So let’s talk that Sidesgiving menu, shall we? You know, a Thanksgiving dinner that’s made entirely of our favorite side dishes? We’re definitely not the only family who has had some really. hard discussions around Thanksgiving this year, and by that I mean whether or not we really need a turkey on our table at all. So I’m here to help.
As for me, I feel like why not take a smaller Thanksgiving dinner and an opportunity to celebrate the glorious Thanksgiving side dish? They’re our favorite part of the meal anyway.
You too? Then go ahead and take the pressure off yourself and plan a Sidesgiving menu! This year, Thanksgiving may be different, but that also makes it an opportunity to do something fun and different. So to get you started, here are some of my favorite sides recipes to help you plan the ultimate Sidesgiving menu.
At top: green beans at Dinner at the Zoo; Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes at I Am Baker; easy skillet corn bread via Erin Lives Whole; Maple Roasted Beets and Carrots at Salt and Lavender.
Related: Our ultimate guide to Thanksgiving recipes: a must-read for families doing it all themselves this year
First, some Sidesgiving tips
– Even though it’s Thanksgiving, so many of us are just cooking for our kids and ourselves this year. In other words, don’t kill yourself making complicated dishes that no one is going to eat — unless it’s something you really want yourself. In which case, make it!
Bottom line: focus on pleasing, not impressing this year.
– As you put together your menu, choose some sides that are colorful and hearty and full of flavor, so you don’t end up with a bland, brown-and–tan plate. (Not that we don’t all love the carbs.)
– Figure out what you want to make homemade, and what you want to just shortcut with grocery options. Cranberries for example tend to be pretty polarizing — some families just love them right out of the can, while others love from-scratch dishes, like these 5 easy cranberry sauce recipes that break the mold.
– Sides tend to be labor-intensive, so choose recipes that can be made ahead of time (I’ve noted that below) so all you have to do is pop them in the oven or finish them off on Thanksgiving morning.
– Finally, as you prep your Sidesgiving recipes, carefully consider how much of each dish your family will actually eat, then make sure you’re able to store the rest of the dish in a freezable container. This way you can pull it out and enjoy it for the next few weeks, too.
Related: How to cook a Thanksgiving turkey in just about one hour
Sidesgiving vegetable recipes: Choose 2-3
Cranberries: Okay so it’s not a vegetable but we’ll include them here to keep things simple. In our post on 8 genius make-ahead Thanksgiving tips, we shared this delicious 5 ingredient slow cooker cranberry sauce via Running to the Kitchen. Jane swears by it, with
the flavors of orange, cinnamon and maple syrup balancing the tartness of the cranberries.
Find even more ideas in this post on 5 easy cranberry sauce recipes that are as delicious as the more complicated ones.
Make ahead tip: Put that slow cooker to work!
Roasted veggies A sheet pan of roasted veggies (with or without the dipping sauce) is so easy, and goes a long way toward making your meal feel hearty. I love all the flavors in this easy Roasted Rosemary Winter Vegetables recipe at Full of Plants. Yum! You can easily substitute any winter veggies you prefer — just new potatoes with EVOO and salt is sooo good — or let each kid pick their favorite veggies.
Also be sure to read our tips on The foolproof method for how to roast vegetables to get you through the entire winter, beyond Thanksgiving.
Make ahead tip: You can cut up all your veggies the day before, then roast at the last minute.
Green Beans: We always have green bean casserole, from scratch, on our dinner plates at Thanksgiving, and I love this recipe at Jessica Gavin. Then again, you could just do single serving bundles of green beans, like this idea at Dinner at the Zoo, which my kids would find really fun. Hey, it’s one way to guarantee they get a minimum number of beans on their plates!
Make ahead tip: You can prep the casserole the day before and let it sit in the fridge until it’s time to cook.
Mushrooms: You cannot get easier than this Roasted Mushrooms in Garlic Browned Butter recipe at Closet Cooking. It’s garlicky and buttery, and it imparts wonderful earthy flavors into your meal, should you need a break from all those potatoes and cheese. (Not that there’s anything wrong with a huge plate of potatoes and cheese; it is 2020, after all).
Make ahead tip: Don’t make these ahead. Mushrooms need to be cooked and served immediately if you want them to taste good.
Sweet Potatoes: For a lot of families, it’s not Thanksgiving without sweet potatoes. You can roast sweet potatoes easily in a slow cooker which yields all kinds of delicious recipes.
As for us, we always serve sweet potato casserole on my family’s traditional Thanksgiving table, but this year I’m thinking of making these Stuffed Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes via Healthy Taste of Life. (Maybe just for my husband and me.) Itstuffed with rice, onions, pecans, and bell peppers, it takes the “too sweet” edge off of lots of traditional preparations. But hey, if you’re ride or die for marshmallows with your sweet potatoes, enjoy!
Make ahead tip: You can prep the stuffing for these stuffed potatoes the day before, and store it in a freezer bag in the fridge.
Related: 9 vegetarian Thanksgiving recipes, from mains to sides, that even the carnivores will love.
Roasted carrots: When I’m cooking a special meal that’s going to be mostly consumed by children, I absolutely love recipes like these Roasted Carrots with Candied Pecans and Goat Cheese, found on Inspired by Charm. I’ll roast the carrots with the butter, salt, pepper and spices that Michael recommends then set some aside for the kids. Then I’ll continue on with the candied pecans and goat cheese, to make it a sophisticated dish for the grown ups. So easy, and everyone gets it the way they like best without me feeling like a short-order cook.
Make ahead tip: You can prepare the carrots ahead of time, then roast them when you’re ready for dinner.
Roasted Beets: It’s easy to pop open a can of beets and plop them in a bowl, but my goodness this Maple Roasted Beets and Carrots at Salt and Lavender is so good. This is the perfect time of year to eat beets, and I highly recommend you grab a mix of yellow and red ones. They’re so sweet and savory at the same time, your kids may get tricked into liking them.
Make ahead tip: You can peel and chop your veggies the day before.
Related: all the great Thanksgiving recipes you can make in your Instant Pot
Sidesgiving starchy recipes, choose 1-2
Potatoes! Wow there are so many choices here.
Are you more of a mashed potato family, or a potato casserole family — that’s a good place to start. My mouth is watering at these Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes at I Am Baker, because OMG cheesy potato goodness.
You should definitely check out this post on how to make Hasselback potatoes in 5 easy steps, which should yield the most crispy-on-the-outside, tender-on-the-inside potatoes.
But if you’re more in the decadent mashed potatoes camp, this Gouda and Caramelized Onion Mashed Potatoes at Tao of Spice looks incredible. When feeding kids or other picky eaters, make this base recipe for incredibly creamy mashed potatoes, but leave out the cheese and onions.Then, serve them on the side as mix-in toppings for those who want them.
You can also add other options like bacon, chives, and sour cream, and you have an yummy “mashed potato bar” for dinner.
Make ahead tip: I wouldn’t make these the day before because I’m not a big fan of leftover potatoes, but note that the scalloped potatoes do need to cook for 90 minutes…so plan ahead!
A grain salad: I love to have a grain salad on our Sidesgiving menu, because it offers a lighter option on the buffet. You may prefer couscous, or quinoa, or of course there’s always rice and wild rice. I love wild rice for fall, and this Wild Rice Salad at Beyond the Chicken Coop has all the Thanksgiving flavors you love mixed in.
Another option is the wheat berry salad recipe courtesy of Food Network (above), which is almost just like the one I get from my salad bar at Whole Foods, and it’s absolutely delicious.
For even more ideas, check out our roundup of make-ahead grain salads we love.
Make ahead tip: You can make many of these the day before and even serve them room temperature.
Corn: Maize would have been a star ingredient at that first Thanksgiving, but it seems to get a little overlooked now that we’re well out of corn-on-the-cob season. So we always dress our corn up in a delicious corn pudding, like this Nantucket Corn Pudding at A Family Feast.
But you don’t necessarily need another casserole on the table. In which case, this light corn succotash at Dinner then Dessert is a favorite, or you can just grill ears of corn too. Whatever your kids will eat, that’s what you should fix.
Make ahead tip: You can prep the corn pudding the night before, then add the topping and bake later. The succotash can be made ahead and served warmed up or cold.
It would be so fun to prepare this baked mac & cheese at The Spruce Eats in individual ramekins (if you have them), so that each family member gets their own little serving. Liz swears this is the best recipe around, and I am a big fan of baked mac & cheese because you can prepare it ahead of time then bake it with your other sides rather than working over the stovetop at the last minute.
Because it’s a messy dish to clean up after — all that melted cheese! –I like to double or triple the recipe, then freeze the extra servings in individual portions for quick dinners or remote-schooling lunches later.
Make ahead tip: While lots of us prefer it fresh out of the oven, mac and cheese really does freeze well. So if you want, you can make this a few days ahead of time, then stash in the freezer or refrigerator until you’re ready to reheat.
Sidesgiving bread recipes, choose 1
Of course any wonderful loaf of fresh bread will do for a Sidesgiving menu — homemade or not. But for something a little more fun, try one of these.
Garlic bread: If your family is big on cheese (can you tellI am?) then this garlic pull-apart bread at Street Smart Kitchen will be a huge hit at Thanksgiving. I love it because it’s semi-homemade (using a store-bought loaf of sourdough), and I don’t have to worry that my biscuits won’t rise or my parker house rolls will be hard as stones.
Make ahead tip: You can cut and fill the bread early, then cook it when you’re ready to eat.
Related: 7 easy yeast bread recipes for beginners
Biscuits and rolls: I’ll be honest, I usually grab frozen biscuits or rolls at the grocery, because it’s one less thing to worry about on Thanksgiving. But, of course, you can make these delicious parker house rolls at The Redheaded Baker, And you’d be right to do so.
Corn bread: An easy skillet corn bread via Erin Lives Whole seems like a definite yes on a Sidesgiving menu — and might even make you reconsider that “pick one only” rule.
Alternatively, check out my family’s own favorite recipe for sweet zucchini bread from scratch which helps you sneak a few more. veggies onto the table for the kids. Besides, baking is a great way to get the kids involved in the kitchen, too.
Savory bread pudding: If you’re wanting to go really decadent for your bread dish on Sidesgiving, this rich, savory mushroom and leek bread pudding at A Hint of Rosemary would make an interesting option for your bread. It’s got deep, earthy flavors and is probably best for families who don’t have lots of picky eaters. It’s naturally a vegetarian recipe, but you could add sausage too, if you want.
Make ahead tip: this dish needs to sit for at least 30 minutes before you cook it. I’d make it in the morning and let it rest to soak up the flavors.
Sidesgiving stuffing recipe: choose this one because Liz says you have to
Stove Top Stuffing. Sure you can make some homemade, but come on…Stove Top! It’s amazing! And you don’t even have to have cooked a turkey.
That said, our favorite food bloggers did share their favorite stuffing recipes with us, so if you have to make from scratch it’s a good place to start. Or, do what the readers of Food.com did and make a semi-homemade stuffing with Stove Top — or even check out Stove Top’s own recipes, like this one above, made with vegetarian breakfast sausage. (Tip though: Use butter, not margarine. Please.)
Sidesgiving mini-main dish recipes, choose 1-2
Turkey: Grab a rotisserie chicken and make these mini turkey pot pies at Pot of Gold Recipes with chicken instead of a full turkey (or chicken) if you’re planning a Sidesgiving menu. So easy, so yummy, and so fun! Each person gets their own little miniature entree, which is perfect for Sidesgiving.
and be sure to see even more clever options for what to make for a smaller Thanksgiving in this article, which has some good tips and ideas.
Cornish game hens: You get a bird, and you get a bird, and you get a bird! Everyone gets a bird with these petite apricot-glazed stuffed Cornish game hens at Linger a Little. If you focus on making most of these sides ahead of time, you’ll have time to work on these miniature entrees on Thanksgiving Day, and they’d be a really fun treat.
Egg: Get some extra protein on your table with mini quiches. I love this recipe at Culinary Hill that gives you four different quiche recipes, so you’re sure to have something to make everyone happy. She even has tips for making these ahead of time or freezing them, so if you have any leftovers they’re great school morning breakfasts.
And hey, you can always include turkey in your quiches, right?
Beef: For some of us, the fact that we’re not traveling or having guests over means we have more energy for cooking, and this might be the year to try something ambitious. I don’t need a 25-pound turkey for my family of six, but I think these mini beef wellingtons at Masala Herb would be a festive and fancy alternative for us this year.
My kids have watched enough Master Chef Junior to want to get in the kitchen and help me with these, so that might even make them more doable for us. And who knows, we could end up with a whole new family favorite.