Our Favorite Vegetable—Based Thanksgiving Recipes
Potatoes shouldn't be the only veggies to get real estate on the Thanksgiving dinner table. Turn to simple, vibrant veggie sides to add color and texture to your holiday meal. The sprout, the bean, and the bitter green: the fresh flavors of green vegetables are an essential part of the Thanksgiving plate. But don't stop with just green veggies, try caramelized winter squash or crisp beans, citrus-flecked salad or a showstopping whole cauliflower.
"I can't believe green bean casserole is light!"
Our version certainly is, and it has none of the mush sometimes found in the classic American dish. On Turkey Day, you almost can't have too many vegetable side dishes, starting with those little green cruciferous Brussels sprouts. Do cook more than one; it will encourage your table of eaters to fill their plates with lower-calorie vegetables instead of high-calorie stuffing, carbs, and desserts. The next day, use any leftovers to make a hash or easy roasted vegetable quiche. Or whir them up in a roasting vegetable soup with some stock you make from your turkey bones.
Our Favorite Vegetable—Based Thanksgiving Recipes
Garlicky Blistered Green Beans and Tomatoes
Let the broiler do all the work, and enjoy the reward: crisp-tender green beans with a kiss of smoky char, juicy tomatoes, and a mellow roasted garlic sauce. Look for slender haricots verts (French green beans) in the prepared produce section of the supermarket. You can also use regular green beans, broiling a minute or two longer as needed. Follow the advice of our Test Kitchen experts and pile the leftovers onto a sandwich, or create a turkey Niçoise platter with the green beans, sliced roasted turkey, roasted potatoes, sliced olives, and a quick vinaigrette.
Green Bean Casserole with Caulifower Cream
Once simmered in milk and pureed, cauliflower transforms into a silky, luscious cream sauce—a dead ringer for the classic yet with a much better profile, saving nearly 500mg sodium and 4g fat per serving. We intensify the mushroom presence by using meaty cremini and shiitake mushrooms and roasting them first to cook out the excess liquid. If you can’t find shiitakes, use 2 (8-oz.) packages of cremini mushrooms. Skip the fried onions and use torn whole-wheat bread for a rustic, crunchy topper.
Creamed Greens with Farro
This dish takes its cues from classic creamed spinach and raises the bar with braised mixed greens, whole-grain farro, and a crisp panko crust. Hearty yet not heavy, and gorgeous straight out of the oven, this is the kind of side that looks and feels holiday special. Swiss chard and dark, bumpy lacinato kale both wilt down fairly quickly; their texture and vibrancy will stand out once combined with the creamy three-cheese sauce. The farro can be cooked, drained, and refrigerated in an airtight container for up to a week before Thanksgiving.
Fennel and Blood Orange Salad
This salad is a feast for the eyes, and a welcome relief from the brown and gold tones on the Thanksgiving table. Sweet-tart blood oranges and a honey vinaigrette offset the bitter edge of the endive and radicchio (you can also use milder romaine lettuce hearts). If you can’t find blood oranges, try ruby red grapefruit or pretty pink Cara Cara oranges.
Balsamic Onion and Thyme Tarte Tatin
This jam is an excellent, refined sugar-free alternative to the traditional, often too-sweet sauce, and tastes even better a day or two after it’s made. Because fresh cranberries are so tart on their own, be sure to use a sweet onion such as Vidalia in the jam. Pair this condiment with your Thanksgiving plate, then use as a sandwich spread for holiday leftovers.
Balsamic-Glazed Pearl Onions
Deeply caramelized with balsamic vinegar until glossy and browned, these sweet and tangy jewels are a gorgeous addition to your holiday plate. We actually prefer frozen, peeled pearl onions over fresh for convenience; you save a lot of time by not peeling fresh pearl onions. You will be tempted to stir the pan frequently as the liquid reduces, but the onions need time to cook undisturbed in order to get deeply browned. Keep the heat low so the liquid in the pan doesn’t dry up too quickly.
Garlic-Caper Roasted Mushrooms
Roasted mushrooms are a revelation—intensely savory yet still tender and juicy. The mushrooms transform again once tossed with garlic butter, briny capers, and fresh lemon. Use cremini or baby bella mushrooms here—white button mushrooms are too mild. Dress the mushrooms right after roasting so the mixture stays vibrant. Both earthy and bright, this dish pairs well with any combination of fall dishes.
Acorn Squash With Wild Rice Stuffing
This two-for-one dish of wild rice stuffing and roasted acorn squash is a sure crowd-pleaser. You can cut the stuffed halves into quarters so they don’t take up as much room on the plate. Wild rice takes about as much time to cook as long-grain brown rice, which you can use as a substitute. You can also make the rice ahead and refrigerate. Reheat with a splash of water before adding to the sausage mixture.
Roasted Sweet Potatoes With Smoked Paprika-Honey Butter
Molasses complements the sweetness of the roasted butternut squash and gives the slices a deeply bronzed look. We add cider vinegar for balance and stir in walnuts for a sticky, praline-like topping. The dish is best served warm, when the molasses mixture is still gooey. You can roast the squash ahead and reheat the slices while you make the topping. A quick trick for cleaning a sticky saucepan: Fill with water and bring to a boil, letting any residue dissolve, and then drain.
Ginger-Chile Roasted Acorn Squash
Fresh ginger, red Fresno chile, and pomegranate don’t usually appear on the Thanksgiving table, but we love how they transform simply roasted squash into a dish with tingly heat and pops of color. Leave the sheet pan in the oven as it preheats to jump-start browning, saving roasting time in the oven.
Roasted Butternut Squash With Sticky Walnut Topping
Molasses complements the sweetness of the roasted butternut squash and gives the slices a deeply bronzed look. A quick trick for cleaning a sticky saucepan: Fill with water and bring to a boil, letting any residue dissolve, and then drain.
Potato and Parsnip Gratin
The addition of parsnips is an elegant twist to this traditionally all-potato dish. Parboiling and drying the sliced parsnips and potatoes first will keep them from absorbing the sauce in the oven so the gratin stays creamy. Half-and-half is our dairy of choice for this dish—a combination of equal parts cream and whole milk that gives the sauce its body while keeping the saturated fat at just 3g per serving. Toss the vegetables gently with the sauce so the slices don’t fall apart.
A simple side of perfectly roasted carrots is the breather a crowded Thanksgiving table needs—a bit of palate relief (and ease for the cook) that still looks elegant. Sweet, slightly firm, and tossed with fresh parsley and cilantro, these carrots would fit here and all season long. Use any remaining cilantro in leftover turkey tacos or chili. For an extra-pretty presentation, cut the carrot pieces at a 45° angle before roasting.
For a twist on cranberry sauce this year, try this sweet, tart, and earthy beet-and-cranberry condiment. Toasted whole coriander and brown mustard seeds add warmth and take the chutney into savory territory. The chunky texture is part of the charm here, a great contrast to the mashes and casseroles on the table.
Sweet Potato Casserole with Pumpkin Seed-Oat Crumble
We use less sugar in this classic casserole and get sweetness instead from fragrant orange rind and vanilla. Turmeric boosts the orange color and adds a subtle earthiness to the sweet potatoes. Instead of an all-nut or marshmallow topping, an oat streusel made with pumpkinseeds adds crunch and contrast to the dish. Evaporated milk has a concentrated dairy flavor without the added sugar of sweetened condensed milk; it will help the potato base to thicken as it bakes.
Crispy Cauliflower with Italian Salsa Verde
Crunch and zing are often missing from the holiday spread; these crispy, cheesy cauliflower florets with fresh lemon-parsley sauce achieve both. Serve with classic holiday dishes at Thanksgiving, or with roasted fish or a simple pasta toss on any weeknight. A thorough coat of cooking spray on the cauliflower will help the breading adhere and keep the florets from drying out as they bake. Finely grated Parmesan will go further in the breading; use a microplane or pulse in a food processor until finely ground.
Bacon and Brussels Sprout Slaw
Slaws aren’t just for summer; their crunch and creamy, tangy dressing is a welcome contrast to the heartier dishes of fall. You can make it ahead or at the last minute, and it won’t take up valuable oven space. If using a mandoline to shred the Brussels sprouts, hold each by the stem end and slice whole, being careful not to get your fingers too close to the blade (you can also use a sharp knife). Try shredded Brussels sprouts as your salad base all season long, dressing at least 10 minutes before you plan to serve to soften the leaves.
Maple-Caraway Brussels Sprouts
Layer upon layer of bold flavor earned these Brussels sprouts our test kitchen’s highest rating. The sprouts get deeply caramelized in toasted caraway and browned butter, then are quickly finished with a sweet and pungent mixture of maple syrup, Dijon mustard, and sherry vinegar. Caraway has an anise-like flavor similar to fennel seed. Add to roasted carrots or parsnips, or sprinkle over whole-grain rolls or crackers. Start the caraway and thyme in a cold pan so they can infuse the butter as it browns.
Celery Root Puree with Almond-Mint Gremolata
Gnarled-looking celery root is truly an all-star in disguise: It adds delicate crunch to fall and winter salads and becomes velvety smooth once simmered and pureed. This puree, a great alternative to mashed potatoes, gets added body from cannellini beans and tangy sour cream. A chopped blend of fresh mint, almonds, and lemon adds texture and color. If you have celery stalks on hand, save the celery leaves for a pretty garnish that hints at the main ingredient.
Balsamic Cranberry-Onion Jam
This jam is an excellent, refined sugar-free alternative to the traditional, often too-sweet sauce, and tastes even better a day or two after it’s made. Pair this condiment with your Thanksgiving plate, then use as a sandwich spread for holiday leftovers.
Roasted Turnips With Sage Browned Butter
Sage and browned butter is a classic pairing that enhances roasted turnips (which look like white, oversized radishes). Toss with the butter mixture as soon as the turnips are done.
Tricolor Beet and Carrot Salad
This salad takes advantage of both multicolored beets and carrots to create one stunning salad platter. Get ahead by roasting the beets up to a week in advance. You can also shave the carrots a day ahead and refrigerate the ribbons in ice water. Keep the colors from bleeding together by arranging the salad on the platter instead of tossing. If you can’t find Chioggia (red-and-white striped) beets, use additional red and golden beets.
Sheet Pan Roasted Vegetables
A mix of colorful root vegetables may be your star side. Peeled, prechopped butternut squash saves time, but pieces tend to be irregular and small—we prefer peeling and cubing it yourself.
Skillet Green Bean Casserole
We've shortened (and lightened) this holiday classic by bringing everything together in one pan and using the stovetop and broiler rather than baking.
Roasted Parsnips with Lemon and Herbs
Photo: Greg Dupree; Styling: Lindsey Lower
If you’re not familiar with parsnips, try these quick recipes to acquaint yourself with them. The root veggies look like white carrots and have a decidedly sweet, earthy flavor. Shop for medium to small parsnips, as larger ones tend to have tough, woody cores. In the main recipe here, a hit of fresh lemon juice and sprinkling of fresh herbs make the whole dish taste fresh and bright. If you don’t have parsley on hand, you can leave it out, but do seek out the dill.
Glazed Sweet Potatoes with Maple Gastrique
The gastrique, a tangy-sweet glaze, is Thanksgiving worthy but also simple enough to pull off on a weekday.
Lemon-Herb Sheet Pan Roasted Vegetables
Combine 3 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper in a bowl, stirring with a whisk. Combine butternut squash, parsnips, Brussels sprouts, and potatoes from master recipe in a large bowl, then follow remaining steps.
Roasted Broccoli with Pistachios and Pickled Golden Raisins
Some version of broccoli, usually laden with cream and cheese, lands on many a Thanksgiving table. But this dish, with its beautifully balanced flavors, is much lighter—and vegan.
Mom's Smashed Mashed Potatoes
To keep potatoes warm until the meal is ready, place them, loosely covered, in a heatproof dish or bowl, and set them (without submerging them) in a larger pot of hot water over very low heat. They'll stay warm without scorching on the bottom.
Orange-Tarragon Sheet Pan Roasted Vegetables
Combine 3 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon maple syrup, 1 tablespoon fresh orange juice, 2 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper in a bowl, stirring with a whisk. Combine butternut squash, parsnips, Brussels sprouts, and potatoes from master recipe, then follow remaining steps.
Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Pomegranate and Pine Nuts
For a bit of showmanship, bring the whole cauliflower to the table, and then "carve" and dress with the vinaigrette, pomegranate arils, pine nuts, and parsley.
Grapefruit, Endive, and Arugula Salad
Tossing the endive leaves in the vinaigrette first softens their bitter edge. You could also sub thinly sliced fennel or chopped Romaine hearts.
Green Beans with Dried Cranberries and Hazelnuts
Every plate needs a little green on it. Blanch the beans ahead, and store in the refrigerator to eliminate a task from the Thanksgiving Day prep list.
Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, Garlic, and Shallots
When did the lowly sprout become a side dish superstar? This was a happy turn of events: It's a flavor-packed veggie that is both meaty and pleasingly bitter when sautéed or roasted, perfect for pairing with smoky bacon.
Green Bean Casserole with Madeira Mushrooms
Here's a deliciously updated version of the classic, with fresh green beans and wine-infused mushrooms. We just had to keep the fried onion topping, which is arguably the best part.
Swiss Chard with Crème Fraîche
If your audience favors a creamier approach, serve Swiss chard enriched with crème fraîche—a dish that's ready in about 15 minutes.
Spicy Sautéed Broccoli Rabe with Garlic
Bring some bold Italian flavor to your holiday table with this speedy stovetop side. The recipe, which serves six, doubles easily if serving a larger crowd.
Balsamic-Glazed Green Beans and Pearl Onions
Tangy and delicious: these green beans are simple, yet elegant.
Whole Grain Farro Stuffing With Miso Mushrooms
While a miso-flavored whole-grain stuffing might not be traditional, the savory, earthy flavor is right at home on the holiday table.
Brussels Sprouts Tarte Tatin
The key to delicious Brussels sprouts is to cook them just enough so their flavor stays earthy-sweet and their texture tender without too much give. Use our “knife test” as described in this recipe to check for doneness. They’re best served right away (they’re not a great make-ahead option), so plan accordingly.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Mustard Dressing
Here’s proof that Brussels sprouts can be delicious without bacon. Sherry (or apple cider) vinegar lends complementary sweet-tart notes, and grainy mustard adds peppery tang. High-heat roasting gives the sprouts a little char and the faintest hint of smoky flavor. It’s a quick dish that yields fantastic results.
Collard Greens Panzanella Salad With Hot Sauce Vinaigrette
Collard greens are wonderful in salads; just massage them first (as you would kale) to make them a little more tender. You can prep all of the components a day ahead, store separately, and then toss together shortly before serving.
Lime-Glazed Red Pearl Onions
Think of this as a relish-type side: You don’t need a big serving, but the bright flavor is a welcome addition to roasted meat and hearty casseroles. Red pearl onions are gorgeous, but you can use white pearl onions, too. And if you’re really crunched for time, go with frozen pearl onions.