Taste the nation: Thanksgiving side dishes from around America
Join us on a cross-country culinary tour and discover regional Thanksgiving side dishes that will inspire and delight. | By Tanvi Chheda | November 10, 2022
Americans across the country celebrate Thanksgiving as a day to gather with family and friends, express gratitude and cherish togetherness. But it’s also an occasion to show off one’s culinary skills and bring regional and cultural influences to the table. From the green bean casseroles and salads of the West to the pumpkin empanadas and stuffings of the South, Thanksgiving side dishes are varied and often influenced by local produce and the multicultural communities that call those regions home. Here are a few to consider adding to your Thanksgiving menu this year:
Stay fresh: Keep things light with a fresh and fruit-filled salad
Modern twists: Hash browns offer a crispy twist on traditional mashed potatoes
Let there be pie: Step outside the pumpkin for diverse iterations of a Thanksgiving classic
West: Persimmon salad
Originating in China before spreading to Japan and Korea, reddish-orange persimmons have long been associated with fall. Often described as honey-like, their taste and texture are a cross between an apple and a cantaloupe. Head west to find where most of the U.S. persimmon crop is grown. There are two varieties found in California: fuyu, which are round and squat, similar in shape and size to tomatoes, and hachiya, which are acorn-shaped and acidic if not allowed to fully ripen before eating.
Whether prepared as a salad, or as fruity pudding or bread, persimmons are versatile and can be served in many ways. Something Embassy Suites by Hilton San Rafael Marin County, north of San Francisco, knows well. They serve theirs in a fresh holiday salad that combines the golden fruit with pomegranates, walnuts, goat cheese and bib lettuce. Seconds, anyone?
Potatoes may arguably be the ultimate holiday comfort food – fried, baked or mashed, the possibilities are endless. And if you happen to be visiting Hampton Inn Bloomington in Indiana, that possibility might take the shape of a hash brown casserole — a fun and crispy twist on a Thanksgiving dinner classic. Deriving its name from the French, hacher, which means to chop, this hearty dish typically consists of shredded potatoes, onions, sour cream and cheese, making for a delicious addition to any dinner table.
Head even farther west and you’ll find an entirely different sort of casserole. Green beans, string beans, haricot verts — whatever moniker you give them, they’ll likely have a place on your Thanksgiving table in the Midwest. And considering Wisconsin is the country’s largest producer of green beans, it’s no surprise that our regional roundup includes this often-served dish. While the original green bean casserole called for green beans, cream of mushroom soup, black pepper, milk, soy sauce and crispy fried onions, new recipes embrace different ingredients — such as garlic and fresh cremini mushrooms or incorporating bacon and cheddar — to add a fun and modern twist.
South: Cuban Medianoche
As native birds to North America, turkey is an abundant (and convenient) choice for a Thanksgiving meal. What is less certain, however, is how that turkey should be served. Stuffed, unstuffed, roasted or fried, how a turkey is prepared is a matter of personal preference.
Venture south to Florida, for example, and you’ll discover an exciting and flavorful turkey rendition at Hilton Cabana Miami Beach. Here, the bird gets a regional twist that captures the spirit and flavors of the area's vibrant Cuban community. Available on Thanksgiving Day, the property’s Cuban Medianoche sandwich features oven-roasted turkey breast with crispy pickles, sweet ham, Swiss cheese and dijonaisse sauce — all served with a side of sweet potato puffs, of course.
East: Blueberry Pie
Pie was not likely a part of the first Thanksgiving, but it’s since become the requisite grand finale to Thanksgiving dinners across the country. In fact, it was the English who first introduced pie to the New World, by bringing along their love of meat and fruit-filled pies when they arrived at America’s shores.
Nowadays, a quick search for pie recipes yields dizzying and inventive results ranging from butternut squash and cranberry Linzer tart to sweet potato-miso and chai-spiced banana cream. Our advice? Stick to what’s local for your region, like blueberry, cranberry or huckleberry on the East Coast. Maine blueberry season typically runs from late July to early September, meaning you can gather and freeze the goods yourself to have on hand for a wild blueberry pie that will have everyone saying, “thank you berry much!”
One thing is for certain. No matter where you spend the holidays or what region influences your menu, a table laid with one (or all!) of these delectable sides is guaranteed to please.
Tanvi Chheda is a travel writer and family travel expert based in Los Angeles. From taking her daughter to Peru at the age of 2 to visiting several U.S. National Parks with her family, she loves seeing new places through her kids' eyes and encourages other families to do the same. A former Travel + Leisure editor, Tanvi has written for The New York Times, AFAR.com, Robb Report, Virtuoso Life and Ciao Bambino, among others.