In an ideal world, we'd be able to dedicate hours to lovingly craft every homemade dish on our Thanksgiving table. Unfortunately, the reality is that when you consider brining a turkey, making stuffing, styling the centerpiece, and putting the finishing touches on each place setting, the hours before guests arrive can be stressful.
If you'd rather minimize hours spent toiling in the kitchen and make the most of time with family, add these simple Thanksgiving sides to your menu. We turned to seven leading foodies, from the co-founders of Food52 to a bevy of blogger extraordinaires, to find out their go-to fast and flavor-packed side dishes.
Forget finicky finger food or time-consuming platters—these are the seven best foodie-approved Thanksgiving sides every busy hostess should make.
Butternut Squash Purée
The Foodies: Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, the former New York Times food writers behind Food52, follow the cooking manifesto "eat thoughtfully, live joyfully." The pair has just released A New Way to Dinner, a playbook for weekly meal planning.
The Recipe: Consisting of only three ingredients, this simple Butternut Squash Purée is as easy as it gets. "I’d like to tell you that I spent months perfecting it; I did not," Hesser tells MyDomaine. "Lazy, one weekend, I threw a bunch of butternut squash cubes into a pan with lots of olive oil. I covered the pot and simmered the butternut squash in this bath of oil until it was good and soft. Then I mashed it right in the pan and swirled in a few tablespoons of cream. It worked." It's proof that the best recipes don't always involve hours of time and effort.
The Pro Tip: Make double and stash it in the fridge so there's plenty of leftovers. Stubbs says her toddler is a fan of the creamy consistency of this purée.
The Foodie: New Zealand native Sarah Tuck is the creative force behind From the Kitchen. "I hosted my first dinner party for about 12 guests when I was 16, and … many, many years later, I fell into a foodie job and here I am—loving every minute of it."
The Recipe: Tuck says her Autumn Salad is the perfect solution if you only have minutes to spare. "It only takes about 10 minutes to prepare from start to finish!" she tells MyDomaine. "It is a luscious, almost decadent, salad that works as a starter or side, with simple layered textures and flavors: the salty blue cheese, bitter salad leaves, rich slices of prosciutto, sweet soft figs, and crunchy walnuts—an incredible combination." Salivating? Us too.
The Pro Tip: Cut the prep time in half by caramelizing the walnuts the day before Thanksgiving.
Barley and Feta Filled Squash
The Foodie: Brooklynite Alison Dulaney-Engstrom spends her time experimenting with flavors and photographing her creations for Rose & Ivy Journal, a website and magazine dedicated to good style, great taste, and excellent food.
The Recipe: This colorful Barley and Feta Filled Squash recipe makes the most of seasonal produce and requires just 15 minutes of baking time. "Place it in the oven after the turkey is finished cooking, and you will have an easy and healthy side in no time," says Dulaney-Engstrom.
The Pro Tip: "Prep as much as you can in advance," she recommends. "A few days before, I make a list of what can be made two days in advance, one day in advance, and then of course on Thanksgiving. This allows me to ease into the day once the turkey is in the oven."
French Cream of Pumpkin Soup
The Foodie: Self-taught chef and founder of The Kitchy Kitchen, Clare Thomas, describes herself as an "unabashed food enthusiast." Thomas's blog is filled with original mouthwatering recipes, as well as the odd creation from her favorite cooks, including this French cream of pumpkin soup by Louis P. DeGouy.
The Recipe: "Not a lot of people think of soup when they think Thanksgiving, but it's actually a terrific side option for a busy hostess," says Thomas. "It doesn't use up all that precious oven space on the big day!"
The Pro Tip: Whip up a large batch of this hearty, full-flavored soup the day before Thanksgiving if you anticipate the kitchen will be chaotic.
Rustic Garlic Bread
The Foodie: Photographer Karen Mordechai started Sunday Suppers six years ago to bring together good friends and food.
The Recipe: "This garlic bread is a total crowd pleaser and so beautiful, despite being so easy to prepare," she says. "It takes only 20 minutes which is perfect on a day when the oven is often needed for multiple dishes." The recipe calls for garlic, butter, thyme, and rosemary, making it a fragrant and hearty addition to your menu.
The Pro Tip: This recipe hardly needs to be simplified! For best results, opt for fresh home-grown sprigs of thyme and rosemary that are full of flavor.
Roast Butternut Squash with Spiced Tahini Yogurt and Za’atar
The Foodie: Management consultant and founder of Add1Tbsp, Evan Kalman isn't your usual food blogger. While the link between consulting and cooking might seem arbitrary to some, Kalman explains that it's the key to stovetop success. "I read recipes, read versions of recipes, and made the connections between ingredients, ratios, and technique," he says. "That’s why I started this blog: to document my progress and share what I’ve learned about cooking through ratios and research."
The Recipe: Kalman admits that soup is his usually go-to recipe for fall, but that Thanksgiving calls for a "dressed up butternut squash." Enter his new creation, roast butternut squash with spiced tahini yogurt and za’atar. "This impressive side dish highlights the naturally sweet flavor of butternut squash while the spiced tahini yogurt and za'atar add complexity to such a simple preparation," he explains.
The Pro Tip: "While toasting and grinding your spices is absolutely worth it, you can substitute the pre-ground variety," he points out. To save time, you can also "make the spiced tahini yogurt up to a few hours in advance leaving out the lemon juice. When you're ready to serve, stir in the lemon juice and use right away."
Cauliflower Brie Gratin
The Foodie: Another favorite of The Kitchy Kitchen's Clare Thomas, this original creation will disappear from your Thanksgiving table in minutes.
The Recipe: Cauliflower brie gratin has all the makings of a crowd favorite. "Brie and anything is always delicious, but I especially love it combined with the delicate flavor of the cauliflower. This decadent side is definitely a quick, undercover favorite of mine," says Thomas. The recipe involves simmering a luxurious milk-based sauce to coat the cauliflower in, which is then baked until bubbly.
The Pro Tip: "Streamline your shopping list. For example, this dish is also fantastic with parsnips, so you could get creative and make it with whatever you're already planning to pick up for other dishes!"