Vegan Thanksgiving 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.
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.
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.
Cabbage Salad With Miso Vinaigrette
Fresh cabbage is all about crunch; the more texture, the better. Napa cabbage can absorb bold vinaigrettes without losing its crisp bite. Carrots, red onion, and daikon radish add even more crunch to the salad. Red miso paste is a soybean paste that ferments longer than yellow or white miso, giving it a deep umami flavor. Stir until the paste has completely dissolved into the vinegar mixture before tossing with the salad.
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.
Roasted Kabocha and Kale Salad
Usually crammed with cream soup-based casseroles or cheese-smothered pasta, Thanksgiving sides aren't always vegan-friendly territory. But these plant-based recipes build on seasonal flavors to make a spread that anyone can enjoy.
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.
Pickled Onion Slaw
A quick slaw makes a tangy side that pairs with an assortment of main dishes. Our homemade version keeps the cabbage crisp. We use honey to sweeten ours.
Sage-Roasted Carrots and Turnips
Wrap the vegetables in a foil packet so they steam gently and are easy to flip all at once. Place the packet right on the floor of the oven so the vegetables cook through quickly.
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.
Fennel and Radicchio Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette
There's something about the sweet anise flavor of fresh fennel and bright citrus that go so well together. Citrus grows all over Italy, from blood oranges to grapefruit to lemons. It is a dominant flavor in the cuisine. Let the salad stand at room temperature at least 30 minutes before serving. This allows the dressing to penetrate the vegetables and tenderize them a bit for a less aggressive crunch.
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.
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.
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.
Sweet Heat Green Beans
We use sambal oelek to add kick to fresh vegetables, tossing it in crispy green beans and mixed with honey for the perfect sweet-meets-spicy, Asian-style veggie dish. Serve this as a side or bring it to a potluck for a flavorful surprise.
Baby Carrots with Herb Dressing and Olives
Look for baby carrots with some of the green tops attached; reserve and chop for tossing with the steamed carrots. Carrots should be about the width of your thumb; halve larger ones so they cook evenly. Steaming is gentler than boiling and faster than roasting. And, because the carrots are less caramelized, the fresh herbs stand out more.
Lemon-Herb White Bean and Kale Salad
Get 7 grams of protein in this speedy side salad that comes together in a flash.
Quinoa Salad with Pistachios and Currants
Grains, nuts, and dried fruit are typical in the Sephardic community—Jews who immigrated from Spain, Yemen, and the Mediterranean. (Ashkenazic Jews brought bread and potatoes from Eastern Europe.) Quinoa is a modern twist. Dried currants are smaller and less sweet than raisins, but either will work in this dish.
Miso Roasted Cauliflower
Boost your cauliflower with this powerhouse ingredient that lends savory depth to this dish.
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.
Braised Artichokes, Favas, and Carrots in Creamy Lemon Sauce With Fennel
We love the artichokes in this dish—they add their unique flavor and somehow make everything taste just a little sweeter. The olive oil emulsifies with the braising liquid to create a silky sauce that deliciously coats the bright spring veggies. Thin lemon slices, charred and caramelized in a cast-iron pan, make a nice garnish.
Roasted Whole Carrots
Oven roasting surrounds vegetables with dry, hot, even heat that heightens flavor, browns and crisps exteriors, and cooks interiors to perfect tenderness.
Simple Blistered Broccolini
Broccolini has a milder flavor than broccoli and tastes delicious roasted and simply seasoned with salt, pepper, and olive oil.
Fresh carrots stand in for bulgur in this no-cook, gluten-free side dish. You can use white wine vinegar in place of lemon juice.
Haricots Verts with Carrots and Sesame
Slender haricots verts need little embellishment. Here they're tossed with a good dose of carrots and sesame seeds. Once it's cooked, the flavor mellows considerably. If you can't find the tiny French green beans, substitute regular green beans and increase the cook time in boiling water to five minutes to ensure they're done.
Roasted Fennel with Rosemary Breadcrumbs
Instead of roasted root vegetables or Brussels sprouts, try roasted fennel. Fennel has licorice notes that mellow in the oven, becoming slightly sweet. A splash of cider vinegar at the end brightens the dish.
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.
Grated Carrot Salad
Raw carrots are cut in fine julienne, then dressed with a lemony vinaigrette with a hint of garlic. Before serving, the salad is showered with freshly cut chives (and chive blossoms, if you have some).
Smoky Eggplant with Scallion Oil
When you cut into an eggplant, it seems dry and spongy, but once roasted in a jacket of its own skin, it becomes soft and rich, almost fatty. I love that unexpected transformation. For me, it's a total wow. Choose eggplants that feel heavy for their size. If you prefer not to grill or char on the burner of your stovetop, you can halve the eggplant lengthwise; place, skin side up, on a foil-lined baking sheet; and bake at 450°F for 30 to 45 minutes or until very tender You'll lose some of the char, but the dish will still be delicious.
Quick Farro Salad
Precooked farro makes a quick and hearty base for side salads.
Parsnip Ribbons with Miso Vinaigrette
A little sweet, a little salty, a bit of toasty, and a touch of tang—the makings of a grade-A salad.