Divine Dinner Party

Christmas & Thanksgiving Side Dishes:
Great Side Dish Ideas that Make the Meal

Most people like turkey. But for a lot of us, it's the Christmas or Thanksgiving side dishes that make a holiday dinner taste, like, well... the holidays!

Everybody has their own idea of what side dishes need to be one the holiday table, and there's no way to cover them on on one page. So we're creating lots!

Here are some wonderful homemade side dishes for Christmas or Thanksgiving dinner that may become classics on your table. All are made with real ingredients (i.e. no canned "cream of" soups), and most can be made ahead of time. Here, you'll find recipes for:

  • Butternut Squash Gratin
  • Super Easy Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese
  • Creamed Pearl Onions with Bacon
  • Decadent Three Cheese Scalloped Potatoes
  • Classic Green Bean Casserole, Hold the Soup

Looking for some more traditional Thanksgiving side dishes? We have entire pages devoted to:

You can find all of these and more on our Thanksgiving Planning page.

Butternut Squash Gratin Recipe

Butternut Squash Christmas Side Dish IdeaThis is one of the tastiest Thanksgiving side dishes to add to your table. Butternut squash makes a lovely change from your usual Christmas or Thanksgiving veggies, and cooked in a creamy sauce, it's to die for. Even better, this recipe can easily be turned into a make ahead Thanksgiving side dish. Simple assemble all the way up to step 8. Cover and refrigerate, then bring to room temperature before baking. Easy as could be!

This Thanksgiving side dish recipe serves about 8 people (less if you have big eaters). If you plan to double it (or triple or quadruple it), use a bit less liquid. If you're making a huge batch (say, times 5), add up to two cups less liquid, or you'll end up with a watery casserole-- not what you're looking for.

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2 lbs. butternut squash, peeled
1 1/2 C. whipping cream
1/2 C. half & half or whole milk
2 bay leaves
1/2 tbsp. chopped fresh thyme or 1/4 tsp. dried thyme
pinch ground mace
1 3/4 tsp. kosher salt, divided
3/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, divided
3 tbsp. unsalted butter, divided
1 med. yellow onion
2 tsp. garlic, minced or pressed
1/3 C. finely grated Parmesan cheese

Instructions: 1. Slice butternut squash into slices about 1/4" wide.

2. In a large, heavy saucepan, combine sliced squash, heavy cream, milk or half & half, thyme, and mace.

3. Over moderate heat, bring to a simmer. Add 1 tsp. kosher salt and 1/2 tsp. black pepper.

4. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until squash has cooked and most of the liquid has been absorbed. This should take about 30 minutes.

5. Slice the onion thinly. In a large skillet, cook onions in 1 1/2 tbsp. of butter until they're golden brown.

6. Add garlic. Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add remaining salt and pepper to onion/garlic mixture.

8. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

7. Butter a medium sized casserole dish. Place a layer of squash on bottom, followed by onions.

8. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over. Dot the rest of the butter over top of the Parmesan.

9. Bake about 15 minutes, or until heated through and bubby, and cheese is lightly browned.

Easy Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese Recipe

Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese Christmas Side Dish RecipeThis isn't the most impressive of the Xmas or Thanksgiving side dishes you could serve up for dinner. But I've included it here because, a) to me, macaroni and cheese is always a part of a holiday dinner, and b) it's ridiculously easy, and frees up space in your oven. Essentially, this strange Thanksgiving side dish recipe (where you boil your macaroni in the milk) is as easy as boxed macaroni and cheese, but tastes a heck of a lot better. Be sure to use a sharp cheese for a deeper flavor.

This easy Christmas or Thanksgiving side dish serves about 8-10 people. Keep an eye on the pasta while it's boiling... the milk has a tendency to burn.

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4 C. macaroni (uncooked)
6 C. cups milk
2 tsp. salt, or to taste
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. dry mustard, optional
1/2 C. butter
3 C shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 C. shredded parmigiana cheese

Instructions: 1. In a saucepan over moderate heat, melt the butter.

2. Stir in flour and salt.

3. Add mustard (if using), milk and macaroni (the milk doesn't need to boil before adding the macaroni-- told you it was a strange recipe).

4. Bring to a boil, stirring often to prevent clumping. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until pasta is tender. Stir often.

5. Remove from heat. Stir in cheese in 3 batches, stirring until cheese melts.

6. Let sit 5 minutes before serving. It may look a little runny when fresh-made, but this macaroni and cheese recipe thickens beautifully after standing a few minutes.

Recipe for Creamed Pearl Onions with Bacon

Pearl onions can be a bit of work, but they're always worth it. Pretty and oh-so-delicious, they make the best Thanksgiving side dishes. This recipe combines a creamy sauce full of garlic and shallot with tasty pearl onions and a crisp bacon topping. If you have guests who love onions over for Thanksgiving, they may just hold you hostage for this recipe, so be careful. It's really that good.

Recipe makes enough for six to eight people, and can easily be made as a make ahead Thanksgiving side dish. Simply prepare up to step 7, then cover and pop it in the fridge. Bring up to room temperature, add panko and onion topping, and bake as instructed.

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2 1/2 lbs. pearl onions
6 strips of bacon, finely chopped
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 shallots, minced
2 lg. cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 1/2 C. heavy cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3/4 C. panko crumbs (or sub crisp, coarse bread crumbs)
2 tbsp. chopped Italian parsley

Instructions: 1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

2. In a large pot of boiling water, cook whole, unpeeled onions for five minutes. Drain onions and run cold water over them.

3. Clean onions: using a sharp paring knife, remove onion roots. To remove the skin, pinch onions. Set onions aside.

4. Cook bacon in a heavy skillet until crisp. Drain bacon on paper towels. Pour off fat, reserving 2 tsp. of bacon fat.

5. To the skillet, add butter, garlic, and shallots. Cook until tender.

6. Add cream to shallot/garlic mixture. Bring to a simmer and simmer, stirring occasionally, until volume is reduced by about half. This should take about 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

7. Butter a large casserole dish (dish should be fairly shallow). Place prepared onions at the bottom of the dish. Pour cream mixture over.

8. With a fork, mix the panko crumbs, bacon pieces, parsley, and bacon fat. Add salt and pepper to taste.

9. Sprinkle panko mixture over creamed onions. Bake until crumbs are crisp and brown and casserole is bubbly, about 30 minutes.

Decadent Three Cheese Scalloped Potatoes Recipe

Delicous 3 Cheese Scalloped Potatoes for a Christmas side dishThis recipe comes from Bon Appetit Magazine, and is one of those Christmas or Thanksgiving side dishes that will have your guests falling over themselves in the rush to compliment you. And that's why you invited them over, right? (Kidding!)

With the rich, pungent flavor of blue cheese, the tangy sharpness of cheddar, and the nuttiness of Parmesan, this is a Thanksgiving side dish for true cheese lovers. This recipe takes a long time in the oven, so you may want to make it the day before. Make it ahead of time by cooking completely and refrigerating overnight. (If you simply assemble it, the potatoes will turn black and ugly as they sit.) Bring up to room temperature (this'll probably take a couple of hours. so set these out early) and re-heat in a 375 degree oven for 25 minutes, until hot and bubbly. This Christmas or Thanksgiving side dish recipe serves 12 moderate eaters.

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4 oz. (about 3/4 packed C. grated) extra-sharp cheddar
4 oz. creamy blue cheese, crumbled
1 1/4 oz. (about 1/3 packed C.) fresh grated Parmesan
4 lbs. russet potatoes, peeled
1 1/2 tsp. salt, divided
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, divided
1/4 C. minced yellow onion
3 tbsp. flour
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, divided
3 C. milk (full fat is best)

Instructions: 1. Slice potatoes into rounds. Rounds should be about 1/4" thick. Combine cheeses in a small bowl. Set aside.

2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

3. In the bottom of a large buttered casserole dish, arrange half of your potato slices in a layer, allowing potatoes to overlap a bit. Sprinkle potatoes with half the salt and pepper, followed by all of the onion and flour. Dot top of flour with half of butter (2 tbsp.).

4. Sprinkle half of three-cheese mixture over top.

5. Layer on the rest of potatoes. Sprinkle with remaining salt and pepper. Dot with remaining butter. DON'T add remaining cheese yet.

6. In a saucepan or in the microwave, bring milk to a simmer. Pour milk over potatoes. The potatoes may not be completely covered by milk, but that's okay.

7. Bake, covered tightly, 45 minutes.

8. Remove cover and sprinkle remaining cheese over. It's okay if the mixture looks a bit clumpy or strange-- this is normal.

9. Bake, uncovered, another 45 minutes. Potatoes should be tender when poked with a fork, and cheese should be golden.

10. Let potatoes sit about 15 minutes before serving as a Christmas or Thanksgiving side dish-- or with a ham for Easter.

Classic Green Bean Casserole, Hold the Soup

Alton Browns Awesome Green Bean Casserole Classic Christmas Side DishesThis recipe comes from Alton Brown, who seems to have made it his life's mission to find better ways to cook things we eat all the time. Like green bean casserole, one of the most common Thanksgiving side dishes there is. This version is made without canned soup, canned beans or, canned, well... anything. It's rich and flavorful, and will please both green bean casserole haters and green bean casserole lovers. It's that kind of recipe.

You can make this a make-ahead Thanksgiving/Christmas side dish by assembling all the way up to step 11. Cover and pop it in the fridge, then return to room temperature before adding topping and baking as directed, baking 20-25 minutes instead of 15. The onion topping can be prepared a couple days in advance. Just put it in an airtight container until ready to use.

This Thanksgiving side dish recipe only serves 6, so you may want to double it. And if you want to make this truly impressive, use a mix of wild mushrooms.

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Onion Topping:
2 med. sweet onions, sliced thin
1/4 C. flour
2 tbsp. Japanese bread crumbs (panko)
1 tsp. kosher salt

1 tsp. kosher salt, divided
1 lb. fresh green beans
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
12 oz. crimini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
2 lg. cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
2 tbsp. flour
1 C. chicken broth
1 C. half & half

Instructions: 1. First, prepare the topping. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees F. In a large resealable bag, combine onion slices, flour, bread crumbs, and salt. Shake to combine.

2. Spread onions out on a well-greased baking sheet. Bake until brown, about 30 minutes. Stir a few times while cooking. Set onions aside until needed, or allow to cool completely and seal in an airtight container until needed.

3. Next, prepare the casserole. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Wash and trim your green beans and cut into halves.

4. Bring a pot of generously salted water to a boil. Blanch green beans for 5 minutes.

5. Drain beans and run cold water over to stop cooking.

6. In a large skillet, melt butter. Add mushrooms, salt, and pepper. Cook over med-high heat until mushrooms are mostly tender, about 5 minutes.

7. Stir in garlic and nutmeg. Cook until fragrant, 1-2 mins more.

8. Sprinkle flour over mushroom mixture. Stir until well mixed. Cook 1 minute.

9. Stir in chicken broth. Bring to a simmer. Simmer about one minute. Add half & half and reduce heat to med-low.

10. When mixture comes to a simmer and thickens, remove from heat. Add blanched, drained beans and about 1/4 of your onion topping. Stir to combine.

11. Pour into a casserole dish.

12. Top with rest of onion topping. Bake this Thanksgiving side dish about 15 minutes, until hot and bubbling.

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If it's a fat bird with a beard (no, I don't mean your Aunt Marjorie), we can help you cook it. Click on the icon above or click here to get started with recipes and tips on how to cook a turkey for Christmas, Thanksgiving, or any time of year.

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