When you’re busy roasting, basting, and otherwise babysitting the turkey to make it an Instagram-worthy centerpiece, you really don’t have time to spend whipping up elaborate sides. On the other hand, everyone says Thanksgiving is about the sides, not the bird. What’s a host to do?!
Fear not. There’s a way to get a beautiful bird on the table and knock it out of the park with the Thanksgiving side dishes without completely losing your mind before your guests even show up. From mac and cheese to mashed potatoes, these 19 easy Thanksgiving recipes take only 20 minutes to make but taste like they took hours and hours and hours. Your guests will be impressed, and you’ll be walking away as the host of the year without breaking a sweat.
This bread-free stuffing isn’t just gluten-free—it’s also totally grain-free, thanks to using trusty cauliflower as a stand-in for rice. Mushrooms add some meatiness, while pecans provide some crunch (despite the lack of croutons).
With olive oil replacing some of the butter and a generous handful of pecans thrown into the mix along with the Brussels sprouts, this side is especially heart-healthy in addition to being filled with fiber. What’s more, there are only two tablespoons of maple syrup in the whole recipe, so you don’t max out on your added sugar allowance before dessert.
Shredding Brussels sprouts instead of leaving them whole is a great way to get them into people who are convinced they don’t like these cruciferous gems. Tossed with sweet Honeycrisp apples, walnuts, and savory Parmesan, this salad will have even sprouts skeptics reaching for seconds.
Slaws are usually reserved for warm weather picnics, but this one is the perfect fall accompaniment to your Thanksgiving entrees. The shredded cabbage is tossed with fresh apples and pomegranates, dried apricots, toasted almonds, and tarragon for the perfect balance of sweet, savory, and crunchy.
This gratin is much less labor-intensive than a stuffing but has much more of that comfort food appeal than a salad. The broccoli is roasted then baked with plenty of cheddar and Parmesan and bread crumbs, so you’ll be getting in some quality veggies while still enjoying some cheesy goodness.
Who needs a ton of other ingredients when bacon is around? This keto-friendly, dairy-free side requires just four ingredients, but every bite explodes with flavor. From the meaty mushrooms and the earthy parsley to the salty bacon and all the garlic, this is a side that won’t last long.
You can leave the mushy canned peas on the supermarket shelf and head to the frozen aisle. Simply zap frozen peas in the microwave for a few minutes, then toss them in a pan with some tender onions and crispy bacon. Yup, we knew we’d have you at bacon.
With fresh parsley and mint, zesty lemon juice, and juicy tomatoes, this gluten-free take on the traditional cracked wheat salad definitely gives off summery vibes. But that’s all the more reason it’ll make for a refreshing side next to the roasted turkey and hot casseroles. Ready in just 15 minutes, it’s equally useful as a last-minute dish as it is a make-ahead one.
Take a break from rich casseroles and turn your green beans into this light and bright alternative instead. With tangy capers and plenty of lemon juice, it’ll be a welcome addition to the menu for anyone looking for a side that doesn’t leave them feeling stuffed.
It’s optimal to have some lighter options on the table at Thanksgiving, but the holiday is also a time to dig into some of the more decadent favorites. Take this mac and cheese: With plenty of cheddar and Parmesan, plus actual pasta instead of a low-carb substitute, it’ll be one of the richer sides on the table, but it sure will be delicious—and a small portion will go a long way.
Put seasonal fruits and veggies front and center with this light yet satisfying salad. Apples, fennel, and kohlrabi hit their peak in the fall and winter, so they’re the perfect base, while toppings like walnuts and blue cheese add some good fat and even more fun flavor.
You can totally use regular carrots here, but multicolored ones will make this dish that much more special without adding any complicated steps to the recipe. The purple, orange, and yellow root veggies get naturally caramelized in the oven, so they need the simplest of seasonings to be a stunning side.
Why use store-bought cranberry sauce when it takes only 15 minutes to whip up a homemade version that’s fresher, healthier, and undoubtedly tastier? This recipe goes easy on the added sugars, throws in oranges and apples for more depth of flavor, and even adds chopped nuts for more texture. Seriously, nobody needs the canned stuff.
Grain-free folk don’t need to miss out on something bread-like at the table this Thanksgiving. These drop biscuits have an almond flour base, which bakes up beautifully, especially since eggs hold them together, and lots of cheddar cheese is involved too.
You’d never guess that this creamy mash is low-carb, but that’s the magic of blended cauliflower! Seasoned simply with garlic, salt, and pepper and made with olive oil instead of butter and milk, it’s also a suitable side for any vegans or dairy-free folks at the table.
It just isn’t Thanksgiving without gravy, but instead of using turkey drippings and butter, this quick, vegan version uses shiitake mushrooms, plant-based milk, and vegetable broth. Serve it with some dairy-free mashed potatoes (or cauliflower), and the herbivores at your table will be forever grateful.
Even lower maintenance than a skillet dish, this recipe eliminates the need for stovetop cooking. Instead, it requires just five minutes in the oven and stays true to its name by requiring little more than asparagus, mozzarella, and Parmesan.
Never thought of roasting cabbage before? Do it and you’ll gain a whole new appreciation for it. The oven tenderizes the tougher stalks and thicker leaves, charring them ever so slightly on the edges to give them an almost smoky flavor. The dish is unconventional for Thanksgiving but incredibly easy and tasty.
You can mash cauliflower, you can rice it, but sometimes, you just have to let it be. Here, the florets remain intact as they’re skillet-cooked with garlic, red pepper flakes, and Parmesan. It’s not overly fancy, and that’s exactly why it works so well.