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All Photos: Ramona King

A plate of Low Country Thanksgiving fare


This year, our Thanksgiving feast is going to the Low Country

One of the best things about living in the South is its diversity of not only people, but also food culture and cuisine. As we all know, Southern food is far from monolithic; each and every pocket has its own distinct culinary identity. And one of our favorite regions is, of course, the Carolina Low Country.

Its marshy system of rivers and estuaries has helped to grow a cuisine rich in seafood and rice. The ancestors of the enslaved Africans brought over from West Africa, the Gullah Geeche people, have given us much of the dishes and ingredients we think of as Low Country today: okra soup, purloo, garlic crab, anything served with rice.

For Thanksgiving this year, we're honoring this historic Southern fare with a menu inspired by the Low Country region. It may not be a traditional Thanksgiving spread (don't worry, we will be serving turkey), but we think it's actually better. 

Read on for our menu and stay tuned the rest of this month for more guides and recipe suggestions. 

It's hard to imagine any dinner party, let alone Thanksgiving, without appetizers. But it is worth it to tread carefully when it comes to volume and richness; after all, you are getting ready for a major feast.
Deviled Crab Deviled Eggs
Grilled Oysters

Keeping our theme in mind, we are sticking with seafood appetizers this year. First, we update a Southern classic — deviled eggs — with lots (and lots) of crab. Both blended and folded into the filling, as well as used for a garnish, the crab meat lends the eggs an elegance and bold seafood flavor. Add even more oomph by seasoning with Old Bay instead of salt. Alongside, we're plating up a huge platter of butter-topped grilled oysters. Yes, we know that most Carolina oyster roasts don't add Parmesan and garlic to the mix, but why leave those ingredients off when they're just so gosh darn tasty? If you want to go ultra-purist here, you grill your oysters sans sauce and serve them with traditional accoutrements like saltines, horseradish, melted butter and hot sauce.
Get the deviled eggs recipe
Get the oyster recipe

Feel free to call us maniacs, but we're going to go ahead and encourage you to serve not one, but two main dishes at Thanksgiving this year. 

Low Country Boil-Brined Turkey Breast
Grilled Quail with Mustard Barbecue Sauce

Since most believe it isn't Thanksgiving without a turkey, we've got it on our table — but not without a Carolina twist. Instead of a traditional cider brine, we're going full Low Country boil on it. The Old Bay seasoning and lemons in the brine evoke the flavors of the boil and truly make the subtle flavor of the turkey shine. And you'll also notice that we scaled back our turkey proportions to just a large turkey breast. It always seems like everyone just wants the white meat, so why not do it justice? In addition, we're grilling up semi-boneless quail, glazed in mustard barbecue sauce. Quail, you ask? These diminutive birds truly pack a punch and are likely just as traditional as turkey come feast-time. The tanginess and subtle spice of the barbecue sauce is a fine foil to the slightly gamey flavor of the birds and it adds dramatic color to the table. Even better? Both of these dishes come together far more quickly than a typical roast turkey. (But, okay, if you insist on a whole bird, use this recipe and add some Old Bay to the rub.)
Get the turkey recipe
Get the quail recipe

Sure, some may argue that the turkey is the centerpiece of the Thanksgiving meal, but — let's be real — we're all just here for the sides. 

Sea Island Red Pea and Vegetable Purloo
Cornbread Oyster Dressing

It is not Thanksgiving without at least two starch-filled sides. From dressing (or stuffing) to mashed potatoes and gratin, these carb-filled dishes provide the foundation of a plate. This year, we're serving two such dishes: a vegetarian-friendly purloo and an oyster-studded dressing. Purloos are the Low Country's version of a pilaf and are similar to Louisiana's jambalaya. Here, we've highlighted a few of the region's best ingredients — Sea Island red peas and Carolina Gold rice — to build our dish. Adding in broccoli and squash brings color and a bit of heft to the dish, making it a fine vegetable main for those who want it. Our oyster dressing is based on a traditional cornbread dressing recipe, full of the mollusks and their briny liquor. 
Get the purloo recipe
Get the dressing recipe

Green Beans with Clams and Bacon
Sorghum and Benne Seed Sweet Potatoes

Both green beans and sweet potatoes are classic Thanksgiving sides, but we're betting you've never had them like this before. Our green bean dish is almost as much South Carolina clam as it is vegetable, with plenty of smoky bacon to accent. And the sweet potatoes? Well, those are a far cry from marshmallow-topped casserole. We've roasted the potatoes in easy-to-serve bite-sized pieces and completely coated in ever-so-slightly-sour sorghum. For another Low Country touch, we toss the hot potatoes in toasted benne seeds — a nuttier cousin to sesame. 
Get the green bean recipe
Get the sweet potato recipe

Bourbon Pecan Cranberry Sauce
Sage Gravy

Finally, you can't have Thanksgiving without some kind of cranberry sauce and gravy. For our Low Country twist on sweet-and-sour cranberry sauce, we've stirred in a hefty splash of bourbon (we want to make sure you taste it) along with a handful of toasted pecans. It's ultra easy and far tastier than anything you can get out of a can. Flavored with fresh sage and tangy cider vinegar, our gravy is more traditional — but it still contains bourbon. (Why not?) Don't forget to stir in the turkey drippings if you've got 'em.
Get the cranberry sauce recipe
Get the gravy recipe

When it comes time for the final course, we encourage you to completely throw tradition out the window and serve two sweets that don't even come close to resembling pie.

Lady Baltimore Cake

The showstopping dessert on our Thanksgiving table this year is a Lady Baltimore cake. Said to have originated in the early 20th century at Lady Baltimore’s Tea Room in Charleston, South Carolina, Lady Baltimore cake is a white cake filled with a mixture of dried fruit and nuts, then frosted with a meringue-like icing. It’s a labor of love, which is why many people around Charleston enjoy it as a wedding cake. It works equally well as a dessert for any festive occasion, such as Thanksgiving. Alongside, an easier dish that's equally as distinct — syllabub. It's based off of an Old English holiday drink, similar to an eggnog. When it found its way to the United States — specifically, the Carolina Low Country — in the 19th century, it morphed into more of a light, airy dessert that is pretty much the best excuse we can think of to eat a bowl of whipped cream. (Do you really need a pie on your table? We suggest both our classic pecan pie and this butternut squash-filled alternative to pumpkin pie.)
Get the cake recipe
Get the syllabub recipe

Want more ideas? You can find all of our Thanksgiving content here.

Author image

Kate Williams is the former editor-in-chief of Southern Kitchen. She was also the on-air personality on our podcast, Sunday Supper. She's worked in food since 2009, including a two-year stint at America’s Test Kitchen. Kate has been a personal chef, recipe developer, the food editor at a hyperlocal news site in Berkeley and a freelance writer for publications such as Serious Eats, Anova Culinary, The Cook’s Cook and Berkeleyside. Kate is also an avid rock climber and occasionally dabbles in long-distance running. She makes a mean peach pie and likes her bourbon neat.