It’s T-minus just a few days to Thanksgiving, and whether you’re spending it with family or enjoying Friendsgiving, showing up empty-handed is simply unacceptable. Not mention, no fun! While turkey tends to be in the spotlight—and we’d never downplay a healthy protein—side dishes are where it’s at on Turkey Day.
It doesn’t matter if you have the luxury of starting the day before, are cooking the morning of, whipping something together before guests arrive, or there are only minutes to spare (tip: Our selected no-cook recipes allow you to buy items at the grocery store on the way over and toss them together when you arrive): There’s still plenty of time to contribute spectacular Brussels sprouts, mouthwatering mashed potatoes, or lip-smacking stuffing. These delicious recipes, sorted by how much time’s left, will have everyone asking for seconds, and they’re perfect for those hosting dinner too.
Skip the Stovetop (not that there’s anything wrong with that) and make this stuffing instead. Sourdough bread is combined with autumnal flavors like sage and apples for a side dish your family will rave about. While it’s simple to make, there’s a good amount of slicing and dicing involved. Prep it the night before, then bake for 45 minutes while your aunt grills you about your love life.
Roasting a turkey is stressful enough without worrying about making the Best. Gravy. Ever. Cue this make-ahead recipe. Using turkey wings ensures you’ll have a tasty, stress-free Thanksgiving. Just reheat in the microwave or on the stove and serve. Tip: Save the wing meat for soups, quesadillas, or any recipe that requires pre-cooked meat, and make extra gravy to freeze for later. (Christmas, anyone?)
Frozen, chopped spinach makes cooking this a snap, while two types of cheese give it the bubbly goodness you want without overwhelming the greens. Split the work into two days: Do the stovetop cooking the day before and keep it covered in the refrigerator until you’re ready to bake for dinner.
Even cavemen loved stuffing, right? This Paleo-friendly version starts with grain-free cornbread made with almond and coconut flours, then adds sausage, celery, fresh sage, and spices. Make the bread on Wednesday, assemble the stuffing Thursday morning, and bake.
People will think you’re a cooler Martha Stewart when you whip up these homemade rolls. (We won’t spill on how easy they are to prepare.) Mix the dough when you have time and let chill in the fridge until the big day. On Thanksgiving, shape the dough into rolls (or whatever shape your heart desires), and bake. Serve with fresh butter for a melt-in-your-mouth experience.
Two Thanksgiving favorites come together in this make-ahead stuffing that’s been “healthified” with whole-grain breads, almonds, and olive oil. With zero out-there ingredients and quick prep work, this is a recipe you can make the evening before. Pull it out of the fridge and bring to room temperature for 30 minutes before baking for an hour.
This twice-baked squash takes some time to prepare, but the sweet, savory, hearty result is totally worth it: We’re talking quinoa, mushrooms, onions, and Parmesan mixed inside of butternut squash—what’s not to love? Give it an extra dash of color by sprinkling fresh basil on the end result for a Pinterest-perfect side.
No canned cream of mushroom soup in this casserole! Instead, the creamy sauce is a combination of whole-wheat flour, cream cheese, freshly grated Parmesan, mushrooms, and a dash of cream. And don’t fret—there’s still a crispy onion topping!
10. Cranberry Relish
A fresh cranberry sauce that actually moves when it’s served, this recipe requires just four ingredients. Tart cranberries get sweetened up with fresh oranges and apples, plus as much sugar as desired. Prepare the relish in the morning, let it sit at room temperature for 45 minutes, and then keep in the refrigerator until you’re ready to top the turkey.
This hearty autumn rice is a side that works just as well hot as it does at room temperature. With wild and brown rice, apples, sautéed pecans, onions, and nutmeg—the quintessential fall seasoning—it’s sure to please everyone. Tip: Use vegetable broth to make this dish vegetarian-friendly.
When space is limited for cooking, it’s time to bring out your right-hand man: the slow cooker. This sausage stuffing is assembled in minutes and cooks for the next four hours, freeing up the oven (and time!) for other dishes.
Give cornbread an extra fall touch with this pumpkin-spiced version that comes together in minutes: Measure, stir, and pour, then bake and get ready for sweet, seductive smells coming from the oven.
Put a new spin on the typical potato side and try this twice-baked casserole instead. After baking the taters solo, cut them and return to the oven stirred together with a healthy dose of cheese and bacon. Do the first bake in the morning and the second right before serving to save time. Tip: Replace the mayo entirely with Greek yogurt for a little extra protein.
Dinner’s in 2 Hours
This may not look like traditional stuffing, but it’s delicious and absolutely gorgeous (plus vegan and gluten-free!). And with leafy greens (spinach), nuts (pistachios), fruit (cranberries), healthy carbs (butternut squash), and plant protein (quinoa), it’s also balanced and hearty enough to be a meal—so be sure to keep some leftovers for yourself.
With more filling fiber, potassium to help your body properly function, and vitamin A (necessary for immunity, eye healthy, cell growth) per gram compared to white taters, sweet potatoes give this classic a fresh, healthy spin. Just a little butter and light sour cream keeps the calories low and the texture super creamy.
What can make crispy, roasted sprouts even better? Bacon! This quick and easy side dish requires five ingredients and little hands-on effort: The Brussels and bacon are roasted together until they’re both deliciously caramelized to perfection.
A mushroom lover’s dream, this elegant side is a breeze to make and insanely good. Toss together mushrooms (buy pre-sliced to make this even simpler), garlic, parsley, and capers—don’t skip the capers, they add loads of flavor—and roast, then top with Parmesan and broil until the cheese reaches the perfect stage of gooeyness. You can prepare the mushrooms whenever and pop them in the oven for 30 minutes when it’s free.
When superfoods unite, the result is amazing flavors that make your body feel amazing too (none of that sluggish, bloated, post-Thanksgiving coma). While the acorn squash is roasting, onions, mushrooms, and other goodies like chickpeas, cranberries, and pumpkin seeds are sautéed and then combined with quinoa. When the squash is ready, stuff those bad boys and serve.
Perfect as an appetizer or alternative to heavier gratins or casseroles, these bites are made from stuffing mix, frozen spinach, and plenty of cheese—because why not?
These thick, creamy, fluffy potatoes require zero dairy products. Instead, vegan butter and roasted garlic infuse ’em with smooth flavor. And since they require only six ingredients, they’re easy to scale up for a crowd.
This ridiculously easy (and ridiculously good) recipe turns your favorite cruciferous veg into a tasty Thanksgiving dish. Four ingredients, only 10 minutes prep work, and no measuring! That’s our idea of cooking.
While it’s not as popular as quinoa or most “ancient” grains (and it does contain gluten), barley has almost as much protein and more fiber than quinoa. Add pecans for crunch and healthy fats, cranberries for antioxidants and a touch of tartness, and balsamic vinegar and maple syrup for a sweet and savory drizzle. Oh, and there’s cheese.
This cranberry sauce takes 10 minutes. And when it’s that fast, why settle for something with can ridges on it? It’s cheap too: All you need are fresh berries, sugar, and lemon zest.
Calling all non-cooks: This oven-free side dish doesn’t even require chopping—and it still tastes like it took effort! Melt butter in a pan, add carrots, honey, sugar, and herbs, and stir while it cooks for about 15 minutes. Talk about the perfect lazy person’s Thanksgiving contribution.
Not only do these garlicky green beans take only 7 minutes to make, but they cook entirely in the microwave, freeing up the stovetop and oven for other dishes. Hear that whooshing sound? It’s you being super speedy.
Dinner’s in 30 Minutes
Traditionally served on toasted bread, crackers make a perfect stand-in for this appetizer you can assemble on site. Pick up whatever toppings appeal, like sun-dried tomato and goat cheese; pesto bocconcini; blue cheese and fig; roasted red pepper hummus; or pesto, radish, and sea salt.
Buy shredded carrots to make quick work of this one. You could even bring a bowl with you and toss it together in the car, eyeballing the dressing ingredients and dill, and skipping the scallions if you think things won’t get too messy.
This one’s beyond easy: Buy packaged mixed greens of any type, chives, salt, pepper, olive oil, and lemon juice, and mix. If that doesn’t seem like enough for a holiday meal, get some grape or cherry tomatoes (go for yellow ones for presentation points) and crumble pita chips on top.
If your friends will let you take up a little space in the kitchen, buy an orange, bagged kale, bagged radicchio, and roasted (or plain) cashews at the store, then toss it together in minutes when you arrive. It’s colorful, and with all the heavy sides, a salad will be a welcome sight on the table.
Coleslaw mix gets a fall makeover by adding bagged spinach, cranberries, and pine nuts. Pick up a healthy vinaigrette, and feel free to omit the peppers, which means no chopping!