Once you’ve got the turkey out of the way, it’s time to get down to… everything else. No Thanksgiving meal is complete without a healthy selection of side dishes that’ll balance out the meaty main. And while everyone’s got their standard classics—green bean casserole, mac ‘n’ cheese, and sweet potatoes, to name a few—there’s no rule that says you can’t start new traditions.
To round out the meal without fretting too much, you can’t beat a veggie-centric dish that’s simple enough to prepare without having to rely on a recipe—the sort that you can make while the turkey is finishing in the oven. Here, we’ve got five favorites that once you’ve got the method down, are open to endless improvisation. Add them to your Thanksgiving lineup and you’ll be all set for the main event!
Take some baby kale leaves and dress them lightly in olive oil and white wine vinegar (or any other vinaigrette). Arrange on a platter, then scatter over your choice of roasted veggies, nuts, or other add-ons. In the fall, we like to keep things seasonal with pomegranate seeds, pistachios, beets, and butternut squash.
Pesto Pasta Salad
Cook pasta until al dente, then place in a large bowl. Fold in some pesto, along with a little olive oil and grated Parmesan. Add any veggies or seasonings you like—you can’t go wrong with some cherry tomatoes, mozzarella perlini, and torn fresh basil.
Preheat the oven to 425 F with your sheet pan inside (this will help the veggies brown better). Chop all of your veggies into pieces of roughly equal size—carrots, beets, sunchokes, sweet potatoes, squashes, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts are all fair game. Sprinkle over some salt, pepper, olive oil, and rosemary or thyme; toss to evenly coat. Transfer veggies to the sheet pan and roast until tender, tossing them around about every 10 minutes.
Soup With Greens & Chickpeas
In a pot, sauté some mirepoix over medium-low heat in olive oil until soft. Add a can of drained and rinsed chickpeas and warm through (use more chickpeas for a creamier texture or a larger batch). Pour in some chicken stock—you’ll want about 1 cup per serving. Simmer 5 minutes, then transfer to a blender and blitz until mostly smooth (leave in a few chunkier pieces for a rustic texture). Season with salt and pepper, then return to pot and let simmer about 10 minutes more (tip: add a Parmesan rind for extra umami). Taste and season to your liking. Remove Parmesan rind. Stir in chopped kale or other hearty greens. Simmer another minute or two until greens wilt. Serve with grated Parmesan on top and crusty bread on the side.
Mashed Root Vegetables
Place peeled and cubed root vegetables or winter squash in a pot, then cover with cold water and season generously with salt (potatoes, yams, sunchokes, turnips, celeriac, or acorn or kabocha squash are all fair game). Bring to a boil and cook until very tender, at least 15 minutes. Drain and return to pot. Add a chunk of butter and a few splashes of milk or cream. Season with salt and pepper. Add more milk as needed to achieve desired consistency. For a crispy top, transfer mash to a casserole dish and broil until edges are lightly browned.