Everyone knows that Thanksgiving dinner is really all about the side dishes (am I right?), but the same old menu year after year can get pretty boring. If you can’t stomach the thought of scarfing down your Aunt Dottie’s condensed soup-doused green bean casserole one more time, or if you’re not into marshmallows on sweet potatoes, you may be in the market for some new recipes to reinvigorate your Thanksgiving table. These fresh, healthier ideas do just that, giving you 29 reasons to be extra grateful this year.
Simply swapping out the butter and eggs for their vegan substitutes makes this stuffing completely free of animal products. But the recipe goes one step further by adding in green lentils so that herbivores can still get their protein fix at the Thanksgiving table.
Thanksgiving is known for being the ultimate carbapalooza, and while we aren’t exactly complaining, we’re open to the idea of some lighter sides. This recipe gives the illusion of being a rice-based stuffing, but since it’s actually made entirely from cauliflower, you won't second-guess scooping up another helping.
Want easy portion control, fantastic presentation, and bold flavors all at once? Make these stuffing muffins! With chopped andouille sausage, celery, and carrots folded into a buttermilk and cornmeal batter, this recipe is perfect for busy cooks who want both the stuffing and the cornbread, but don’t have time to make two separate dishes.
Give your stuffing a Southern twist by throwing in some shrimp and Cajun seasoning alongside the cubed bread, sausage, and chopped veggies. Spicy and satisfying, it may make you forget there’s anything else on the table.
Using polenta as a stuffing base isn’t a regular Thanksgiving tradition, but the unconventional ingredient works perfectly with the more classic elements like sausage, cranberries, and sage.
Pasta is one grain that often gets sidelined during Thanksgiving, while rice and bread take center stage. Why not invite it to this year’s party? This recipe mixes fusilli with sage, celery, carrots, and cranberries; it’s so tasty that pasta may end up being the most popular item on your menu.
Squash and Potatoes
Have a showstopping side ready in just 30 minutes with this festive spaghetti squash dish. With green lentils, tomatoes, and spinach in the mix, it’s full of so many goodies that your fellow diners may not even realize it’s actually free of gluten, grains, and dairy.
Wow your guests with these pretty little pinwheels that look like they require some serious kitchen skills. You don’t need to tell anyone that all they take are four ingredients, 23 minutes, and a bit of simple rolling.
Sweet potatoes are better for so much more than sugary casseroles. Give them the savory treatment by piling them with a meaty (but meat-free) mix of portobello mushrooms and sautéed peppers. A sprinkling of cheese on top makes them that much more addictive, but leave them off for a vegan option that’s just as tasty.
Want to do something more exciting with acorn squash than simply roasting it? Pack it with chorizo and farro, and blanket it with cheese. Not only is the dish beautiful to look at, but the combo of nutty grains, smoky meat, and sweet squash is also a surefire win in the taste department.
A drizzle of rich, Greek yogurt-tahini-lemon sauce, plus a scattering of pomegranate seeds and crushed pistachios, take roasted kabocha squash from simple to simply incredible. The easy dressing and juicy, tangy fruit are the perfect complements to the sweet veggie.
Regular mashed potatoes are so 1900s. Bring your side of spuds into the 21st century by swapping out butter for coconut milk and adding a few dollops of red curry paste for a slightly spicy touch. Don’t be surprised if this becomes a regular request for all future Thanksgivings.
Making Thanksgiving dinner is already time-consuming enough without having to stir risotto rice on the stove for hours. This vegan recipe nixes the grain and uses chopped pumpkin instead. It cuts the stirring time down to just 20 minutes, and once the veggie is cooked, it’s deliciously creamy (the glug of white wine and coconut milk doesn’t hurt either!).
Add some Thanksgiving pizzazz to your panzanella by throwing in cubes of roasted butternut squash alongside the bread and tomatoes. There’s even some chickpeas in the mix to switch up the salad recipe further—this is a roundup of nontraditional sides, after all.
Salads and Vegetables
If you’re going to serve a salad at Thanksgiving, it’s got to be an exceptionally good one. This one, with extra-sweet roasted pears, chopped walnuts, tangy cranberries, and a zesty Dijon dressing, is definitely worthy of one of those coveted spots on the table.
There are lots of unusual things going on in this sunny-looking side, but they all work well—those “noodles” are actually spiralized carrots and parsnips, with cinnamon bringing out their natural sweetness. With the dollop of creamy ricotta on top that you can grab with each bite, there’s no need for a separate dressing.
Beets are quite the polarizing veggie—people either adore them or refuse to eat them. But when they’re glazed with orange juice, tossed with caramelized shallots, and topped with goat cheese, we’re pretty sure everyone can get on board with them.
If it just isn’t Thanksgiving without green beans somewhere in the picture, try this cleaner alternative to a casserole. Lightly blanching the beans and topping them with sautéed shallots (no fried onions here!) makes this dish not only healthier, but a much easier way to enjoy the veggies.
Brussels sprouts are a staple on Thanksgiving, but this year, “restyle” them into these pancakes. Lightly pan-fried until they’re all crispy and golden-brown (and delicious), they’re perfect for anyone who’s ever claimed they don’t like the veggie.
All it takes is a touch each of ginger paste and butter to give simple boiled carrots so much extra flavor. Both fragrant and vibrant, this substitute for mashed potatoes is sure to turn heads this year.
Little enough to be an appetizer but meaty enough to be a side, this stuffed mushroom recipe is a versatile addition to your holiday menu. The bite-size portions can keep the dish from making you too full, but since they’re packed with chicken sausage and quinoa, it may be hard to stop at just a couple.
Think this recipe belongs in the “potato” category? Smooth and buttery, it may look (and taste) just like everyone’s favorite side dish, but this bowl actually contains no spuds or dairy. Instead, a head of cooked cauliflower is whipped into submission with olive oil and garlic. Trust us, nobody will be able to tell that this is a carb-light version.
You know those tiny little carrots you always see at the grocery store but never buy because you have no idea how to use them? Here’s a recipe that does them total justice: Roast until just tender, then line them up with feta and walnuts on a bed of couscous for a scene-stealing side that makes for fantastic leftovers the next day (that is, if they're not demolished during dinner).
Chewy, hearty, and full of fiber, wheat berries don’t get nearly as much love as they should. Make them the grain of choice at this year’s big meal, tossing in edamame for some meat-free protein, and butternut squash and cranberries for some extra seasonal flavors.
Make life easy for yourself—and super tasty for your guests—with this incredibly simple veggie and grain dish. The oven does most of the roasting work, while all you have to do is boil water for the barley and whisk up a dressing. Warning: You’re going to want to make it more than just once a year.
Wild rice doesn’t just look super festive, it’s also a great source of antioxidants and fiber. Here, it’s stirred with curly kale and tart sun-dried tomatoes, with a generous cup of Gruyere bringing it all together for a risotto-like effect.
If you’re just starting to give Brussels sprouts a chance, here’s a way to ease into them: Stir them into cooked brown rice, add a ton of lemon and garlic, and top with cheese. You’ll wonder why you waited so long to try them.
For many families, mac and cheese is an absolute must. But if you think your menu is already maxed out on starches—and yet you don’t want to entirely break tradition—try this version. It doesn’t completely cut out the carbs or dairy, but the quinoa adds even more protein, and a cauliflower-based sauce makes sure there’s some veggies in there too.