Side Dishes to Be Thankful For

Side Dishes to Be Thankful For

Publish Date October 4, 2023 8 Minute Read

Traditions That Go Beyond Turkey

Most of the dishes shared on Thanksgiving have been passed down through the years, making dinner a way to actively reminisce about holidays past. Sharing family recipes is such an integral part of this holiday in many families, the side dishes upstage the main course. Sure, your mom probably made turkey the same way since you were a kid, but that stuffing recipe was first used by your great-grandmother and your family has been making biscuits the same way longer than anyone can remember. Traditional Thanksgiving sides deserve to shine, even on a day when turkeys get most of the attention.

The History of Your Favorite Sides

Did you know that there are records of stuffing being used by the Romans? Or that recipes for stuffing vary greatly depending on a family’s culture? The idea many of us have of a bread-based stuffing may not be the norm for a family of Middle Eastern descent where they opt for vegetables and rice instead. There are even regional differences like oyster dressing or cornbread stuffing.

Green bean casserole got its start in the ‘50s when it was created by Dorcas Reilly at the Campbell’s Soup Company, but today most families would consider any Thanksgiving spread without it incomplete.

Cranberry sauce may be the closest we get to a traditional Thanksgiving side. While it probably wasn’t on that first Thanksgiving table, Native Americans had been pairing a version of cranberry sauce with meats since the 17th century. Today, 73% of Americans prefer canned cranberry sauce.

Thankful for Starchy Side Dishes

Thanksgiving side dishes can be broken into two categories: vegetables and starches. On most tables, starches steal the show. Creamy mac and cheese, mouthwatering mashed potatoes and warm buttery dinner rolls are hard to beat. These also seem to be the recipes most people have generational recipes for. Every year you make your grandmother’s gravy or your dad’s dressing. Let’s explore some of the starchier Thanksgiving side dishes.

Mac and Cheese

Macaroni and cheese’s place at the table is often debated, with many saying it isn’t a traditional Thanksgiving side at all. Though it would have looked and tasted very different, mac and cheese has been on Thanksgiving tables since the 1800’s. Since Thanksgiving is a multigenerational event, often with extended family coming together to celebrate, macaroni and cheese is seen as a crowd-pleaser. It’s an easy win for parents of picky eaters and can be adapted to fit a vegan diet or made to be gluten-free. You can explore everything you need to know about this classic side from cheese types to cooking methods here.


Potatoes are a versatile addition to any holiday table. For Thanksgiving, the classic side dish option is usually mashed potatoes and it’s hard to argue with that logic. They fit well on a plate when gravy is already being served with the turkey. To update a more traditional recipe, you could try these brown butter mashed sweet potatoes. Or, break the mold entirely and do the unexpected with these roasted fingerling potatoes. The herbs used here mirror traditional poultry herbs and will help tie your turkey in with your sides. Learn more about which potatoes to use for which recipes here.

More Cheesy Potato and Macaroni Recipes


There might not be a more traditional Thanksgiving side than stuffing or dressing. Though many people use the terms stuffing and dressing interchangeably, there is a difference between them. Traditionally, stuffing is cooked inside of the bird whereas dressing is made separately. No matter how you make it, now table is complete without this Thanksgiving side dish. Learn more about all things stuffing or create a new tradition with this Bacon, Apple and Pretzel Bread Stuffing.

More Stuffing Recipes


A classic, pillowy dinner roll is a great neutral component for a traditional Thanksgiving meal. Plus, your day-after turkey sandwich will definitely be elevated if you use a roll instead of regular bread. Learn all about making a classic dinner roll or update the classic with these pesto garlic rolls.


Poured on turkey, potatoes, rolls and sometimes more, a good gravy can tie the whole meal together. Try this Foolproof Turkey Gravy for a time-honored classic, or this Mushroom Thyme Gravy that can easily be adapted for vegetarians and vegans.

More Gravy and Roll Recipes

A Variety of Vegetables

Thanksgiving dinner is about abundance and indulgence, which often means that the vegetables get pushed to the side to make room for more stuffing. But the vegetables served alongside the starches can offer a fresh palate cleanser to all the heavy foods offered. Here are some ideas for how you can make these vegetables the talk of the table.

Green Beans

The obvious choice here is a classic green bean casserole. Another option is to make minor updates to the classic and explore a Caramelized Onion Green Bean Casserole or one with pancetta and rosemary.

You could also decide to center the green bean itself and opt for a Sweet and Spicy Green Bean dish or this Green Bean and Balsamic-shallot Butter recipe. If you’re going against the grain and forgoing the casserole, try to keep in mind the importance of texture on a plate and opt for a recipe that creates a crisper, fresher vegetable option.

Roasted Vegetables

Autumn ushers in roasted vegetable season and Thanksgiving is a perfect time to celebrate. Using hearty vegetables, create deep, rich flavors by roasting with warm spices. Try these Cumin Honey Roasted Carrots or these Maple-roasted Vegetables. Squash is also a great seasonal roasting vegetable. This Clementine Pecan Acorn Squash or even a Roasted Butternut Squash Soup would be a great way to celebrate. You could even explore stuffed roasted vegetables such as this Stuffed Acorn Squash.

Brussels sprouts are another great seasonal vegetable. Though they often get a bad rap, the key to these cruciferous vegetables is to roast them. Try these Parmesan Smashed Brussels Sprouts or Roasted Brussels sprouts with Pancetta.

More Green Beans and Roasted Veggies


Like with all vegetables on the table, there’s an opportunity for balance here. In a meal full of heavy, soft foods, salad can offer a crisp and fresh bite. Try this Apple Salad with Parmesan Polenta Croutons. The apple gives it an autumnal flair perfect for Thanksgiving. Play with more seasonal flavors with Squash and Apple Salad or this Vegan Roasted Vegetable Bowl.

Thanksgiving is a time to honor traditions and celebrate family. By focusing on seasonal flavors and time-honored recipes, you can create a menu that honors and upgrades traditional Thanksgiving sides.

More Salad Recipes

Thanksgiving is a time to honor traditions and celebrate family. By focusing on seasonal flavors and time-honored recipes, you can create a menu that honors and upgrades traditional Thanksgiving sides.

Explore more Thanksgiving hosting tips here or stop by our Thanksgiving Shop for all your holiday needs.