Choosing side dishes is all about balance. Think about what’s going to work well with the main course, both in terms of flavor, color, and texture, but also in terms of your cooking timeline. Here are 4 tips to keep in mind as you're planning:
1. Vary Colors and Textures
A Thanksgiving plate should contain a variety of colors and textures. Turkey plus mashed potatoes, gravy, and roll is too drab (and too starchy). Likewise, you probably don’t want to serve roasted carrots and sweet potato casserole, especially if you started the meal with butternut squash soup. Imagine the composed dinner plate in your head. Is there something green? Something with crunch or texture?
2. Balance Flavors
We love bacon but you don’t want four side dishes, each flavored with bacon. Same thing for garlic or other bold flavors. One spicy side is a good idea, but three or four spicy sides are going to compete with each other and overwhelm the main course.
3. Provide Choices
Thanksgiving side dishes are meant to give guests choices. Do you have something vegetarian and something that will appeal to picky kids? Not everyone likes (or can eat) nuts, so make sure you don’t choose four sides dishes with four different kinds of nuts. Consider richness, too. Do you have at least one or two fresher, lighter side dishes?
4. Consider the Timeline
You don’t want four recipes that all require oven time. You certainly don’t want four dishes that all require last-minute work. The typical Thanksgiving meal has three to five side dishes and we strongly recommend that no more than one or two dishes require significant last-minute attention (other than reheating). Choosing a side dish or two that can be prepared on the stovetop can also free up oven space.