Healthy Thanksgiving side dishes

November 22, 2014

Gobble pillow2Thanksgiving traditions die hard, don’t they?  My husband’s a traditionalist and for the most part, he wants his traditional holiday dishes. But this year, I’m making a chestnut stuffing for the first time and he’s excited about it. I’m all for tradition, but it’s fun to shake things up a bit, too.  It doesn’t mean I’d make steak for Thanksgiving, but it does mean I like to try new side dishes that might even be a little healthier than our usual fare.

In the past we’ve brought side dishes to Thanksgiving get-togethers, and it’s not usual for the hostess to dictate or at least “approve” what’s being brought.  Which is usually the same thing as “dictate.”

“Why don’t you make …. instead?” That’s more than a strong suggestion.

Or “The kids don’t eat….”  Of course, I have yet to see a Thanksgiving meal that didn’t feature numerous kid-friendly options.  They won’t starve if there’s one side they don’t like.

I have a friend who only cooks Thanksgiving meals out of Bon Appetit and  strictly controls her menu. Folks like that miss out on some tasty dishes they might love or that might even become part of a new Thanksgiving tradition. If new Thanksgiving tradition isn’t an oxymoron.

I like asking people to bring a new dish–telling them what I’m preparing so they don’t duplicate, but giving them the freedom to contribute something they love to make.

If you’re able to bring a different kind of side-dish to a family get-together or if you’re looking for something new for your Thanksgiving meal –or any fall meal, really– this post is for you. These dishes are fairly to very healthy and make interesting substitutes for some of the same old things we see on the table every November.

If it’s hard to see the live link, just click the first few words under the subhead. Yep, that’s live. Not the subhead itself.

Roasted Cauliflower with Aromatic Sage Butter

Roasted cauliflower with aromatic sage butter is a great alternative to mashed potatoes, if your family can bear skipping that traditional side dish.  If not, it’s a way to make a leftover turkey meal different. Just go easy on the butter.

Swiss Chard & Caramelized Onions

Swiss chard and caramelized onions make a healthy and tasty side for any meal, including Thanksgiving. I like it as a substitute for a salad.

Nutty, Roasted Delicata Squash

Nutty, roasted delicata squash is another yummy fall meal dish that might change up your usual Turkey Day menu.  My husband loves this and says it has a chestnutty taste to him. I don’t get that flavor, but I like it just the same.

Sausage & Lentils One-Dish

Scrumptious sausage and lentils is for the day when you simply can not look at another turkey dish. It’s an easy, one-dish meal that’s just right for a busy day.fall stuff nice

Chestnut Stuffing for Turkey  (makes 8-10 cups for a 12-14 lb turkey w/ extra on side)

Oh, and did you want that chestnut stuffing recipe? Here it is:

  • 6 cups of whatever bread you use as stuffing
  • 3-4 chopped celery ribs
  • 2 chopped onions
  • 3 tablespoons fresh sage leaves minced (substitute: 1 tablespoon dried)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves minced or dried
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary minced (substitute: 1 1/2 teaspoons dried)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh savory (substitute: 1 teaspoon dried)
  • 1 stick unsalted butter (that’s half a cup)
  • I use 3/4 pound (2 cups) vacuum-packed or in-jar whole chestnuts, chopped coarse . If you are a glutton for punishment, prepare 1 lb of fresh chestnuts
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Skillet-cook the onions, the celery, the sage, the thyme, the rosemary, and the savory in butter over moderately low heat. Stir often until the vegetables are softened.  Then add the chestnuts and cook the entire mixture, stirring, for a minute. Add the vegetables mixture to the stuffing bread, tossing well. Then stir in  parsley and salt and pepper to taste.  Let the stuffing cool completely before stuffing the turkey. You can make it one day in advance, but keep it covered and in the fridge. Remember, DO NOT STUFF TURKEY IN ADVANCE OR BACTERIA WILL GROW AND MIGHT MAKE YOU SICK.

If you’ve got a favorite you’d like to share in Comments, we’re all listening!


32 comments on “Healthy Thanksgiving side dishes
  1. Oh, yum! I love these recipes, but this year we’re really shaking it up by going AWAY! And eating at a restaurant on T-Day that has a traditional dinner and others as well. I bet my extended family thinks I’m really shaking it up this year by not being home! I can’t wait to go away..

    Happy and Healthy Thanksgiving, Carol! Gobble, gobble.

  2. My husband is a traditionalist; I’m an innovator. I am going to a friends house this year, and I’m bringing a kale and shaved brussel sprouts salad. And I’m bringing cranberry salsa (chopped cranberries with jalepeno, apple, cilantro, OJ, and yellow peppers). I know that my daughter and I will eat these things! I need to try your recipes. I have a friend who raves about Swiss chard, but I haven’t tried it yet. I’ll start there.

  3. Roz Warren says:

    Our Thanksgiving would definitely make your traditional hubby plotz — for over a decade now, Mark and I have enjoyed his homemade Vegan Chili on Thanksgiving. Followed, of course, by pumpkin pie.

  4. Sounds like delicious substitutions Carol. I think I’m going for the cauliflower over mashed potatoes. Sounds heavenly!

  5. Your recipes look delicious (I just may use your stuffing recipe). I typically host Thanksgiving but this year my oldest daughter will host for her first time. I’m bringing the stuffing (or dressing, as it’s not stuffed) and my traditional Cheesy Corn Casserole –


  6. Diane says:

    All of these sound absolutely delicious! I could only offer them as ‘additional’ side dishes, though to my uber-traditionalists. I remember the time my Husby proposed serving a baked ham for Thanksgiving dinner. There was a riot of universal proportions. You may have seen the explosion from where you live. I know they saw it from the space shuttle . . .

  7. I so agree! For years–12? 13?–can’t remember, we hosted a semi-formal holiday party. We provided all the drinks and asked people to bring their favorite appetizer to share. We never had duplicates because everyone has at least one prize-winning thing they can make. It was so much fun!
    My favorite Thanksgiving thing to make is the ever easy cranberry sauce. I am hard pressed to understand why anyone would ever want to buy it from a store–or God forbid-pull it from a can.

  8. Ruth Curran says:

    I think I will use your cauliflower puree suggestions! Sage butter! Awesome addition – thanks!!!

  9. Wow, these all sound amazing! We’ll be having whatever side dishes Whole Foods is featuring!

  10. Yum, these sound delicious, especially the cauliflower one and the chestnut stuffing. My family would mutiny if I didn’t have the mashed potatoes but the cauliflower is nice for the day after when we’re all sitting around stuffed to the gills and need something lighter.

  11. My daughter has been using cauliflower instead of potatoes for the last two thanksgivings. She ask me to bring a different type of side dish every year. These are delicious suggestions. Thank you!

  12. Carolann says:

    I always try to add new side dishes each year. I love the cauliflower recipe for sure! And the chestnut stuffing you are making sounds insanely good! Thanks much for the ideas!

  13. Laurel Regan says:

    Those recipes all sound delicious – it’s making me wish our Canadian Thanksgiving wasn’t already over! Thanks for sharing – I’ll have to remember them for next year.

  14. WendysHat says:

    Oh those all sound great! Yes traditional is nice but not as fun as venturing out to find new traditions. Enjoy!

  15. Carol, I love the sound of this Chestnut Stuffing for Turkey! I’m going to give it a try but use only 1/3 cup reduced-fat butter and add 1/4 cup chicken broth.

  16. Haralee says:

    We alternate between 2 other families hosting Thanksgiving and Fourth of July. We aren’t hosts this year so appetizers, a side dish and a dessert are requested. Many emails go back and forth and I was told I need to shake up my game for appetizers. For my side dish I pitched cauliflower but it didn’t make the cut! I think your recipe sounds great. There is always another Holiday and Next Year.

  17. Andrea B. says:

    These all sound amazing, except for one thing. I stick with Stove Top. It’s just what I need for T-Day. Yummm.

    But onions and squash and cauliflower. Ahhh. Delicious!

  18. I have so many new potential Thanksgiving recipes collected – but there always seems to be more than enough food with just making all the traditional ones. Your cauliflower recipe sounds wonderful though – maybe if I serve it with left-overs, it will be requested for the Thanksgiving meal next year!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Follow Carol


Here you’ll find my blog, some of my essays, published writing, and my solo performances. There’s also a link to my Etsy shop for healing and grief tools offered through A Healing Spirit.


I love comments, so if something resonates with you in any way, don’t hesitate to leave a comment on my blog. Thank you for stopping by–oh, and why not subscribe so you don’t miss a single post?


Subscribe to my Blog

Receive notifications of my new blog posts directly to your email.