Every Thanksgiving, I’m reminded of Meghan Trainor’s song “All About That Bass.” Because when it comes to Thanksgiving dinner, I’m all about those sides.

Don’t get me wrong, I love turkey. I eat it throughout the year. Turkey and cheddar with copious amounts of mayo is my favorite sandwich. But come on! How many times a year do you eat green bean or sweet potato casserole, creamy gratins, and mashed potatoes so rich they make your cardiologist faint?

And let’s talk about stuffing, er, dressing. Some obscure government agency should make it its very own food group. Or at the very least, create a food pyramid that rests on those mighty herb-scented shoulders.

Then there are the days following Turkey Day–so marvelous they are that who can think of Black Friday? If I’m not making a turkey-stuffing-and-cranberry-sauce sandwich or stuffing muffins, I’m layering leftovers into a casserole dish, topping them with homemade pie crust, and making a day-after-Thanksgiving pot pie.

Huzzah, huzzah, side dishes! Long may you reign and terrorize doctors everywhere.

The word "David" written in script.
A wooden bowl filled with mashed potatoes and topped with a melted square of butter.
Evan Sung
1 of 10

Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes

These basic mashed potatoes are exactly as described. Simple, easy, and oh-so-comforting.
Recipe

These make-ahead mashed potatoes are a fool-proof recipe. Super Easy! Making again.

amber
A large metal sheet pan filled with slices of roasted carrots with allspice, sea salt and preserved lemons, with a serving spoon.
Ellen Silverman
2 of 10

Roasted Carrots with Allspice

Roasted carrots with allspice are an easy, unexpected, and, we dare say, essential side dish for winter. Put them on your table and we suspect everyone who tries them will agree…and ask for the recipe.
Recipe

These roasted carrots were excellent! I made them along with the slow-roasted pork shoulder with stuffed squash for an early Christmas dinner party and they were an absolute hit! Super easy to prep in advance and I liked the preserved lemon surprise at the end. Yum!

amy
A classic green bean casserole with mushrooms and topped with fried onion rings in a cast-iron skillet.
Squire Fox
3 of 10

Classic Green Bean Casserole

This classic green bean casserole, made with green beans, mushrooms, and a cream sauce, is a Thanksgiving tradition. Just say no to the can opener.
Recipe
A white gravy boat filled with cranberry relish with a halved lime and juicer in the background.
Becky Rosenthal
4 of 10

Sweet and Spicy Cranberry Relish

This sweet and spicy cranberry relish is a contemporary take on the traditional cranberry sauce. Spiced with jalapeño and brightened with lime juice, it will become an instant holiday favorite.
Recipe
A browned fennel potato gratin, garnished with rosemary in an oval casserole dish with handles and a glass of white wine on either side of the dish.
Time, Inc.
5 of 10

Fennel Potato Gratin

This fennel potato gratin, made with layers of thinly sliced fennel and potatoes, and a thick creamy white Cheddar sauce, is one of the most comforting side dishes we’ve ever experienced.
Recipe
A copper pot filled with creamed spinach.
Christopher Hirsheimer
6 of 10

Creamed Spinach

This creamed spinach is an easy version of the classic, made with fresh spinach and a mascarpone, Parmesan, and cream sauce. Here’s how to make it.
Recipe

Extraordinarily delicious! I will definitely be making this creamed spinach recipe again soon. Texture and flavoring was perfect.

elizabeth
A white gratin dish filled with cheesy broccoli and topped with toasted breadcrumbs.
Quentin Bacon
7 of 10

Broccoli and Blue Cheese Gratin

Broccoli and blue cheese gratin is a simple comforting casserole that makes the perfect Thanksgiving side dish.
Recipe
Hot artichoke dip in a white pottery bowl with a serving spoon, beside a bowl of toasted bread.
Kim Lightbody
8 of 10

Hot Artichoke Dip

Artichoke hearts are an essential store-cupboard ingredient for me. This recipe is one of my favorites—delicious, quick, and simple to make, it's inspired by my mother. I always serve this at Christmastime, with toasted rosemary focaccia. It is rich, comforting, and everyone always wants the recipe.
Recipe
A white dish filled with sweet potato casserole, topped with toasted marshmallows.
Robert M. Peacock
9 of 10

Classic Sweet Potato Casserole

This classic sweet potato casserole recipe is made with marshmallows, half-and-half, spices, and sugar. Just like grandma's.
Recipe

The sweet potato casserole turned out great, everyone loved it.

tammy
An oval casserole dish filled with wild mushroom stuffing.
David Leite
10 of 10

Wild Mushroom Stuffing

Earthy flavors combine with slightly sweet brioche bread to create this beautiful brioche and wild mushroom stuffing.
Recipe

FAQs

What types of side dishes are best to make ahead of time?

The best types of side dishes to make in advance are those that are served at room temperature, like cranberry sauce, or sides that reheat well, like mashed potatoes or gravy. For other types of side dishes, like creamy gratins or roasted Brussels sprouts, do as much prep as you can and then pop them into the oven at the last minute.

How many side dishes do I need for Thanksgiving dinner?

There’s no firm rule, but we recommend you aim for 4 to 5 side dishes for your Thanksgiving menu. We like to include 2 vegetable sides, like easy roasted carrots and pan-fried green beans, and two starchy sides like black pepper mashed potatoes and herbed bread and celery stuffing. Of course, if your family demands a marshmallow-laden sweet potato casserole, then we recommend you also include that.

What’s the best way to store leftover side dishes?

Most side dishes will keep in sealed containers in the fridge for up to 4 days. Some sides, particularly gravy and cranberry sauce freeze well and can be stashed in airtight containers in the freezer for up to 6 months.

Now that you have your side dishes squared away, you can move on to the most important part — dessert! We’ve got an incredible selection of Thanksgiving desserts, many of which can also be made ahead and stashed in your fridge or freezer.




About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.


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2 Comments

  1. I’m definitely going to make a sweet potato casserole, it’s my absolute fave since forever.