One of the best things about a Thanksgiving is often the side dishes that go with it. I think my family look forward to those more than anything else. All you have to do is look across Pinterest to see all of the many many options. From traditional casseroles to new spins on old favorites, there are a lot of options for easy Thanksgiving side dishes.
Side dishes add color, taste, texture and variety on the plate and they are also a really good way to save money. Cooking from scratch is almost always the best way to save money, plus it just tastes better. Plus if you plan it right, there are delicious leftovers all weekend so you don’t have to cook again!
This year I lost over 60 lbs without exercise by just following the keto diet, plus a little help from my secret weapon. So I will of course be indulging on Thanksgiving dinner, but will return back to keto on Friday. I share my whole easy weight loss journey here if you’re interested in what motivated me to stick to it and reach my goal.
Easy Thanksgiving Side Dishes: Breads
If you have a ton to cook on Thanksgiving, it’s best to get a plan and prepare as much as you can ahead of time. Here are some of my family’s favorite recipes for easy Thanksgiving side dishes.
1. Buttermilk Biscuits
Biscuits are great as a bread on the side and perfect for mopping up gravy. They are warm, filling, and the smell when they bake really says it is holiday time. We all love poppin-fresh dough, but it is far cheaper to whip up your own batch of flaky biscuits. Don’t tell my dad, but here is his grandma’s homemade buttermilk biscuit recipe. It’s so easy.
Cornbread is another cheap, easy and filling option. Bake up a few pans of it to use as is, or in other recipes. Our family recipe for dressing includes cornbread so I always make 3-4 pans each Thanksgiving. Don’t tell anyone, but I usually use the packet for my cornbread. My dad taught me little trick too, and for the longest time I thought it was part of the legit directions.
For a bottom that tastes more like it has been cooked in cast iron, add a few tablespoons of vegetable oil to the pan and get it hot in the oven. Then add the cornbread once it’s hot and follow the directions as normal. Try it once, you’ll thank me!
Easy Thanksgiving Side Dishes: Casseroles
3. Green Bean Casserole
This is a staple on many American holiday tables. Most people make it using canned cream of mushroom soup and a can of French-fried onions, but you can make a cheaper and less salty version yourself from scratch. Just make your own soup with mushrooms, flour and milk, and batter the onions with a bit of cornmeal and fry up for a nice crunch.
Personally, I could skip making this one but I think my family would disown me. If you are making Green Bean Casserole and traveling to someone else’s house, I have found that these type of carriers work great. They keep the food warm and from spilling during the car ride.
4. Broccoli Cheese Casserole
My personal favorite is my mom’s Broccoli Cheese Casserole. It’s so warm and gooey, plus it can be made ahead of time and warms up great for Thanksgiving day and as leftovers. When I was a kid, this was how she was able to get me to eat broccoli.
I still ask for this anytime she cooks! I found a recipe here that is pretty close to hers, maybe one day I can get her to write hers down.
5. Thanksgiving Cranberry Sauce
We totally make the can stuff! I’m not sure why, the fresh cranberry sauce is easy to make and tastes much better than the kind that comes in a can. When making it yourself, you can adjust the sugar, add orange or apple juice for natural sweetness, and so on.
6. Sweet Potatoes
This cheerful orange vegetable is very cheap and will go a long way towards filling up your guests. There are a few different ways to cook sweet potatoes, depending on what you’re in the mood for. My family insists on Sweet Potato Casserole, while I opt for them sliced like fries and baked in the oven.
You can fix it up like a baked potato by cooking it in the microwave and top with some brown sugar or cinnamon. For a casserole just boil up a pot and mash them. Then add milk, butter, brown sugar and/or maple syrup, and cinnamon and nutmeg.
Bake and eat as is, or add a layer of marshmallows to the top and cook until just brown and puffy. Some people add a layer of apples in the middle to give the casserole a bit more texture.
7. Potatoes au Gratin
Potatoes are a Thanksgiving staple. Traditionally mashed potatoes are served but, if you want something a bit more elegant for your holiday table, slice up the potatoes thinly and cook them in a creamy cheese sauce.
Potatoes au Gratin are a delicious, rich treat. So if you are having several other casseroles with cream of mushroom soup, I would skip this one. If you’re guests are not into all the traditional casseroles, then this would be a perfect addition to your table.
8. Corn/Corn on the Cob
Corn is very filling, and eating from the cob can be a lot of fun. You can also eat with a little butter, or make your own homemade creamed corn with milk. If you like the corn on the cob idea but want to dress it up a little, try making a tasty compound butter.
9. Corn casserole
This is another staple for any family gathering at our house. It’s corn, it’s bread, it can’t decide. Whatever it is, it’s yummy and great leftover the next day.
10. Mac and Cheese
Mac and cheese is another one of those easy Thanksgiving side dishes that I just assume will be on the table. There are tons of different recipes out there, I know Paula Dean has an amazingly rich one that is delicious. If you are making it ahead, I suggest a casserole type recipe so it warms well. Sometimes if you reheat a traditional homemade macaroni and cheese, it can get dry.
Easy Thanksgiving Side Dishes: Cold Ideas
It is a good idea to variety of easy Thanksgiving side dishes that are served cold or at room temperature. This makes is easier to have it all ready at the same time. For more tips on hosting a family dinner, check out 11 Easy Steps to a Stress Free Thanksgiving Potluck Dinner.
11. Deviled Eggs
In our family, the person who brings the deviled eggs is usually the beginner chef. They are pretty easy to make and hard to screw up. Plus, if dinner is running a little late (who me?) it’s a great little snack to tide them over.
12. Easy Pink Fluff
Pink fluff, ambrosia salad, it has a few different names but it’s always a hit. Since it is sweet, it is a great contrast to the other sides served. Plus since it’s served cold, it won’t be competing with other dishes for time in the over to be warmed up.
Pink fluff has several different varieties, so there is a recipe that will fit your taste buds. Oranges, cherries, pineapple, or strawberries are some of the ways I have seen it made plus the marshmallows and Cool Whip. I have even seen recipes with nuts and coconut in it as well.
13. Thanksgiving Fruit and Vegetable Platter
Creating a platter can be fun, and a very easy option to make ahead for Thanksgiving. You can get creative as you wish, I have even seen some on Pinterest designed in the shape of a turkey. You can include a variety of fruits, vegetables, meats, cheeses, olives or nuts, just don’t forget the dips to go with them.
A perfect addition for a lighter option among all of the heavy casseroles. It’s easy to whip up most salads ahead of time, and if it is a recipe where the dressing isn’t added before serving, it makes great leftovers the next day. If you are not making a specific salad with a dressing, don’t forget to have a variety of dressing options for your guests.
Here are some other ideas for your Thanksgiving holiday:
- 15 Cheap and Easy Thanksgiving Dessert Recipes
- 11 Steps to Hosting a Stress Free Thanksgiving Potluck Dinner
- 10 Easy & Affordable DIY Thanksgiving Decorating Ideas That Will Transform Your Home
My favorite part about Thanksgiving is enjoying time with my mom. We do a majority of the cooking together and I always learn something new. She’s truly the best cook I know. Drop me a line below with what your favorite part of Thanksgiving is!