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Ramona King

Sea Island Red Pea and Vegetable Purloo


20 Thanksgiving sides that may just outshine the big bird

Thanksgiving isn’t all about the turkey.

Your mind may immediately jump to the giant bird in the center of the table when someone mentions the big meal. But the possibilities of accompaniments are endless, even though everyone only comes for mashed potatoes and stuffing anyway. From traditional to classics with a twist, these 20 side dishes are so good you may even forget about the turkey all together.

Sea Island Red Pea and Vegetable Purloo
A what now? If you want to get creative with your side dish, try a purloo. It’s a dish similar to jambalaya and traditionally features shrimp and cured pork. This vegetarian-friendly version is filled with field peas, winter squash and broccoli, which means it can even function as a main dish for any non-meat eaters at your dinner.
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Bebe’s Green Beans
A simple, yet classic vegetable dish is an easy one to add to your menu. You’re likely to find green beans of some sort at any ol’ American Thanksgiving, and this recipe, which comes from award-winning food writer Anne Byrn, is the best of the best. Byrn’s method for cooking green beans comes from her mother, who developed the technique out of creativity and the need to put something healthier on the dinner table. 
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Truffle Mashed Potatoes
While it may be a staple all year round for most families, Thanksgiving is when mashed potatoes get their moment of glory. Just like mac and cheese, this side dish is almost always a hit with kids. You won’t find this missing at many Thanksgiving meals.
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Extra Cheesy Mac and Cheese
Mac and cheese is a super simple dish and it’s great for little ones and picky eaters! It’s a staple you’ll find at most Southern Thanksgiving meals. Plus, who doesn’t like comfort food during the holidays? Try adding lobster, crab or roasted veggies to make this side really stand out.
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Mom’s Homemade Green Bean Casserole
One of the most iconic side dishes of any Thanksgiving meal is green bean casserole. While we most typically only see it a few times a year, green bean casserole is a beloved favorite of many American families. This totally-from-scratch recipe is so delicious that it won our holiday recipe contest in 2017!
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Sweet and Spicy Collards
Collards are a great accompaniment to any Southern meal. This is a good, all-purpose recipe for collard greens that have those sweet, acidic, smoky and spicy notes that make collard greens magical. Adding some collards to your Thanksgiving meal will be well worth it. Trust us, y’all.
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Classic Southern Cornbread
You can’t have a meal without cornbread, right? No, you can’t — especially not Thanksgiving dinner. Cornbread pretty much speaks for itself when it comes to making an appearance on the Thanksgiving dinner table, y’all.
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Bacon Cornbread Dressing
Ah, the most quintessential side dish at Thanksgiving, the one we’ve all been waiting for: dressing. Or do you call it stuffing? Is there a difference? (Hint: there is). This is an absolute must for any Thanksgiving meal. While not mandatory, your dressing will benefit by letting it rest overnight in the refrigerator before baking, as it gives the cornbread more time to absorb the liquid. 
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Anne Byrn’s Favorite Turkey Dressing
Nothing beats a classic sausage dressing recipe on Thanksgiving. It’s the perfect accompaniment to the big bird and will likely please just about everyone sitting around your Thanksgiving table. In addition to using cornbread, Anne Byrn uses French bread and regular sandwich bread to make this a true crowd-pleaser. 
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Brussels Sprouts with Country Ham
The folks circled around your big Thanksgiving meal will either love or hate Brussels sprouts. However, slicing them thinly and cooking them with butter and salty country ham helps combat some of the sprouts’ natural bitterness. Serve this recipe and we’re almost positive you’ll turn some sprouts haters into lovers.
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Oyster Cornbread Dressing
If you’re looking to throw a Low Country twist on your Thanksgiving meal this year, swap the classic dressing out for this oyster cornbread variation. While it may sound like an odd choice, adding oysters to your dressing allows the liquor from the oysters to create a briny, oceanic flavor that can’t be beat. Your guests will be impressed with your creativity too!
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Roasted Butternut Squash with Pecorino and Sage
Roasted butternut squash will pair perfectly with the big bird on Thanksgiving. It’s a staple fall dish that will right fit in on the table. The garlic, sage and salty Pecorino mixed in with the roast squash counteract its natural sweetness and in this dish keep it firmly rooted in a savory territory.
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Mashed Garlic Sweet Potatoes
In my house, mashed sweet potatoes are a Thanksgiving must-have. This side pairs perfectly with turkey and it most definitely gives your Thanksgiving plate a little more color. Differing from regular mashed potatoes, these sweet potatoes will leave you swooning over the additional garlic flavor.
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Green Beans with Clams and Bacon
If you want to add a twist to green beans, there’s no better addition than clams and bacon. A classic duo of shellfish and bacon uses the naturally salty ingredients of the clams to amplify the subtle sweetness of green beans. It’s absolutely worth the work.
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Corn Soufflé
Another go-to Thanksgiving side is corn soufflé. It’s a classic Southern comfort food that, while loaded with heavy cream and eggs, feels light on the tongue.
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Cornbread Dressing with Pecans and Apples
The beautiful thing about dressing is you can get creative with it or you can keep it simple like in this recipe. The pecans and apples make this dressing a perfect fall dish and an even more perfect Thanksgiving side.
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Dixie Spoonbread
Old-fashioned Southern spoonbread is absolutely delicious and it can (and should!) be eaten during Thanksgiving. A sweet custard-like cornbread, spoonbread has the perfect crunch of cornmeal to make it a go-to side dish for years to come.
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Fire-Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Pecans
As my dad would say, “What’s Thanksgiving without sweet potatoes?” In the South, we’re often graced with warm enough weather to have an outdoor Thanksgiving. So if you’re willing to try, roast your sweet potatoes in a fire pit or on the smoldering coals in a charcoal grill for a smoky twist on our favorite yam puree. 
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Roasted Cauliflower with Raisins and Dill
This roasted cauliflower recipe will be your new go-to throughout the winter. Plus, serving roasted cauliflower on Thanksgiving Day as a side dish will please all of your health-conscious guests. It’s a win-win.
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Shaved Brussels Sprouts Caesar Salad
Another versatile dish is this shaved Brussels sprouts Caesar. You can treat this as either a side or a salad. But the best part? You may just be able to get your little ones to try Brussels sprouts for the first time.
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Photo (Bebe's green beans): Danielle Atkins
Photos (mac and cheese, collards, Brussels sprouts with ham, green beans with clams): Ramona King
Photos (bacon cornbread dressing, fire roasted sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts caesar): Maura Friedman
Photo (roasted squash): Ryan Hughley
Photo (cornbread dressing with pecans): PeachDish

Author image

Elisabeth Schrock is a contributing writer for Southern Kitchen. She's a graduate of Duquesne University and has traveled around the world chasing good food. Born and raised in Georgia, she vows that you can take the girl out of the South, but you can’t take the South out of the girl. Oh, and she can never get enough of her dad’s homemade mashed potatoes.