Plan the Perfect Side Dishes for Your Holiday Table

Best Thanksgiving recipes - holiday table

Every year it seems like the holidays hit the stores earlier and earlier. Don’t get us wrong, we love Thanksgiving and Christmas, but seeing décor on the shelves in August seems a bit too soon, right? Once the calendar flips to fall, we’re ready to go full steam ahead into holiday planning. So, even though it might seem early, there are several benefits to planning your holiday meals now:

  • Peace of mind: If you want a luxurious beef tenderloin, show-stopping pork crown roast or a big, juicy turkey, making sure you’ve got your desired cut come holiday time is important. While ingredients for sides are usually easier to come by, there are some exceptions. (Where is the canned pumpkin?! How is it already sold out at the grocery store???) Stocking up early can ensure you have what you need on-hand.
  • Budget-friendly: Similarly, buying non-perishable ingredients ahead of time will help spread your cost over two or three months instead of hitting all at once in November or December.
  • Dietary considerations: If you’re hosting company or participating in a potluck, accommodating different dietary preferences and restrictions can be a challenge. Planning ahead gives you time to research and try new recipes, so you don’t debut a dud.

Part of the fun in planning sides is daydreaming about what you’ll serve. Are you traditional and like to go with your classic tried-and-true family recipes each year? Do you like to experiment with new flavors to freshen up your festivities? Do you look for make-ahead options, so you can stagger your prep? Do you want a “wow!” factor that looks as divine as it tastes?

These are all important questions to ask as you plan for the holidays. To help get your creative juices flowing, here are some ideas to tempt you.

Traditional Dishes

If you like traditional dishes, chances are you’ve got a tried-and-true recipe for at least a few of these for your Thanksgiving or Christmas menu:

  • Green bean casserole
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Sweet potato casserole with marshmallows
  • Cranberry sauce
  • Rolls or biscuits
  • Corn
  • Wild rice

Unconventional Sides

If you want to experiment this year, here are some recipes from a few of our favorite bloggers and partners with interesting twists on the classics. The flavors are seasonal and savory, with a few surprises to tempt your taste buds. 

Stuffing Balls

All the flavors of a classic stuffing served in a surprisingly delightful ball. Perfect for potlucks or snacking to stave off hunger pangs while you wait for the feast.

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Cranberry Salsa

Let’s face it, cranberry sauce is often sidelined for other dishes. Give these tart berries the love they deserve with a completely fresh take. This is great to serve as an appetizer before the feast.

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Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, Dried Cranberries and Pecans

Dried cranberries are another great way to showcase the classic holiday berry. Combining these flavors and textures into one dish makes for a festive, savory treat.

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Butternut Squash Salad with Maple Dijon Dressing

Fall squash are a seasonal staple for any holiday table. We love the twist of preparing butternut squash in a salad for a light starter.

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Pumpkin Spice Roasted Cauliflower

If you need to accommodate low-fat, low-carb or gluten-free eaters this year, this might be a saving grace. It’s easy to make and full of fall flavor.

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Chipotle Sweet Potato Gratin

Give sweet potatoes a little kick with some heat and gooey cheese.

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Special Breads

If you want to try your hand at some homemade bread or bread sculpting, these recipes from our collection will add a festive touch to your table.

Flavored Butter

After working hard on SO. MANY. DISHES. you might be tempted to put a stick of butter on a plate and call it good. But the little surprise of a flavored butter — cranberry orange or sage, rosemary and thyme — is sure to delight your guests.

We hope these ideas inspire you. No matter what you decide to cook for your holiday meal this year, savor every bite with loved ones.

More Holiday Meal Planning Ideas