The Wild(card) Side: Unique Thanksgiving Dishes Your Guests Will Love
While some Thanksgiving favorites look practically the same no matter whose table you land at, it's the out-of-the-ordinary side dishes that make the holiday really memorable. Sometimes they are a talking point, but they're always delicious.
What exactly do we mean by "wild card" dish? It's anything that's a little bit out of the ordinary, that you may not see on a magazine cover or in a Norman Rockwell painting. The turkey, gravy, and stuffing are essential so the sides are where you can express yourself. The wild card side dishes give each of our Thanksgiving tables their own personality. They're what traditions are made of!
A wild card side dish could be any family-favorite recipe passed down through the generations, whether it's the Cardamom Rolls brought over by your great grandmother from Sweden or the Ambrosia Salad recipe clipped from the side of a box in 1963 by your then-newlywed mother. But you don't have to rely solely on the past—you can try something new any year or every year if you wish. Maybe you'll decide to make the green beans a different way each year. Last Thanksgiving it was green bean casserole, and this year you'll try Lemon-Pepper Green Beans instead. A wild card side can bring color to the table if it's Braised Red Cabbage or some spicy heat if it's Hatch Corn Pudding.
Looking for more inspiration? Check out some more of our favorite out-of-the-ordinary dishes for your Thanksgiving celebration.
The Gelatin Mold
Is yours among the families that have a special Thanksgiving Jell-O recipe? Your gelatin mold may be packed with fruit, nuts, coconut, or mini marshmallows; it may have the creamy, dreamy additions of whipped topping or sour cream; whatever treasures lie within its quivering walls, it's just not Thanksgiving without it. Try Martha's from-scratch version, dressed for the occasion thanks to a turkey-shaped cake pan.
Susan's Peach Stuffing
Sweet Potato-Coconut Casserole
Mixed Chicories with Persimmons
Dry-Fried Green Beans
It doesn't have to be casserole. It takes just a few minutes over high heat to transform green beans into crisp-tender, blistered beauties. Bonus wild card points for this dish because it includes field peas.
Old Bay-Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Marylanders love their Old Bay seasoning. If your family falls into the anti-marshmallow camp, you may just love these sweet-savory morsels.
Roasted Butternut Squash Lasagna
Butternut squash lasagna, flavored with sage and grated nutmeg and layered with sheets of homemade pasta, is autumn in a baking pan. The dish serves the dual role of paying tribute to Italian heritage and satisfying the vegetarians in the clan. If you prefer something more traditional, try our exquisite Lasagna Bolognese.
In 19th-century Massachusetts, this creamy casserole of crumb-topped bivalves was made with common crackers, once available in any general store. Our recipe subs in crunchy breadcrumbs and is brightened with parsley and celery.
Braised Red Cabbage
Early German settlers brought us this sweet-sour-savory recipe, made with apples and bacon. It's still a favorite among the Pennsylvania Dutch and in the northern parts of the Midwest.
Is any Thanksgiving dinner really complete without the ambrosia? This updated version blends fresh tropical fruits with Greek yogurt.
Swedish Cardamom Rolls
A truly decadent roll for the Thanksgiving table, that's these sweet Scandinavian buns with a potato dough and a cardamom-orange filling. They can be made, sliced, and frozen up to three months ahead. Defrost them in the refrigerator overnight before finishing them on Thanksgiving day.
Hatch Chile Corn Pudding
Because a little heat is good on the Thanksgiving table, try this Monterey-Jack-topped casserole made with green chiles from New Mexico's Hatch Valley.
Macaroni and Three Cheeses
In the South, it's a vegetable, so go ahead and indulge! This holiday-worthy version of mac and cheese gets its heavenly richness from white cheddar, Havarti, and Muenster cheeses but feel free to substitute your three favorite melting cheeses.