A Thanksgiving List of Foods for the Classic American Feast
Sometimes we forget to feel thankful for all the people in our lives and the things that we have.
That’s why Thanksgiving exists: The Thanksgiving holiday is a day when we remember all the things we’re thankful for.
But that’s not all. It’s also a day when we eat a lot of food with family and/or friends!
In this post, you’ll discover the most popular (and delicious) foods to eat on Thanksgiving.
Let’s dig in!
- Most Traditional Thanksgiving Foods
- More Popular Foods at Thanksgiving
- 11. Dinner Rolls
- 12. Brussels Sprouts
- 13. Cornbread
- 14. Deviled Eggs
- 15. Macaroni and Cheese
- 16. Roast Ham
- 17. Roast Beef
- 18. Butternut Squash Soup
- 19. Waldorf Salad
- 20. Green Salad
- 21. Baked Beans
- 22. Scalloped Potatoes
- 23. Maple Glazed Carrots
- 24. Sweet Potato Casserole
- 25. Apple Cider
- 26. Wine
- 27. Apple Pie
- 28. Cherry Pie
- 29. Pumpkin Cheesecake
- 30. Coffee and Tea
- What Is Thanksgiving?
- And One More Thing...
Most Traditional Thanksgiving Foods
A traditional Thanksgiving meal consists of roast turkey and many sides including stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, corn, green beans and cranberry sauce, with pumpkin pie as dessert.
Thanksgiving wouldn’t be the same without the turkey. The turkey is usually prepared whole, filled with fruit, vegetables or other stuffing (more on stuffing in #2!). It’s also usually seasoned, which means covered in herbs for flavor and smell.
The turkey is then roasted, meaning cooked in an oven or over an open fire. The best roasted turkeys are juicy and delicious, but roasting a turkey takes skill. The turkey is notorious (well known for something negative) for being dry.
“Stuff” is another way to say “things.” But the verb to stuff means that you fill something until it’s full. Thanksgiving stuffing (also called dressing) is the food that goes inside the roasted turkey.
But it’s also become a side dish, a dish of food that’s served next to the main course. Traditionally, Thanksgiving stuffing is made of bread and herbs, and sometimes sausage (a kind of hot dog) or other additional ingredients.
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3. Mashed Potatoes
Mashed potatoes are potatoes that have been boiled and peeled, and then crushed (mashed) into a soft and creamy dish. Add butter, milk and some garlic, and you have a perfect dish!
While you’re cooking the turkey (or many other meats), it will create juices. These juices can be turned into gravy, a thick sauce. This sauce is usually poured onto the mashed potatoes to give them more flavor.
5. Cranberry Sauce
There is something about the sweet but tangy (slightly sour) flavor of cranberry sauce that makes it the perfect side dish for turkey. There are plenty of places that sell cranberry sauce, but it’s very easy to make on your own as well.
To make cranberry sauce, boil cranberries, sugar, lemon zest (grated lemon peel) and water, and then simmer it (cook on a small flame). That’s all you need to do!
You might eat buttered corn on the cob, which is grilled whole corn, or creamed corn, which is mashed corn soup or sauce.
7. Green Bean Casserole
A casserole is a stew that’s cooked slowly in the oven. Green bean casserole has cream of mushroom soup, fried onions and— of course—green beans!
8. Candied Yams
Sweet potatoes are yellow, creamy types of potatoes that are also called yams. The sweet flavor and soft texture of these potatoes make them a versatile (easy to use in many situations) side dish for the main course.
You can bake them, make a casserole with them or mash them like regular potatoes. Or you can add spices, brown sugar and butter, place marshmallows on top and bake them into candied yams—a deliciously sweet dish which might remind you of (make you think of) candy, like the name suggests.
9. Pumpkin Pie
The pumpkin spice flavor in America now means that autumn is here. Almost everything has a pumpkin spice version! There’s pumpkin spice coffee, pumpkin spice cookies… there are even pumpkin spice sausages and bagels!
Surprisingly, the flavor doesn’t even have actual pumpkin in it. But pumpkin pie does have pumpkin. A delicious warm spice and pumpkin filling inside a flaky crust will always warm you up. No wonder we love pumpkin spice so much in fall!
10. Pecan Pie
Complete the meal with a delectable (delicious) pecan pie, a pie that uses pecans (a type of nut) with spices and maple syrup. Pecan pie is irresistible (hard to say no to). Even if guests are too full to eat any more, they’ll make room for pecan pie!
More Popular Foods at Thanksgiving
Although the foods listed above are the most traditional, the United States is a diverse land with many different cultures and cuisines from around the world. Because of this, there are other popular Thanksgiving foods that many families and groups of friends enjoy each November.
11. Dinner Rolls
Dinner rolls are the perfect Thanksgiving accompaniment because they can be used as a way to eat up all that gravy and cranberry sauce that was left on your plate after eating. They can also be part of the tradition of making a turkey sandwich the next day from leftovers (food that doesn’t get eaten at dinner).
12. Brussels Sprouts
Brussels sprouts are a healthy vegetable side dish that people seem to love or hate. Named after the Belgian city of Brussels because that’s where they’re said to originate from, today they’re roasted or steamed and often served with a squeeze of lemon.
Since the United States grows so much corn, people often prefer cornbread over regular dinner rolls. It’s often baked with a touch of sweetness, either from sugar or honey or even maple syrup.
14. Deviled Eggs
What does the devil have to do with eggs, you may ask. The funny name deviled eggs simply refers to the fiery (hot) spices that some people add to the egg yolk mixture before they squeeze it back into the cooked egg white.
15. Macaroni and Cheese
Who doesn’t like cheese and pasta? They just seem to bring out the best in one another. Macaroni and cheese is a popular side dish, especially in the South of the United States. It’s the ultimate comfort food (food that makes you feel good) and compliments turkey very well.
16. Roast Ham
Even though turkey is usually the star of the show, some people give their guests other main dish options. One popular one is roasted ham, often prepared with honey or molasses so that it glistens (shines) on the dinner table.
17. Roast Beef
Another main dish option for carnivore guests is roast beef. Juicy and succulent (tender and tasty), this is one of the best ways to eat beef and it goes well with all of the traditional Thanksgiving side dishes, so why not?
18. Butternut Squash Soup
Warm and filling, a soup made of whizzed-up (blended) butternut squash goes well on the Thanksgiving table. It’s perfect for those with smaller appetites or vegetarians, too.
19. Waldorf Salad
Waldorf salad is a mix of fruits like grapes and apples and something a bit sweeter like raisins (dried grapes). It’s usually served with a mayonnaise or yogurt based dressing. It provides a nice contrasting sweetness on the dinner plate.
20. Green Salad
Nothing freshens up the Thanksgiving dinner table like a fresh green salad, often with an olive oil based dressing. It’s the perfect taste break between all those other rich and savory (salty) foods.
21. Baked Beans
Baked beans are another side dish that straddles the world of sweet and savory, because many people add bacon or honey or both to make them rich and creamy (like cream). They go incredibly well with turkey and macaroni and cheese.
22. Scalloped Potatoes
Scalloped potatoes is a casserole (stew slowly cooked in the oven) consisting of thinly sliced potatoes, roasted in a pan with cheese, milk and other seasonings. They are a great alternative to mashed potatoes because they’re often even richer.
23. Maple Glazed Carrots
Thanksgiving isn’t a dinner where you eat light. Even roasted carrots get a glazing (shiny coating) of maple syrup to make them richer and more special for this holiday meal.
24. Sweet Potato Casserole
This is another sweet take on a vegetable casserole. To make the sweet potato casserole even more festive, sweet marshmallows (soft chewy sugar) are often added on top before roasting.
25. Apple Cider
This drink made from apples is often served at the Thanksgiving table. You can drink it cold or heated up. Some people even make mulled cider, which means that it is boiled with autumnal (the fall season) spices.
For those who drink alcohol, red or white wine is usually offered to guests. It pairs well (goes good with) with the turkey and side dishes and it compliments each course, from starters to dessert. Red or white wine both work well with turkey.
27. Apple Pie
There’s a popular saying that goes “as American as apple pie,” so it’s not surprising that this rich and healthy pie is served on many Thanksgiving tables for dessert.
28. Cherry Pie
In many families, there’s an ongoing argument on which is the best Thanksgiving pie: pumpkin, apple or cherry. For those who side with the rich red berry, there’s often a cherry pie served with ice cream for dessert.
29. Pumpkin Cheesecake
Cheesecake might be the richest dessert of all. Add some pumpkin puree to the mixture and you’ve got what might be the perfect Thanksgiving dessert of all. Talk about creamy and rich (containing fat)!
30. Coffee and Tea
After all that eating and drinking, a cup or coffee or tea is usually a good idea. Over coffee is the perfect time to finish conversations, maybe watch some television and most importantly, to digest (the body’s way of processing food) all the rich Thanksgiving foods you’ve eaten on this wonderful day.
What Is Thanksgiving?
Thanksgiving is a holiday that’s celebrated in the United States on the fourth Thursday of November every year. When the holiday was first created many years ago, it was meant to celebrate the last harvest, the time when grown food was collected from the fields.
Many Americans know the holiday better for an old story though: In 1621, the pilgrims from England and the Native Americans had a three-day celebration where they ate together in peace. The two groups of people had worked together, and the feast (big celebratory meal) was a way to share and enjoy the harvest together.
Today, Thanksgiving has a slightly different meaning for people. For many, it’s a holiday for spending time with their family and friends, and to remember to be thankful for what they have.
Of course, Thanksgiving is also a time to eat… a lot!
You don’t have to live in America to enjoy Thanksgiving. All you need is a lot of food, an empty stomach and some family and/or friends. Remember to give thanks for all that you have!
And One More Thing...
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