Thanksgiving in America is about to celebrate its 396th anniversary, and like any other longstanding national holiday, this one in steeped in tradition - especially when it comes to what we put on our tables.
Turkey is the shining emblem - the iconic poster-child of Thanksgiving. But what would the holiday be without mashed potatoes and gravy? What is turkey without that tart foil of cranberry sauce? Turkey is ever-present, but the side dishes should be the real stars at this annual feast.
Here is a basic collection of the most essential Thanksgiving side dishes - although you should never be afraid to add a new ingredient, a personal twist, or some regional flair.
It is said that the first Thanksgiving was a three-day affair and that lobster, seal, and swan made appearances on the original Pilgrims' menu. But you only have one day to make it count; what will you be serving? Try any of these essential sides, you won't regret it! iStock
"Blech, Brussels sprouts" is a phrase uttered far too often. But these green brassicas can come alive when they are prepared the right way: with some crispy char and a drizzle of sweet maple syrup. Trust us: These Brussels sprouts will not last long. You could also add a few slices of bacon for another divine upgrade.
For the Maple Roasted Brussels Sprouts recipe, click here. iStock
Candied yams go perfectly with turkey - their sweetness is simply irresistible and punctuates the turkey's savory meatiness. For a slight variation, try this caramelized butternut squash instead.
For the Candied Yams recipe, click here. iStock
On many Thanksgiving tables, cornbread is considered a staple. If you want a twist on this classic dish you can always add zucchini or bacon. Another option? Make it a few days in advance and turn the dried-out leftovers into cornbread stuffing.
For the Tennessee Corn Bread recipe, click here. iStock
This simple corn pudding is made with corn, lime juice, butter, and paprika. The citrus and spice will enliven the otherwise overly rich meal.
For the Corn Pudding recipe, click here. iStock
Some families just love the stuff from a can - and don't you dare mash it! Can-to-plate is the way to go.
For others, a chunky cranberry relish is desirable, and for others still, a smooth citrus-studded sauce is the norm - as in this recipe, where fresh cranberries are gently simmered with lime and honey.
For the Lime and Honey Cranberry Sauce recipe, click here. iStock
Sweet corn is stewed in a thickened cream sauce to make this side dish incredibly rich.
For the Creamed Corn recipe, click here. Shutterstock
This popular vegetable preparation goes great with turkey, but it's also great with lamb or roasted chicken. You can even bake portobello mushrooms stuffed with creamed spinach for a tasty Thanksgiving appetizer.
For the Creamed Spinach With Nutmeg recipe, click here. iStock
This dish uses honey, butter, and an orange peel to infuse tender carrots with a bright and rich flavor. These delicious carrots are a great way to up the vegetable count at your table, too.
For the Citrus and Honey Glazed Carrots recipe, click here. iStock
Green Bean Casserole
Green bean casseroles are typically built with canned ingredients: canned green beans, canned soup, canned crispy onions - but not this one. You won't find anything canned here.
Find this recipe for Green Bean Casserole With Crispy Onions here. iStock
Macaroni and Cheese
Mac and cheese is a surprisingly common Thanksgiving side. This version is made with colby and Cheddar cheeses, and has a crisp, crunchy topping made with breadcrumbs and pine nuts.
For the Slow 'N' Crispy Mac 'N' Cheese recipe, click here. Scratch
You can lighten your basic mashed potatoes by adding softly caramelized onions and plenty of fruity olive oil. Other spins like pumpkin mashed potatoes or black truffle mashed potatoes will also wow your guests.
For the Creamy and Delicious Mashed Potatoes recipe, click here. Country Crock
Parker House Rolls
Good bread is beyond necessary for Thanksgiving - what is better than a soft fresh roll to mop up that extra gravy on your plate? As far as tradition goes, Parker House rolls are a famous Thanksgiving side. They are buttery and crispy on the outside but light and fluffy in the middle.
For the Parker House Rolls recipe, click here. iStock
Stuffing (or dressing) is surprisingly simple to prepare - all it takes is stock, breadcrumbs, flavorful aromatics, and any other ingredient you want to gently toss into the mix. If you like your stuffing extra moist and wet, add more stock to your breadcrumb mixture.
The fattiness of the pork in this sausage stuffing is a lovely accompaniment to the lean turkey meat. Don't be shy adding herbs like rosemary, sage, and parsley; the aromatic herbaceousness will round out the flavor of the rich sausage.
For the recipe for Cranberry, Apple, and Sausage Stuffing, click here. iStock
Sweet Potato Casserole
Sweet potato casserole topped with marshmallows has been a favorite Thanksgiving side dish since the early 1900s. This featured recipe, however, is less sweet but no less tasty. Instead of marshmallows, this dish is adorned with a brown sugar pecan streusel. The best thing about this dish? It is one of the great make-ahead dishes you need this Thanksgiving.
For the Sweet Potato Casserole recipe , click here.
More from The Daily Meal:
Every Thanksgiving Side Dish, Ranked
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How to Cut Your Thanksgiving Grocery Bill in Half
101 Best Thanksgiving Recipes
10 Thanksgiving Dishes You Should Just Buy at the Store iStock