9 Thanksgiving Side Dish and Dessert Recipes That Put a Modern Spin on Holiday Classics

The big turkey day is around the corner, and I think we can agree it’s all about the Thanksgiving side dishes — and desserts, too, of course. So, what’s on your menu this year? At my house, you’ll find many of these dishes — spins on classic recipes for iconic Thanksgiving side dishes and desserts. These updated recipes are sure to become your go-tos on the family table. Time to create some new traditions!

Always Nourished’s Curried Butternut Squash and Apple Soup

soup
Photo Courtesy of Always Nourished

A nod to our vegan family and friends with no sacrifice of flavor, this soup is warming inside and out. Vegetable stock and coconut milk round out a pureed soup made with onion, ginger, garlic, Granny Smith apple, carrot, butternut squash (buy it pre-cut and save time!), and curry. I like to make a cilantro or carrot-top pesto to dollop on top (omit the cheese if keeping truly vegan).

Smitten Kitchen’s Sour Cream and Chive Fantails

fantails
Photo courtesy of Smitten Kitchen

Am I fully obsessed with Deb Perelman and all things Smitten Kitchen? Obviously. So why should this recipe roundup be any different? Leaving her out of any online recipe discussion is tantamount to heresy. These tender pull-apart rolls are exhibit one in my open-and-shut case on how Deb rules. This yeasted, buttery roll borrows some thoughts from puff pastry folds, throws in sour cream, garlic powder, and chives, stuffs each roll into a muffin tin and drizzles it with butter. Is it hot in here?

Indian as Apple Pie’s Cranberry Chutney

cranberry sauce
Photo courtesy of Indian As Apple Pie

Chicago cookbook author and culinary entrepreneur Anupy Singla grew up in Philly and loves to take classic dishes and infuse them with a little Indian flavor. Here, cranberries get the chutney treatment, with plenty of ginger, apple cider vinegar, fresh orange, and garam masala. Throw it into a pot (essentially) and simmer until berries have burst and sauce thickens slightly. Cool and refrigerate until ready to use. Outstanding with your turkey, sure, but also great with duck, ham, chicken… or on a grilled cheese sandwich.

Bon Appetit’s Chorizo and Calabrian Chile Stuffing

stuffing
Photo courtesy of Bon Appetit

Thanksgiving stuffing almost feels like an afterthought. You make it because it’s expected, not because it has actual FLAVOR. This changes right here, right now with this spiced-up rendition of the holiday staple. The addition of sauteed fresh chorizo sausage (you can buy it in bulk out of the casing at Whole Foods, among other spots) and chopped Calabrian chiles will turn your stuffing from a “meh” into a “wow!”

Love & Lemons’ Green Bean Salad

green beans
Photo courtesy of Love & Lemons

You know how you stress about getting everything to the table hot? Here’s a pro-tip: Serve a few things at room temperature… on purpose! Forget the heavy green bean casserole and sub in this bright and crisp salad, chockful of beans (do half yellow, half green for even more incredible color), radicchio, chopped walnuts and/or almonds, fresh tarragon, goat cheese, and thinly sliced red onion, all drizzled with honey mustard vinaigrette. Serve on a long, low platter rather than in a salad bowl for best presentation.

Bobby Flay’s Smoked Chile Scalloped Sweet Potatoes

sweet potatoes
Photo courtesy of Food Network

Your arteries may harden, but what a way to go. Thinly sliced sweet potatoes are layered in a casserole with chipotle cream and seasoned with salt and pepper (I like to sprinkle in a little garlic powder and ground cumin, too), then baked for an hour and a half until liquid is absorbed and top is browned. Another option: during last 45 minutes of baking time, sprinkle a ½ cup of grated manchego cheese on top and thank me later.

Ina Garten’s Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes

mashed potatoes
Photo courtesy of the Barefoot Contessa

When you want something done right, go to the Queen. Would Ina ever steer you wrong? Yukon Gold potatoes, whole milk, buttermilk, a stick of butter, kosher salt, and (always!) freshly ground pepper combine in pure culinary alchemy to make The. Best. Mashed. Potatoes. Ever. The standard by which all others are judged.

Food & Wine’s Gingered Pumpkin Pie with Candied Pepitas

pie
Photo by Christopher Testani, courtesy of Food & Wine

Sure, you make a perfunctory pumpkin pie every year, but why make a boring dessert when pumpkin pie has so much potential with a little tweaking? This one is packed with warm spices, bright fresh ginger and orange zest, and freshly made caramel mixed into the filling, then it’s topped with candied pumpkin seeds. If you’re looking for a shortcut, start with a frozen pie shell.

Molly Yeh’s Hawaij Apple Pie with Cardamom Whipped Cream

pie
Photo courtesy of My Name is Yeh

Everyone’s favorite North Dakota gal — and star of Food Network’s “Girl Meets Farm”— came up with this welcome take on apple pie. The addition of the Yemeni spice mix hawaij (ginger, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg), traditionally used as a rub for grilled meats (or even in coffee!), is the magic ingredient. She layers apple flavor with the addition of boiled cider to the filling and a touch of apple cider vinegar to the crust, and then tops it with a fragrant cardamom-spiced whipped cream. Cardamom is the best spice… prove me wrong.


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Julie Chernoff, Better’s dining editor since its inception in 2007, graduated from Yale University with a degree in English — which she speaks fluently — and added a professional chef’s degree from the California Culinary Academy. She has worked for Boz Scaggs, Rick Bayless, and Wolfgang Puck (not all at the same time); and counts Northlight Theatre and Les Dames d’Escoffier International as two of her favorite nonprofits. She currently serves on the national board of MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, an advocacy group addressing hunger issues in the U.S. and Israel for the nearly 46 million people — veterans, children, seniors, tribal nations, and more — who go to bed hungry every night.