29 Healthy Thanksgiving Sides
Thanksgiving dinner isn’t typically about wellness, and that’s okay. But with a few easy swaps and modifications, it can also still be a balanced meal. These easy Thanksgiving side dishes, from roasted brussels sprouts with pancetta to green Thanksgiving salads, are all healthy while still being delicious.
For his salad, George Mendes uses fresh horseradish and Gegenbauer cider vinegar, a rare Austrian import. This version calls for jarred horseradish and supermarket apple-cider vinegar.
Sweet Potato Spoon Bread
Spoon bread, a cross between corn bread and soufflé, is a Southern classic. Robert Stehling likes to add cooked spinach or fresh corn and chopped and sautéed bacon or ham to his plain sweet potato version.
Broccoli, Shiitake and Red Onion Roast
It's not hard to eat your broccoli when it's roasted to be crisp-tender and studded with umami shiitake mushrooms. The finishing touch is a splash of balsamic vinegar.
Healthy Potato Gratin with Herbs
Inspired by a potato gratin at Restaurant Daniel in New York City, this creamy—but creamless—recipe gets great flavor from thyme and rosemary.
Caramelized Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta
Bacon and brussel sprouts are a classic combination. Take that dish up a notch by using the slightly more delicate notes in pancetta, an Italian salumi made of salt-cured pork.
Sweet Potatoes with Apple Butter
Rather than going the marshmallow-topped route, take sweet potatoes in a savory direction by boiling them and mashing with apple butter.
Leek Salad with Persimmons and Almonds
Here, Hugh Acheson creates a salad based on butter-braised leeks, a French favorite.
Farro with Butternut Squash and Pickled Chanterelles
Jeff Cerciello pickles his mushrooms in a horseradish-and-juniper brine—flavors that are especially nice in winter with nutty farro and sweet butternut squash. The salad, however, is also delicious on its own and would be a great side dish for a simple roast chicken.
Chunky Cranberry Sauce
Gary Vaynerchuk prefers “real cranberry sauce” with chunks of whole fruit over the smooth canned-and-jellied kind.
Gingered Green Beans
Scott Conant makes his crisp-tender beans with ground ginger, since freshly grated ginger invariably creates unappealing little chunks.
Tricolor Roasted Carrots and Parsnips
This gorgeous, lightly sweet salad is terrific with roasted chicken and great for a buffet.
This perfect savory focaccia is delicious with or without a light brushing of white truffle oil.
Kale & Apple Salad with Pancetta and Candied Pecans
Kale is a marvelous green for salads because it’s hearty enough to handle hefty ingredients like nuts and meat, plus it doesn’t wilt as it sits on the table. When chef Ryan Hardy makes this kale salad for Thanksgiving dinner at Montagna at the Little Nell in Aspen, Colorado, he deep-fries the pecans, but it’s quicker (and less messy) to toast them in the oven.
Mashed Winter Squash with Indian Spices
Fragrant Indian spices—coriander, turmeric and black mustard seeds—are a wonderful accent for creamy mashed butternut squash. The squash can be roughly smashed until chunky, or thoroughly mashed until smooth.
Mixed Green Salad with Fig-Yogurt Dressing
Tossed with a healthy mix of lettuces such as arugula and watercress, this tangy-sweet dressing combines low-fat yogurt with vitamin K–rich figs.
Maple-Ginger-Roasted Vegetables with Pecans
When roasting winter vegetables, Melissa Rubel Jacobson says be sure to chop them about the same size, so they cook at the same rate. And toss them at least once while they’re in the oven, so they brown evenly.
Carrots with Tahini Dressing
“I like the clean flavors in this dish,” says Sam Mogannam of this incredibly simple side, which is as good with turkey as it is with steamed fish, roast chicken or pork.
Ginger-Roasted Winter Squash
For winter squash that is crispy on the outside and moist within, Melissa Perello halves each one, roasts it until soft, then cuts it into wedges and roasts it some more.
Squash Gratin with Poblanos & Cream
At Suzanne Goin and Caroline Styne’s Tavern in Los Angeles, chef Julie Robles makes this vegetarian gratin in individual dishes with a topping of candied pepitas (pumpkin seeds). This version is for one big gratin garnished with plain toasted pumpkin seeds.
Roasted Cauliflower with Green Olives and Pine Nuts
Roasting cauliflower caramelizes the florets, making them supersweet. Tossed with crunchy pine nuts and salty olives and capers, this dish is perfect with roasted chicken or steamed fish.
Gingery Sweet Potato Soup
Sweet potatoes are a great source of beta-carotene, essential for vision. The soup uses only one cup of the ginger broth; the rest makes a terrific cooking liquid for grains like quinoa.
Green Bean-and-Blood Orange Salad
“Blood oranges are part of my Sicily fascination,” Renato Poliafito says. He uses the segments to add color and tang to green beans and reduces the juice with balsamic vinegar to make the dressing.
Balsamic-Glazed Cipollini with Lemon and Bay Leaves
Called cipollini agrodólce in Italian for their sweet-and-sour vinegar glaze (agro means sour; dólce, sweet), these soft and tangy onions are a fantastic accompaniment to any rich roast meat.
Cranberry, Ginger and Orange Chutney
This chunky cranberry chutney is super-fresh-tasting because the cranberries are simmered briefly and the orange sections are added near the end of cooking.
Roasted Beets and Charred Green Beans
Savory Kale Salad
Celery Root, Apple and Fennel Slaw
Brussels Sprouts and Arugula Salad with Buttermilk Dressing
Braised Greens with Crispy Garlic and Miso
Greens are good for you, sure, but the addition of umami-salty miso makes them a delicious addition to your Thanksgiving plate.