Wake-Up Call Readers Share Their Crowd-Pleasing Thanksgiving Sides

box of recipe cards

These dishes are guaranteed to be gobbled up.

This Thanksgiving, as with all Thanksgivings, we celebrate side dishes. Think about it: If you’re not a turkey or ham fan, you can still have an amazing experience ignoring the main course by loading up on stuffing, mac ‘n’ cheese, or various green bean concoctions.

There is, however, a downside to this dynamic. Whether you’re hosting Thanksgiving this year, attending as a guest, or are collaborating on a Friendsgiving potluck, there’s a chance you’re responsible for at least one side. But if you don’t want to step on anyone’s toes (when someone’s been bringing their signature mashed potatoes for over a decade, you probably don’t want to hard-launch your own version as a surprise), it can be hard to find a unique recipe of your own.

To help you out, we crowdsourced from our community by asking Wake-Up Call readers for their beloved, tried-and-true side dishes. We received a ton of responses: Some were healthy, some were indulgent, some were traditional, and some were unconventional. But all of the recipes were verified crowd pleasers, many of which have been handed down across generations. Whether you’re seeking a refreshing, new take on Thanksgiving flavors or want to embrace the classics, we’re sure you’ll find a winner here.

Deemed “the best turnip casserole ever” we adore this dish provided by Jo Ann Kropf-Hedley because it celebrates an under appreciated root vegetable known for its lightly sweet and peppery flavor. Paired with applesauce and a dose of butter, this casserole is a little different while still being warm, homey, and familiar.

An image of a handwritten recipe.
Jo Ann Kropf-Hedley

Turnip Casserole

2-3 turnips
1 cup applesauce
6 Tbsp. butter
4 tsp. sugar
3 tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper
2 eggs
2 tsp. melted butter
1 ¾ cups breadcrumbs

Mash turnips.
Mix all ingredients except melted butter and ½ the breadcrumbs.
Mix butter and remaining breadcrumbs as a topping.
Bake at 350 degrees for ½ hour.

Reader Elizabeth Vail tipped us off to this Faith Middleton Food Schmooze recipe — and for good reason. Middleton shows us how to roast Brussels sprouts along with prosciutto and pears to create a tangy, sweet, earthy medley that will steal the show.

A bowl of roasted Brussels sprouts served as a side dish.
Jeremy Bronson/flickr creative commons

Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Shallots, Pears & Prosciutto

1 package Brussels sprouts, each one halved
2 pears (your favorite kind) sliced, skin on or off
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 shallots, chopped
1/2 pound prosciutto, roughly chopped (optional)
extra virgin olive oil
salt to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Halve each Brussels Sprout, slice your favorite pears, mince peeled garlic, chop peeled shallots, and chop prosciutto (if using.) Set aside.
Pour 2 or 3 generous glugs of olive oil into the bottom of a roasting pan or baking dish. Toss in the chopped ingredients. Salt to taste. Stir well, to coat everything with oil. Roast for about 30 minutes, or until shallots are brown and crispy. Every oven is different, so start checking for doneness after 20 minutes of cooking. Serve hot or at room temperature.

If you’re tired of typical Thanksgiving food, it may be time to try something completely new. To switch things up, take a cue from reader Robin Page, who told us that this shrimp toast recipe is an inter-generational smash hit: “As long as I could remember, my mom would make shrimp toast every year on Thanksgiving. She lovingly taught the tradition to each of her children and each of her grandchildren.” Looking at this scrumptious photo, we understand why this recipe is worth passing down.

Robin Page

Shrimp Toast

2 lbs. shrimp
1 egg
1 can water chestnuts
2 cloves garlic
1 inch piece of ginger, grated
4 green onions, white and light green part chopped
A swirl of sherry, and of soy sauce
A dash of your favorite hot sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
Dried and crust-removed thick sandwich bread, cut into triangles
Oil for frying

Peel and devein the shrimp. Put into food processor.
Place remaining ingredients in food processor.
Pulse all ingredients until a paste is formed.
Take one dried bread triangle and generously spread paste on one side.
In the meantime, heat up enough oil in a wok so the toasts can float — about 3/4 full for a full-size wok. The oil is ready when a test piece of bread bubbles rapidly when placed inside.
Place the bread into the wok shrimp side down and fry until golden brown and shrimp is cooked. About 4-6 minutes. Flip over and cook opposite side until golden brown about 2 minutes.
Remove from wok with tongues or slotted spoon and put on plate lined with paper towels.
Eat! We serve with a sweet and sour/apricot sauce, a spicy or Dijon mustard, and horseradish sauce.

Reader Ellen Gillis inherited this heavenly sweet potato and apple casserole recipe from her mother. “She would get up early to make that dish each year, and the smell of cinnamon, apples and sweet potatoes would fill the kitchen long before dinner. My mom has been gone eight years this November. My brother, sister and I continue the tradition every year, and it brings her right back.”

A handwritten recipe on an old piece of yellowed paper.
Ellen Gillis

Sweet Potato and Apple Casserole

Equal amounts apples and sweet potatoes
⅔ cup light brown sugar
6 tsp. butter
½ cup cider
3 tsp. maple syrup
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. ginger

Boil sweet potatoes. Peel and slice ¼ inch thick.
Put the brown sugar, butter, cider, maple syrup, lemon juice, cinnamon, and ginger in a saucepan. Mix and heat until warm.
Peel and slice apples ¼ inch thick.
In a baking dish, stack slices of sweet potato and apple vertically (like you’re standing coins on edge) alternating slices of each. Pour liquid over apple and sweet potato and bake 30-45 minutes at 350 degrees.

Susan Drake sends us a lovingly crafted, healthy recipe from her very own blog. “My cranberry wild rice medley is the perfect Thanksgiving side! It is easy to make, very pretty on the table, healthy, gluten-free and most important, it’s super tasty! This recipe comes from my own small gluten-free clean-eating food blog.”

A roasting pan is full of a cranberry wild rice medley garnished with parsley.
Nourish & Charm, photographed by Jenna Sparks Photography

Cranberry Wild Rice Medley

4 cups chicken stock
1 cups water
2 cups wild rice blend (I use Lundberg)
½ tsp. onion powder
½ tsp. garlic powder (or granules)
1 tsp. Italian spices
¼ tsp. ground pepper
½ tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. olive oil
½ cup golden raisins
½ cup dried cranberries
½ cup slivered almonds
zest of 1 orange

Bring the chicken stock and water to a boil.
Add rice blend, onion powder, garlic powder, Italian spices, salt, pepper, and olive oil. Mix thoroughly, cover and reduce to a simmer for 50 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove from heat, allow rice blend to cool for 10 minutes.
Fold in raisins, cranberries, almonds, and zest.
Mix well until all ingredients are combined.
Serves 8*.

Whipping up at least one delicious condiment for Thanksgiving is a must. This cranberry chutney comes from Mandy Katz, who says, “I made this for coworkers pre-pandemic one year for Christmas gifts. It was such a hit! It’s great with pot pie and sandwiches — you know, the yummy leftovers.”

Cranberry Chutney

3/4 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 clove garlic, minced
6-8 whole cloves
1 tsp cinnamon
2 cardamom seeds, cracked and crushed (I use 3-4 because I like the flavor they add)
A generous dash of cayenne
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup white vinegar
2 cups fresh cranberries
3/4 to 1 cup of seedless golden or regular raisins (I use ¾ cup)
1/3 cup brown sugar

Combine the first nine ingredients and simmer for 5-8 minutes.
Add remaining ingredients and simmer gently for 18-20 minutes — the cranberries will pop.
Chill and serve.
Will keep in the refrigerator.

If you want to get a little more creative with potatoes (and maybe integrate a green vegetable while you’re at it) we’ve got your next favorite side dish on deck. Paige Thomason sent us this parmesan potato recipe from her own food blog and we’re smitten. We love that this recipe includes a healthy dose of broccolini (though you can substitute regular broccoli, too).

A white china plate is full of roasted potatoes and broccolini and sprinkled with a white sauce.
Studio Delicious

Parmesan Potatoes with Roasted Broccolini

1 bunch broccolini, washed, dried, ends trimmed, leaves removed (See recipe note)
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 1/2 pounds yellow potatoes, peeled and sliced in 1/4″ rounds
olive oil
1/4 teaspoon parsley flakes, dried
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp. pepper, freshly ground
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
mustard sauce
3 Tbsp. mayonnaise
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp. lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1/4 tsp. pepper, freshly ground
1/8 tsp. garlic powder
1/8 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. parsley flakes, dried

Heat oven to 400; line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
Dry the peeled and sliced potatoes with a paper towel and place in a medium-sized bowl.
Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to coat the potatoes, then add the parsley, garlic powder, salt and pepper.
Place the potatoes on a large baking sheet with the sliced potatoes lying flat in a single layer.
Place sheet in lower rack of oven and roast until potatoes are lightly brown on the bottom, about 25 minutes.
Remove from oven and flip each potato slice with tongs.
Return to oven for another 10 minutes or so, until the edges begin to get crispy and brown.
Remove from oven, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and set aside for a few minutes while you prepare the broccolini.
Place prepped broccolini spears in the same medium bowl you used for the potatoes.
Drizzle with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, pepper, salt.
Place broccolini flat on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake in the oven, bake for about 15 minutes.
Turn with tongs, then add the roasted potatoes with the broccolini on the baking tray, and put back in the oven for another 5 minutes.
Serve with a drizzle with the mustard sauce.

For the Sauce
Whisk all ingredients together with a fork until smooth.

*If you can’t find broccolini, just use regular broccoli.

Occasionally, we need to hit refresh on our old standard recipes. If your standard stuffing has been feeling blah, reader Wendy Schindler recommends looking to the pros: “I’ve been making this Williams Sonoma stuffing recipe for many years, and I follow it pretty closely, though sometimes I leave out the sausage and celery.”

Williams Sonoma

Sausage, Cornbread and Chestnut Dressing

8 cups cubed day-old cornbread
2 cups cubed day-old country-style white bread, crusts removed
1 1/2 lb. mild Italian pork sausage, casings removed
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup roasted and peeled chestnuts, quartered
1/4 cup chopped mixed fresh herbs, such as sage, rosemary and thyme
3 cups low-sodium chicken stock

Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter a large baking dish.
Spread the cornbread and white bread out on a baking sheet. Toast in the oven until light golden brown and dry to the touch, about 20 minutes. Set aside.
In a sauté pan over medium heat, brown the sausage, stirring and crumbling with a spatula, until cooked through, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl.
Return the pan to medium heat. Add the olive oil to the accumulated fat in the pan. Add the onion and celery and sauté, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent, five to seven minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to the bowl with the sausage. Add the cornbread and white bread, the chestnuts, herbs, and stock. Season with salt and pepper and toss gently to combine.
Transfer the dressing to the prepared dish, cover with aluminum foil and bake for 35 to 40 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking until browned and crispy, about 40 minutes more. Serves 10 to 12.