The most important food holiday of the year is fast approaching, which means most of us are in the thick of menu planning and grocery shopping. There's a good chance that you're giving the turkey plenty of attention this year—from portioning, to brining, to making sure it's perfectly cooked. But everyone knows that Thanksgiving isn't about the turkey; it's about the sides.
These creamy, savory, and decadent dishes take up most of your plate, which arguably makes them more important than the star of the show itself. And some of these dishes are pretty much only consumed on Thanksgiving day—so enjoying them is a much higher priority.
With that being said, not all Thanksgiving sides are equal. Preferences can vary wildly across different regions (including the great stuffing vs. dressing debate) and households. There's even a clear hierarchy within each Thanksgiving gathering. There will always be some dishes that are skipped over more than others.
Our team of food experts feels uniquely qualified to put all of the classic holiday sides head to head. So we rounded up all of the dishes you can expect at Thanksgiving dinner and ranked them from worst to best.
However, it's important to make this disclaimer: just because a Thanksgiving side is ranked low on our list does not make it a bad dish. There's a special place in our hearts for every single recipe in this ranking. But with so many options and so little stomach space, some of these sides aren't worth the space on our plates.
Do you agree with our ranking? Let us know in the comments.
Why, why, why would you choose a roasted potato over any other form of the spud on Thanksgiving?! If you show up to a potluck with a tray of these, we're turning you away at the door.
Mac And Cheese
Before you bring out the pitchforks, hear us out: mac and cheese is incredible in every way but as a Thanksgiving side. "It just doesn't fit the harvest theme of Thanksgiving," says Delish video editor Ian Munsell. A pile of cheesy pasta sticks out like a sore thumb compared to all of the other holiday sides. And since you can eat it basically any other day of the year, it's not worth the square footage on your plate.
A pillowy, soft dinner roll is one of the greatest gifts on Earth. But with a meal as carb-heavy as Thanksgiving, adding another yet another piece of bread feels redundant. We're already getting bread in the form of stuffing already, so what's the point?
Same principle applies here. We have plenty of bread to go around on Thanksgiving, so keep your cornbread for another day.
Don't get us wrong: we love a fall salad. But nobody walks into a Thanksgiving gathering specifically excited to eat a salad. We still want to get our greens, but preferably in a cooked form.
Scalloped potatoes have the same dairy-forward richness as mashed potatoes do. And they arguably have a more show-stopping presentation. But if we had to pick between the two, we're going with the mash every time. Scalloped potatoes just don't have the same classic nostalgia, in our professional opinion.
Sweet Potato Casserole
Prepare for yet another polarizing opinion: sweet potato casserole is not an essential Thanksgiving side. Hear us out. We already have mashed potatoes on our plates, why would we need a second one? And there's a good chance that you're going to finish the meal with a slice of pumpkin pie, which virtually has the same flavor profile as sweet potato casserole anyway.
Yes, creamed spinach is delicious. But when you stack it up against the other Thanksgiving heavy-hitters, it falls flat. There are plenty of other ways to get your greens that are more satisfying.
This might be a controversial statement, but cornbread stuffing is just okay. The sweet and tender cornbread does not hold up as a solid stuffing foundation. It's too crumbly and often falls apart. Sorry, not sorry.
Brussels sprouts are an infinitely customizable cruciferous vegetable. You can caramelize them and develop a golden char like in the recipe pictured here, you can shave them into a raw salad, or you can douse them with plenty of cream and cheese. But they also require a lot of supplemental flavors to elevate them to Thanksgiving greatness.
Where creamed spinach can sometimes feel blah, collard greens excel. This classic Southern side is bursting with savory flavor thanks to the addition of smoked meat. You may not have the same creaminess as you would with the spinach, but you can make up for it with all of the other parts of your plate.
If you're going to consume corn in any form on Thanksgiving, it should be a corn casserole. Cornbread-based dishes capture the natural sweetness of the grain but fail to highlight its texture. Corn casserole, on the other hand, is the best of both worlds.
Mashed potatoes are far and away the best way to consume potatoes on Thanksgiving. And for many members of our team, they're the best Thanksgiving side period. Mashed potatoes are fluffy, creamy, and serve as the ideal vessel to store your ample gravy reserve.
Green Bean Casserole
Whoever denies green bean casserole's role as the greatest Thanksgiving vegetable is truly delusional. The GBC has everything: vegetables, a savory mushroom-forward sauce, and a mountain of crispy onions. It's truly the whole package.
With all the cream, carbs, and salt in Thanksgiving dishes, cranberry sauce is a bright and refreshing oasis. A meal without it would be one note. Cranberry sauce has the unique ability to cut through the richness of the rest of the plate while highlighting all of the other flavors of your Thanksgiving meal.
A bite of stuffing is the culinary equivalent of a warm hug, and Thanksgiving is pretty much the only day of the year you get to enjoy it. There's a delicate balance between the soft center and the crispy, golden exterior, but the whole thing is full of herby, savory flavor. "Stuffing is the superior goop vessel," argues video editor Ellie Black. We wholeheartedly agree.
Sure, gravy is technically a condiment. But with the transparent volume we pour onto our holiday plates, it basically qualifies as a side in its own right. Gravy works with literally every component of a Thanksgiving meal. It's rich, savory, decadent, and the ultimate holiday MVP.
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