41 Easy Thanksgiving Side Dishes You Can Make Ahead for an Effortless Holiday
Cut down on Thanksgiving Day craziness and free up space in your oven by making some dishes ahead of time. From the Kale Salad with Cranberries to the Easy Scalloped Potatoes, all of these classic Thanksgiving side dishes come with tips to prep them ahead of time. A quick reheat is all they'll need before making their way to your dinner table.
Honey-Glazed Roasted Delicata Squash
Tangy cider vinegar, sweet honey, crunchy pine nuts and fresh mint come together to make an amazing glaze in this healthy roasted winter squash recipe. If you use delicata, the whole squash—including the gorgeous skin—is edible.
Brussels Sprouts Salad with Parmesan & Marcona Almonds
Chef Fabio Viviani, of Siena Tavern in Chicago, shines a bright light on Brussels sprouts with this side dish. In this Brussels sprouts salad recipe, the sharpness of the sprouts gets tamed with honey, toasted almonds and shaved Parmesan cheese. It comes together in about 20 minutes--you can thinly slice the Brussels sprouts with a knife or mandoline, but it's overkill for weeknights. A food processor with a slicing blade will give you pro results. Or grab a bag of shredded Brussels sprouts from your supermarket.
Bitter Greens Salad with Soppressata & Pecorino
This bitter green salad turns the bland lunch salad on its head with its Mediterranean flair. Quickly charring radicchio and toasting dried oregano adds complex flavor, and slightly spicy soppressata pairs especially well with the sweetness of marinated cherry peppers. Pecorino Romano has a tangier, saltier taste than Parmesan, so just a bit provides the salad with plenty of nutty, sharp flavor. This salad can easily be made into a main course or served as a substantial side dish.
Greens-&-Gruyère Mini Quiches
This mini quiche recipe uses classic Provençal flavors--garlic, oil-cured olives, anchovies, caramelized onions--to season these very-green egg cups. They keep well, perfect for breakfast on the fly, but the flavors are sophisticated enough to serve for brunch. If you frequently make mini quiches, consider investing in silicone mini muffin tins; they make popping these out a dream!
Farro Salad with Arugula, Artichokes & Pistachios
Precooked farro makes this dish come together in no time. And you can make it in the same bowl you serve it in, minimizing cleanup!
Vegan Pumpkin Soup
This vegan pumpkin soup, filled with spices and creamy cashews, can make an easy weeknight dinner or be elevated to a vegan main dish worthy of a holiday dinner by serving it in a hollowed-out freshly roasted pumpkin.
Balsamic-Parmesan Sautéed Spinach
Tender spinach with a hint of garlic, Parmesan cheese and sweet balsamic vinegar makes a quick and flavorful side dish. The sturdy leaves of mature spinach hold up best during cooking.
Kale Salad with Cranberries
This easy holiday salad gets its flavor from a sweet citrus dressing that's infused into the kale by massaging the greens and the dressing together with your hands. We like a mix of kale for this recipe, but any type of kale will work.
Smothered Cabbage with Ham
Use up your leftover ham in this comforting one-pot dish made with cabbage and potatoes. The simple flavors get brightened at the end with a splash of cider vinegar. Serve alongside roast chicken or pork.
Creamy Cremini Mushroom Soup
Reduced-fat sour cream and low-fat milk make this soup creamy without all the fat. The pudgy brown mushrooms called cremini are generally firmer and richer-tasting than common white mushrooms.
Cauliflower Casserole with Mixed-Seed Crust
The cheesy-seedy crust that tops this healthy cauliflower casserole recipe evokes everything bagels. Serve on Thanksgiving as an easy make-ahead side dish.
Meringue-Topped Sweet Potato Casserole
This lightened-up take on the classic Thanksgiving sweet potato casserole is spiked with crushed pineapple and toasted pecans. We top it with an airy, slightly sweet meringue. You can pipe the meringue to make it look fancy or simply spread it neatly with a rubber spatula.
Roasted Butternut Squash & Pear Quinoa Salad
This roasted vegetable and fruit salad gets infused with flavor from quinoa that's cooked with fresh ginger, garlic and a hit of turmeric. An easy make-ahead twist for your Thanksgiving spread!
No-Sugar-Added Sweet Potato Casserole
Instead of loading up this comfort food side with tons of brown sugar and marshmallows, we have turned to sweet spices, vanilla and inherently sweet dried fruit to enhance the natural sweetness of the sweet potatoes. A topping of pecans and pepitas replaces traditional marshmallow topping to keep it healthy and add texture and color for a beautiful casserole.
The Best Homemade Cranberry Sauce
This is our go-to recipe for homemade cranberry sauce. It's simple (just five ingredients!), is lightly sweet without being too sugary and has just the right amount of zesty flavor from orange peel. Plus, it's so easy—it goes from stove to table in just 20 minutes!
Easy Mashed Sweet Potatoes
This quick mashed potato recipe has just 5 ingredients and is Thanksgiving-ready in 20 minutes. Using sweet potatoes for this classic side dish adds color to your plate along with a little sweetness and a boost of Vitamin A.
Vegan Green Bean Casserole
Now everyone can enjoy classic Thanksgiving favorites, like this dairy-free green bean casserole. We make a homemade vegan cream of mushroom soup using almond milk for the creamy base that's combined with fresh green beans. Top it off with classic french-fried onions (we have a vegan recipe for that, too!) for a side dish everyone will devour.
Vegan Scalloped Potatoes
These scalloped potatoes are surprisingly rich and creamy even though they're made with no dairy (milk, butter or cheese)—vegan comfort food at its best. We use almond milk, herbs and spices to make a flavorful sauce and finish the dish with a crunchy almond topping. This makes a satisfying side dish if you're cooking for dairy-free or vegan diets.
Roasted Brussels Sprout & Butternut Squash Salad
Serve this hearty and healthy fall salad with roasted pork tenderloin, chicken or salmon, or with your Thanksgiving meal. All of the vegetables are roasted on the same pan, so this recipe is easy to prep, and it tastes great warm or at room temperature so it's perfect for holiday buffet tables and potlucks. Cranberries add a sweet-tart edge, while the maple-tahini dressing provides depth.
Parmesan Scalloped Potatoes with Spinach
Classic scalloped potatoes get a burst of color, heartier texture and a healthy update with the addition of chopped spinach. The greens in this side dish also create a nice contrast to the creamy, velvety potatoes.
Hasselbacks Sweet Potatoes with Marshmallows
These hasselback sweet potatoes are like mini marshmallow-topped sweet potato casseroles drizzled with sage-infused butter. The hasselback technique, slicing the potato but leaving it whole, makes for a tender potato with a crispy top—the best of both worlds.
No-Sugar-Added Cranberry Sauce
Most cranberry sauce recipes add tons of sugar to mask the tart taste of the cranberries. In this simple cranberry sauce, we lighten things up by skipping the sugar and opting for a healthier combination of dates and apple cider which adds just enough sweetness without overpowering the cranberry flavor.
Easy Scalloped Potatoes
In this easy scalloped potatoes recipe, sliced potatoes are roasted in the oven before being mixed with a simple, creamy stovetop sauce and sprinkled with Cheddar cheese. A few minutes under the broiler turns the dish golden and crispy.
Mashed Celeriac with Herbs
Celeriac is a delicious low-carb alternative to mashed potatoes. Pureeing the steamed celeriac in a food processor ensures a smooth, light and fluffy texture.
Kale-Butternut Squash Gratin
This colorful gratin dish livens up any holiday plate. Creamy melted Gruyère is comforting, while a blend of cumin, nutmeg, and cayenne pepper lends a warm, spicy note.
Chicken & Stuffing Casserole
Stuffing is not just for Thanksgiving with this easy chicken and stuffing casserole. There are plenty of veggies in this, making this a healthy casserole you can feel good about serving year-round.
Balsamic Roasted Cabbage
These roasted cabbage wedges with honey and balsamic vinegar make an attractive and healthy side dish that's also very easy to prepare. You can use red or green cabbage--or make a double batch with one of each for a pretty presentation.
Garlic Mashed Red Potatoes
These garlic mashed red potatoes use the cooking liquid to impart a rich garlic flavor. The starch from the potatoes helps make these mashed potatoes creamy without having to use milk or heavy cream.
Make this stuffing with an apple variety that holds its shape rather than turns to sauce during the cooking process, so there will be tender bites of fruit throughout. Honeycrisp, Granny Smith or Pink Lady are all easy-to-find options.
Herb-Roasted Root Vegetables
Brussels sprouts, butternut squash, and celery root make up a colorful roasted vegetable medley. If you can't find celery root (also called celeriac) you can swap in another root vegetable such as carrots, parsnips, or turnips.
Apple & Cheddar Side Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette
This salad is easy and festive--the perfect healthy addition to your holiday table. The no-sugar-added dressing blends well with the sweet notes of apple and sharp Cheddar cheese, and crunchy pecans round out the dish.
Mashed Potatoes & Turnips with Leeks
Classic mashed potatoes get a healthy twist when you add turnips, a cruciferous vegetable that's rich in vitamin C. Turnips provide a touch of sweetness, while a savory leek topping completes this simple, easy side dish.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Goat Cheese & Pomegranate
This gorgeous warm salad with nutty roasted Brussels sprouts, sweet-tart pomegranate seeds and creamy goat cheese is perfect for any winter meal--from a weeknight dinner to Christmas dinner or any other holiday celebration. The recipe is easily doubled if you are entertaining a crowd: just be sure to spread the sprouts out (use 2 pans if necessary) so they roast instead of steaming.
Melting Sweet Potatoes with Maple Butter
As the name implies, these sweet potatoes melt right in your mouth. After browning in a hot oven, thick slices of sweet potato simmer in broth and soak up the flavors of maple syrup and lemon. This simple dish is great alongside roasted chicken or pork and makes a great Thanksgiving side dish.
The lightened-up luscious sauce elevates this easy casserole recipe over standard broccoli and cheese side dishes.
Melting Beets with Goat Cheese
Roasting the beets with broth makes them crispy on the outside, yet tender on the inside. Crumbled goat cheese tops these melt-in-your-mouth beets for an easy side dish.
Cheesy Corn Casserole
This cheesy corn casserole is surprisingly light and fluffy, thanks to eggs and a whirl in the blender. The sweet corn batter and salty Cheddar cheese make this casserole pleasing to kids and adults alike.
Green Beans with Parmesan-Garlic Breadcrumbs
In this easy green bean recipe, browning the butter before tossing it with the breadcrumbs produces a nice nutty flavor. Serve this green bean dish as a healthy alternative to green bean casserole or as an easy side with steak, chicken or fish.
Cornbread & Oyster-Mushroom Stuffing
Mushrooms are a rich, meaty addition in this healthy cornbread stuffing recipe. Here we use oyster mushrooms, but you can use any variety you like. If you have time, bake the cornbread a day or two in advance so it has time to dry out a bit, which lets it absorb the flavors more readily.
Brown Butter & Sage Acorn Squash
We like acorn squash because its skin is tender enough to eat (which saves you the hassle of peeling), but any winter squash will work for this nutty, maple-drizzled side.
Slow-Cooker Mushroom Soup with Sherry
This comforting and creamy slow-cooker soup is loaded with earthy, umami flavor from the mushrooms and soy sauce. Puréeing only some of the slow-cooker mushroom soup gives the dish complex texture and eye appeal. Garnish with additional black pepper and chopped fresh thyme, if desired.