While few things can beat classic no-frills mashed potatoes, it can be a lot of fun to experiment with variations on the classic comfort food. Here are four of our favorite versions, from the baked-potato-inspired (bacon, scallions, and cheddar) to pesto-flecked.
Regardless of your family's Thanksgiving traditions, it's safe to say gravy ranks pretty high on the list of must-make dishes. Sure, you might swap out New Orleans-inspired andouille dressing for the traditional variety, or whip up potato-basil puree instead of the classic mash, but would Thanksgiving be Thanksgiving without glossy gravy drizzled over the whole lot?
And why stop there? Rich and creamy, this superlative gravy tastes like the essence of turkey, which it is, and was so tempting that I found myself sneaking spoonfuls from the fridge after my Thanksgiving dry run.
Traditional sweet potato casserole brings a pile of unnecessary sugar and fat to the table. Swapping out marshmallows for a warming cinnamon pecan crumble plays up the natural flavor of this sweet superfood — instead of covering it up! Weighing in under 210 calories, it's a casserole you can enjoy a heaping scoop of without any unpalatable guilt.
The flavor is familiar, but this recipe is fresh, new, and easy to follow. If you're ready to plan a lighter Thanksgiving dinner that everyone will still enjoy, then keep reading for the comforting side dish recipe.
Mashed potatoes are a Thanksgiving staple, but they're also notorious for being high in both calories and fat — and not the good kind, either. It's butter, cream, and more butter that traditionally give the dish its richness, but these ingredients are hardly necessary. With a few simple swaps — and a secret ingredient — this lightened-up recipe will save on calories, fat, and yes, even carb counts.
Learn how to make this healthy version of mashed potatoes after the break!
Family members and longtime friends often take great amusement at my career of choice, as I was a remarkably picky eater in my early years. I was no run-of-the-mill fussy child; until my teens, I turned my nose up at even the most basic, revered, and seemingly inoffensive of comfort foods: mashed potatoes. Perhaps I was prejudiced against the delightful spud due to an early negative experience — in the wrong hands they can be reminiscent of wallpaper paste — yet still, of all of my food phobias I've overcome, this might be the craziest and most embarrassing.
Since that first revelatory bite, I've devoured them with relish and have experimented with all sorts of novel add-ins, but I keep coming back to their most simple, unadorned iteration. Bolstered by naught but cream, butter, and salt, this pared-down side might not sound like much to write home about, but don't let that dissuade you. Rather, these are the essence of potato and more than worthy of your Thanksgiving table this year.
With the sheer amount of delicious dishes that will be on the table for Thanksgiving, it's nice to have an option that's lighter than the rest of the fare. While this healthier creamed Swiss chard tastes creamy and comforting, the butter- and cream-free recipe makes it the perfect counterpart to all that dense stuffing, buttery biscuits, and thick gravy on your plate.
A green bean casserole isn't a green bean casserole unless it's smothered in cream of mushroom soup and topped with crispy onions. But because the original Campbell's recipe uses soy sauce to add a boost of umami, I decided I'd try a version of green bean casserole that plays up Asian flavors.
This casserole tastes every bit as indulgent as the original recipe, but it's made lighter by thinning the cream of mushroom soup with vegetable broth. In this Japanese-meets-American rendition, I caramelized the onions and deglazed them with mirin, a sweet Japanese rice wine. Rather than relying on French's fried onions from the can, I breaded the onions in panko (Japanese breadcrumbs). The buttery, breaded, and caramelized onions have a richer flavor than the fried, packaged stuff and are like savory sprinkles atop the creamy green beans and mushroom mixture.
If you're fearful that this dish will taste like stir-fry, don't worry: the resulting dish maintains the integrity of the classic American casserole. As the casserole cooks, your kitchen will be infused with the smell of buttery onions and earthy mushrooms; you'll know it's ready when the thick cream of mushroom soup starts to bubble through the crispy caramelized onions.
Green bean casserole is one of those comforting and nostalgic recipes that always had a home at my Thanksgiving table. But between the fried topping, condensed soup mix, and canned beans, the original leaves lots to be desired if you're looking for a healthful option. In this fresh and tasty casserole from Bobby Dean's new show Not My Momma's Meals, panko and parmesan cheese offer a healthier revamp of french-fried onions, and the addition of mushrooms ups the veg factor. I'm thrilled to say it: this significantly less weighty version is even better than the original. Keep reading for this delicious lightened-up casserole.
Part of celebrating Thanksgiving is enjoying traditions and favorite recipes, but you can always move things around to make more table real estate for new dishes. My sister and I love to introduce the whole family to unusual ingredients like millet, so last Thanksgiving, we made a new version of our favorite lentil and millet salad. Instead of tomatoes, this version of the salad is dazzled with ruby-red pomegranate seeds. My sister and I marveled at the pleased expressions on our family's faces as they munched the salad and even went back for seconds. In a sea of butter and cream, everyone agreed that it was nice to have something healthful and light on the plate.
The main ingredient in this recipe is the pseudograin millet, a small seed that becomes fluffy and chewable when cooked like a grain. It has a roasted, buttery popcorn flavor that is achieved by dry-roasting the seeds prior to cooking. Imagine how popcorn kernels, when exposed to high heat, pop open to reveal their melt-in-your-mouth interior; the same is true for millet.
Lovers of legumes will appreciate the starchy lentils, reminiscent of potatoes, dotted throughout the salad. With each bite, the pomegranate seeds burst and dress the salad in their tart juice, so there is no need to add any vinegar. Lemons, parsley, and green onions are simple ingredients that can be found at any grocery store, yet their flavors perk up the roasted flavor of the millet. I love to serve this salad on a bed of spinach, lightly dressed in olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
Despite tasting more like dessert, sweet potato casserole perseveres as a staple of the classic Thanksgiving meal. And while marshmallows can liven up a cup of cocoa, all they do to this Fall root veggie is weigh it down in sugar and hard-to-pronounce ingredients. We know that when it comes to meals that are healthful and taste good, simpler is better, which is what you'll find when you make this dish of maple-roasted sweet potatoes and yams. The sweetness of the veggies is still the star of the dish, minus all the calories, fat, and sugar found in the classic.
Learn how to make this improved Thanksgiving classic after the break!