Chill Out with These Cold Thanksgiving Sides
They'll get a warm reception from your guests.
Adding a few cold side dishes to your menu should be part of your Thanksgiving prep game plan. Many of these dishes don't require a stove, which will simplify the kitchen logistics, and the ones that do — for, say, roasting veggies or making a stovetop cranberry sauce — can be prepped ahead of the big day, which will greatly reduce your stress on Thanksgiving. Turning to cold sides is also a way to incorporate a variety of vibrant veggies and lighter seasonal sides in the mix. It's all about balance, right?
Fall back on seasonal flavors
The beauty of fall's bounty is that you don't have to do much to highlight its flavors. Case in point: This Thanksgiving Fruit Salad (pictured) practically makes itself, with seasonal pears and apples, festive grapes, cranberries and pomegranate seeds and a warming rosemary-laced syrup. Change it up if you have other fruits on hand — persimmon would be delicious. Tyler Florence's Arugula and Fennel Salad features thinly sliced raw fennel bulb, onions and a tangle of arugula, all dressed in a simple lemon vinaigrette and accented with a pretty fennel-frond garnish. For her Spinach and Green Apple Salad, Ellie Krieger matches sweet-tart Granny Smith apples with tender baby spinach leaves, then tosses the lot with a cider-Dijon vinaigrette. Chopped pears and sliced celery team up to bring a one-two punch of sweetness and crunch to tender, nutty farro in the hardy Pear, Celery and Farro Salad. Rainbow carrots shaved into ribbons and sweet Gala apples cut into matchsticks add visual intrigue to the Color Crunch Salad; it's bejeweled with pomegranate seeds, too, and is so striking it could double as a centerpiece.
Spin sides into salads
Take inspiration from traditional Thanksgiving sides such as Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes and green beans, and reinterpret them as creative salads. No need to turn the oven on: For Brussels Sprout Salad, raw leaves are tossed with dried cranberries and smoked almonds in a champagne-mustard vinaigrette. Sunny Anderson quickly sautes shaved sprouts for her Crunchy Sweet Brussels Sprout Salad, then scatters them with dried cranberries and walnuts. Katie Lee is also a fan of shaved Brussels sprouts, tossing them with a savory-sweet medley of chopped almonds, Manchego cheese and dates.
Sweet potatoes and pecans are a tried-and-true pairing, but they don't have to be served warm. Geoffrey Zakarian's Sweet Potato and Pecan Salad pairs roasted sweet potato with toasted pecans, plus an unexpected mix of grapes, pomegranate seeds, scallions and raisins. Trisha Yearwood's best-served-chilled Sweet Potato Salad recipe turns the tuber on its head, but the creamy orange-zest-and-chive-spiked dressing makes it a welcome addition to the table (file this one away for summer barbecues, too).
Don't settle for soggy green beans. Blanch them first, then pair them with frisee and a flurry of fresh herbs, as in this Green Bean Salad with Creme Fraiche. Crisp haricots verts are a fine match for earthy creminis; try them together in a Green Bean and Mushroom Salad. For Ellie's Green Bean Salad, steamed beans are tossed with parsley, onions and toasted walnuts, to simple yet impressive effect. The walnuts are a savory complement to the green beans, and this recipe doubles down on their flavor by using walnut oil in the dressing.
Rely on room temp
Roasting vegetables in advance, then plating and serving them at room temperature is another winning way to do Thanksgiving sides cold. Follow Ree Drummond's lead with an unbeatable combination: Butternut and Kale Salad. Roasted squash and shaved curly kale are pulled together with a balsamic-vinegar dressing, then served on a platter with pieces of prosciutto tucked in throughout and finished with pine nuts and Parmesan shavings. For her Maple-Roasted Carrot Salad, Ina Garten hits the texture trifecta by pairing roasted carrot slices with plumped-up dried cranberries, creamy goat cheese and buttery Marcona almonds for crunch. Roasted Carrots and Beets with Pecan Pesto is a root-veggie recipe you'll keep in steady rotation throughout fall and winter, and the pecan pesto would be ace with butternut squash ravioli. There's a cornucopia of textures and flavors going on in Thanksgiving Salad: pecans, crisp and sweet apples, sharp and creamy cheddar, dried cranberries and crispy fried onions add up to a delicious mouthful.
Go crazy with cranberries
Cranberries are often served at room temperature, but what about opting for a cranberry side that's deliberately chilled? (That means you can make it ahead!) Cranberry Fluff (pictured) is a tart and creamy marvel, balancing marshmallows with apples, grapes and walnuts. Equal parts retro and gourmet, this Cranberry Mold recipe gives from-scratch cranberry sauce the gelatin treatment; let it set in an empty soup can for an especially throwback feel. After it sets up, plate this Cranberry Pomegranate Terrine on an elegant serving platter, and don't skip the orange zest garnish. We're calling it: Cranberry-Horseradish Cream is going to be this Thanksgiving's dark horse. Homemade cranberry sauce folded with sour cream and horseradish may seem unorthodox, but it has a creamy-spicy punch that makes it a perfect match for roasted turkey.