No one is saying that mashed potatoes and stuffing aren’t delicious because they definitely are. However, if you’re tired of making the same dishes Thanksgiving after Thanksgiving, I have some non-traditional ideas to spice up your menu this Turkey Day. Consider adding one or more of these intriguing dishes to your Thanksgiving table!
1. Kimchi Mashed Potatoes
Mashed potatoes are a Thanksgiving staple but are also one of the most predictable sides. You can surprise and wow your guests by adding an Asian flair and bold flavor to your mashed potatoes with a little kimchi. These colorful mashed potatoes are teeming with rich flavors.
2. Fried Rice
Another Asian element that can fit into your Thanksgiving menu is fried rice! If you love fried rice’s warm and delicious flavor, add it to your Thanksgiving dinner and be amazed by how well it pairs with your traditional turkey and the other side dishes.
3. Twice-Baked Acorn Squash
If you want to stick to classic Thanksgiving flavors, twice-baked acorn squash is a wonderful idea. You’ve heard of twice-baked potatoes, but twice-baked acorn squash is even better! These creamy squash cups are buttery and sweet with all fall flavors.
4. Sweet Potato Tamales
Put a Thanksgiving twist on tamales with this idea! Tamales are an impressive and unexpected side dish on Thanksgiving, but they’re fun to eat and a brilliant way to use sweet potatoes if the classic sweet potato casserole feels worn out.
5. Fruit Salad
A fruit salad is one of the easiest side dishes you can serve, and the fresh, colorful fruit can be a nice break from the heaviness of most Thanksgiving foods. You can customize the fruit salad to feature all your favorite fruits, but fruits in season during fall are also appropriate.
6. Cajun Mushroom Bread Pudding
Bread pudding is usually a sweet dessert, but this idea has a savory spin. This cheesy, meaty dish features Andouille sausage and brie, but you can change the ingredients to suit your flavors. The bold Cajun seasoning will wake up everybody’s tastebuds and elevate the entire meal.
7. Caramelized Carrot Soup
This cozy soup is not a dramatic departure from traditional Thanksgiving food, so it’s not too wild. You can make this dish with carrots, butter or oil, so it’s incredibly simple. The carrots are slowly caramelized for a rich, sultry flair and delectable flavor.
8. Oyster Casserole
This funky dish might be more common than you think in some households and can add intrigue to your Thanksgiving table. An oyster casserole is creamy and crunchy and brings a seafood element to the meal, making it ideal for fish and mollusk lovers.
9. Pork and Apple Pie
Turkey is great, but if you adore pork, you can make this pie as a side and get your pork fix on Thanksgiving. Make this pie as you would a Shepherd’s pie, but with ground pork and apples, creating a hearty, comforting dish that screams fall. Don’t be surprised if there are no leftovers!
10. Red Curry Mashed Sweet Potatoes
Take your mashed sweet potatoes to the next level by adding bold Indian flavors that will create the addictive taste of curry. The warmth and vibrancy of this dish will complement everything else on the table, and you can add coconut milk for a sweeter and nuttier flavor profile.
11. French Fries
This is such a simple idea, but we rarely see French fries on the Thanksgiving table. You can skip the mashed potatoes and do fries, or do both! This is a smart side if you have picky eaters and kids coming to your Thanksgiving and want to make sure there is something for everyone to indulge in.
12. Sauerkraut Slaw
Sauerkraut doesn’t usually show up on Thanksgiving, but its deep and distinct taste can work well with a traditional turkey and the other sides. A sauerkraut slaw can be made with sauerkraut, grated apple, caramelized onions, cabbage, and other ingredients, creating a slaw that is richer and warmer than typical cole slaw.
13. Cheesy Cauliflower Casserole
This is another non-traditional idea, but it isn’t shocking to see on Thanksgiving. This gooey and flavorful casserole is a great way to get kids to eat some vegetables, but the adults will love it just as much. Add bacon or peppers for color and added flavor!
14. Stuffed Peppers
The best part about stuffed peppers is there are no rules. You can stuff them with cheesy beef, fried rice, bolognese, pulled chicken, or Andouille sausage, just to name a few options. Stuffed peppers will add color to the table and a unique flair to the meal.
15. Creamed Peas and Pearl Onions
Another colorful but cozy dish is peas and pearl onions topped with a smooth bechamel sauce. This idea is easy to execute and adds another vegetable element to the dish. Sometimes, Thanksgiving can feel too heavy so this simple pea dish can be a nice relief from the incredibly rich food.
This traditional Jewish dish always hits the spot. Kugel is a baked casserole made with noodles, cheese, and potatoes, but many variations exist. This can be a delicious substitute for mac and cheese or mashed potatoes if you’re tired of serving those at Thanksgiving.
17. Cranberry Jalapeño Salsa
You can serve this Thanksgiving-themed salsa as a side or an appetizer, and it’s best with buttery crackers, like Ritz. The salsa is zesty, spicy, sweet, and chunky, making it an irresistible treat. Once you start eating, you’ll find it impossible to stop.
18. Butternut Squash Ricotta Bruschetta
Traditional bruschetta is a great non-traditional Thanksgiving side or appetizer, but you can make this dish more autumnal with butternut squash instead of tomatoes. The ricotta and squash are wonderfully creamy and cozy, spooned on top of crunchy crostinis for a flavor bomb in every bite.
19. Rosemary Potato Salad
A rosemary potato salad is a lovely alternative to mashed potatoes. The cold potato salad is a nice departure from all the hot food you eat on Thanksgiving, and the rosemary ensures the flavor aligns with the rest of the meal. Plus, you can make it the day before, making Thanksgiving Day a little easier.
20. Broccoli Salad
Another cold salad that is easy to make is a broccoli salad. A broccoli cranberry walnut salad will have all the flavors of Thanksgiving but with a creamy and crunchy texture that offers something new and different. You can also use Asian seasoning to make this salad even more interesting.
21. Peel-and-Eat Salt and Pepper Shrimp
This is a stellar addition to Thanksgiving for people who can’t get enough seafood. Peel-and-eat shrimp are easy to make and can be served as a succulent side or an exciting appetizer. Keep it simple with salt and pepper, or play around with other seasonings.
22. Savory Pumpkin Sage Dumplings
Something about dumplings is so satisfying, and while they may seem out of place on the Thanksgiving table, they don’t have to be. You can fill the dumplings with pureed pumpkin, fried sage, cheese, and spices for a smooth, flavorful taste and texture. Butternut squash also works well in a dumpling.
If you feel like your Thanksgiving menu lacks vegetables, ratatouille is a wonderful addition to the table. This French stew features tomatoes, zucchini, summer squash, and eggplant, all thinly sliced and layered together to create a beautiful and vibrant dish.
24. Maque Choux
Maque choux is a traditional Cajun dish with corn, peppers, and seasonings. It’s a bright and bold dish that makes a fabulous side on Thanksgiving and brings an element of spice and sweetness. The warm seasonings and rich flavor pair well with traditional Thanksgiving foods.
25. Tempura Vegetables
Tempura is a fried Japanese dish that uses a light and airy batter. You can fry almost any vegetable in a tempura batter, such as sweet potatoes, carrots, mushrooms, broccoli, snap peas, green beans, and many more. The delicate batter and soft vegetables offer a delicious contrast and will enhance your Thanksgiving meal.
Veronica is a food, fashion, and entertainment writer from Boston, MA, with a passion for all things lifestyle and culture. She graduated from Boston University in 2019 with a bachelor's in English literature. From Anna Wintour to Angelina Jolie to Alton Brown, she has her finger on the pulse of all things Hollywood and celebrity.
If she's not in the kitchen crafting new recipes, then she's binging the latest HBO series and catching up on the hottest trends in Vogue.
She has written for and been syndicated by publications like The Weather Channel, The Daily Meal, The Borgen Project, The Good Men Project, The Express, MSN, Wealth of Geeks, and Not Deer Magazine. Her writing experience ranges from global news articles to celebrity gossip pieces to movie reviews to homemade recipes and more.