Best Thanksgiving Side Dishes – Top 10 Flavorful Delights

Top 10 Best Thanksgiving Side Dishes

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Best Thanksgiving Side Dishes


The Best Sweet Potato Casserole


Best Ever Green Bean Casserole


Perfect Cranberry Sauce


Parker House Rolls


Mashed Potatoes


Caramelized Onion and Cornbread Stuffing


Balsamic-Roasted Brussels Sprouts


Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Honey and Cinnamon


Southern Baked Mac and Cheese


Air Fryer Acorn Squash with Brown Butter

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Best Thanksgiving Side Dishes

Thanksgiving is a time for family gatherings, gratitude, and, of course, an abundance of delicious food. While the turkey may take center stage, the best Thanksgiving side dishes are what truly elevate the meal to a memorable feast. From creamy mashed potatoes to savory stuffing, vibrant cranberry sauce, and a cornucopia of vegetables, these sides not only complement the turkey but also add diverse flavors and textures to the holiday spread. Join us on a culinary journey as we explore some of the most beloved and mouthwatering Thanksgiving side dishes that will have everyone gathered around the table giving thanks for the wonderful flavors of the season.


1. The Best Sweet Potato Casserole

Best Thanksgiving Side Dishes - Top 10 Flavorful Delights

Sweet potato casserole is a quintessential Thanksgiving side dish that strikes the perfect balance between sweet and savory. To create the best sweet potato casserole, start with roasted or boiled sweet potatoes that are mashed until smooth. Then, add a blend of ingredients that typically includes butter, brown sugar, and warm spices like cinnamon and nutmeg. Some variations even incorporate orange zest or juice for an extra layer of flavor.

The topping is where this dish truly shines, often consisting of a generous layer of pecans or marshmallows (or both), creating a delightful contrast in texture and taste. The casserole is baked until the topping is golden and crispy, while the sweet potato base remains creamy and decadent. The result is a harmonious medley of flavors and textures that will have your taste buds dancing with delight. Whether served as a side dish or a dessert, the best sweet potato casserole is sure to become a cherished part of your Thanksgiving tradition.

2. Best Ever Green Bean Casserole

Best Thanksgiving Side Dishes - Top 10 Flavorful Delights

Green bean casserole is a timeless classic on Thanksgiving tables across the United States. The best version of this dish begins with fresh or frozen green beans, which are blanched to maintain their vibrant color and crispness. The creamy sauce that binds it all together typically combines mushroom soup, milk, and seasonings, adding depth and umami to the dish. A generous layer of crispy fried onions crowns the casserole, providing a delightful crunch and a burst of flavor.

This combination of tender green beans, creamy sauce, and crunchy onions creates a satisfying and comforting side dish that perfectly complements the turkey and other Thanksgiving staples. It’s a crowd-pleaser that embodies the essence of the holiday season, and no Thanksgiving feast is complete without the best-ever green bean casserole gracing the table.

3. Perfect Cranberry Sauce

Best Thanksgiving Side Dishes - Top 10 Flavorful Delights

Cranberry sauce is the tangy, sweet, and slightly tart condiment that brings balance and brightness to the Thanksgiving plate. To achieve the perfect cranberry sauce, start with fresh cranberries, which are simmered with sugar, water, and often a hint of citrus zest or juice. The cranberries burst open during cooking, releasing their natural pectin, which thickens the sauce as it cools. The best cranberry sauce strikes a harmonious balance between sweet and tart flavors, with just the right amount of texture from the whole cranberries.

Homemade cranberry sauce is surprisingly easy to make, and its vibrant red color and zesty taste add a refreshing contrast to the rich and savory elements of the Thanksgiving meal. Whether you opt for a traditional recipe or experiment with creative additions like orange zest, cinnamon, or even a splash of liqueur, a perfectly prepared cranberry sauce is an essential part of any Thanksgiving spread, offering a burst of flavor that brightens every bite.

4. Parker House Rolls

Best Thanksgiving Side Dishes - Top 10 Flavorful Delights

Parker House Rolls are a classic Thanksgiving side dish that has stood the test of time. These soft, buttery rolls have a rich history dating back to the 19th century when they were first created at the Parker House Hotel in Boston. What sets these rolls apart is their unique shape – they are typically folded in half before baking, resulting in a slightly crispy outer layer and a tender, fluffy interior. The rolls are brushed with melted butter both before and after baking, giving them a rich, golden-brown color and a decadent flavor.

The aroma of freshly baked Parker House Rolls is enough to make anyone’s mouth water, and they are the perfect vessel for sopping up gravy or enjoying with a slather of creamy butter. These rolls strike a delightful balance between sweetness and saltiness, making them a versatile addition to any Thanksgiving table. Whether you enjoy them warm out of the oven or use them to create mini turkey sandwiches the next day, Parker House Rolls are a beloved Thanksgiving tradition that adds a touch of warmth and comfort to the holiday feast.

5. Mashed Potatoes

Best Thanksgiving Side Dishes - Top 10 Flavorful Delights

Mashed potatoes are a timeless Thanksgiving classic that embody comfort and indulgence. Made from peeled, boiled, and mashed potatoes, this side dish is a canvas for creativity. While the basic recipe calls for butter, cream, salt, and pepper, variations abound. Some opt for roasted garlic or herbs, while others incorporate cheese, sour cream, or even bacon bits. The result is a creamy, velvety concoction that provides the perfect contrast to the savory and rich flavors of the Thanksgiving turkey and gravy.

Mashed potatoes not only bring a heavenly taste to the table but also a heartwarming sense of nostalgia. They symbolize family gatherings and the warmth of home-cooked meals. Fluffy, creamy, and utterly satisfying, they can be a blank slate for personal touches, making them an essential Thanksgiving side dish that everyone looks forward to. Whether served in a simple heap or elegantly piped onto the plate, mashed potatoes are a versatile and beloved part of the holiday spread that offers comfort and indulgence in every bite.

6. Caramelized Onion and Cornbread Stuffing

Best Thanksgiving Side Dishes - Top 10 Flavorful Delights

Caramelized Onion and Cornbread Stuffing is a delightful twist on the classic stuffing, infusing it with a medley of flavors and textures that elevate it to a Thanksgiving masterpiece. This stuffing starts with cubes of cornbread, which bring a slightly sweet and crumbly texture to the dish. What sets it apart is the addition of caramelized onions, which impart a rich, sweet, and savory complexity that enhances every forkful. Combined with aromatic herbs like sage and thyme, this stuffing is a harmonious blend of sweet and savory notes, making it an exceptional accompaniment to the turkey.

The process of caramelizing the onions is an essential step in this recipe. Slow-cooked until they turn a deep golden brown, the onions develop a natural sweetness that adds depth and character to the stuffing. When mixed with the cornbread and other ingredients like celery, broth, and eggs, the result is a stuffing that’s not only delicious but also a delightful departure from tradition. Caramelized Onion and Cornbread Stuffing brings a touch of sophistication and gourmet flair to your Thanksgiving table while paying homage to the cherished flavors of the season. It’s a side dish that will have your guests asking for seconds and sharing the recipe for years to come.

7. Balsamic-Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Best Thanksgiving Side Dishes - Top 10 Flavorful Delights

Balsamic-roasted Brussels sprouts are a delightful Thanksgiving side dish that combines the earthy flavors of Brussels sprouts with the sweet and tangy notes of balsamic vinegar. To prepare this dish, start by trimming and halving fresh Brussels sprouts, then tossing them in a mixture of balsamic vinegar, olive oil, honey, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Roast them in the oven until they’re caramelized and crispy on the outside, yet tender on the inside. The result is a harmonious blend of textures and flavors, with the natural bitterness of Brussels sprouts mellowed by the sweetness of the balsamic glaze. This side dish not only adds a burst of color to your Thanksgiving table but also provides a healthy and tasty option that even Brussels sprouts skeptics might enjoy.

Balsamic-roasted Brussels sprouts offer a balance of savory and sweet, making them an ideal accompaniment to your Thanksgiving turkey. The balsamic reduction forms a glossy glaze that not only enhances the visual appeal of the dish but also intensifies the Brussels sprouts’ natural flavors. The dish can be customized with additional ingredients like crispy bacon bits, toasted almonds, or grated Parmesan cheese to add extra depth and richness. Whether you’re a fan of Brussels sprouts or looking to convert skeptics, this dish is sure to become a favorite addition to your Thanksgiving spread, bringing a burst of vibrant flavors to the table.

8. Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Honey and Cinnamon

Best Thanksgiving Side Dishes - Top 10 Flavorful Delights

Roasted sweet potatoes with honey and cinnamon are a quintessential Thanksgiving side dish that celebrates the natural sweetness and vibrant colors of this root vegetable. To create this dish, peel and cube sweet potatoes, then toss them in a mixture of olive oil, honey, ground cinnamon, and a pinch of salt. Roast them in the oven until they’re tender, caramelized, and slightly crispy around the edges. The result is a symphony of flavors – the sweet, earthy notes of the sweet potatoes are complemented by the warm spiciness of cinnamon and the luscious sweetness of honey. This side dish not only adds a pop of orange to your Thanksgiving plate but also offers a delightful contrast to savory turkey and other traditional sides.

Roasted sweet potatoes with honey and cinnamon are not only delicious but also a nutritious addition to your holiday meal. Sweet potatoes are rich in vitamins, fiber, and antioxidants, making them a healthier alternative to classic mashed potatoes. The honey and cinnamon glaze adds a touch of warmth and sweetness, elevating the dish to a dessert-like level without being overly sugary. This Thanksgiving side is sure to be a hit with both kids and adults, as it captures the essence of the season in a comforting and flavorful way, reminding everyone of the joys of autumn.

9. Southern Baked Mac and Cheese

Best Thanksgiving Side Dishes - Top 10 Flavorful Delights

Southern Baked Mac and Cheese is the epitome of comfort food. This indulgent side dish hails from the American South and is a beloved addition to Thanksgiving tables and other special occasions. What sets it apart from other mac and cheese recipes is its rich and creamy texture, thanks to a velvety cheese sauce made from a blend of sharp cheddar and other cheeses, combined with a buttery roux. Elbow macaroni or other pasta varieties are smothered in this cheese sauce before being baked to perfection. The result is a gooey, bubbling casserole with a crispy, golden-brown crust that’s nothing short of heavenly. The combination of flavors and textures in Southern Baked Mac and Cheese makes it a crowd-pleaser that will have guests reaching for seconds.

One of the secrets to an exceptional Southern Baked Mac and Cheese is the choice of cheese. While cheddar is a must for its sharpness, other cheeses like mozzarella, Monterey Jack, or Gruyère can be added to create a more complex flavor profile. Some recipes also incorporate ingredients like Dijon mustard, paprika, or even a dash of hot sauce to give the dish a subtle kick. Whether served as a side dish or a main course, this Southern classic is sure to become a family favorite for generations to come.

10. Air Fryer Acorn Squash with Brown Butter

Best Thanksgiving Side Dishes - Top 10 Flavorful Delights

Air Fryer Acorn Squash with Brown Butter is a modern twist on a classic fall side dish that’s perfect for Thanksgiving. Acorn squash, with its sweet and nutty flavor, is a seasonal favorite, and the air fryer provides a quick and efficient way to cook it to perfection. Slices of acorn squash are brushed with a mixture of melted butter, brown sugar, and warm spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, infusing them with a delightful sweetness. As the squash cooks in the air fryer, it becomes tender and caramelized on the outside, with a soft and creamy interior. The addition of brown butter, which is simply butter that’s been gently cooked until it turns a rich, nutty brown, adds a layer of complexity and depth to this delectable side dish.

What makes this dish particularly appealing is its simplicity and speed. The air fryer not only reduces cooking time but also ensures even browning and a slightly crispy texture that contrasts beautifully with the squash’s natural sweetness. Air Fryer Acorn Squash with Brown Butter is a delightful addition to your Thanksgiving menu, offering a balance of sweet and savory flavors that pairs perfectly with roast turkey and other holiday favorites. Plus, it’s a convenient option for home cooks looking to maximize oven space on this busy culinary holiday.

How to Elevate Your Thanksgiving Table?

Elevating your Thanksgiving table is about taking traditional side dishes and infusing them with creativity, flavor, and presentation to make your holiday feast an unforgettable experience. Here are some tips and ideas on how to do just that:

1. Experiment with Unique Ingredients:

Consider using unique or unexpected ingredients to add depth and interest to classic dishes. For example, add roasted garlic and Parmesan to your mashed potatoes or incorporate ingredients like smoked paprika or truffle oil into your mac and cheese for a delightful twist.

2. Play with Seasonal Produce:

Embrace the flavors of the season by incorporating a variety of colorful and seasonal vegetables into your side dishes. Roasted Brussels sprouts with balsamic glaze or maple-glazed carrots can add both visual appeal and delicious taste to your table.

3. Try International Flavors:

Take inspiration from global cuisines to create unique side dishes. For instance, you can infuse your stuffing with Mediterranean flavors by adding olives, feta cheese, and sun-dried tomatoes or create a spicy cranberry chutney with Asian-inspired spices.

4. Elevate Presentation:

The way you present your side dishes can have a significant impact. Consider using elegant serving platters, garnishes, and edible flowers to make your dishes visually appealing. Individual servings or colorful layered presentations can also add a touch of sophistication to your table.

5. Balance Flavors and Textures:

Aim for a balanced combination of flavors and textures on your Thanksgiving table. Pair rich and creamy dishes like gratins with something fresh and crisp, such as a citrusy salad or a raw vegetable crudité.

6. Create Homemade Condiments and Sauces:

Elevate your Thanksgiving sides with homemade condiments and sauces. Craft your own cranberry sauce with orange zest and cinnamon or prepare a gourmet gravy with pan drippings and fresh herbs.

7. Incorporate Specialty Breads and Rolls:

Serve artisanal bread or rolls, like rosemary focaccia or pumpkin-shaped dinner rolls, to add a touch of elegance to your table setting. Homemade bread with flavored butter can be a delightful prelude to the meal.

8. Serve Miniaturized Versions:

Consider serving miniaturized versions of classic dishes as appetizers or hors d’oeuvres. Mini stuffed mushrooms, petite sweet potato soufflés, or tiny individual pot pies can be both charming and delicious.

9. Offer Vegetarian and Vegan Options:

Elevate your Thanksgiving table by including thoughtfully prepared vegetarian and vegan side dishes. Dishes like a hearty lentil loaf, vegan mashed potatoes, or roasted vegetable medleys can cater to diverse dietary preferences.

10. Don’t Forget Desserts:

Elevating your Thanksgiving table isn’t limited to sides. Ensure your dessert selection is equally impressive with homemade pies, tarts, and decadent cakes. Experiment with unique flavor combinations or create a dessert bar for a sweet ending to your meal.

Elevating your Thanksgiving table is all about infusing creativity and personal touches into your side dishes, making the holiday meal an extraordinary celebration of flavors and aesthetics. By experimenting with ingredients, presentation, and international influences, you can create a memorable dining experience for your family and friends.

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