By Stacie Billis
Imagine a completely satisfying holiday meal without feeling like an overstuffed potato. It’s possible — with a killer Thanksgiving salad to help keep your meal in balance.
But which salad is the right salad? At risk of sounding overly dramatic (a risk I always take), choosing the right salad to serve at Thanksgiving is like walking a tightrope. You want your salad to be fresh and light to balance a traditionally heavy meal, but not so light that it can’t hold up to Thanksgiving standbys — or, frankly, fail to offer curb appeal.
The right salad — with a balance of flavors and a variety of textures — gives your guests the chance to fill up on a variety of veggies without feeling like they’ve sacrificed precious room on their Thanksgiving plate. Here are our favorites.
1. Roasted Red Onion, Black Lentil, and Dried Blueberry Salad from My Darling Lemon Thyme
This beautiful salad gets its mojo from roasted red onions, which are a beautiful addition to any Thanksgiving table. (You can pull some off of your salad to eat with your turkey or stuffing!) The onions are scattered with dried blueberries before going into the oven, but you can easily substitute currants, dried cranberries, or (more affordable) raisins. Plus, nobody will complain about the addition of high fiber lentils on Thanksgiving! If you need it, Emma gives directions on how to adapt this recipe to be vegan.
2. Roasted Radish Salad with Butter-Thyme Dressing from Naturally Ella
Combining roasted vegetables with fresh is one of the best ways to make a salad dynamic and give it heft. In this deceptively simple salad, roasting radishes mellows their peppery bite without diminishing their bold flavor. Using butter as the foundation of the dressing gives this salad a decadence, but you can easily use ghee or olive oil instead.
3. Kale and Apple Salad with Creamy Yogurt Dressing from Well and Full
This salad builds on the blissfully-balanced trio of earthy kale, bright green apple, and creamy avocado. Together, they offer a perfect break from a loaded Thanksgiving meal without seeming boring. That’s thanks in part to the creamy dressing: Made with nothing more than coconut yogurt and lemon juice, the dressing manages to taste luxurious without adding heaviness. You can certainly substitute plain yogurt or plain Greek-style yogurt, if you prefer.
4. Radicchio and Roasted Delicata Squash Salad at Brooklyn Supper
One of the best ways to ensure that your guests give salad a chance at the Thanksgiving table is to feature a traditional Thanksgiving vegetable in the salad. This one pairs buttery, sweet roasted squash with wilted radicchio, which has a pleasantly bitter flavor that helps cut through rich foods. The simple lemon-maple dressing delightfully mirrors the vegetables’ sweet-bitter combo, and adds brightness too. But the real star here is the salad toppings: crunchy pepitas, fried sage leaves, and shaved Parmesan add crunch, brightness, and creaminess, bringing all the flavors together.
5. Roasted Grape, Fennel and Radicchio Salad with Vegan Ricotta at Ful-Filled
This creative combination of ingredients pairs roasted fruit and veggies with fresh, crunchy radicchio, giving this salad dimension and serious eye appeal. Plus, we cosign topping a salad with creamy ricotta! If you’re not vegan, you can easily substitute traditional ricotta or even burrata, if you’re feeling fancy. But rest assured: This salad is a stunner even served dairy-free.
6. Frisee, Radicchio, and Escarole Salad with Citrus Dressing at The Mom 100
If you’re hoping to offer a big bowl of leafy greens, but want to make it more interesting, this shredded salad is for you. We love that this salad feels like a slaw — it seems fitting next to turkey — and the sweet-and-tart vinaigrette tempers the bitter greens, creating a bright bite. Finishing this salad with or without cheese is up to you.
7. Cranberry Roasted Butternut Persimmon Salad at Half Baked Harvest
Packed with roasted seasonal vegetables, fresh greens, dried cranberries and toasted pecans, and topped with gently fried rounds of soft cheese, this recipe feels like Thanksgiving in a bowl! If you can’t get your hands on persimmons, any roasted fall fruit will substitute nicely, and you can skip frying the cheese. Instead, crumble fresh regular or vegan cheese on top, or just leave it out all together. There’s plenty here to satisfy, even without dairy.
8. Roasted Cauliflower and Sweet Potato Salad at Sweet Potato Soul
This salad that can easily double as one (or all!) of your Thanksgiving veggie sides. Packed with nutrient-dense vegetables, as well as fiber-rich farro and chickpeas, this cornucopia of earthy roasted veggies gets a lift from a seasonal pomegranate vinaigrette and fresh mint. We think you could add even more (or just other) fresh herbs — parsley or dill, perhaps? — and nobody will complain if you top this with a crumble of Feta or your favorite soft vegan cheese.
9. Light and Easy Broccoli Salad from The Kitchn
It’s hard to pass up a salad this bright, crunchy, and vibrant when it’s also described as light and easy too. All you have to do is shred that broccoli (or buy it pre-shredded), toss in currants for something sweet and toothsome, and almonds for something salty and crunchy, and dress with a light mayo dressing. Vegan mayo will work beautifully too.
10. Warm Mushroom Salad from Food and Wine
A plate full of warm, sauteed mushrooms works beautifully with traditional and non-traditional Thanksgiving meals. Add greens — this recipe calls for a combination of Boston and romaine, but you can use more nutritious and boldly-flavored arugula — and toss with a simple vinaigrette for a salad that won’t disappoint.