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.