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10 Scrumptious Side Dishes Perfect for Thanksgiving

5 minutes read Nov 15,2022
Scrumptious Side Dishes Perfect for Thanksgiving

Turkey typically rules the roost on Thanksgiving but there are many special side dishes that are classic in certain areas of the country. Try one or more of these 10 favorite Thanksgiving sides by region for a cross-country meal you won't forget. 

Thanksgiving Side Dishes Across the County 

Why not add something different to your Thanksgiving menu this year? Maybe a culinary homage to an area you went to, or in anticipation of somewhere you want to travel in the future. From east to west and north to south, there are many delicious traditions to make room for on your plate.

creamed onions thanksgiving side dish

Classic East Coast Side Dishes

With a nod to traditions and plentiful local resources, the Eastern Seaboard of the U.S. has its own distinct Thanksgiving flavors. Along with oyster stuffing and fresh cranberry relish, these regional recipes are tasty accompaniments to the main meal. 


This unique sour side dish was brought to the Thanksgiving table by German and Eastern Europeans. It is often found next to mashed potatoes and gravy. 


  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons turkey or chicken drippings or olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 tablespoons sweet Hungarian paprika
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons salt 
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper 
  • 6 cups chopped cabbage
  • 2 cups turkey or chicken broth, equally divided 
  • 2 ½ cups shredded sauerkraut, rinsed, and drained 


  1. Heat the butter and drippings/oil in a large pan. 
  2. Sauté the chopped onion until softened. Add the paprika, salt, and pepper.
  3. Add the cabbage and one cup of broth. Partially cover and cook on medium heat until cabbage begins to wilt. Stir and add remaining broth.
  4. Put into a baking dish. Cover and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 25 to 30 minutes. Uncover and bake 15 minutes more.

Recipe borrowed from

Creamed Onions

Onions in a rich creamy sauce have been a part of Thanksgiving meals in New England for generations. There are even reports of the prestigious pearl onion being brought over on the Mayflower.  


  • 8 cups water
  • 2 ¾ tablespoons coarse salt, divided 
  • 2 bags (10 ounces each) unpeeled pearl onions
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg 
  • 4 sprigs fresh sage (about 16 leaves)


  1. Add half the salt to large pot with eight cups of water.
  2. Boil onions in salted water about 12 minutes until just tender, then drain. 
  3. Cool the onions, then pop them out of their skins. Dry on a paper towel-lined baking sheet.
  4. Melt butter and whisk in flour until mixture bubbles slightly but has not started to brown, about 1.5 minutes. 
  5. Slowly add in milk and bring to a boil, whisking frequently.
  6. Stir in remaining salt, the nutmeg, and sage. Reduce heat and cook, stirring occasionally for 12 to 15 minutes until thickened.
  7. Add onions and cook five to 10 minutes. 
  8. Discard sage.

Recipe adapted by Martha Stewart


Mouthwatering Midwest Favorites    

If there is anything more characteristic of a Midwest Thanksgiving side than a casserole, we've yet to discover it. Add one or both of these classics to your table this year. 

Green Bean Casserole

This holiday staple is super easy yet so delicious. This recipe from Big Flavors from a Tiny Kitchen uses fresh green beans, but you can use canned or frozen if you prefer. 


  • 1 ½ pounds fresh green beans, ends trimmed 
  • 1 (10.75 ounce) can cream of mushroom soup
  • ½ cup whole milk 
  • 1 teaspoon low sodium soy sauce
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 ½ cups fried onions, divided 


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  
  2. Cook green beans in boiling salted water about three to five minutes until crisp-tender. Drain well.
  3. Combine beans with the soup, milk, soy sauce, black pepper, and 2/3 cup onions. 
  4. Stir together and spread in an even layer in a casserole dish. 
  5. Bake for 25 minutes or until the bean mixture is hot and bubbling. Stir the bean mixture.
  6. Sprinkle with the remaining onions and bake until the onions are golden brown.

Wild Rice Casserole  

Cultivated by Native Americans, wild rice is plentiful across the Midwest and is a favorite side dish for any occasion. 


  • 4-5 cups chicken broth, reserving 1 cup
  • 1 ½ cups well washed wild rice 
  • 1 ½ cups diced celery 
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 1 cup diced mushrooms
  • Butter for sautéing vegetables and mushrooms
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Sauté vegetables and mushrooms in butter.
  3. Place everything into a casserole dish.
  4. Cover tightly and bake 1.5 hours. Add extra broth as needed.
  5. Check to make sure wild rice has popped open.
  6. Remove lid and fluff with fork. Taste the wild rice for desired texture.
  7. Serve immediately or let sit to cool a bit uncovered. Fluff before serving. 

Recipe adapted from


Sassy Southern Sides 

What goes well with the Southern favorite deep-fried turkey? Try a heaping helping of collard greens with bacon and a serving or two of the delicious sides below. 

Butter Beans

Beans of all types are often found on a Southern table, and these butter beans are a beautiful and delicious addition as a side dish. 


  • 2 (10 ounce) packages of frozen lima beans
  • 8-10 slices raw bacon diced
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • ½ cup celery, chopped 
  • 1 ½ cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese 
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper 
  • Dash of Worcestershire sauce


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  2. Cook lima beans in salted water for 15 minutes; drain and keep a half cup of the cooking liquid.
  3. Fry bacon until about half cooked. Drain and save two tablespoons of grease.
  4. Cook onion and celery in reserved bacon grease until softened.
  5. Toss together lima beans, onion, celery, cheese, a little bit of the cooked bacon, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, and the leftover cooking liquid.
  6. Turn into a greased quart casserole dish.
  7. Sprinkle top with the rest of the bacon.
  8. Bake uncovered for about 20 minutes or until top is browned.

Recipe adapted from

Corn Spoon Bread

Everybody does cornbread differently, but this fluffy and creamy variation is a Southern Thanksgiving tradition. 


  • ¾ cup cornmeal 
  • 2 cups hot milk 
  • 1 tablespoon butter or margarine
  • ½ teaspoon salt 
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 4 egg whites


  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Heat the milk but don't boil.
  3. Cook cornmeal in milk for about three or four minutes until it thickens. 
  4. Remove cornmeal from heat and mix in the butter and salt. Cool for about 15 minutes.
  5. Separate eggs into two bowls and beat egg yolks and egg whites separately. Make sure to beat whites until stiff.
  6. Add egg yolks to cooled cornmeal, mixing with a spoon. Fold in egg whites.
  7. Pour into a prepared baking dish and bake in for 45 minutes or until brown on top and center is cooked.

This authentic recipe was adapted from


Special Southwest Sides

Things are done a bit differently in the Southwest, and these traditional side dishes are no exception. Try putting a desert spin on your holiday table this year. 

Frogs Eye Salad

This classic sweet salad with a weird name gets gobbled up quickly on holiday tables around the Southwest region. It's that hopping good. 


  • 1 (20 ounce) can pineapple tidbits, drained with juice reserved
  • 1 (10 ounce) can crushed pineapple, drained with juice reserved
  • 1 cup reserved pineapple juice
  • ½ cup granulated sugar 
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • ¼ teaspoon salt 
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • ½ cup acini de pepe noodles (couscous-like pasta) 
  • 1 (15 ounce) can mandarin oranges, drained
  • ½ cup shredded sweetened coconut 
  • 1 cup mini marshmallows
  • 1 banana, sliced
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • ¼ cup powdered sugar 


  1. Drain the pineapple reserve the juice. Keep pineapple fruit in the refrigerator for later.
  2. Combine the pineapple juice, sugar, egg yolk, salt and cornstarch and whisk until smooth in a saucepan over medium heat.
  3. Bring to a low boil until it thickens slightly. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  4. Cook acini de pepe noodles as directed. Drain and cool.
  5. Combine the pasta and the thickened sauce and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.
  6. Add chilled acini de pepe mixture with the pineapple, mandarin oranges, coconut, marshmallows, and bananas.
  7. Beat the cream and sugar together until stiff peaks. Fold fresh whipped cream into the acini de pepe and fruit mixture. Serve immediately or refrigerate.

Flavorful Empanadas

Empanadas are like little pillows of flavor. They can be sweet or savory, depending on your preference. This particular recipe, adapted from MuyBueno, uses pumpkin puree but any type of filling will be delicious.  

Pumpkin Filling:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • ¾ cup dark brown sugar, packed firmly 
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves 
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Empanada Dough:

  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup shortening
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup milk


  1. Melt the butter and stir in the brown sugar until it dissolved. Add pumpkin and spices. Stir over medium heat for about 10 minutes. If the filling is too watery, let it cook a little more. 
  2. Remove from heat and cool down. Put in refrigerator and allow to set for 30 minutes or overnight.
  3. While the filling is cooling preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  
  4. Mix the first three dry ingredients. Cut in the shortening with the dry ingredients with your hands. 
  5. Add the eggs, milk, and sugar. Continue to work in with your hands. 
  6. Split the dough in half, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator for about 20-30 minutes. 
  7. Take out half of the dough and divide into 12-18 balls. 
  8. Roll each dough ball out into small circles. 
  9. Place a dollop of filling on one half of the dough. 
  10. ]Wet the bottom edge of the dough with water or milk to help seal the two halves. 
  11. Fold over the dough to seal and use a fork to crimp the edges.  
  12. Brush with egg whites, sprinkle with sugar. Poke some holes to allow steam to release.
  13. Place empanadas on a parchment-lined, or lightly sprayed baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes on medium rack in the oven. 
  14. If the bottoms of the empanadas start to brown, move the cookie sheet to the top rack and continue to bake for the last five minutes.


Wow with These West Coast Sides

In addition to fantastic wines and spectacular views, the West Coast also has some Thanksgiving side dishes that are true to the area.

Mushroom Gravy

Mushrooms are plentiful across the Pacific Coast. So, it makes complete sense that they are used in, some would argue, the most important Thanksgiving side dish — the gravy. 


  • 2 cups broth or stock of your choice 
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon miso paste 
  • 3 tablespoons butter 
  • 3-4 cups mushrooms, sliced (creminis, shiitakes, portobellos, morels) 
  • 1 shallot, finely diced (or half an onion)
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves 
  • 3 tablespoons flour 
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Bring to simmer broth and water, add miso.
  2. Sauté mushrooms and shallot in butter (or oil) for seven to eight minutes, lowering heat if necessary. 
  3. Stir occasionally, until mushrooms have fully released their liquid and it has cooked off.
  4. Lower heat to medium, add garlic and thyme, sauté for two minutes.
  5. Sprinkle the flour over top and stir to combine, cooking and stirring for two minutes, letting it brown a bit. 
  6. Add half of the hot broth, whisking and scraping all those flavorful brown bits. 
  7. Add remaining broth, stirring to combine.
  8. Simmer until reduced and thickened, about five minutes. Season with stalk and pepper to taste. 

Recipe from

Pineapple Roasted Acorn Squash

This flavorful side dish combines pineapple, the traditional welcoming fruit of Hawaii, with acorn squash. Consider serving this tropical side adapted from Half Baked Harvest when there is a special welcome happening. 


  • 2 acorn squash 
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 (8.5 ounces) can crushed pineapple, drained 
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 6 tablespoons salted butter 
  • 1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon 
  • 1 ½ teaspoons chili powder 
  • ½ teaspoon pepper 
  • Arils (seeds) from one (1) pomegranate


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  2. Lightly grease a 9x13-inch baking dish with softened butter.
  3. Halve both acorn squash and remove the seeds but keep them for roasting. For a more elaborate display, cut into wedges. 
  4. Line the squash on the prepared pan. Evenly sprinkle the brown sugar over squash and season with salt and pepper. 
  5. Spoon the crushed pineapple over the squash.
  6. Melt butter over medium heat until just browned. Butter foam and froth, then begin to brown along the bottom. Remove from the heat and whisk up browned butter bits off the bottom of the pan. 
  7. Add the cinnamon, chili powder, and additional pepper to the browned butter. 
  8. Pour the butter over the squash.
  9. Cover the dish with foil and roast for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and roast for another 30 minutes or until the squash is tender and caramelized.
  10. Sprinkle the squash with pomegranate arils and toasted acorn squash seeds.

Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on the things that bring us together while highlighting our regional characteristics. Share these distinctive and delicious side dishes for something different to enjoy this year. 

Of course, there is nothing wrong with sticking with tried-and-true favorites like these stuffing recipes

Happy Thanksgiving from our Sun Outdoors family at Sun Outdoors to yours.