Best Thanksgiving Side Dishes

thanksgiving side dishes sitting next to a roasted turkey on a platter.
Photo by Pro Church Media on Unsplash

Turkey is great and all, but if you’re like me you enjoy all the different Thanksgiving side dishes served at the holiday meal just as much. Creamy mac and cheese, savory stuffing, and earthy roasted veggies. I mean, what’s not to love? There are a million recipes out there for unique Thanksgiving side dishes and it can be hard to figure out which one is going to put the best food on the plate. We’ve rounded up some of our favorite recipes for all the classic side dishes (and some unexpected ones, too) to help you in the kitchen this holiday season.

If, however, you’ve been tasked with cooking the turkey, check out our guides on how to brine, smoke, and deep fry a turkey the right way. You might also want to read up on how to carve a turkey so you’ll be prepared when the bird lands on the table. If it’s dessert you’re after, check out these great pie recipes and take a look at this list of delicious fall beers to keep you feeling good in the kitchen. Let’s dive in.

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Best Creamy Mac and Cheese

Bowl of creamy mac n' cheese with bacon on top.

Mac and Cheese from J. Kenji López-Alt

We here at The Manual have learned that really good mac n’ cheese isn’t as easy to make as you’d think. Cook some pasta, add some butter and cheese, stir. Right? Sure, that works. But really good mac n’ cheese can be a little more complicated than that. Thankfully, the Basics with Babish YouTube channel goes deep into how to make a whole variety of mac n’ cheese recipes. To make any (or all) of the mac n’ cheese variations in the video, take a look at these Basics with Babish mac n’ cheese recipes.

Ingredients:

  • 6 oz dry pasta
  • Cold water
  • 6 oz evaporated milk
  • 6 oz cheese of choice, shredded
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard (optional)
  • Sprinkle cayenne pepper (optional)

Method:

  1. In a medium saucepan, cover 6 ounces of pasta with just enough cold water to submerge and bring to a boil. Allow to simmer until most of the water is absorbed and the pasta is fully cooked.
  2. Then pour 6 ounces of evaporated milk over top, bring that to a simmer, and once it’s at a bare simmer add 6 ounces of shredded cheese of choice (cheddar in this case).
  3. Mix and cook that over low to no heat until the cheese is completely melted and the sauce has thickened. Add some optional Dijon mustard and cayenne pepper.
  4. Once completely mixed together and creamy, plate and enjoy.

Best Cannabis Mac and Cheese

Kitchen Toke Cannabis Infused Lobster Mac and Cheese in a casserole dish sitting next to a wooden spoon.
Kitchen Toke

Cannabis Mac and Cheese by Kitchen Toke

That’s right, cannabis mac and cheese. This classic side dish is elevated to a higher plane with the additions of cannabis and lobster. This holiday twist will keep ’em grinning from ear to ear. If cooking with cannabis is your thing, you might also enjoy these cannabis cookbooks for budding chefs.

Ingredients:

  • 2 lobsters, about 1.5 pounds each
  • 1 lb gouda, grated
  • .5 lb cheddar, grated
  • .75 lb cavatappi pasta
  • 25 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tbsp cannabutter, melted
  • 1 tbsp Dijon
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper
  • Kosher salt and pepper, as needed

Method:

  1. Plunge lobsters into boiling water for 2 minutes until they stop moving. Remove with tongs. Separate tail and claws from the body. Cook claws for 4 minutes more and tails 6 minutes more. Transfer to ice bath to cool.
  2. Remove meat over a small bowl to reserve juices; chop into bite-sized chunks. Set aside.
  3. Bring pot of salted water to boil, add pasta and par cook, about 4 minutes. Drain.
  4. Puree ricotta, add milk, cream, cannabutter, mustard, and cayenne. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Transfer mixture to a large bowl and add grated cheeses and pasta.
  5. Transfer to a greased 9 x 13 casserole dish, cover with foil, and bake in a preheated 375 degrees Fahrenheit oven for 20 minutes. Uncover, stir in lobster meat and juices, and continue baking 20 to 25 more minutes.

Best Stuffing Recipes

Thanksgiving Stuffing in a white casserole dish sitting on an orange plaid towel.
Delish

Classic Stuffing From Delish

Stuffing packs in all the delicious Thanksgiving flavors – onion, celery, garlic, thyme, and rosemary. Paired with crispy-yet-chewy (and totally savory) bread cubes, this dish is an easy winner. Whether you cook your stuffing inside your bird, or not, you’ll want to make sure to include this Thanksgiving staple on your table this season.

Ingredients:

  • 2 baguettes, country, or sourdough bread (1 pound)
  • 8 tbsp. butter, plus more for baking dish
  • 1 large onion, diced (about 2 1/4 cups)
  • 4 stalks celery, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup freshly chopped parsley
  • 1 tbsp. freshly chopped sage, minced
  • 1 tbsp. fresh thyme leaves, minced
  • 1/2 tbsp. freshly chopped rosemary
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken (or vegetable) broth
  • 2 large eggs, beaten

Method:

  1. The day before: Tear or slice bread into 1/4-inch cubes and leave out overnight to dry. (Alternately, place bread on baking sheets and bake at 200 degrees F for 20 minutes.)
  2. When you’re ready to make the stuffing: Preheat oven to 350 degrees and butter a large baking dish. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Add onion and celery and cook until soft and fragrant, 8 minutes. Stir in garlic, parsley, sage, thyme, and rosemary and cook until fragrant, 1 minute more. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Place bread in a large bowl and add skillet mixture. Toss to combine. In a medium bowl, whisk together chicken broth and beaten eggs and pour over bread mixture. Season generously with salt and pepper and toss until completely coated.
  4. Transfer mixture to prepared baking dish and cover with foil. Bake until cooked through, 45 minutes, then remove foil and cook until bread is golden, 15 to 20 minutes more.

Best Sweet Potato Casserole

Sweet potato casserole topped with pecans in a white casserole dish.
Spruce Eats

Sweet Potato Casserole from Food Network

I have to say, as a kid sweet potato casserole wasn’t my favorite Thanksgiving side dish. As I’ve aged, and come to like sweet potatoes more, this dish is one of my favorites. I prefer a crunchy nut topping to marshmallows, but you do you.

Ingredients:

Filling:

  • .5 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for buttering the baking dish
  • 3 to 4 large sweet potatoes (about 1 3/4 pounds), peeled and cubed
  • .5 cup milk
  • .25 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • .5 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 large eggs

Topping:

  • .5 cup all-purpose flour
  • .5 cup brown sugar, packed
  • .5 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
  • .25 teaspoon kosher salt
  • .75 cup chopped pecans

Method:

  1. For the sweet potatoes: Add 1 3/4 pounds peeled and cubed sweet potatoes to a large pot of salted water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then lower the heat to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are very tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain and cool. Mash the sweet potatoes.
  2. For the filling: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 2-quart baking dish.
  3. Whisk together the butter, mashed sweet potatoes, milk, brown sugar, vanilla, salt, and eggs in a large bowl. Transfer to the prepared baking dish.
  4. For the topping: Combine the flour, brown sugar, butter and salt in a medium bowl until moist and the mixture clumps together. Stir in the pecans. Spread the mixture over the top of the sweet potatoes in an even layer. Bake until mostly set in the center and golden on top, 25 to 30 minutes. Serve hot.

Best Mashed Potatoes

Mashed Potatoes with butter and pepper in a bowl sitting on a folded napkin.
Better Crocker

Mashed Potatoes from Tyler Florence

Not all of us love sweet potatoes. Or maybe grilled chicken and sweet potatoes are the cornerstones of your nutrition plan and Thanksgiving is an opportunity to indulge a bit. You might be worried there won’t be enough carbs at your Thanksgiving feast.

Ingredients:

  • 4 pounds golden creamer potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp chopped chives

Method:

  1. Put the potatoes into a large pot, add the bay leaf, 2 tablespoons salt, and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.
  2. Drain them well and remove the bay leaf. Meanwhile, heat the cream and butter in a small saucepan.
  3. Put the potatoes through a ricer or food mill into a bowl.
  4. Add the hot cream and season with salt and pepper. Mix together with a spoon and add the chives.

Best Roasted Vegetables Ft. Brussel Sprouts

roasted Brussels sprouts with bacon in a sheet pan.
Betty Crocker

Roasted Brussels Sprouts by Betty Croker

We here at The Manual are all about the sprouts. They’re earthy with crispy edges, a soft center, and they taste really great with bacon. Once we started mixing crispy bacon into sprouts, there was no going back. Rich and delicious (while technically still being a vegetable dish), these roasted Brussels sprouts are a welcome addition to every Thanksgiving plate.

Ingredients:

  • 2.5 lb Brussels sprouts, trimmed, halved (8.5 cups)
  • 5 medium shallots, thinly sliced (1.25 cups)
  • 6 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • .5 tsp pepper
  • 2 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp packed brown sugar

Method:

  1. Heat oven to 450 degrees F. Spray 18 x 13-inch rimmed sheet pan with cooking spray. Place Brussels sprouts, shallots and bacon on sheet pan. Drizzle with oil, salt and pepper; toss to coat.
  2. Roast uncovered 30 to 35 minutes, stirring after 20 minutes, until Brussels sprouts are fork-tender and bacon is cooked.
  3. Meanwhile, in small bowl, combine vinegar and brown sugar. Stir with whisk until sugar is dissolved.
  4. Remove sheet pan from oven. Drizzle with vinegar mixture; toss to coat.

Best Air Fryer Vegetables Ft. Green Beans

air fryer green beans garnished with almond slivers in a white serving bowl.

Air Fryer Green Beans from Food Network

If you, like us here at The Manual, are an air fryer convert, you’re probably looking to cook at least one dish in the air fryer this holiday season. Green beans are a great choice. Crispy and savory with less fat than traditionally fried green beans, these air fryer green beans are topped with gremolata and toasted almonds. There are some pretty great air fryer brands out there that cook your food faster than traditional methods.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound green beans, trimmed
  • 1 tbsp olive oil, plus more for serving
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • .25 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 small clove garlic, finely grated
  • Finely grated zest from 1/2 lemon
  • 3 tbsp roasted sliced almonds

Method:

  1. Preheat a 3.5-quart air fryer to 375 degrees F. Toss the green beans, olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and several grinds of pepper in a large bowl until evenly combined. Transfer to the air-fryer basket and air-fry the green beans, tossing halfway through, until tender and blistered in spots, about 12 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, stir the parsley, garlic, lemon zest, 1/8 teaspoon salt and a couple grinds of pepper together in a small bowl until combined. Stir in the toasted almonds.
  3. Place the green beans on a serving platter, top with the gremolata mixture and drizzle lightly with more olive oil.

So, now you’re ready to craft some truly delicious side dishes for this year’s get-together. We here at The Manual wish you safe travels, a pleasant gathering, and plenty of good eats. When, inevitably, your fridge is full of delicious leftovers, try to mix up your next meals with some of these fantastic Thanksgiving leftovers recipes so you don’t get bored with the same meals over and over.

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