My definitive ranking of Thanksgiving side dishes
Happy Thanksgiving to all who celebrate! Thanksgiving usually revolves around the famed bird at the center of the table, but for me, it’s all about the sides. No other day are we allowed to gorge on such amazing side dishes quite like we do on Thanksgiving. With so many sides at the table, it's hard to discern which ones deserve the most real estate on your Thanksgiving plate but fear not, I am here to help.
10. Cranberry Sauce
Now, this does feel like punching down a bit, but if any dish deserves to be punched down, it has to be cranberry sauce. Among a table of meticulously-prepared turkey as well as sides and desserts only made once a year, you present me with a gelatinous ridged blob of fruit puree? Stick to juice, cranberry—you have no place on my Thanksgiving plate.
9. Sweet Potato Casserole
This one hurts. I am a sweet potato fanatic—roasted, fried and even baked with a pat of butter. I often times prefer them over normal potatoes. Where the issue arises is that, somewhere down the line, we agreed that the only way to eat them on Thanksgiving is baked in equal parts sugar, butter and marshmallows. Sweet potatoes aren’t a dessert. They don’t deserve this. We don’t deserve this.
8. Bread Rolls
Bread improved by butter that is slightly worse than corn bread.
7. Corn Bread
Bread improved by butter that is slightly better than bread rolls. Extra points for sweet corn bread.
6. Deviled Eggs
Some may not even consider this a Thanksgiving staple. If these don’t make their way to your Thanksgiving table, I pity you. As a plump 13-year-old Kentucky boy, I could find myself nearly putting down a carton worth of these bite sized treats. A good deviled egg will have it all. Tang, sweet, spice and of course a sprinkle of paprika.
5. Mashed Potatoes
No losers beyond this point. These are the all-stars, the championship contenders—if these next few aren’t on your table, I’m not sure you had Thanksgiving. Mashed potatoes are the foundation of the house on which Thanksgiving is built. Mashed potatoes can often be a litmus test for how the rest of the dishes will taste, placing them perfectly at true neutral in this ranking.
4. Green Bean Casserole
This is some folks' number one, and I understand if it's yours. What's not to love about a casserole that combines creamy sauce, tender green beans and crispy, crunchy fried onions? This dish's composition is perfect for a gut-busting plate to keep you on the couch for hours. We have to ask ourselves: Why do we love green bean casserole? It's surely not for the dish's namesake, the green beans. Lovers of this dish covet its sauce and crispy onions, not the vegetable hidden inside. And my top three side dishes don’t hide, they elevate.
Stuffing or dressing, it would be inexcusable if it was omitted from Thanksgiving dinner. I love any side dish I can only eat once a year. Stuffing is special and rare, like a diamond or the McRib. Stuffing combines qualities about the aforementioned sides and elevates them in a single package. Carbs, Thanksgiving spices and turkey stock from the titular bird. Stuffing is a purely-Thanksgiving product that combines all of the best parts of the holiday and none of the bad.
2. Mac and Cheese
Loving and praising mac and cheese is like loving and praising Queen or puppies. We know they’re all great, and we’ve heard this all before, but it doesn’t matter. No matter how many times I hear Freddie Mercury tap those first few notes of “Bohemian Rhapsody” or see a puppy trip over ears that are far too big for them, I will never get tired of it. Overrated? Possibly. Undeniably great? Definitely.
“Gravy is not a side dish!" you may shout. Not considering gravy a side dish is an indictment of our whole Thanksgiving dinner system. Served on the side or on the table, it doesn't matter—nothing makes everything better quite like gravy does. Mashed potatoes are a little under seasoned? Boom—gravy. Turkey maybe spent a little too much time in the oven? Boom—gravy. No other side dish does the absolute leg work that gravy does. A great gravy can take a subpar dinner, put it on its back and carry it across the finish line. If mashed potatoes are the foundation of the house, gravy is the exquisite landscaping and interior design that ties the whole place together.