Thanksgiving dinner is comfort food at its best. This year’s meal might not be quite as comfortable, what with the pandemic messing with everyone’s plans and heated political discussions sure to break out, but food brings us all together. And we’re not just talking about turkey, either.
Last year’s ranking was a quick rundown of the classics with a couple controversial opinions mixed right in. This year, though, we’ve got three new entrants and all your favorite Turkey Day complements—but which Thanksgiving side comes out on top?
You can candy or caramelize these for a little extra pep, but carrots aren’t really moving the needle during a feast filled with so many other robust fall veggies and side dishes. Roasting them with ricotta sounds pretty good, though.
13. Freezer Peas
Are these technically a side? Not really. Should they be served alone? No. Do they add color and crunch to anything you put them on? Yes, and that’s why they make the list. Should you ever choose frozen over fresh? Absolutely not.
12. Dinner Rolls/Biscuits
This encompasses most (but not all) bread you’ll have on a Thanksgiving table. It’s a necessary carb for any meal, especially one as robust as this. Excellent rolls can push a good meal over the top, but even mediocre ones are still pretty good.
11. Brussel Sprouts
We hit the brussel sprout wave hard last year, and with good reason. It’s the ideal little bite-sized vegetable that pairs well to whatever you season it with. They can be savory or sweet or both.
We’re talking steamed, roasted, on-the-cob—any of the basic savory corn preparations you’re used to. Frozen also works for this too. Corn’s colorful and good, and it’s nice to have some on your plate somewhere.
9. Butternut Squash
A terrible omission from last year’s rankings. Butternut squash is seasonal, and generally awesome. You can whip it, roast it in chunks, or serve it close to whole. Plus, it’s just sugary enough to tilt it toward sweet or savory—whatever you and your (socially distant) guests prefer.
8. Green Beans
A Thanksgiving staple. Some people prefer theirs in a casserole, so we’ll rope that into this ranking here. Another item that takes well to seasoning and can provide the perfect savory complement to all your other sweet vegetables on the table.
Another glaring omission from 2019. Cornbread isn’t present at every Thanksgiving table, but it should be. It’s the pinnacle of feast bread, the kind you can easily pair with anything else on this least or eat simply on its own. Plus its thick cakiness is perfect for sopping up scraps and excess …
We asked last year, and we ask again—is gravy a side? It might as well be, because this stuff can (and should) go on everything. Seriously, name one thing gravy wouldn’t be good on. (Or maybe not …)
5. Cranberry Sauce
Turns out cranberries are controversial. The people that love this stuff really love it, and the people that hate it cringe at the very sight of its magenta hue. The processed stuff is infinitely better than whatever homemade sauce your weird aunt made when you were a kid. Dump it out of the can like Alpo and don’t @ me.
4. Creamed Corn
Why yes, we DID break up corn into two categories to make room for creamed corn, the vegetable’s superior form (at least when it comes to Thanksgiving). This stuff reads more like sweet porridge than an actual vegetable dish, but corn doesn’t have a ton of nutrients anyway, so cream this stuff up and watch it disappear.
3. Sweet Potatoes
It’s not Thanksgiving without some form of sweet potatoes. We’ve roped candied yams into this ranking even though they’re technically not sweet potatoes, but come on, it counts. These are the perfect starch to balance that sweet/savory flavor scale, and you can really tilt things in either direction. If you want to get a little crazy, mash these up with some butternut squash.
2. Mashed Potatoes
Starches rule the top five (and really just the whole day). Mashed potatoes might be the peak. Pack them with butter, smother them with gravy, season them with garlic if you like. You really can’t go wrong here. Although we do suggest baking them for a little while to create a nice crust on top of your mash.
You might disagree. You might think stuffing is bad. But have you ever considered the fact that you’re wrong? Cook some inside the turkey or not—stuffing is a whole meal packed into a simple, perfect side dish. Bread? Check. Veggies? Check. Meat? Check (hopefully—we recommend sausage). There’s myriad ways to cook and prepare this and pretty much every single one of them is amazing.