Elevating Classic Thanksgiving Sides with Innovative Flavors

by Michael Nguyen
Thanksgiving Side Dishes

Thanksgiving traditions are cherished, yet infusing classic side dishes with unexpected flavors can transform them into something extraordinary.

Rethink butternut squash by foregoing the typical puree and butter approach. Opt instead for roasting it in chunky pieces, enhanced with fresh ginger and Chinese five-spice, embracing and elevating its innate sweetness.

For greens, kale takes center stage over spinach. Charring kale not only imparts a complex bittersweet taste but also adds a nutty dimension, akin to the flavors of roasted kale chips. This dish is then brightened with a zesty touch of lime and a spicy kick from sliced chilies.

Mashed potatoes receive a unique twist inspired by the Belgian dish stoemp, which combines potatoes with finely chopped winter vegetables. Our take incorporates leeks, carrots, and cabbage, seasoned with bay leaves and garlic, creating a fragrant and flavorful blend.

Thanksgiving Celebrations and Tips:

  • Cook: Discover ways to cater to meat lovers, vegetarians, and vegans during Thanksgiving celebrations.
  • Listen: Enjoy an expanded soundtrack of “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” in honor of its 50th anniversary.
  • Watch: Anticipate Cher’s special appearance at the finale of this year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Roasted Butternut Squash with Ginger and Five-Spice

Time: 40 minutes | Servings: 8

Use two large, heavy rimmed baking sheets to prevent overcrowding and ensure flavorful browning. Prepare the squash (peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch chunks) up to two days in advance and refrigerate.


  • 4 pounds butternut squash
  • 3 tablespoons salted butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons fresh ginger, finely grated
  • 1½ teaspoons Chinese five-spice powder
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup fresh chives, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons crystallized ginger, finely chopped (optional)


  1. Preheat the oven to 500°F. Line two baking sheets with foil.
  2. Toss squash with butter, ginger, five-spice powder, salt, and pepper. Spread evenly on baking sheets.
  3. Roast for 25-35 minutes, rotating pans halfway through.
  4. Season to taste. Garnish with chives and crystallized ginger before serving.

Charred Kale with Garlic, Chilies, and Lime

Time: 35 minutes | Servings: 4


  • 2 large bunches lacinato kale, stemmed and torn
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon grapeseed or neutral oil
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 Fresno or jalapeño chili, thinly sliced
  • 4 scallions, sliced, whites and greens separated
  • 1 teaspoon lime zest, plus 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil


  1. Toss kale with neutral oil and salt. In a Dutch oven over high heat, add oil until smoking. Add kale, cover, and char for about 10 minutes.
  2. Add garlic, chili, and scallion whites, cooking for 30 seconds.
  3. Add water, cover, and cook until kale is tender.
  4. Off heat, add scallion greens, lime zest, and juice. Season to taste.
  5. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil.

Belgian Mashed Potatoes with Winter Vegetables (Stoemp)

Time: 1 hour | Servings: 8


  • 4 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1½ cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1¼ cups half-and-half
  • 3 medium leeks, sliced and rinsed
  • 5 bay leaves
  • 4 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 10 tablespoons salted butter, divided
  • Kosher salt
  • ½ head savoy cabbage, chopped
  • 2 carrots, shredded
  • 1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ cup fresh chives, chopped


  1. Combine potatoes, broth, half-and-half, leeks, bay leaves, garlic, and butter in a pot. Cook until potatoes are tender.
  2. Add cabbage and cook until tender. Stir in carrots.
  3. Off heat, add butter and mash. Stir in vinegar, and season.
  4. Transfer to a serving bowl, creating a well for butter and sprinkle with chives.

Additional Recipes and Tips:

  • Explore diverse Thanksgiving dishes suitable for all dietary preferences.
  • Try adding a flavorful twist to Brussels sprouts with bacon and mustard vinaigrette.
  • Elevate a grilled cheese sandwich with kale and crispy bacon for a gourmet touch.

Editor’s Note: For more innovative recipes, visit Christopher Kimball

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Thanksgiving Side Dishes

Can I prepare the butternut squash in advance for the Roasted Butternut Squash with Ginger and Five-Spice recipe?

Yes, you can peel, seed, and cut the butternut squash into chunks, then refrigerate it in zip-close bags for up to two days before cooking.

What is a good substitute for lacinato kale in the Charred Kale with Garlic, Chilies, and Lime recipe?

If lacinato kale is unavailable, curly kale can be a suitable substitute. Just ensure it’s well cleaned and torn into pieces before cooking.

Can the Belgian Mashed Potatoes with Winter Vegetables (Stoemp) be made ahead of time?

Absolutely. You can cook and mash the vegetables, then season with vinegar and salt. The mixture can be cooled and refrigerated a day in advance. Reheat with some low-sodium chicken broth, stirring occasionally.

What are some key tips for achieving the best flavor in these Thanksgiving side dishes?

For the best flavor, use fresh ingredients where possible, follow the roasting and charring instructions closely, and season each dish to taste. Personal adjustments to spice levels can also be made according to preference.

Are these recipes suitable for vegetarians and vegans?

The roasted butternut squash and charred kale recipes can be suitable for vegetarians. However, for a vegan adaptation, substitute plant-based alternatives for butter. The mashed potatoes recipe can be adapted for vegetarians by using vegetable broth instead of chicken broth.

More about Thanksgiving Side Dishes

  • Roasting Techniques for Vegetables
  • Kale Cooking Methods
  • Traditional Belgian Stoemp Recipes
  • Vegetarian and Vegan Adaptations for Thanksgiving
  • Seasonal Thanksgiving Recipes
  • Advanced Cooking Tips for Holiday Meals
  • Fresh Ingredient Selection Guide

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MikeCookingFan November 18, 2023 - 7:02 pm

Wow, roasted squash with ginger? sounds delish! gotta try this for our family dinner, thnks for sharing!

VegetarianGal November 18, 2023 - 8:21 pm

Love these ideas, but would be great to see more vegan options, not everyone eats butter and chicken broth. just a thought!

HealthyEats47 November 18, 2023 - 11:48 pm

charred kale is my go-to, but never tried it with lime, Interesting twist, Will definitely give it a go

ChefRob November 19, 2023 - 4:28 am

Great recipes! but, remember folks, seasoning is key, don’t skimp on it, especially with those winter veggies in the mashed potatoes!

BelgianFoodie November 19, 2023 - 5:07 am

Stoemp is a classic in our home, nice to see it getting some love here, though i’d use more garlic, personal preference i guess


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