The turkey may be the star of the traditional Thanksgiving feast, but the sides are arguably the best part. Where would tom turkey (or tofurkey) be without his stellar supporting cast of buttery mashed potatoes, fragrant sage-infused stuffing and tangy cranberry sauce, after all?
We settled the debate on the most-beloved Northeast food, now we know where you stand on Thanksgiving side dishes. Eight essential turkey companions duked it out for our Thanksgiving Sides Showdown, but in the end stuffing won over mashed potatoes 61% to 39%.
616 total votes
Stuffing – 61% (winner)
Mashed Potatoes – 39%
1,483 total votes
Stuffing vs. Cranberry Sauce
Stuffing – 85% (winner)
Cranberry Sauce – 15%
Biscuits vs. Mashed Potatoes
Mashed Potatoes – 86% (winner)
Biscuits – 14%
7,283 total votes
Biscuits vs. Cornbread
Biscuits – 54% (winner)
Cornbread – 46%
Mashed Potatoes vs. Sweet Potato Casserole
Mashed Potatoes – 69% (winner)
Sweet Potato Casserole – 31%
Green Bean Casserole vs. Cranberry Sauce
Cranberry Sauce – 73% (winner)
Green Bean Casserole – 27%
Stuffing vs. Mac & Cheese
Stuffing – 93% (winner)
Mac & Cheese – 7%
Must-Have Thanksgiving Sides
Now that you are good and hungry, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite recipes from the web to help you with this year’s Thanksgiving or Friendsgiving meal.
If you want to soak up every last tasty drop of your Thanksgiving dinner, you are going to need a good biscuit.
There are two types of biscuits: rolled and drop. Rolled biscuits require rolling out the dough and cutting them into shape. These will rise more while baking and will typically yield a flakier result. Chef Jumoké Jackson aka @mrfoodtastic, has the method mastered. Follow him on Instagram and you’ll see why his buttermilk biscuit recipe is so sought-after. He even offers regular virtual biscuit-making classes for those looking to learn his secrets.
Drop biscuits like these from Serious Eats are not as pretty – think Red Lobster Cheddar Bay, but they can be all the fluffy, buttery things you love about biscuits with half the work. The dough can be made completely in a bowl or a food processor and is simply plopped down in spoonfuls into a tray to bake.
No matter how you make them, the key to light, flaky biscuits is to keep your butter as cold as possible and not overwork the dough.
There is very little documentation of what was actually eaten at the first Thanksgiving, but one food mentioned in the records is cornbread made with corn harvested by the Native Americans. Cornbread of the modern Thanksgiving table – a quick bread often baked in a cast iron skillet made especially delicious when slathered with honey butter – is likely much different than what was served at Plymouth, but it can be thought of as a nod to the holiday’s true history.
Sweet Potato Casserole
Marshmallows or no marshmallows? That is the question.
For some, the classic sweet potato casserole with its caramelized topping of chopped pecans or walnuts, brown sugar and toasty marshmallows delivers an over-the-top sweetness that should be reserved for dessert; for others, it’s exactly what Thanksgiving side dish dreams are made of. If you crave the classic in all its gooey goodness, this sweet potato casserole with marshmallows, pecans and cornflakes from Southern Living is the recipe you are looking for.
For a healthier version that cuts the butter and sugar and highlights the immune system-, gut- and overall health-boosting benefits of sweet potatoes, try Cooking Light’s sweet potato casserole with crunchy oat topping.
Mashed potatoes are a go-to side for a Thanksgiving meal. Buttery and smooth (perhaps with the addition of sour cream like Ina Garten does) or rustic and garlicky, it’s a dish that can stand on its own but is also a supreme vessel for gravy.
Green Bean Casserole
An American classic made with five ingredients, including a can of cream of condensed mushroom soup and crispy french fried onions, some version of this green bean casserole has likely graced your Thanksgiving table.
If you’re more of a from-scratch type of person, try Bon Appetit’s, made with cremini mushrooms and garlic parmesan béchamel sauce. If you’re completely over the casserole but still want to serve green beans, you might like Williams Sonoma’s green bean bundles with bacon and brown sugar instead.
Bright cranberry sauce breaks up the monotony of savory flavors on your dish and pairs perfectly with turkey. Make this homemade version from Simply Recipes with fresh or frozen cranberries and add orange zest, cinnamon, pecans and other fruits or spices to incorporate more of the holiday flavors that everyone craves this time of year.
If you prefer slices of gelatinized cranberry sauce that jiggles its way out of a can, that’s OK too. The holidays are all about tradition and nostalgia, and if that’s your tradition, bring on the can opener!
Stuffing and turkey go hand-in-hand – or hand in, never mind. Like other must-have Thanksgiving sides like mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce, the ideal holiday plate just wouldn’t be complete without it.
Technically, if it’s outside the bird it’s called “dressing,” but it’s the same ingredients and baked outside of the bird is generally safer. We like this traditional sage stuffing from Food52 and this gluten-free cornbread stuffing from Ambitious Kitchen.
Macaroni and Cheese
It may be rich, and you may not have enough room on your plate or in your stomach for it, but macaroni and cheese is the kind of Thanksgiving side that separates a holiday meal from every other. Alton Brown’s recipe comes highly rated with thousands of reviews. If someone in your family is dairy-free or vegan, try the “mind-blowing” vegan mac and cheese from Sarah Crawford @bromabakery.
And if you love the turkey more than the sides, here are a few tips – including advice from a Butterball Turkey Talk-Line expert, on how to choose, cook and season your bird for the tastiest results.
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Do you agree that stuffing is the best Thanksgiving side dish? Tell us your favorite in the comments below.