Outside the Sides Box: Alternative Thanksgiving Dishes That Go Great With Turkey

Menu planning for Thanksgiving and feeling uninspired by the usual mashed potatoes/green bean casserole/stuffing/and other most commonly served sides? Wanting to shake things up? Yes, sure, you can make that one specific casserole your aunt always made that reminds you of home, but it’s also fun to create new food traditions. My fiancee started doing Thanksgiving on our own in 2020 as a result of COVID, and we have continued to do so instead of joining my extended family in Nashville the way I have been for most of my life. To be honest, we still make a lot of the same side dishes we grew up eating on the holiday — with a few of our own twists here and there. But I also think it would be fun to start a new tradition where we try one brand new side each year to add a little more variability to the predictable (though delicious) meal. I haven’t decided what that might be this year, but researching for this list certainly helped! Here are a bunch of “nontraditional” Thanksgiving sides to serve alongside turkey or your alternative main course for the evening.

If you’re looking for specifically vegan/vegetarian/gluten free options, you can command+F for any of those terms because I’ve labeled the recipes accordingly (and most of them check at least one if not more of those boxes)!

And if you’re hosting for the first time or just need general tips, we’ve got you covered.


Southwest Corn Pudding with Green Chiles (vegetarian, gluten free)

a tray of corn pudding

My family actually does make a version of corn pudding (but not at every Thanksgiving for some reason?), so I’m not sure it counts as ENTIRELY out of the box, but it’s soooo good and I’m always trying to convert people to the gospel of corn so here it is.


Crispy Spiced Potatoes (vegan, gluten free)

I know there are a lot of people who would balk at serving potatoes in any other form than mashed, but the typical Thanksgiving sides are uniformly mushy and mild, and I’m just saying a little crunch and spice could probably inject something fun into the mix! You could always do potatoes two ways if you’re too much a purist.


Tomato Stew (vegan, gluten free)

Tomatoes elevate every meal imo.


Roasted Pumpkin with Chili Yoghurt and Coriander Sauce (vegetarian)

Playing with pumpkin outside of the confines of pie might be a fun alternative to sweet potato dishes!


Baked Herbed Oysters

This is almost like an ULTRA-simplified version of an oyster stuffing, which I do know some families serve at Thanksgiving (jealous). But this one is pretty pared down, and I do think it’d be cute to serve in mini ramekins! This one is for my tinned fish heads.


Gildas (gluten free)

lines of gildas

Another one for my tinned fish heads! These are more for pre-turkey than alongside, but hey, I wouldn’t mind popping one of these between bites of bird either.


Lemon Garlic Sauteed Kale (vegan, gluten free)

a plate of kale

Some form of greens are often a part of the Thanksgiving meal, and this dish is SUPER simple, but I do think the slightly bitter taste of kale plus the loads of lemon here would inject some much needed acid to this meal. Definitely get some red chili flakes in there or gochugaru.


Crunchy Roasted Indian Masala Chickpeas (vegan, gluten free)

crispy chickpeas

Crunch! And! Spice! I’m sayinggggggg.


Quick Korean Fresh Kimchi (vegetarian, gluten free)

kimchi in a bowl

Kimchi on a turkey sandwich the day AFTER Thanksgiving? Unparalleled.


Soy Braised Onion (vegan)

Big fan of side dishes that are mostly just onions.


Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms (vegetarian)

stuffed portabello mushrooms

While these are different, I’m also a big fan of stuffing-stuffed mushrooms. I usually buy my box stuffing for Thanksgiving BOGO and then have a random box of stuffing in the pantry for months and am like WHAT SHOULD I DO WITH THIS? And then I remember stuffing-stuffed mushrooms are a very easy hors d’oeuvres.


Braised Lentils (vegan)

a bowl of braised lentils


Glazed Carrots With Miso and Sesame (vegetarian)

roasted carrots

Love a glazed carrot. You could also go a sweeter route.


Stuffed Acorn Squash (vegan, gluten free)

stuffed acorn squash

I like this recipe because it’s just sort of the basics, and you can customize to make it vegan, gluten free, or opt for a meet stuffing.


Aloo Matar (vegan, gluten free)

aloo matar

I’m simply advocating for more spices on the Thanksgiving table. But my personal tradition is actually Indian food the night before.


What are your favorite Thanksgiving sides?

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Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya

Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya is the managing editor of Autostraddle and a lesbian writer of essays, short stories, and pop culture criticism living in Orlando. She is the assistant managing editor of TriQuarterly, and her short stories appear or are forthcoming in McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, Joyland, Catapult, The Offing, and more. Some of her pop culture writing can be found at The A.V. Club, Vulture, The Cut, and others. You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram and learn more about her work on her website.

Kayla has written 861 articles for us.

5 Comments

    • Such a good recommendation! That post was life-changing, in that it introduced me to one of my favorite fall and winter dishes: Delicata Squash. We make it all. the time. and we are actually bringing it to Thanksgiving this year.

  1. Just stumbled upon this fantastic post about non-traditional Thanksgiving dishes on Autostraddle, and I’m loving the creativity showcased here! It’s got me thinking about adding a unique twist to our Thanksgiving spread this year. By the way, speaking of wellness, have any of you tried Liquid Vitamin B (https://www.amazon.com/Liquid-Vitamin-Complex-Supplement-Vitamins/dp/B0C1PF3F9Y)? I recently started incorporating it into my routine, and the energy boost has been a game-changer. It’s great for maintaining overall health and vitality, especially during the holiday season when we could use that extra support. Have you guys experimented with any interesting supplements or wellness hacks lately? Share your tips!

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