Updated November 8, 2023 at 10:05 a.m. EST|Published November 8, 2023 at 10:00 a.m. EST
What does that mean? With some dishes, we’re introducing new textures and flavors that are often missing from the holiday feast, such as the crunch of raw green beans and the heat of chipotle in a cranberry barbecue sauce.
Other recipes take Thanksgiving standards and turn them on their heads — a freshly baked bread with all the flavors of stuffing and (gasp!) pumpkin cake instead of pie. And then there are recipes where what’s old has become new again in our effort to achieve your best bird yet — see Becky Krystal’s recommendation to cook your turkey in a bag.
We get it: Not everyone wants to try something new on Thanksgiving. In that case, maybe instead of replacing your family’s tried-and-true dishes, you add just a few of these recipes to make the meal that much more fun, flavorful and interesting. As we barrel toward the end of another year, who couldn’t use a little extra sparkle on their plate and in their life?
Turkey in a Bag With Lemon and Herbs
I get it. Putting a turkey in a bag in the oven seems weird. And yet, I’m here to tell you that if you’re looking for moist meat, you can hardly do better. No brining required, either! Moreover, in testing I found that roasting — more like steaming — the turkey in a bag cut the expected cook time almost in half. (The bag is made of heat-resistant nylon, not plastic.)
I took advantage of the closed environment by including lemon, garlic, apple, onion and herbs, which add subtle flavor to the meat and create delectable juices you can serve on their own, use in gravy or turn into broth.
And while you won’t get skin that’s as crisp as some other methods, it still turns an attractive golden color worthy of a place in the center of the table. Get the recipe from Becky Krystal.
Roasted Butternut Squash With Feta and Dates
The viral TikTok pasta dish got us all in the habit of roasting feta (if we weren’t already), and this recipe from Kathyrn Pauline’s new book “Piecemeal” shows how well the sharp, salty cheese goes with winter squash, especially when you toss everything with red onions, rosemary and a simple vinaigrette.
Dates add texture and sweetness, making this interesting enough to do double duty as a side dish for the omnivores and a main course for the vegetarians at your table.
The best part: You can use any firm winter squash. The second-best part: The recipe is so simple you may find yourself using it as a jumping-off point. Which direction will you take it in? Get the recipe from Joe Yonan.
This is the soup my husband’s family always orders whenever they’re at the Simon Pearce restaurant in Quechee, Vt. After spending a few Thanksgivings there, I became obsessed with the soup enough to track it down in their self-published cookbook, and it has become our go-to holiday meal starter.
With only a handful of basic ingredients, the soup doesn’t require much chopping or fancy techniques, and because it’s very rich, a little goes a long way, especially since you’ll need to save room for a multicourse meal to follow. Get the recipe from Olga Massov.
Sausage, Apple and Onion Bread
These herb-scented loaves of freshly baked bread are studded with pieces of sausage, apple and onion, as if merging dinner rolls and stuffing (or dressing) into something new.
Soft, plush slices would make a great addition to your festive table and would be excellent for sandwiches the next day. Or for the extra ambitious, perform a feat of stuffing inception by baking this bread early in the week to use in your favorite stuffing recipe. Get the recipe from Aaron Hutcherson.
Crushed Potatoes With Tahini-Garlic Sauce
There can be such a great variety of flavors on a Thanksgiving plate. Textures? Not so much. I love mashed potatoes, but I often find myself craving crispy and crunchy textures to balance out the many soft dishes on the holiday table.
These potatoes are up to the task with a tender, creamy interior and a wonderfully crisp, craggy skin. They’re boiled (a couple days in advance if you like, to save time later), crushed to create some irregular edges and then roasted on high heat for the best of both spud worlds.
The nutty tahini-garlic sauce with sumac, lemon juice and parsley adds a little zip and a fresh take on holiday potatoes. Get the recipe from Matt Brooks.
Skillet Sweet Potatoes With Brown Butter and Sage
Take sweet potatoes in a savory direction with this festive skillet recipe that is finished with nutty brown butter, crisp fried sage leaves and your favorite toasted nuts. The potatoes can be cooked a day or two ahead, freeing you for the day-of holiday tasks.
This side dish gives a nod to Lyonnaise potatoes, but instead of boiling, you slice, pan-fry and then cook the spuds in a skillet with onions, garlic and chopped sage. At this point, the potatoes can be refrigerated, and, when ready to serve, warmed in a skillet on the stovetop or in a casserole in the oven.
The toppings can be made ahead as well, the nuts can be toasted, and the sage leaves fried and kept at room temperature for two days. The butter can be browned and refrigerated until ready to use. Get the recipe from Ann Maloney.
Crunchy Green Beans With Almonds and Dates
While I’ll happily eat a green bean casserole for Thanksgiving, my 8-year-old won’t touch a cooked green bean with a 10-foot pole, so I’ve started to prepare this vegetable by not cooking it at all. Not only does it free up in-demand stovetop or oven space, but the crunchy, raw side makes for an ideal foil against all the richness of many Thanksgiving dishes.
Here, green beans are cut on the bias, tossed with Medjool dates and a mustardy-lemony dressing, and topped with a shower of toasted almonds for a result that delivers a crunch, sweetness, brightness and tartness.
The best part is, for a holiday when you’re juggling timings of various warm dishes, this one gets served at room temperature. Get the recipe from Olga Massov.
Chipotle Cranberry Barbecue Sauce
Spiciness is usually absent from the holiday menu. So for heat lovers, this barbecue-style sauce with chipotles in adobo and cranberries is just the ticket. (Feel free to adjust the amount of chipotle in the sauce to match your audience.)
And if you’re someone who always has trouble with gravy, consider this as an excellent replacement to serve with the turkey, stuffing and potatoes. Get the recipe from Aaron Hutcherson.
Skillet Pumpkin and Apple Cake
I am not really a pie person (even my pumpkin “pie” is more like a cheesecake). For years, I have begged/pleaded/threatened to share a recipe for a Thanksgiving cake, and now, it has finally happened.
Riffing on a pumpkin loaf recipe from my grandparents and inspired by the retro pineapple upside-down cake, I created a skillet dessert that features a tender, fluffy crumb gently spiced with cinnamon and cardamom.
To create an eye-catching topping, cranberries and apples are arranged in a hot mixture of butter and brown sugar. All you need to do is turn it out of the pan for an instant wow. Get the recipe from Becky Krystal.