The Best & Worst Thanksgiving Sides: Our Definitive List
By John Boone
Turkey may get the nominal glory on Turkey Day, but we’re all about the sides (‘bout the sides, ‘bout the sides, no turkey — sing that last part like Meghan Trainer “All About That Bass”). Your side game needs to be on point if you want your Thanksgiving dinner to be a success.
So opt for the best sides and skip the worst:
BEST: Pie. Is pie technically a side? Probably not. There’s another whole category of “desserts,” but if pie is considered a side, it is the best side. Pumpkin. Apple. French silk. Just make sure you have pie.
BEST: Green Bean Casserole. So creamy! And with those little crispy things on top? Yaaas, green bean casserole. Yaaaaaas! Why does stuffing get all the attention on Thanksgiving? Green bean casserole is the true star.
WORST: Mixed Veggies. Zzzzzzzzz. If you’re going to do carrots and peas and corn, put some flair on them! No defrosted bag of general vegetables is worthy of a spot on your Thanksgiving table. Not next to that G.B.C.
BEST: Mashed Potatoes. They’re not as unique to Thanksgiving as some of the other sides, but mashed potatoes still need to be invited to the party. They’re delish on their own, but if you mix your mashed potatoes with your turkey and gravy into one bite, it’s a serious upgrade for the bird.
WORST: Sweet Potatoes. Honestly, we don’t get the sweet potato hype. You could always have a regular baked potato and they taste better. Note: This status does NOT apply to sweet potatoes casserole, which is covered in brown sugar and is bomb.
BEST: Butternut Squash. Butternut squash is the new sweet potatos. And it’s delicious in any form: Baked, mashed, caramelized, in a soup. If you don’t make sure you have some sort of b-squash at your table, you are letting everyone down.
WORST: Yams. Do people still try to serve yams? What even are yams?
BEST: Stuffing. Obvi stuffing. Not having stuffing at your Thanksgiving dinner is sacrilegious. Now, it’s how one takes that classic stuffing to the next level that really cements their status as a Thanksgiving dinner god. (Please share your best stuffing recipes in the comments.)
WORST: Cranberry Sauce. Canned and homemade. It’s not that cranberry sauce tastes bad — it doesn’t — it’s that everyone thinks cranberry sauce tastes bad. So they refuse to eat it. Why waste your time? Respect yourself, respect your time. Skip cranberry sauce this year.
BEST: Dinner Rolls. Gotta have those dinner rolls!
BEST: Gravy. Again, maybe gravy doesn’t technically fall into the “Sides” category — it’s a condiment? Maybe? — but there’s so much you can do to take your gravy! You can make it smooth, you can make it chunky. Old fashioned gravy, vegetarian gravy, with mushrooms, with turkey, the possibilities are truly endless.
BEST: Anything With Bread Crumbs. Bread crumbs are deliiiiicious. We would probably reconsider any of the WORSTs on this list if you covered them in bread crumbs.
THE ABSOLUTE WORST: Anything With Kale. We like kale. But KEEP IT OUT OF OUR THANKSGIVING, ya hippies. Today is not the day to be thinking about what is healthy or what is trendy. It is a day to be thankful you get to stuff your face with carbs and not feel guilty about it.
MORE OF THE WORST (JUST NOT BAD ENOUGH TO DISCUSS HOW MUCH WE HATE THEM): Scalloped potatoes gratin, Brussels sprouts without bacon, creamed pearl onions, creamed corn, most things creamed, dry cornbread.
MORE OF THE BEST (JUST NOT GOOD ENOUGH FOR US TO GET THAT EXCITED): Mac and cheese, any type of biscuits, quality cornbread, Brussels sprouts with bacon, anything with that marshmallow topping.
Or make everything! Because only on Thanksgiving is quantity truly > quality.
While we’re in a holiday spirit, Mariah Carey’s “Merry Christmas” turns 20 this year! Here’ s a festive #TBT to 1994 when Mariah released the song: