While side dishes like garlic mashed potatoes, freshly baked rolls, and marshmallow-topped sweet potatoes tend to steal the spotlight on Thanksgiving, we're making a case for putting something green at the center of your spread this year. In search of salads worthy of sitting next to the aforementioned traditional Thanksgiving sides, we naturally turned to some of our favorite foodies—and they did not disappoint.
Filled with seasonal fruits, spiced nuts, and fresh greens, these salads are special enough to serve alongside a perfectly roasted turkey and all the fixings. Even staunch carnivores will be going back for second helpings of these crazy-delicious salads. Move aside, mashed potatoes—these Thanksgiving salads deserve a spot on your holiday table.
Roasted Squash, Caramelized Fig, and Feta Salad
This salad from Half Baked Harvest might just replace marshmallow-topped sweet potatoes as the best sweet dish on your Thanksgiving table. "If you're new to kabocha squash, it's just another type of winter squash," explains recipe creator Tieghan Gerard. "It's often used in Japanese dishes, but it can be used in pretty much any recipe that calls for the more common acorn or butternut squash. And if you can't find kabocha squash in your grocery, just sub in acorn squash."
Pomegranate Avocado Salad With Candied Walnuts
The spicy maple candied walnuts take a bit of time to prepare, but they're well worth the effort. Another favorite from Half Baked Harvest is this delicious dish, combining a slew of unexpected ingredients (like pomegranate, avocado, and candied walnuts) that magically work together in the best way possible.
"No matter what your feelings are on salad, if you're serving any kind of holiday meal, you need to have something fresh and green on the table," Tieghan admits. "Not only is this good for visual appeal, but greens complement most dishes and balance heavier dishes."
Citrus Brussels Sprouts Slaw
We never thought anything could rival the satisfying flavor of bacon, but we're really into this vegan version. "I know this one looks like a ton of ingredients, but there's a lot of overlap with relatively simple steps," confesses Laura Wright of The First Mess. "Plus, this recipe makes extra dressing and [vegan] parm[esan] for a few extra tasty meals."
Cauliflower and Roasted Chickpea Salad
The standout ingredient in this salad, another from The First Mess, is hands-down the roasted chickpeas. Coated with chili powder, they add the perfect amount of spice and crunch to this delicious salad. Laura advises, "If you don't have a food processor, some milling with a knife will get the cauliflower florets small enough, as long as you have the patience."
Kale and Brussels Sprout Caesar Slaw
The creamy dressing, which gets its texture from soaked sunflower seeds and its tangy zip from tahini and tamari soy sauce, makes this salad a star dish. "If you love that super creamy, almost fatty kind of texture in a dressing, feel free to use soaked raw cashews in place of the sunflower seeds," Laura says.
Fig and Beetroot Salad With Herb Dressing and Lentils
Sarah Tuck of Stuck in the Kitchen is giving us a big reason to love beetroot. While it may seem time-consuming to roast veggies for a Thanksgiving salad, you can do this up to a few days ahead of time. When it comes to describing the flavors of this salad, Sarah puts it best: "The combination of earthy lentils, sweet onions, figs, and beetroot with salty feta, cumin-spiced grilled lamb, and a zingy herb dressing… phwoar!"
Creamy Kale Salad With Chickpeas and Shallots
She may be famous for her sweets, but Dana Shultz of the Minimalist Baker can whip up savory dishes that are just as unbelievable. Trust us; this kale salad is worth clearing a burner on your stovetop to make these on Thanksgiving. "I've made many a kale salad before, but this one is special," Dana says. It may sound pretty simple, but there are actually a ton of spices in this rich dish: cumin, paprika, oregano, turmeric, cardamom, coriander, and cinnamon.
Kale Salad With Pumpkin Seed Clusters
The ladies behind The Modern Proper also have a tasty kale salad; theirs, though, is made with pumpkin seed clusters, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, and sugar. "To assemble the salad, toss the kale in the dressing," co-founder Holly Erickson explains.
If you're eating raw kale, it's always a good idea to massage it first. Doing so breaks down the leaves' toughness, which makes it easier to both chew and digest. You can massage the kale as you dress it by gently kneading it with your hands.
Celery Pear and Hazelnut Salad
Thin slices of mouthwateringly juicy seasonal pears complement this Thanksgiving salad's crunchy components from The Modern Proper. For planners, this is a great make-ahead dish. You can "prep all of the components for this salad a day or two ahead of time, and once it's dressed and on the table, the celery and fennel will stay crunchy (unlike lettuce)," Holly instructs.
Fall Harvest Honeycrisp Apple and Kale Salad
Nothing says fall like caramelized veggies, and this caramelized shallot vinaigrette from Half Baked Harvest is no exception. Pour the dressing over the salad while it's still warm, or make it in advance and pull it out of the fridge when your guests arrive. "If you're wondering if the roasted pumpkin seeds and crispy prosciutto are worth it, they are 100% worth it," Tieghan says.