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Easy Thanksgiving Sides to Wow the Table

This post shows you the most popular Thanksgiving side dishes you can make ahead of time.

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Beyond the Classics: Expand Your Thanksgiving Menu

Thanksgiving – a time for gathering with loved ones, expressing gratitude, and of course, indulging in a phenomenal feast! While the golden-roasted turkey takes center stage, it’s the symphony of side dishes that truly elevates the Thanksgiving experience.

From creamy mashed potatoes to the iconic green bean casserole, these accompaniments weave a tapestry of flavors and textures, leaving everyone at the table satisfied and happy.

But what if you’re looking to go beyond the classics?

Perhaps you’re a seasoned Thanksgiving host yearning to add a touch of novelty, or maybe you’re a new cook eager to impress with your culinary skills. This guide is your roadmap to creating a Thanksgiving spread that’s both easy and impressive. We’ll explore a variety of delectable side dishes that cater to different tastes and dietary preferences.

While these classic dishes are beloved for a reason, Thanksgiving is also a time to explore and expand your culinary horizons.

Let’s delve into some exciting Thanksgiving side dish ideas that go beyond the expected, offering unique flavor combinations and beautiful presentations to truly impress your guests.

Mashed Potatoes

This timeless dish reigns supreme. Explore variations like creamy garlic mashed potatoes, decadent mashed potatoes with roasted garlic and goat cheese, or lighten things up with vegan mashed cauliflower for a special dietary consideration.

Make ahead of time

Prepare and mash your potatoes the day before. Store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Reheat gently on the stovetop with some milk or cream cheese before serving.


A Thanksgiving staple, stuffing comes in endless iterations. For a twist on tradition, consider cornbread dressing with chorizo and jalapenos, wild rice stuffing with dried fruits and nuts, or a vegetarian stuffing packed with mushrooms, chestnuts, and fresh herbs.

Make ahead of time

This savory dish can be assembled entirely a day ahead. Simply combine all ingredients except the wet mixture (broth or eggs). Cover and refrigerate. On Thanksgiving Day, bring it to room temperature, add the wet mixture, and bake according to recipe instructions.

Green Bean Casserole

A nostalgic favorite, explore healthier versions by using low-fat cream soup, swapping fried onions for crispy panko breadcrumbs, or adding a twist with roasted red peppers or a sprinkle of sriracha for a touch of heat.

Make ahead of time

Cook the green beans and prepare the creamy mushroom sauce beforehand. Store them separately in the refrigerator. On Thanksgiving Day, assemble the casserole by layering the beans, sauce, and fried onions. Bake until bubbly and golden brown.

Dinner Rolls

Warm, soft dinner rolls are essential. For a homemade approach, try easy Hawaiian sweet rolls or buttermilk dinner rolls. Short on time? Opt for store-bought rolls and elevate them with flavored butter like garlic herb or maple pecan.

Make ahead of time

While fresh-baked rolls are amazing, frozen dinner rolls can be a lifesaver. Take them out of the freezer the night before and let them thaw in the refrigerator. Then, simply follow the package instructions for baking on Thanksgiving Day.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Often maligned, roasted Brussels sprouts can be a revelation! Toss them with olive oil, balsamic glaze, and chopped bacon for a sweet and savory side. For a unique twist, try roasted Brussels sprouts with pomegranate seeds and a drizzle of tahini sauce.

Make ahead of time

Roasting vegetables like Brussels sprouts, butternut squash, or carrots is a great way to get ahead. Simply toss them with olive oil, herbs, and spices, roast until tender, and refrigerate. Reheat in the oven before serving for a quick and flavorful side.

Sweet Potato Casserole

A Thanksgiving must-have, explore variations like brown butter sweet potato mash with toasted pecans for a nutty richness, or a healthier version using Greek yogurt instead of marshmallows.

Make ahead of time

To make sweet potato casserole ahead, simply cook and mash the sweet potatoes the day before. Prepare the filling by mixing dry ingredients and storing them at room temperature, while whisking together wet ingredients and refrigerating overnight. On Thanksgiving Day, assemble and bake for a hassle-free side dish!

Cranberry Sauce

This tart and tangy condiment complements the richness of the turkey. Craft a homemade cranberry sauce with orange zest and a touch of bourbon, or for a healthier option, try a low-sugar cranberry sauce with chopped apples and a hint of maple syrup.

Make ahead of time

Homemade cranberry sauce is a delicious and festive addition to the table. Make it a few days ahead and store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator. The flavors will actually develop and meld even better over time!

Mac and Cheese

This universally loved dish can be dressed up for Thanksgiving. Consider a decadent lobster mac and cheese, a creamy goat cheese mac and cheese with roasted butternut squash, or a vegetarian option with a four-cheese sauce and a panko crumb topping.

Make ahead of time

This cheesy favorite can be prepped and assembled in a baking dish a day before. Cover it tightly with foil and refrigerate. On Thanksgiving Day, take it out of the fridge, let it come to room temperature for 30 minutes, and bake uncovered until golden brown and bubbly.

Deviled Eggs

A versatile and easy-to-make appetizer or side dish, deviled eggs are a crowd-pleaser. You can customize them with various fillings, from classic mustard to creamy avocado or a spicy kick with sriracha.

Make ahead of time

Deviled eggs are another make-ahead win! Hard boil, peel, and halve the eggs up to 2 days before. Prep your yolk mixture and store both in the fridge. On Thanksgiving, assemble and garnish for a stress-free crowd-pleaser.

Collard Greens

This leafy green vegetable is a staple side dish in Southern cuisine, often cooked with smoked turkey or ham hocks for added flavor. Collard greens are a healthy and soul-warming addition to the Thanksgiving feast.

Make ahead of time

Collard greens are a delicious and healthy Thanksgiving side, but prepping them can take time. Here’s a shortcut: Wash and remove tough stems from the collards a day before. Blanch them in boiling water for a few minutes, then shock them in ice water to stop the cooking process. Drain and squeeze out excess water. Store the blanched collards in an airtight container in the refrigerator. On Thanksgiving Day, simply saute the greens with your desired aromatics and broth until tender, saving you valuable prep time on the big day.

How many sides should you serve for Thanksgiving?

The ideal number of Thanksgiving sides depends on several factors, including:

Number of Guests

A good rule of thumb is to aim for 3-5 sides per 10 guests. This allows for variety without overwhelming everyone.

Here’s a breakdown based on the number of guests:

Small Gathering (4-6 Guests): 2-3 sides
Medium Gathering (7-10 Guests): 3-5 sides
Large Gathering (11+ Guests): 5-7 sides


If you’re planning on serving appetizers before the main meal, you can get away with fewer sides (2-4).

Dietary Restrictions

Consider if any guests have dietary restrictions and plan accordingly. You might need to offer additional sides or variations of existing ones to ensure everyone has options.

Course Options

Are you planning on serving a separate salad course? This can free up space for another side dish.

Appetite of Guests

If you know your guests have hearty appetites, plan for slightly more food.

Remember, these are just suggestions!

It’s ultimately up to you and your preferences. Here are some additional tips:

Focus on quality over quantity.

It’s better to have a few well-made dishes than a plate full of mediocre ones.

Consider offering a mix of hot and cold sides.

This will keep the meal interesting and ensure there’s something for everyone.

Think about balance.

Include a variety of flavors and textures to keep the meal exciting.

Plan ahead!

Many side dishes can be prepped in advance, saving you time on Thanksgiving Day.

Don’t be afraid to delegate

Ask guests to bring a side dish to potluck-style Thanksgiving.

By considering these factors and following some simple tips, you can ensure you have the perfect number of delicious side dishes for your Thanksgiving feast!

How do you keep Thanksgiving sides hot?

Keeping your Thanksgiving sides hot and delicious can be a challenge with a busy oven and multiple dishes to manage. Here are some strategies to ensure your sides stay warm and ready for serving:

Before the Meal

Pre-cook and reheat

Many side dishes can be prepped and cooked in advance. Reheat them gently on the stovetop or in the oven before serving. This frees up oven space for the turkey and reduces last-minute stress.

Utilize slow cookers and chafing dishes

These appliances are lifesavers for keeping sides warm for extended periods. Slow cookers are great for mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, or creamy corn pudding. Chafing dishes, with their built-in heat source, are perfect for gravy, stuffing, or dips.

Double boiler method

Create a makeshift double boiler by simmering a few inches of water in a large pot. Place a heat-resistant bowl containing your side dish (like green beans or creamed spinach) over the simmering water. The steam will gently warm the dish without scorching.

During the Meal

Low-temperature oven holding

If you have oven space after the turkey comes out, set it to the lowest temperature setting (around 150°F) and use it to hold pre-cooked sides warm. Cover the dishes with foil to prevent them from drying out.

Insulated containers

Invest in insulated casserole carriers or cooler bags to transport pre-cooked dishes from the kitchen to the table and keep them warm for a while.

Warm serving platters

Pre-heat your serving platters in a low oven (around 200°F) for 10-15 minutes before placing your hot sides on them. This will help maintain the temperature for a longer period.

During the Meal

Nestle dishes together

Group your serving dishes close together on the table to create a warming effect, especially if some haven’t been reheated just before serving.

Cozy towels

Wrap a clean kitchen towel around a hot casserole dish for additional insulation.

Bonus Tip: Plan your timing! Coordinate the cooking times of your side dishes so they’re all ready at around the same time, minimizing the amount of time they need to be held warm.

How long do Thanksgiving sides last?

The shelf life of Thanksgiving leftovers, including side dishes, depends on how you store them:


Properly stored leftovers in airtight containers will generally last for 3-4 days in the refrigerator. This applies to most side dishes like mashed potatoes, stuffing, mac and cheese, and roasted vegetables.


For longer storage, you can freeze leftovers for 2-6 months. However, freezing can affect the texture and quality of some dishes. Mashed potatoes and creamy casseroles might become watery upon thawing, while green bean casserole might lose its crispness. Freezing is a good option for dishes like stuffing, mac and cheese, or roasted vegetables.

Here are some additional tips for maximizing the shelf life of your Thanksgiving sides:

Cool leftovers quickly

Don’t leave leftover food out at room temperature for more than 2 hours (or 1 hour if it’s above 90°F). This helps prevent bacterial growth.

Store in shallow containers

This allows for faster and more even cooling.

Label and date containers

This helps you keep track of what’s in the fridge or freezer and how long it’s been there.

Reheat leftovers thoroughly

Ensure internal temperature reaches 165°F to eliminate any harmful bacteria.

By following these tips, you can enjoy your delicious Thanksgiving sides for days or even months to come!

This guide has explored a variety of easy and flavorful options, from timeless classics to exciting new creations. Whether you’re a seasoned cook or a kitchen novice, these recipes empower you to create a spread that will tantalize taste buds and leave your guests wanting more.

So, with a little planning and inspiration, embrace the spirit of the season and embark on a culinary adventure, transforming your Thanksgiving table into a celebration of deliciousness!


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