Easy Go-To Thanksgiving Side Dishes
Dial back the Thanksgiving meal-prep stress with these side dishes that are a snap to make.
Whether you're hosting the big feast and need to focus on the bird, looking to impress at a potluck or seeking last-minute dishes to accommodate unexpected guests, these easy Thanksgiving sides have you covered.
Turn to easy-peasy classics
Even if you’re not a fan of cranberry sauce, it’s one of the easiest Thanksgiving sides to make. Brightened with orange or lemon zest, this Cranberry Sauce recipe takes just 22 minutes to render fresh cranberries jammy and sweet. Brussels sprouts can be another polarizing side, but impressive-yet-easy Brussels Sprouts with Bacon have the power to convert even the staunchest sprouts hater. Rachael Ray's Cheesy Smashed Potatoes come together in under 20 minutes and are so good they just might upstage the mashed potatoes. As its name implies, the Dump-and-Bake Corn Casserole (pictured) couldn't be simpler — it takes just 10 minutes of hands-on kitchen time, then the oven does the rest.
Raid the freezer
Tyler Florence's Creamed Pearl Onions only look fancy — frozen pearl onions take out all the prep work of blanching and peeling the onions. Once thawed, the pearl onions are sauteed in butter until golden, then finished with reduced heavy cream for an extra-glossy coating. This ultra-creamy Corn Pudding recipe calls for frozen corn kernels, but you can save an extra step by pulling in prechopped frozen onions, too. Rachael Ray relies on frozen butternut squash to make the creamy sauce that cloaks the noodles in her cheesy fan-favorite Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese (pictured). Frozen cauliflower and broccoli florets cut down on prep time and can even go straight from the freezer door to a sheet pan; try this easy Roasted Cauliflower recipe.
Sometimes a dish seems less daunting to make if you've prepped well in advance. Ina Garten's Baked Farro and Butternut Squash can be assembled and refrigerated for up to two days and then baked just prior to serving. Ina's Cauliflower Gratin can also be assembled the night before and baked the next day, or it can be made earlier in the day and served at room temperature.
Strategize with super timesavers
If you find yourself with a few extra guests, these effortless last-minute side dishes come together in a snap. Ina's Sauteed Carrots, cut on the diagonal and spruced up with fresh dill, look elegant but take only 15 minutes. Ditto for Garlic Green Beans (pictured), which get a quick flavor infusion from garlic and cayenne toasted in butter. Peruse our gallery of Last-Minute Thanksgiving Side Dish Recipes for more inspiration.
For the Cream and Greens recipe, ribbons and stems of rainbow chard cook down with cream till tender, while a finishing of freshly grated nutmeg adds a subtle pop of flavor. Don't be misled by the term "technique" in the Braised Chard with Dried Cranberries recipe: It takes just 35 minutes total to render chard meltingly tender, and the plumped-up cranberries add such a festive touch. Bobby Flay's Creamed Kale with Caramelized Shallots (pictured) offer a depth of flavor that belies the 20-minute cook time. Skip fresh spinach in favor of frozen for Ina's 5-star Spinach Gratin, with a bubbly topping of Parmesan and Gruyère.
Make microwave magic
The microwave isn't just for reheating plates of leftovers; this secret weapon can help cut hands-on cooking time way down for some of our favorite easy sides. Make mashed potatoes and gravy in the microwave and free up a burner or two. Spaghetti squash takes just 20 minutes to steam in the microwave and lends itself to a variety of flavors, as with Ginger Scallion Spaghetti Squash (pictured), but dressing it with sage and brown butter or with Parmesan and tomato sauce makes a fine vegetarian-friendly combo too. Green beans cook in the microwave for five minutes before getting a creamy, lemony finish in this Haricots Verts with Parmesan recipe.
If you need proof that baking can be easy, look no further than virtually foolproof and oh-so-tender Cornmeal Biscuits. We're also fans of No-Yeast Dinner Rolls (pictured), which boast a biscuit-like texture but are easier to make (and not as crumbly). Plus, extra rolls split in half are ideal for leftover turkey sandwiches.