Food & Cooking Blog

10 Light & Tasty Sides That You Need to Try This Thanksgiving

It’s a sad fact: Thanksgiving side dishes are often bland, heavy and overall highly forgettable. However, this doesn’t have to be the case! Enliven your dinner table with 10 light and tasty sides this Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving dinner

From a zippy low-sugar cranberry sauce to a lighter green bean recipe and yes, even a sweet potato soufflé, these sides are tasty enough to take center stage on the table, and won’t leave you feeling weighed down. 

1. Homemade cranberry sauce

Cranberry sauce

You can’t have Thanksgiving without the cranberry sauce. Unfortunately, the commercial stuff is usually loaded with sugar and preservatives. By opting to make your own cranberry sauce, you can use flavor-superior fresh cranberries, and adjust the sugar to taste. This recipe only uses ½ cup of sugar, which is far less than many recipe out there. 

Try our recipe for homemade cranberry sauce!

2. Braised green beans with smashed tomato vinaigrette 

Green beans

Most green bean casseroles are so coated in cream that it’s hard to really call it a vegetable dish. For a lighter option that tastes great, try our recipe for braised green beans with smashed tomato vinaigrette. Slow-cooked green beans are brimming with flavor already, but a smashed tomato vinaigrette gives them a zingy finish which makes them a nice complement to other heavy Thanksgiving fare. 

Try our recipe for braised green beans with smashed tomato vinaigrette!

3. Cauliflower rice 

Cauliflower rice

Did you know that you can make a healthier (and lower glycemic-index) “rice” using cauliflower? All you need is a head of cauliflower, a food processor, and some spices to make it. This cauliflower “rice” is a great side dish for thanksgiving, and is also suitable for vegetarian and vegan diets. 

Sample our easy recipe for cauliflower rice

4. Paprika yams

Most yam and sweet potato side dishes are more like desserts, dressed up with sugar, spice and marshmallows on top. If you prefer a more savory flavor, follow the lead of award-winning chef Greg Atkinson of Restaurant Marché on Bainbridge Island, Washington, and prepare your yams with paprika.

5. Shaved brussels sprout salad 

Brussels sprout salad

Brussels sprouts don’t have to be boring! Roasted brussels sprouts are finely cut and then combined with farro, onion, cranberries and pecans and tossed in a mustard vinaigrette for a fresh-tasting alternative to heavier or cream-based vegetable sides. 

You’ll love our shaved brussels sprout salad

6. Sweet potato soufflé 

Sweet potato souffle

A sweet potato souffle has plenty of spice to make it taste nice, but a relatively low amount of sugar. Whether served in individual ramekins or out of a large dish, it’s an elegant and lighter side dish option for your thanksgiving table. 

For a pinkies-out side dish, try our sweet potato soufflé recipe!

7. Honey roasted carrots

Honey carrots

Baby carrots are coated with a seasoned mixture of honey and orange juice and then roasted to perfection. The toppings caramelize into a glaze, giving the carrots crispy edges and an irresistible flavor. It’s a fantastic and lighter side for your Thanksgiving feast! 

Check out our simple and delicious honey roasted carrots recipe.

8. Broccoli tots

Broccoli tots

Tots? Why not? Everyone loves taters on Thanksgiving. But for a more casual affair (or for a fun option for kids), consider serving these homemade broccoli tater tots as a side. Broccoli augments the potatoes in this homemade side dish, adding an element of nutrition and extra veggies to the meal. 

Why not try our broccoli tots recipe?

9. Pumpkin mashed potatoes 

Looking for a simple solution to lighten up your mashed potatoes? Add pumpkin. While there are a number of ways to incorporate pumpkin into your mashed potatoes, here’s a simple and easy one: simply fold 1 can of pumpkin into about 3 cups of mashed potatoes. Mix until smooth. The pumpkin will add a little extra nutrition and flavor to your favorite side dish! 

For more great ideas for cooking pumpkin, check out this post

10. Hearty whole grain bread 

Whole grain bread

Serving a hearty whole grain bread on the side will ensure that you get some valuable whole grains and fiber along with your Thanksgiving meal, which will fill you up faster and will help you rest and digest. This might be as simple as using part whole wheat flour for your favorite bread or roll recipe, or you might make a whole grain-studded loaf. 

Try our recipe for whole grain bread

What’s your favorite healthy Thanksgiving side dish? Leave a comment and share your favorite! 


Judith Marco

Where is the recipe for Paprika Yams?

Jessie Oleson Moore

Hi Judith, that’s not necessarily a recipe I had to share, but a method of preparing. As the chef shared, ” I like to cut red garnet yams into dice, toss them with coconut oil, salt, smoked paprika, and a pinch of sugar then spread them in a single layer on a baking sheet; and bake them for 10 or 12 minutes at 400.”

Helen S.

From childhood on, my favorite side dish has been mashed rutabagas(swede turnips) that have been cooked in salted water, drained and then mashed with a touch of butter and some black pepper.


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