By Carrie Havranek
Chances are, this Thanksgiving is going to look at little different from Thanksgivings past — so why should your sides be the same old sides, swimming in some combination of sugar and butter… or both? After all, the sides are where you can really experiment and let your culinary colors shine. They’re also where you can make changes that will make a big difference in how your meal tastes — better! fresher! lighter! — and how you feel later in the day — better! fresher! lighter! And, perhaps most important of all, sides are where you can truly accommodate every eater at the table so that no one will feel left out.
Here are 10 clean and delicious sides to get you inspired, from cornbread stuffing that’s gluten-free and vegan and bread-free stuffing balls (yes, please!) to slow cooker Brussel sprouts and cauliflower-sweet potato mash.
But, First: What Makes a Recipe “Clean and Delicious”?
At Clean Plates, we believe that eating more whole, plant-based, nutrient-dense foods is the foundation of good health. We also believe that good health shouldn’t feel like a sacrifice, nor should it involve spending loads of money or a crazy amount of time in the kitchen. All of that goes into what we call “clean and delicious.” We’ve chosen recipes that avoid sugar or opt for unrefined sugars like maple syrup; that limit dairy and processed foods; and that reduce or eliminate gluten — but we’ve also chosen recipes that are simple to make, wallet-friendly, and truly delicious.
This dish gets points for being delicious, beautiful, and super-duper simple: It’s just red beets, carrots, potatoes, and fennel, plus some rosemary, olive oil, and a little bit of maple syrup. That’s it. Feel free to improvise.
Pro tip: If you have maple vinegar, use it in this dish—it adds a layer of maple flavor but also that slightly sour hit that vinegar provides. If you don’t have maple vinegar, don’t sweat it.
These couldn’t be easier to make — and, even better, you can make them a couple days ahead of time, and reheat on Thanksgiving.
What is Thanksgiving without stuffing? This vegan and gluten-free version, made with cornbread, pecans, onions, leeks, and fresh cranberries, is the best of fall in a stuffing that won’t leave you totally stuffed.
Any time you can free up your oven on Thanksgiving is a win in our book. If you want, make the balsamic reduction ahead of time to make the holiday even easier.
Acorn squash looks so pretty when it’s halved and filled with quinoa pilaf with mushrooms, sage, thyme, and all the things you’d traditionally put in a bread-based stuffing. It’s also super- tasty and loaded with fiber and protein.
6. Homemade Cranberry Sauce from Well Plated
Is it even Thanksgiving without cranberry sauce? We say no — and we love the way mouth-puckering way cranberry and orange work together, with just a wee bit of honey to balance the tartness, in this recipe from Well Plated. Make this a couple of days ahead of time; cranberry sauce tends to develop depth when you do.
This sweet potato dish that goes savory-sweet with onion and garlic and the butter is to taste — which means you use ghee, vegan butter, or a good grass-fed organic option, or skip the butter altogether. This recipes also uses the Instant Pot, which means you’ve freed up a burner and some oven space.
Who says you can’t have salad at Thanksgiving? Seems revolutionary, right? Much of this hearty salad can be made ahead of time and assembled at the last minute.
9. Green Beans and Almonds from Jessica Gavin
Good veggies need very little accompaniment, and green beans are definitely one of them. No mushy green beans here!
10. Bread-Free Stuffing Balls from Oh She Glows
With lentils, oats, flax, cranberries, kale, and more, you won’t miss traditional stuffing after eating these flavorful bites.
Your turn: What are your favorite Thanksgiving sides?