Thanksgiving Side Dishes (and for Vegans, Vegetarians) - Dr. Axe

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31 Thanksgiving Side Dishes (Plus Vegan- and Vegetarian-Friendly Recipes)


Thanksgiving side dishes - Dr. Axe

Thanksgiving is a day full of family, friends, football and, most importantly, food — turkey, pies and an array of Thanksgiving side dishes.

If your Thanksgiving menu seems stuck on buttery potatoes and candied yams, it might be time for some Thanksgiving health tips and holiday inspiration.

That’s why these Thanksgiving side dishes will be a welcome addition to your table. Not only are they delicious, but they’re made from real, whole food ingredients.

You won’t catch any “cream of” soups or bags of stuffing here. If you’re looking to shake up your traditional Thanksgiving dinner, you’re sure to find a few favorite new Thanksgiving side dishes here.


1. Apple Cranberry Spinach Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette

This hearty salad is a fresh addition to your Thanksgiving meal. It’s deliciously sweet from sliced, nutrition-rich apples and dried cranberries, and it has a satisfying crunch — and extra fiber — from the cup of cashew nuts sprinkled throughout.


Apple Cranberry Spinach Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette
Photo: Julia’s Album

2. Brussels Sprouts, Cranberry and Quinoa Salad

This easy-to-make salad is quite hearty thanks to the protein-rich quinoa. With toasted pecans, Brussels sprouts and a homemade citrus vinaigrette, this is a salad you’ll love serving.

3. Curried Butternut Squash Salad with Apples, Dates and Pecans

This Thanksgiving side dish is a salad unlike any other you’ve tried, and it deserves a spot on your holiday menu. You start by spiralizing butternut squash, apples and onions.

You then drizzle olive oil over it and mix it all up with delicious autumn spices, like allspice, ginger and curry powder. Next, pop it all into the oven until the fruits and veggies are tender, and then finish it all off with Medjool dates and parsley. Yum!

Curried Butternut Squash Salad with Apples, Dates and Pecans
Photo: Food Faith Fitness

4. Fall Harvest Salad with Pumpkin Goddess Dressing

Enjoy the season’s flavors with this harvest Thanksgiving side dish.

Acorn squash, salad greens, cranberries and pecans make up the base of this salad. Then it’s topped with a pumpkin, yogurt and maple syrup dressing for a salad that might steal the show.

5. Salad with Goat Cheese, Pears, Candied Pecans and Maple Balsamic Dressing

Any salad that has goat cheese in it is a winner, but this one is especially perfect as a Thanksgiving recipe. I love that it uses pears for a crisp texture, and the homemade candied pecans are a delicious touch.

You might find yourself adding the maple balsamic dressing on other salads, too.

Vegan Thanksgiving Side Dishes

6. Cauliflower Alfredo Scalloped Sweet Potatoes

The secret to this dairy-free but super creamy alfredo sauce is cauliflower — genius! Blend it until smooth, and then spread over thinly sliced sweet potatoes. It’s a double dose of veggies, but I bet no one will be able to tell!

7. Vegan Cornbread Casserole

Goodbye, boxed Jiffy mix. Hello, light and airy cornbread casserole.

Made with spelt flour, applesauce and coconut milk, this isn’t an exact remake of the classic, but dare I say you might like this Thanksgiving recipe even more?

Vegan Cornbread Casserole
Photo: The Pretty Bee

8. Healthy Green Bean Casserole

This green bean casserole is better the original and uses some interesting swaps. Pumpkin seeds, gluten-free crackers and salt get blended, and along with the creamy goat cheese, this casserole comes together.

9. Healthy Sweet Potato Casserole

This healthy Thanksgiving recipe is sure to be a new holiday favorite. You won’t find gobs of butter or marshmallows in this one.

Instead, you’ll get a gluten-free Thanksgiving side dish that’s naturally sweetened with vanilla and coconut milk. The pecan oat topping is good enough to eat solo, but trust me, you’ll love it even more with a bite of sweet potatoes.

10. Honey Sriracha Roasted Carrots

This is a super simple recipe that’s perfect for taking to Thanksgiving dinner. Tossing carrots into a sweet and spicy sauce and then roasting produces a side dish that seems a lot fancier than it is. Top with parsley before serving for a gorgeous contrast of colors.

11. Mushroom Sauté with Rosemary, Garlic and Red Wine

Need a new way to serve up ‘shrooms? Try this holiday recipe.


It takes just minutes to prepare, as you sauté the mushrooms in garlic and butter, and then add in red wine. The alcohol cooks off, leaving behind the wine’s rich taste.

Even people who dislike mushrooms might be singing a different tune after eating this one.

12. Pumpkin and Lentil Shepherd’s Pie

This version of shepherd’s pie is a vegetable lover’s dream. Lentils, carrots, mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes make up the bottom layer, while the top is a garlic pumpkin mash sweetened with maple syrup and sprinkled with pumpkin seeds. You won’t miss the meat here!

13. Vegan Mac and Cheese

It may sound like an oxymoron, but you really can have mac and cheese without any animal products. It’s true! Instead of actual cheese, this recipe calls for butternut squash, onion, coconut cream, mustard, arrowroot, turmeric, nutritional yeast and gluten-free pasta … and it’s all ready in less than an hour!

14. Simple Vegan Stuffing

This stuffing is probably the closest to a classic Thanksgiving recipe that vegans will find — but non-vegans will love it too and can easily swap in ingredients as necessary. With just nine ingredients but all the essentials, like dry bread and celery, this might be your new go-to stuffing.

Simple Vegan Stuffing
Photo: Minimalist Baker

Vegetarian Thanksgiving Side Dishes

15. Avocado and Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash

This is one of my favorite Thanksgiving side dishes, mainly because it’s loaded with some of the best fillings. Acorn squash is stuffed not only with avocado and quinoa, but also black beans, feta and toasted pepitas, or pumpkin seeds.

You can even make this one in advance to cut back on kitchen time during the big day.

16. Bourbon Maple Sweet Potatoes

Spiced maple bourbon brown sugar butter glazed sweet potatoes with chopped walnuts — I don’t think I need say anything more. Make it!

17. Broccoli Casserole from Scratch

Made completely from scratch, this casserole uses fresh broccoli, mushrooms and a homemade cream sauce. Instead of a Ritz cracker topping, this Thanksgiving recipe uses whole-wheat breadcrumbs for a crispy, buttery finish.

18. Creamed Kale

Creamed spinach is so last year. These days, it’s all about superfood kale.

This side is a cinch to make because it uses frozen kale, cutting down on prep time. Cream cheese, Parmesan cheese and milk take care of the creamy part, while garlic and shallots add all the taste.

The result is a Thanksgiving side that tastes decadently delicious.

Creamed Kale
Photo: Nutmeg Nanny

19. Homemade Gluten-Free Cauliflower Mac and Cheese

Eating gluten-free doesn’t mean you have to skip out on mac and cheese. There are no blue box blues here. Instead, you have a homemade baked version made with actual cheese, milk and cauliflower!

Making this is almost as fast as the boxed version, but it tastes a whole lot better.

20. Honey-Roasted Butternut Squash with Cranberries and Feta

Sweet, savory and with just the right amount of feta cheese, this Thanksgiving side is a winner. You’ll roast the squash and add in fresh cranberries until they soften and burst, and then finish it all off with honey and cinnamon. So good!

21. Horseradish Mashed Potatoes with Caramelized Onions

Say goodbye to boring mashed potatoes and hello to these spruced up ones. Adding horseradish and caramelized onions provides the right amount of “oomph” while keeping things simple. These fluffy potatoes are the perfect addition to any Thanksgiving dinner.

Horseradish Mashed Potatoes with Caramelized Onions
Photo: The Chunky Chef

22. Sweet Potato & Cauliflower Mash

If you’ve had enough of normal mashed potatoes, why not try your hand at this sweet potato and cauliflower recipe? Using Greek yogurt adds protein to this side dish while keeping the mixture light and fluffy.

If your Thanksgiving menu is running low on vegetables, sneak this one on there — you won’t regret it.

23. Sweet Potato Fritters

This recipe is intended as a game day snack, but I think the flavors are just perfect for a Thanksgiving side dish. Grated sweet potato, ginger and flour make up the bulk of the fritters, while mayo, honey and sriracha sauce combine to create a sweet and spicy sauce.

This one’s perfect for munching on while waiting for the rest of your Thanksgiving dinner.

Sweet Potato Fritters
Photo: Renee Nicole’s Kitchen

24. Thanksgiving Chickpeas with Butternut Squash Sauce

If you want a Thanksgiving side that’s rich in fiber, protein and taste, this is it. You’ll use half the butternut squash to create a creamy sauce and then pour that over the chickpeas and reset of the squash.

Top with cheese and herbs for a rich dish that’s good for you.

25. Mashed Faux-tatoes

Mashed potatoes without the potatoes? That’s right. This cauliflower-based version, mixed with chives and garlic, is a delicious take on traditional mashed potatoes.

26. Healthy Roasted Acorn Squash

Thanksgiving falls right in the middle of peak acorn squash season, making it a perfect side dish for the holiday. This healthy recipe combines the squash with coconut yogurt, granola, dates and nut butter for a delicious side and is ready in just 35 minutes.

27. Butternut Squash Bake

Speaking of squash, this butternut squash bake is another way to eat seasonally. This one take a little longer — an hour or more — but it’s a simple seven-ingredient recipe that’s well worth the wait.

28. Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Apples and Pecans

Roasted Brussels sprouts with apples and pecans will have you wondering why you ever avoided this tiny green cabbage. It’s a healthy macronutrient dish and a showstopper at holiday time, and it’s also perfect any fall or winter month.

Roasted Brussels sprouts - Dr. Axe
Photo: Roasted Brussels Sprouts / Dr. Axe

Traditional Thanksgiving Side Dishes

29. Cornbread Stuffing

Thanksgiving without old-fashioned stuffing just isn’t right — but neither is eating out-of-the-box stuffing or a grain festival. Instead, try what I eat every Thankgiving: my wife Chelsea’s gluten-free cornbread stuffing!

Made with real, healthy and delicious ingredients, this homemade stuffing deserves a place at this year’s dinner.

30. Cranberry Sauce with Pecans Recipe

This cranberry sauce recipe with pecans can be served next to a Turkey main or even as a delicious dessert. It’s sweetened with honey and free of refined sugars.

31. Giblet Gravy

Last but not least, the gravy! While giblets aren’t particularly useful for eating (except for the liver), they are fantastic for making giblet broth and, you guessed it, gravy.

They add a complex, tasty chicken flavor naturally. Because they’re part of the chicken’s body, giblets also add extra nutritional benefits like vitamins and minerals you wouldn’t get from a pre-made, preservative-rich gravy.

Related: How to Carve a Turkey: Step-by-Step Guide (Plus Recipes!)

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